it occurs to me now that some readers might not have caught onto the fact that the town this story takes place in is actually stain'd-by-the-sea, the central location of lemony's prequel series all the wrong questions. well, now you know. i am tragically unoriginal. i reference the series frequently, but there aren't any spoilers and i don't believe there will be, so you'll be all right if you haven't read it. (you should read it, though.) anyway. just to let you know.
When she wakes up, it is morning again, and there is a typewritten note on the polished bedside table. She wipes sleep out of her eyes and strains to read it in the foggy morning dimness.
At coffee shop. Do join me if you feel the need. The machine might still work.
Violet feels that she is in desperate need of a bath, but considering the state of this town, she doubts the running water works. So she forces herself to ignore the salt that still clings to her hair and swings her legs over the side of the bed.
Every muscle in her legs is sore. She winces and makes her way past the pain, standing with her fingers tightly gripping the edge of the bedframe.
"All right," she breathes, once she is standing unsupported – the words echo in the empty room, reaching only the ears of ghosts. "The coffee shop."
She walks past bitter cold and makes her way down the wide main street, one hand rubbing her shoulder, the other limp and useless by her side. Her steps are shuffled, slow, and there are cuts on her knees that her body has just decided to feel.
There is no logic in her wandering. She makes lefts, rights, passes up intersections because she feels like it, not because it seems like the most rational decision. At any rate, Violet doesn't know what would constitute a rational decision these days.
But finally, at the corner of Caravan and Parfait, the warm and familiar scent of coffee wafts from between glass doors. She peers inside and sees a wrinkled coat and a crumpled jacket hunched over a countertop.
Violet pushes the doors open and steps in, and is at once by warmth and the unmistakable air of machinery.
Behind the counter lies the most magnificent invention she's ever seen. Levers and pulleys and wires and knobs, buttons and switches and handles and bells. The bulk of the contraption is brass, tarnished and fading.
"It makes coffee," she says.
Lemony turns around, eyebrows raised. "Yes."
She studies it a moment longer. "And something else. Mixing, kneading, heating... bread?"
"And..." Her eyes wander from the machine to the ceiling. "There's a room upstairs."
Lemony shakes his head in wonder. "I don't know why I'm even surprised. Care for some coffee, Miss Baudelaire?"
"Might as well. I'm freezing." Violet sits down beside him; a mug waits for her, still steaming. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me," he murmurs, lifting half a loaf of bread to his lips. "Someone else is still keeping this place alive after all these years."
Her initial numbness upon waking up dissipated, and, having done her share of marveling for the morning, Violet entertains a frightening idea in silence.
She brings the thought to light when Lemony comes down from the attic.
"Mr. Snicket," she says, when she has swallowed a mouthful of bread, "You knew Mr. Poe, didn't you?"
Lemony stops. He is holding an package in his arms, one that looks particularly heavy but is indistinguishable in its shape. He stares at her, clinging to the paper-wrapped object as it threatens to fall from his grasp. She knows that he is tempted to lie from the look on his face but he had sworn her the truth, that afternoon, in her room. "Yes, I did. I have known him for a very long time. Why?"
"Was he a member?"
She does not need to elaborate. Lemony sets down the package on the counter and takes a seat on the stool next to her. "Well… yes."
Violet is silent. She had expected the answer but it still hits her in full, and she has to just sit for a moment, letting this revelation wash over her, considering all the things this changes about her life. Her chest aches, for some reason, knowing.
"Fire-starting," she says quietly, "or fire-stopping?"
"Neither," Lemony replies, without hesitation, which makes her feel better, somehow. "Arthur Poe was a neutral. And he still is. Basically his goal is to be as useless to other people as entirely possible. His only concern is himself."
"As useless as possible," she repeats.
"He certainly succeeded in that, if my research is correct," he says grimly.
"Unfortunately," she sighs, spinning her stool around to watch him tear open the package. "So he knew, then? Who Olaf was?"
His words echo her own. "Unfortunately." He comes to a bit of tape and stops, trying to figure out how to rip off the layered sticky plastic without a pair of scissors. "They acted together, actually, on stage."
"He mentioned that," she says. "Olaf, I mean."
"Yes, on the island."
There are a few moments of silence while Lemony tampers with the package's wrapping.
"He messed up our lives on purpose," she says, after a while. "All that time, and I thought he was merely an unhelpful adult. And it turned out that…" She is unable to complete her sentence, choked by the thought.
"That he was just very, very cruel," Lemony finishes. The paper finally tears and the object within is revealed in full. Objects, really. Wrapped in an indefinite amount of clear plastic is a jumble of what looks like dented alphabet soup cans and burnt rubber gloves. Both of these items are unfortunately familiar to Violet – though they once helped save her life and the lives of her siblings, they are not really anything she wants to be seeing right now.
Lemony looks at the plastic-wrapped heap and sighs. There is still sticky tape hanging from his wrist. "Sometimes I do wish they wouldn't be so thorough. Oh, well." He looks up to Violet and sees the spark of upset recognition in her eyes.
"I apologise. Research, you know."
"I know," she says.
His eyes, filled with concern, linger on her for several more moments before he starts separating the two sets of items.
"You know about the hotel."
It suddenly occurs to her how strange it is, that finally there is someone who seems to have full awareness of what is going on in the world. And he doesn't pretend like he's ignorant, and he is not afraid: it's unfathomable. The only one who came this close was Kit, and she is gone.
For one year this unknowing has weighed heavy on her conscience. "Do you know... they didn't all... did some of them... escape? Before it was too late."
He's still working, not looking at her, but he smiles faintly. "We were a real fire department at some point, you know."
She had not realised she was holding her breath. Her exhale is full of relief.
"Don't worry, Violet. There aren't that many deaths to tally on your record yet."
Her alleviation is quickly dispersed.