'Are we there yet?' The voice of the hook-handed man broke a long silence.
'I told you not to ask me that anymore,' replied Olaf with a snarl. 'We'll get there when we get there, and that is that.'
'Could we possibly make a short stop?' asked one of the white-faced women. 'I noticed a sign for a rest station in a few miles.'
'We don't have time to stop anywhere,' Olaf said sharply. 'If you needed to use the bathroom, you should have gone before we left.'
'But the hospital was on fire,' the woman whined.
'Yes, let's stop,' said the bald man.
'We haven't had anything to eat since lunch, and my stomach is grumbling.'
'We can't stop,' Esmé said. 'There are no restaurants out here in the hinterlands that are in.'
Violet, who was the eldest of the Baudelaires, stretched to place her hand on Klaus's stiff shoulder, and held her baby sister, Sunny, even tighter, as if to communicate with her siblings without speaking. Esmé Squalor was constantly talking about whether or not things were in -- a word she liked to use for 'stylish' -- but the children were more interested in overhearing where the car was taking them. The hinterlands were a vast and empty place very far from the very outskirts of the city, without even a small village for hundreds of miles. Long ago the Baudelaire parents had promised they would bring their children there someday to see the famous hinterlands sunsets. Klaus, who was a voracious reader, had read descriptions of the sunsets that had made the whole family eager to go, and Violet, who had a real talent for inventing things, had even begun building a solar oven so the family could enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches as they watched the dark blue light spread eerily over the hinterlands cacti while the sun slowly sank behind the distant and frosty Mortmain Mountains. Never did the three siblings imagine that they would visit the hinterlands by themselves, stuffed in the trunk of a car of a villain.
'Boss, are you sure it's safe to be way out here?' asked the hook-handed man. 'If the police come looking for us, there'll be no place to hide.'
'We could always disguise ourselves again,' the bald man said. 'Everything we need is in the trunk of the car.
'We don't need to hide,' Olaf replied, 'and we don't need to disguise ourselves, either. Thanks to that silly reporter at The Daily Punctilio, the whole world thinks I'm dead, remember?'
'You're dead,' Esmé said with a nasty chuckle, 'and the three Baudelaire brats are murderers. We don't need to hide -- we need to celebrate!'
'We can't celebrate yet,' Olaf said.
'There are two last things we need to do. First, we need to destroy the last piece of evidence that could send us to jail.'
'The Snicket file,' Esmé said, and the Baudelaires shuddered in the trunk. The three children had found one page of the Snicket file, which was now safe in Klaus's pocket. It was difficult to tell from only one page, but the Snicket file seemed to contain information about a survivor of a fire, and the Baudelaires were eager to find the remaining pages before Olaf did.
'Yes, of course,' the hook-handed man said. 'We have to find the Snicket file. But what's the second thing?'
'We have to find the Baudelaires, you idiot,' Olaf snarled. 'If we don't find them, then we can't steal their fortune, and all of my schemes will be a waste.'
'I haven't found your schemes to be a waste,' said one of the white-faced women. 'I've enjoyed them very much, even if we haven't gotten the fortune.'
Text copyright 2002 by Lemony Snicket. Illustrations copyright 2002 by Brett Helquist. All rights reserved. Not to be used or reproduced in any matter whatsoever without written permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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