I added more detail to Chapter 6, which I consider the climactic chapter.
Context: In previous chapters, Klaus was killed in the destruction of Aunt Josephine's house, causing Violet to go into a downward spiral that ended in her attempting suicide by slashing her wrists with a knife given to her by Count Olaf. Jacquelyn saved her that time, and I greatly expanded the roles of the Quagmires by having them accidentally unhypnotize her in Stain'd-By-The-Sea (to which I relocated the storyline that's loosely based on The Miserable Mill), when Count Olaf and Dr. Orwell tried to hypnotize Violet into throwing herself out of a high window in the lighthouse.
As you know if you’ve seen “The Austere Academy”, Count Olaf (disguised as Coach Genghis) forced Violet and Sunny to run laps through the night every night after he arrived at Prufrock Prep. They still wanted to do well in school (or in Sunny’s case, do well in her job as an administrative assistant to Vice Principal Nero), but they were so tired that they could not do their school or work duties at all. And the situation got even worse when Vice Principal Nero announced that the Baudelaires would have comprehensive exams for which they did not have any time to study, as they would again be forced to run laps all night.
They tried to get around this by having Isadora stand in for Violet and use a bag of flour to represent Sunny at “Genghis’s” “Special Orphan Running Exercises” (S.O.R.E.) that night—but this ended in both Quagmires being kidnapped by Count Olaf (whose disguise had been revealed in the scuffle). Vice Principal Nero did not understand what an impossible demand he had made to the Baudelaires, however, and he expelled them for “cheating” (even though Violet’s English teacher Mr. Remora thought she was just doing what she had to do). Violet’s “depression brain” did not understand the truth of the situation, and she said aloud that she couldn’t do anything right—even do well in school! She did not understand that it was not her fault that she flunked out of school; of course, this is exactly what Count Olaf wanted to happen.
Mr. Poe came to Prufrock Prep to drop off the bags of candy that Vice Principal Nero demanded from the Baudelaires as a punishment for them missing his terrible violin recitals (which they would have attended, as the recitals are mandatory for all Prufrock Prep students and staff, had they not been forced by “Coach Genghis” to run laps every night); he was shocked to hear that Violet and Sunny were expelled from Prufrock Prep (and even blamed them, as is his wont—a phrase which here means “as he is known for doing”—even when they explained to him what really happened, reinforcing Violet’s impression that she couldn’t do anything right). But he found a new home for the Baudelaires: the penthouse apartment of their parents’ friends Jerome and Esmé Squalor.
The first thing Violet noticed when she got to the Squalors’ building, 667 Dark Avenue, was that everyone was obsessed with what was “in” and “out”; the doorman said that an immensely popular restaurant in the area served almost nothing but salmon, which he could not imagine would be that popular. (Of course, the restaurant in question is named “Café Salmonella”, further highlighting what a bunch of sheep the people in this neighborhood were.) The doorman said that “elevators were out”, so Violet and Sunny climbed a ridiculously long flight of stairs to get to the penthouse (and couldn’t even keep track of how many floors there were in the building). What Violet did notice, however, was that on every floor except the top one, there was only one pair of elevator doors; the penthouse had two.
But before she could find out what was behind the second pair of elevator doors, Jerome Squalor showed her and Sunny into the apartment. When Jerome and Violet were looking out of a window, Violet seemed to be looking longingly, perhaps too much so, at the city below the apartment; she looked as if she was checking whether the windows opened. Fortunately, none of them did.
If you’ve seen the TV adaptation of The Ersatz Elevator, then you know all about how Count Olaf came to the Squalors’ penthouse disguised as an auctioneer named Gunther; Esmé, who worked as a financial advisor in the city, said she needed to meet privately with “Gunther” to help him plan the upcoming In Auction—of which all the proceeds went to her, although Jerome had suggested that they give the money to someone who didn’t already have so much money.
(“This is just like paying taxes to the royal family, isn’t it?” he had said. “You know what a controversial issue that’s been recently. Honestly, if this is gonna be that much of a problem, maybe the monarchy should be abolished.”)
Esmé sent Jerome, Violet, and Sunny to Café Salmonella, of which Violet thought that Klaus especially would have been suspicious given the real meaning of “salmonella”, which he had found out long ago was not specific to salmon. (Salmonella is a form of food poisoning that comes from raw eggs, meat, and fish.) But before Jerome and the orphans left for Café Salmonella, Esmé pulled Violet aside (without Jerome seeing) and showed her what was behind the second pair of elevator doors.
Violet had wondered why that pair of elevator doors would be needed only on one floor; she now saw that there was not an elevator in that shaft at all, but the shaft seemed to go all the way down to the bottom of the building (or, for all she knew, even further down). Violet told Esmé, “When Sunny and Jerome get home, tell them that I’m ending this cycle of unfortunate events for good.” Suspiciously, Esmé didn’t even flinch when Violet said this. Violet was ready to see Klaus again—so as soon as Esmé walked away, Violet threw herself down the shaft. Little did Violet know that someone on another level heard what she said...
As Violet fell down the elevator shaft, she realized too late that she was doing the wrong thing, and that she didn’t really want to die this way. About halfway down, however, an aerial silk was thrown down from above; the person at the top saw the silk go taut as Violet, who had now realized that suicide wasn’t the way out of this cycle of unfortunate events, grabbed onto it and started climbing back up to the penthouse (she’d taken aerial silk climbing lessons long ago). Or Violet thought she was climbing back up to the penthouse—but instead she came up to a floor above the penthouse that she didn’t know existed. To her surprise, she thought she saw Duncan, and addressed him as such. But when she hugged “Duncan” in gratitude for saving her life for the second time and asked what he was doing there, he clarified that he was really Quigley—the Quagmire triplet who was thought to be dead.
Quigley said that he was about to go down the elevator shaft to search for his siblings, who surely thought he was dead. Violet told him that she actually did lose her brother recently, which especially devastated her with the way the Baudelaires had been forced to take care of each other—but only just now had she realized that she needed to stay alive for Sunny (and for Duncan and Isadora, too; she said she also wanted to find them.)
Quigley asked how Violet’s brother died, and she tearfully told him; not only was she mourning the death of Klaus in itself, she said, but she was also still traumatized by the experience of seeing Klaus get killed in the destruction of Aunt Josephine’s house. Violet had thought that the Baudelaires and Quagmires shared the experience of losing a sibling in the destruction of their home, but for once she was glad to be wrong about something she thought she had in common with the Quagmires.
Violet promised that she’d help Quigley find his siblings, especially as she herself wished more than anything that Klaus was still alive; the two then went back to the elevator doors. Quigley hooked up each half of the aerial silk to hooks on opposite walls; this system had apparently been set up so two people could use the silk to climb down the shaft, which Quigley and Violet then did. Or they thought they were going all the way down, until Jerome came to the elevator doors and pulled Violet and Quigley out of the shaft; Quigley told Jerome that he, Quigley, had just saved Violet from suicide, and told him how she attempted it.
Jerome thanked Quigley for telling him and told Violet, “I’m glad you’re alive...but I’m also concerned that I knew nothing of your mental health problems before this. Mr. Poe did not tell me that you were suicidal, otherwise I would have taken you to a psychiatric hospital here in the city where my best friend’s sister happens to work as a psychiatrist. Why didn’t Mr Poe do this himself? Why did he send you here instead?”
Quigley asked who Mr. Poe was; Violet explained to him what Mr. Poe was supposed to be doing for the Baudelaires and how badly he was doing it, and Quigley told Jerome that it needed to be determined whether Violet was still a danger to herself, which Violet insisted that she wasn’t. But Jerome agreed with Quigley and said that he’d never seen anyone completely recover from depression as abruptly as Violet seemed to have done—so Jerome also thought Violet needed to be kept under observation.
Violet took Jerome by surprise when she told him something that Mr. Poe had not thought to say, which was that she had attempted suicide once before and thought about it two other times (although, she said, she was hypnotized the second time she thought about killing herself). Jerome said that this was way worse than he thought, as Violet was at especially high risk due to her previous suicide attempt; Jerome and all the children started to walk down the stairs. Quigley said he’d read in the Encyclopedia Hypnotica that there were limits to the commands a subject would obey when hypnotized—so the fact that Violet had been about to attempt suicide when she had been hypnotized, was another sign that Violet was still a danger to herself. Violet tearfully agreed with Quigley and admitted to Jerome that she needed help.
Quigley asked if Jerome would talk to Mr. Poe about his (Mr. Poe’s) dangerous oversight; disappointingly, Jerome said that he did not like arguing (as shown when he agreed to go to Café Salmonella, a restaurant whose food he hated) and so did not want to get into an argument with Mr. Poe on an issue on which he (Mr. Poe) was so clearly wrong. After everyone got to the hospital and Violet gave Quigley a long hug goodbye, Quigley said that he would take the trolley to Mulctuary Money Management to talk to Mr. Poe himself.
Quigley came into Mr. Poe’s office; as Jacquelyn heard Quigley talking to Mr. Poe about Violet’s most recent suicide attempt, Jacquelyn said that this was why she’d advised Mr. Poe against sending the Baudelaires to the Squalor penthouse. Mr. Poe asked Jacquelyn how she knew about the empty elevator shaft; she said it was a secret passageway that had been built by an organization to which she belonged. Mr. Poe then went with Jacquelyn to the hospital where Jerome had taken Violet, as Quigley went back to 667 Dark Avenue to fulfill his original goal of searching for his siblings—who he found imprisoned in a cage at the bottom of the shaft.