Hugo paced his quarters that night; the small room that lay within the stations walls consisted of very little, but the necessities were there. He had a bunk to sleep on, a workbench to work on and a chair for his beloved automaton to sit on. The usual tools, cogs and bits and pieces that lived on his bench had been swept unceremoniously from the tabletop to the floor, making way for the crumbled up piece of paper Hugo had managed to salvage from the rubbish after Isabelle had tossed it.
The creases had attempted to be flattened out with very little success; Hugo however had focused on the more important matter of the subject which had been drawn on the paper. And what a quite important matter it was. How could it be possible that Isabelle – a girl perhaps no older than Hugo himself – would draw a near on replica love-heart shaped key that his father had foreseen as something very rare? Sure Hugo assumed the drawing of a love-heart may be drawn by hundreds and thousands of people a day, but for it to be in the shape of a key was very one in a million.
Hugo had only ever seen one such shape drawn in his entire lifetime, and it sat right there in his quarters, hidden comfortably in his left pocket. He placed his hand on the small mound and patted it – the notebook had been his fathers, and all the drawings of the automatons’ complicated structure were in there, including the most obscure one, the most mysterious puzzle the mechanical figure had given them.
Up until now it had been nothing short of exactly that – a mystery, a puzzle to boggle the mind – nobody but he and his father knew of such a keyhole shape to be in existence and Hugo was as sure as that as he was sure that the station Inspector fancied Madame Lisette, the flower lady.
Hugo moved around the automaton to the back and kneeled, his fingers ran over the heart-shaped keyhole, as if suddenly he expected an answer to reveal their presence to him. It was such an unusual shape; he supposed that the whole thing COULD be a coincidence, a misconception, a sign of his mind playing tricks. It was only today that he had been thinking of partaking on an adventure, or a journey to find what he so very much desired. Perhaps he was dreaming, perhaps he was just hoping this was the adventure he wanted to have.
The fact that this girl he had admired since he had laid his eyes on her (albeit from afar) was connected to one of the most important objects in his lift just felt a little far-fetched.
Even now, as he turned his attention back to the drawing on his workbench, it did look a little bit different to that of his father’s visions. The width of the heart-shape was far too thin, and the key handle was longer and fatter. Hugo scooped up the picture, folded it in half and placed it with his father’s notebook under the mattress.
It was getting late – for now he would leave it.
Hugo had been pondering for a while now, his pocket-watch read almost midnight, and he was meant to be up by five in the morning to wind all the clocks in the station which takes quite a while. Also, if the clocks run behind, the station Inspector begins to ask questions, something Hugo cannot afford to do with his Uncle gone a-wall. If he was caught without a parent or guardian, is was probably straight off to the Orphanage for him.
For now, he would dream about clocks, heart-shaped keyholes, berets and curly hair and mull over his thoughts in the morning.
The strong smell of freshly made bread, grinded coffee beans, hot off the press newspapers and blossoming flowers filled the halls and walkways of the station the next morning. Hugo was feeling very hungry and very envious as he worked, wounding the smallest clock in the south east wing he tried to ignore the constant rumble of his stomach begging for food. If it weren’t for the station Inspector sweeping around every corner and checking each nook and cranny in the place, Hugo would have gone and pinched a croissant for breakfast by now.
Wiping the sweat from his brow, Hugo left the south east wing and headed along a narrow and steamy hallway, he then turned right onto a steep railing that took him to a small room where finally he climbed a ladder and came to the next clock. He always hated winding this particular clock and for quite a good number of reasons.
Firstly, he had to make sure that this clock beyond all others ran perfectly, smoothly and faultlessly, for it was the clock in which sat in the stations Inspector’s room and therefore the basis of all the other clocks in the station. Besides having to be extra careful while he worked in order not to be found out, the lever was almost always rigid and hard to move, no matter how much oil or grease Hugo put on it, making life extra difficult for him.
Once Hugo was finished winding the clock the necessary amount, he gave the office a quick glance before moving on. His thoughts turned to the events of last night and to Isabelle; he wanted so very much to know where she’d seen the heart-shaped key so that he could venture to retrieve it and uncover the secret or the automaton that he so desperately wanted answered. His only quam was the fact that such an elegant young girl like Isabelle would most likely dispute having any sort of conversation with such a boy, especially one with the reputation as a pillaging thief.
Her grandfather at the toy store more than likely had told her all about the thief stealing his stock by now.
Finally he reached the large clock tower atop the train station and from his least favourite room in the station to his most favourite Hugo could not help but yet again appreciate the view in front of him. He could see all the way across the city towards the Eiffel Tower, standing like a giant amongst the surrounding buildings, it illuminated beautifully against the colours made from the morning sun.
He took his time in this room winding the clock, despite being very hungry. He sat for quite a long while, attempting to create something in his mind that might just make Isabelle talk to him longer than the ten seconds she would need to call him a low-life thief before walking away. The sun rose quite a-ways into the sky in the time he sat there staring at the large structure in the distance – it was almost like he was expecting something magical to come to him, just because he was looking at something magical.
Was that not how Jules Vern came up with the ideas for his adventures?
Finally admitting that he would not be able to think up the right words on an empty stomach, Hugo climbed down and returned to reality and the busy station. Busy was perfect, Hugo thought, he preferred it to be busy, the more people there were the less likely it was for anyone to pay attention to him. So after scanning the area for any sign of the station Inspector or his dog, Hugo emerged from the shadows in a calm and collected manner.
The rest was like clockwork; he casually stepped into the busy flow of traffic and simply let himself be swept by the crowd past the baker’s shop and café, where he managed to pinch a croissant and bottle of milk respectively. Not a single soul in the entire station gave the slightest bit of a double-take to insinuated they notice anything, and as Hugo emerged from the flowing sea of people – his jacket bulging – he really did believe that yet against he had managed to fool everyone.
That was, however, until he had taken one solitary step towards the hole in the wall leading to his covert lair and heard the loud definitive sound of somebody clearing their throat in amusement. Hugo’s heart dropped; stopping dead in his tracks, Hugo suddenly panicked, he felt instantly far less smug than he had one moment ago and couldn’t believe it.
There was no two-ways about it, the station Inspector had gotten him.