Chapter no 108 – Stones‌

All the Light We Cannot See

Sergeant Major von Rumpel is summoned to a warehouse outside Lodz. It is the first time he has traveled since completing his treatments in Stuttgart, and he feels as though the density of his bones has decreased. Six guards in steel helmets wait inside razor wire. Much heel-clicking and saluting ensues. He takes off his coat and steps into a zippered jumpsuit with no pockets. Three dead bolts give way. Through a door, four enlisted men in identical jumpsuits stand behind tables with jeweler’s lamps bolted to each. Plywood has been nailed over all the windows.

A dark-haired Gefreiter explains the protocol. A first man will pry the stones out of their settings. A second will scrub them one by one in a bath of detergent. A third will weigh each, announce its mass, and pass it to von Rumpel, who will examine the stone through a loupe and call out the clarity—Included, Slightly Included, Almost Loupe-Clean. A fifth man, the Gefreiter, will record the assessments.

“We’ll work in ten-hour shifts until we’re done.”

Von Rumpel nods. Already his spine feels as if it might splinter. The Gefreiter drags a padlocked sack from beneath his table, unthreads a chain from its throat, and upends it onto a velvet-lined tray. Thousands of jewels spill out: emeralds, sapphires, rubies. Citrine. Peridot. Chrysoberyl. Among them twinkle hundreds upon hundreds of little diamonds, most still in necklaces, bracelets, cuff links, or earrings.

The first man carries the tray to his station, sets an engagement ring in his vise, and peels back the prongs with tweezers. Down the line comes the diamond. Von Rumpel counts the other bags beneath the table: nine. “Where,” he begins to ask, “did they all—”

But he knows where they came from.

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