Chapter no 130 – Numbers‌

All the Light We Cannot See

Reinhold von Rumpel visits a doctor in Nuremberg. The tumor in the sergeant major’s throat, reports the doctor, has grown to four centimeters in diameter. The tumor in the small intestine is harder to measure.

“Three months,” says the doctor. “Maybe four.”

An hour later, von Rumpel has installed himself at a dinner party. Four months. One hundred and twenty sunrises, one hundred and twenty more times he has to drag his corrupted body out of a bed and button it into a uniform. The officers at the table talk with indignation about other numbers: the Eighth and Fifth German Armies retreat north through Italy, the Tenth Army might be encircled. Rome could be lost.

How many men?

A hundred thousand. How many vehicles? Twenty thousand.

Liver is served. Cubes of it with salt and pepper, showered in a rain of purple gravy. When the plates are taken away, von Rumpel hasn’t touched his. Thirty-four hundred marks: all he has left. And three tiny diamonds that he keeps in an envelope inside his billfold. Each perhaps a carat.

A woman at the table enthuses about greyhound racing, the speed, the charge she feels watching it. Von Rumpel reaches for the looped handle of his coffee cup, tries to hide the shaking. A waiter touches his arm. “Call for you, sir. From France.”

Von Rumpel walks on wobbly legs through a swinging door. The waiter sets a telephone on a table and retreats.

“Sergeant Major? This is Jean Brignon.” The name conjures nothing in von Rumpel’s memory.

“I have information about the locksmith. Whom you asked about last year?”


“Yes, Daniel LeBlanc. But my cousin, sir. Do you remember? You offered to help? You said that if I found information, you could help


Three couriers, two found, one last puzzle to solve. Von Rumpel dreams of the goddess almost every night: hair made of flames, fingers made of roots. Madness. Even as he stands at the telephone, ivy twines around his neck, climbs into his ears.

“Yes, your cousin. What have you discovered?”

“LeBlanc was accused of conspiracy, something to do with a château in Brittany. Arrested in January 1941 on a tip from a local. They found drawings, skeleton keys. He was also photographed taking measurements in Saint-Malo.”

“A camp?”

“I have not been able to find out. The system is rather elaborate.” “What about the informer?”

“A Malouin named Levitte. First name Claude.”

Von Rumpel thinks. The blind daughter, the flat on rue des Patriarches. Vacant since June 1940 while the Natural History Museum pays the rent. Where would you run, if you had to run somewhere? If you had something valuable to carry? With a blind daughter in tow? Why Saint-Malo unless someone you trusted lived there?

“My cousin,” Jean Brignon is saying. “You’ll help?”

“Thank you very much,” says von Rumpel, and sets the receiver back in its cradle.

You'll Also Like