Chapter no 134 – Antenna‌

All the Light We Cannot See

An Austrian antiair lieutenant installs a detachment of eight at the Hotel of Bees. Their cook heats oatmeal and bacon in the hotel kitchen while the other seven take apart walls on the fourth floor with sledgehammers. Volkheimer chews slowly, glancing up every now and then to study Werner.

Next broadcast Thursday 2300.

Werner heard the voice everyone was listening for, and what did he do? Lied. Committed treason. How many men might be in danger because of this? And yet when Werner remembers hearing that voice, when he remembers that song flooding his head, he trembles with joy.

Half of northern France is in flames. The beaches are devouring men

—Americans, Canadians, Brits, Germans, Russians—and all through Normandy, heavy bombers pulverize country towns. But out here in Saint-Malo, the dune grass grows long and blue; German sailors still run drills in the harbor; gunners still stockpile ammunition in the tunnels beneath the fort at La Cité.

The Austrians at the Hotel of Bees use a crane to lower an 88-millimeter cannon onto a bastion in the ramparts. They bolt the gun to a cruciform mount and cover it with camouflage tarps. Volkheimer’s crew works two nights in a row, and Werner’s memory plays tricks on him.

Madame Labas sends word that her daughter is pregnant.

So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?

If the Frenchman employs the same transmitter that used to reach all the way to Zollverein, the antenna will be big. Or else there will be hundreds of yards of wire. Either way: something high, something sure to be visible.

On the third night after hearing the broadcast—Thursday—Werner stands in the hexagonal bathtub beneath the queen bee. With the shutters pushed open, he can look to his left over a jumble of slate rooftops. Shearwaters skim the ramparts; sleeves of vapor enshroud the steeple.

Whenever Werner contemplates the old city, it is the chimneys that strike him. They are huge, stacked in rows of twenty and thirty along each block. Not even Berlin had chimneys like that.

Of course. The Frenchman must be using a chimney.

He hurries down through the lobby and paces the rue des Forgeurs, then the rue de Dinan. Staring up at shutters, gutter lines, looking for cables bracketed to bricks, anything that might give the transmitter away. He walks up and down until his neck aches. He has been gone too long. He will be upbraided. Volkheimer already senses something amiss. But then, right at 2300 hours, Werner sees it, hardly one block from where they parked the Opel: an antenna sliding up alongside a chimney. Not much wider than a broomstick.

It rises perhaps twelve meters and then unfolds as if by magic into a simple T.

A high house on the edge of the sea. A spectacularly good location from which to broadcast. From street level, the antenna is all but invisible. He hears Jutta’s voice: I bet he does these broadcasts from a huge mansion, big as this whole colony, a place with a thousand rooms and a thousand servants. The house is tall and narrow, eleven windows in its facade. Splotched with orange lichen, its foundation furred with moss. Number 4 on the rue Vauborel.

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

He walks fast to the hotel, head down, hands in his pockets.

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