Chapter no 142 – Numbers‌

All the Light We Cannot See

Allied bombs demolish the rail station. The Germans disable the harbor installations. Airplanes slip in and out of clouds. Etienne hears that wounded Germans are pouring into Saint-Servan, that Americans have captured Mont Saint-Michel, only twenty-five miles away, that liberation is a matter of days. He makes it to the bakery just as Madame Ruelle unlocks the door. She ushers him inside. “They want locations of flak batteries. Coordinates. Can you manage it?”

Etienne groans. “I have Marie-Laure. Why not you, Madame?”

“I don’t understand maps, Etienne. Minutes, seconds, declination adjustments? You know these things. All you have to do is find them, plot them, and broadcast the coordinates.”

“I’ll have to walk around with a compass and a notepad. There’s no other way to do it. They’ll shoot me.”

“It’s vital that they receive precise locations for the guns. Think how many lives it might save. And you’ll have to do it tonight. There’s talk that tomorrow they will intern all the men in the city between eighteen and sixty. That they’re going to check everyone’s papers, and every man of fighting age, anyone who could be taking part in the resistance, will be imprisoned at Fort National.”

The bakery reels; he is being caught in spiderwebs; they twist around his wrists and thighs, crackle like burning paper when he moves. Every second he becomes more entangled. The bell tied to the bakery door jingles, and someone enters. Madame Ruelle’s face seals over like the visor of a knight clanging down.

He nods.

“Good,” she says, and tucks the loaf under his arm.

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