Chapters 5-6 Summary

Paris, 1942

The man with the beige raincoat checks his list and says there is a boy missing. When he says the boy’s name, his mother looks quickly at her daughter. She gives her mother a sign to stay silent, which she does. The daughter steps forward and speaks in flawless French, the French of a native, telling the men her brother left at the beginning of the month to spend time at his friend’s home in the country. The man in the raincoat looks doubtful and tells his associate to do a quick search.

As the girl predicted, he is not able to find any hint of the hidden cupboard. While the men’s backs are turned, the girl turns to her mother and explains through gestures what she has done. The only question her mother has is how she will get the key to her father. As they leave the apartment, the man in the raincoat asks for the keys to the apartment. The girl is still wondering how she can leave the key to the cupboard for Papa.

The female concierge behind the counter is here this morning, something unusual for her, and she appears to be gloating. She avoids looking at the women, only has eyes for the men. The girl wonders why this is so because her mother has always treated the woman well. She has even watched her fretful baby, singing songs to her in her native language so she would sleep. As the policeman gives the concierge the keys to the apartment, he asks if she knows where the brother and father are. She shrugs and tells them she has not seen the husband or brother much lately, suggesting they may have gone into hiding and the men should check the cellar.

The men do not have time and the woman’s baby begins crying. Before the men leave, the concierge tells the men about several other families who live in the building next door. As she pronounces their names, her face wrinkles with distaste as if she were saying a dirty word.

Paris, 2002

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(The entire section is 659 words.)