One day at Etienne’s house, there is a knock at the door. Marie-Laure, Etienne, and Madame Manec all think they’re going to be arrested. But in fact, it is only a group of French police officers. The officers explain that they’ve been sent from the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Marie-Laure notices that the officers smell like they’ve “been feasting.” They explain that Marie-Laure’s father has been convicted of conspiracy and theft, and sent to prison. They add that they believe Marie-Laure’s father was sentenced with the “proper tribunal.” This seems to give Etienne hope, but Marie-Laure is more suspicious—she wonders if anybody will do anything for her father.
Marie-Laure’s lack of sight gives her some interesting insights into the police officers’ character. She notes that they smell like a feast, suggesting that they’re corrupt, and selfishly hoard food while much of the city is starving. Strangely, Marie-Laure is more realistic about her father’s fate than either Manec or Etienne: she alone seems to grasp that it’s unlikely that the officers will do anything to help Daniel out of prison. Marie-Laure has been forced to grow up fast.
The officers ask Marie-Laure, Manec, and Etienne more questions. They ask to see the letters that Daniel sent to Marie-Laure. Etienne produces these, and they read them carefully. The officers also ask to search the house, and Etienne obliges. The officers search every floor, and don’t notice that the heavy wardrobe on the sixth floor is blocking a door. They advise Etienne to throw away a collection of French flags that he keeps in his room, and then bid him goodbye.
The French officers seem to have split allegiance—they’re clearly loyal to Nazi authority, but also seem to be trying to help Etienne, advising him to get rid of French flags. For the time being, Etienne’s secret radio room is safe: the wardrobe has served its purpose. This suggests that Etienne could easily get away with making French Resistance broadcasts—only his fear holds him back.