The sign outside the building read "DANISH INSTITUTE OF FOLK SONG AND COUNTRY DANCING," but that was just to fool the authorities. Down the steps, through the double curtain that served as a light trap, and inside the windowless basement, there was a jazz club.
The room was small and dim. The damp concrete floor was littered with cigarette ends, and sticky with spilled beer. There were a few rickety tables and some wooden chairs, but most of the audience was standing. There were sailors and dockers shoulder to shoulder with well-dressed young people and a sprinkling of German soldiers.
On the tiny stage, a young woman sat at the piano, crooning ballads into a microphone. Perhaps it was jazz, but it was not the music Harald was passionate about. He was waiting for Memphis Johnny Madison, who was colored, even though he had lived most of his life in Copenhagen and had probably never seen Memphis.
It was two o'clock in the morning. Earlier this evening, after lights-out at school, the Three Stooges - Harald, Mads, and Tik - had put their clothes back on, sneaked out of the dormitory building, and caught the last train into the city. It was risky - they would be in deep trouble if they were found out - but it would be worth it to see Memphis Johnny.
The aquavit Harald was drinking with draft beer chasers was making him even more euphoric.
In the back of his mind was the thrilling memory of his conversation with Poul Kirke, and the frightening fact that he was now in the Resistance. He hardly dared to think about it, for it was something he could not share even with Mads and Tik. He had passed secret military information to a spy.
After Poul had admitted that there was a secret organization, Harald had said he would do anything else he could to help. Poul had promised to use Harald as one of his observers. His task would be to collect information on the occupying forces and give it to Poul for onward transmission to Britain. He was proud of himself, and eager for his first assignment. He was also frightened, but he tried not to think about what might happen if he were caught.
He still hated Poul for dating Karen Duchwitz. He had the sour taste of jealousy in the pit of his stomach every time he thought about it. But he suppressed the feeling for the sake of the Resistance.
He wished Karen were here now. She would appreciate the music.
Just as he was thinking that female company was lacking, he noticed a new arrival: a woman with curly dark hair, wearing a red dress, sitting on a stool at the bar. He could not see her too clearly - the air was smoky, or perhaps there was something wrong with his vision - but she seemed to be alone. "Hey, look," he said to the others.
"Nice, if you like older women," said Mads.
Harald peered at her, trying to focus better. "Why, how old is she?"
"She's got to be thirty at least."
Harald shrugged. "That's not really old. I wonder if she'd like someone to talk to."
Tik, who was not as drunk as the other two, said, "She'll talk to you."
Harald was not sure why Tik was grinning like a fool. Ignoring him, Harald stood up and headed for the bar. As he got closer, he saw that the woman was quite plump, and her round face was heavily made up. "Hello, schoolboy," she said, but her smile was friendly.
"I noticed that you were alone."
"For the moment."
"I thought you might want someone to talk to."
"That's not really what I'm here for."
"Ah - you prefer to listen to the music. I'm a great jazz fan, have been for years. What do you think of the singer? She's not American, of course, but - "
"I hate the music."
Harald was nonplussed. "Then why - "
"I'm a working girl."
She seemed to think that explained everything, but he was mystified. She continued to smile warmly at him, but he had the sense they were talking at cross-purposes. "A working girl," he repeated.
"Yes. What did you think I was?"
He was inclined to be nice to her, so he said, "You look like a princess to me."
He asked her, "What's your name?"
It was an unlikely name for a working-class Danish girl, and Harald guessed it was assumed.
A man appeared at Harald's elbow. Harald was taken aback by the newcomer's appearance: he was unshaven, he had rotten teeth, and one eye was half closed by a big bruise. He wore a stained tuxedo and a collarless shirt. Despite being short and skinny, he looked intimidating. He said, "Come on, sonny, make up your mind."
Betsy said to Harald, "This is Luther. Leave the boy alone, Lou, he's not doing anything wrong."
"He's driving other customers away."
Harald realized he had no idea what was going on, and he decided he must be drunker than he had imagined.
Luther said, "Well - do you want to fuck her, or not?"
Harald was astonished. "I don't even know her!"
Betsy burst out laughing.
"It's ten crowns, you can pay me," Luther said.
Enlightenment dawned. Harald turned to her and said in a voice loud with astonishment, "Are you a prostitute?"
"All right, don't shout," she said with annoyance.
Luther grabbed Harald by the shirt front and pulled him forward. His grip was strong, and Harald staggered. "I know you educated types," Luther spat. "You think this kind of thing is funny."
Harald smelled the man's bad breath. "Don't get upset," he said. "I just wanted to talk to her."
A barman with a rag around his head leaned over the bar and said, "No trouble, please, Lou. The lad means no harm."
"Doesn't he? I think he's laughing at me."
Harald was beginning to wonder anxiously whether Luther had a knife, when the club manager picked up the microphone and announced Memphis Johnny Madison, and there was a burst of applause.
Luther pushed Harald away. "Get out of my sight, before I slit your fool throat," he said.
Harald went back to the others. He knew he had been humiliated, but he was too drunk to care. "I made an error of etiquette," he said.
Memphis Johnny walked on stage, and Harald instantly forgot Luther.
Johnny sat at the piano and leaned toward the microphone. Speaking perfect Danish with no trace of an accent, he said, "Thank you. I'd like to open with a composition by the greatest boogie-woogie pianist of them all, Clarence Pine Top Smith."
There was renewed applause, and Harald shouted in English, "Play it, Johnny!"
Some kind of disturbance broke out near the door, but Harald took no notice. Johnny played four bars of introduction then stopped abruptly and said into the microphone, "Heil Hitler, baby."
A German officer walked on stage.
Harald looked around, bewildered. A group of military police had come into the club. They were arresting the German soldiers, but not the Danish civilians.
The officer snatched the microphone from Johnny and said in Danish, "Entertainers of inferior race are not permitted. This club is closed."
"No!" cried Harald in dismay. "You can't do that, you Nazi peasant!"
Fortunately, his voice was drowned in the general hubbub of protest.
"Let's get out before you make any more errors of etiquette," said Tik. He took Harald's arm.
Harald resisted. "Come on!" he yelled. "Let Johnny play!"
The officer handcuffed Johnny and walked him out.
Harald was heartbroken. It had been his first chance to hear a real boogie pianist, and the Nazis had stopped the show after a few bars. "They have no right!" he shouted.
"Of course not," Tik said soothingly, and steered him to the door.
The three young men made their way up the steps to the street. It was midsummer, and the short Scandinavian night was already over. Dawn had broken. The club was on the waterfront, and the broad channel of water gleamed in the half-light. Sleeping ships floated motionless at their moorings. A cool, salty breeze blew in from the sea. Harald breathed deeply then felt momentarily dizzy.
"We might as well go to the railway station and wait for the first train home," Tik said. Their plan was to be in bed, pretending to sleep, before anyone at school got up.
They headed for the town center. At the main intersections, the Germans had erected concrete guard posts, octagonal in plan and about four feet high, with room in the middle for a soldier to stand, visible from the chest up. They were not manned at night. Harald was still furious about the closure of the club, and he was further enraged by these ugly symbols of Nazi domination. Passing one, he gave it a futile kick.
Mads said, "They say the sentries at these posts wear lederhosen, because no one can see their legs." Harald and Tik laughed.
A moment later, they passed a pile of builder's rubble outside a shop that had been newly refitted, and Harald happened to notice a cluster of paint cans on top of the pile - whereupon he was struck by an idea. He leaned across the rubbish and picked up a can.
"What the hell are you doing?" Tik said.
There was a little black paint left in the bottom, still liquid. From among the odd bits of timber on the pile, Harald selected a piece of wooden slat an inch wide that would serve as a brush.
Ignoring bemused questions from Tik and Mads, he walked back to the guard post. He knelt in front of it with the paint and the stick. He heard Tik say something in a warning voice, but ignored him. With great care, he wrote in black paint on the concrete wall:
He stepped back to admire his work. The letters were large and the words could be read at a distance. Later this morning, thousands of Copenhageners on their way to work would see the joke and smile.
"What do you think of that?" he said. He looked around. Tik and Mads were nowhere to be seen, but two uniformed Danish policemen stood immediately behind him.
"Very amusing," said one of them. "You're under arrest."
He spent the rest of the night in the Politigaarden, in the drunk tank with an old man who had urinated in his trousers and a boy his own age who vomited on the floor. He was too disgusted with them and himself to sleep. As the hours went by, he developed a headache and a raging thirst.
But the hangover and the filth were not his worst worries. He was more concerned about being interrogated about the Resistance. What if he were turned over to the Gestapo and tortured? He did not know how much pain he could stand. Eventually he might betray Poul Kirke. And all for a stupid joke! He could not believe how childish he had been. He was bitterly ashamed.
At eight o'clock in the morning, a uniformed policeman brought a tray with three mugs of ersatz tea and a plate of black bread, thinly smeared with a butter substitute. Harald ignored the bread - he could not eat in a place like a toilet - but he drank the tea greedily.
Shortly afterward, he was taken from the cell to an interview room. He waited a few minutes, then a sergeant came in carrying a folder and a typed sheet of paper. "Stand up!" the sergeant barked, and Harald leaped to his feet.
The sergeant sat at the table and read the report. "A Jansborg schoolboy, eh?" he said.
"You ought to know better, lad."
"Where did you get the liquor?"
"At a jazz club."
He looked up from the typed sheet. "The Danish Institute?"
"You must have been there when the Krauts closed it down."
"Yes." Harald was confused by his use of the mildly derogatory slang word "Kraut" for "German." It jarred with his formal tone.
"Do you often get drunk?"
"No, sir. First time."
"And then you saw the guard post, and you happened to come across a can of paint . . ."
"I'm very sorry."
The cop grinned suddenly. "Well, don't be too sorry. I thought it was pretty funny, myself. No trousers!" He laughed.
Harald was bewildered. The man had seemed hostile, but now he was enjoying the joke. Harald said, "What's going to happen to me?"
"Nothing. We're the police, not the joke patrol." The sergeant tore the report in half and dropped it in the wastepaper basket.
Harald could hardly believe his luck. Was he really going to be let off? "What . . . what should I do?"
"Go back to Jansborg."
"Thank you!" Harald wondered if he could sneak back into school unnoticed, even at this late stage. He would have some time, on the train, to think of a story. Perhaps no would need ever find out about this.
The sergeant stood up. "But take a word of advice. Keep off the booze."
"I will," Harald said fervently. If he could get out of this scrape, he would never drink alcohol again.
The sergeant opened the door, and Harald suffered a dreadful shock.
Standing outside was Peter Flemming.
Harald and Peter stared at one another for a long moment.
The sergeant said, "Can I help you, Inspector?"
Peter ignored him and spoke to Harald. "Well, well," he said in the satisfied tone of a man who has been proved right at last. "I wondered, when I saw the name on the overnight arrest list. Could Harald Olufsen, graffiti writer and drunk, be Harald Olufsen, son of the pastor of Sande? Lo and behold, they are one and the same."
Harald was dismayed. Just when he had started to hope that this dreadful incident could be kept secret, the truth had been discovered by one who had a grudge against his whole family.
Peter turned to the sergeant and said dismissively, "All right, I'll deal with it now."
The sergeant looked resentful. "There are to be no charges, sir, the superintendent has decided."
"We'll see about that."
Harald felt he could weep. He had been on the point of getting away with it. This seemed so unfair.
The sergeant hesitated, seeming disposed to argue, and Peter said firmly, "That will be all."
"Very good, sir." He left.
Peter stared at Harald, saying nothing, until at last Harald said, "What are you going to do?"
Peter smiled, then said, "I think I'll take you back to school."
They entered the grounds of Jansborg Skole in a police Buick driven by a uniformed officer, with Harald in the back like a prisoner.
The sun was shining on the old redbrick buildings and the lawns, and Harald felt a stab of regret for the simple, safe life he had lived here over the last seven years. Whatever happened now, this reassuringly familiar place was not going to be a home to him much longer.
The sight aroused different feelings in Peter Flemming, who muttered sourly to the driver, "This is where they breed our future rulers."
"Yes, sir," the driver said neutrally.
It was the time of the midmorning sandwich, and the boys were eating outside, so most of the school was watching as the car drove up to the main office and Harald got out.
Peter showed his police badge to the school secretary, and he and Harald were immediately taken to Heis's study.
Harald did not know what to think. It seemed Peter was not going to hand him over to the Gestapo, his worst fear. He was reluctant to let his hopes rise too soon, but all the signs were that Peter regarded him as a mischievous schoolboy, not a member of the Danish Resistance. For once he was grateful to be treated as a child rather than a man.
But in that case, what was Peter up to?
As they walked in, Heis unwound his lanky frame from behind his desk and stared at them, with vague concern, through the glasses perched on his beaky nose. His voice was kindly, but a tremor betrayed his nervousness. "Olufsen? What's all this?"
Peter did not give Harald the chance to answer the question. Jerking a thumb in his direction, he said to Heis in a grating tone, "Is this one of yours?"
The gentle Heis flinched as if he had been struck. "Olufsen is a pupil here, yes."
"He was arrested last night for defacing a German military installation."
Harald realized that Peter was enjoying the humiliation of Heis, and was determined to make the most of it.
Heis looked mortified. "I'm very sorry to hear that."
"He was also drunk."
"The police have to decide what to do about it."
"I'm not sure I - "
"Frankly, we'd rather not prosecute a schoolboy for a childish prank."
"Well, I'm glad to hear that . . ."
"On the other hand, he can't go unpunished."
"Apart from anything else, our German friends will want to know that the perpetrator has been dealt with firmly."
"Of course, of course."
Harald felt sorry for Heis, but at the same time wished he were not such a weakling. So far, he had done nothing but agree with the bullying Peter.
Peter went on, "So the outcome depends on you."
"Oh? In what way?"
"If we let him go, will you expel him from school?"
Harald immediately saw what Peter was up to. He wanted to be sure that Harald's transgression would become public knowledge. He was only interested in the embarrassment of the Olufsen family.
The arrest of a Jansborg schoolboy would make headlines. The shame of Heis would be exceeded only by that of Harald's parents. His father would be volcanic and his mother suicidal.
But, Harald realized, Peter's enmity toward the Olufsen family had blunted his policeman's instincts. He was so happy to have caught an Olufsen drunk that he had overlooked a greater crime. He had not even considered whether Harald's dislike of the Nazis went beyond slogan-daubing to espionage. Peter's malice had saved Harald's skin.
Heis showed the first sign of opposition. "Expulsion seems a bit harsh - "
"Not as harsh as a prosecution and possible jail sentence."
Harald did not enter the argument himself, because he could see no way out of this that would enable him to keep the incident secret. He consoled himself with the thought that he had escaped the Gestapo. Any other punishment would seem minor.
Heis said, "It's almost the end of the academic year. He wouldn't miss much schooling if he were expelled now."
"Then it will not permit him to avoid much work."
"Something of a technicality, considering that he is only a couple of weeks away from leaving."
"But it will satisfy the Germans."
"Will it? That's important, of course."
"If you can assure me that he will be expelled, I can release him from custody. Otherwise, I'll have to take him back to the Politigaarden."
Heis threw a guilty look at Harald. "It does seem as if the school has no real choice in the matter, doesn't it?"
Heis looked at Peter. "Very well, then. I will expel him."
Peter gave a satisfied smile. "I'm glad we've resolved this so sensibly." He stood up. "Try to keep out of trouble in future, young Harald," he said pompously.
Harald looked away.
Peter shook hands with Heis. "Well, thank you, Inspector," Heis said.
"Pleased to help." Peter went out.
Harald felt all his muscles relax. He had got away with it. There would be hell to pay at home, of course, but the important thing was that his foolishness had not compromised Poul Kirke and the Resistance.
Heis said, "A dreadful thing has happened, Olufsen."
"I know I've done wrong - "
"No, not that. I think you know Mads Kirke's cousin."
"Poul, yes." Harald tensed again. Now what? Had Heis somehow found out about Harald's involvement with the Resistance? "What about Poul?"
"He has been in a plane crash."
"My God! I was flying with him a few days ago!"
"It happened last night at the flying school." Heis hesitated.
"What . . . ?"
"I'm sorry to have to tell you that Poul Kirke is dead."