Tilde Jespersen wore a light, flowery perfume that wafted across the pavement table and teased Peter Flemming's nostrils, never quite strong enough for him to identify it, like an elusive memory. He imagined how the fragrance would rise from her warm skin as he slipped off her blouse, her skirt, and her underwear.
"What are you thinking about?" she said.
He was tempted to tell her. She would pretend shock, but secretly be pleased. He could tell when a woman was ready for that kind of talk, and he knew how do it: lightly, with a self-deprecating smile, but an underlying tone of sincerity.
Then he thought of his wife, and held back. He took his marital vows seriously. Other people might think he had a good excuse for breaking them, but he set himself higher standards.
So he said, "I was thinking about you tripping up the runaway mechanic at the aerodrome. You showed great presence of mind."
"I didn't even think about it, just stuck out my foot."
"You have good instincts. I was never in favor of women police and, to tell you the truth, I still have my doubts - but no one could deny you're a first class cop."
She shrugged. "I have doubts myself. Maybe women ought to stay home and look after babies. But after Oskar died . . ." Oskar had been her husband, a Copenhagen detective and friend of Peter's. "I had to work, and law enforcement is the only life I know anything about. My father was a customs officer, my older brother is a Military Police officer, and my younger brother a uniformed policeman in Aarhus."
"I'll tell you the great thing about you, Tilde - you never try to get men to do your work by playing the helpless female."
He intended his remark as a compliment, but she did not look as pleased as he had hoped. "I never ask for help at all," she said crisply.
"Probably a good policy."
She gave him a look he could not read. Puzzling over the sudden chill in the atmosphere, he wondered whether she might be afraid to ask for assistance in case she was immediately classed as a helpless female. He could see how she might resent that. After all, men asked one another for help all the time.
She said, "But why are you a cop? Your father has a successful business - don't you want to take it over, one day?"
He shook his head ruefully. "I used to work at the hotel in the school holidays. I hated the guests, with their demands and complaints: this beef is overcooked, my mattress is lumpy, I've been waiting twenty minutes for a cup of coffee. I couldn't stand it."
The waiter came. Peter resisted the temptation to have herrings and onions on his smorrebrod, thinking, vaguely, that he might get close enough to Tilde for her to smell his breath, so he ordered soft cheese and cucumbers instead. They handed their ration cards to the waiter.
Tilde said, "Any progress in the spy case?"
"Not really. The two men we arrested at the aerodrome told us nothing. They were sent to Hamburg for what the Gestapo calls 'deep interrogation,' and they gave the name of their contact - Matthies Hertz, an army officer. But he has disappeared."
"A dead end, then."
"Yes." The phrase made him think of another dead end he had run into. "Do you know any Jews?"
She looked surprised. "One or two, I should think. None in the police force. Why?"
"I'm making a list."
"A list of Jews?"
"Where, in Copenhagen?"
"The usual reason. It's my job to keep tabs on troublemakers."
"And Jews are troublemakers?"
"The Germans think so."
"You can see why they might have problems with Jews - but do we?"
He was taken aback. He had expected her to see this from his point of view. "It's as well to be prepared. We have lists of union organizers, communists, foreign nationals, and members of the Danish Nazi Party."
"And you think that's the same thing?"
"It's all information. Now, it's easy to identify new Jewish immigrants, who've come here in the last fifty years. They dress funny, they speak with a peculiar accent, and most of them live in the same few Copenhagen streets. But there are also Jews whose families have been Danish for centuries. They look and talk the same as everyone else. Most of them eat roast pork and go to work on Saturday mornings. If we ever need to find them, we could have trouble. So I'm making a list."
"How? You can't just go round asking people if they know any Jews."
"It's a problem. I have two junior detectives going through the phone book, and one or two other lists, making notes of Jewish-sounding names."
"That's not very reliable. There are lots of people called Isaksen who aren't Jewish."
"And lots of Jews with names like Jan Christiansen. What I'd really like to do is raid the synagogue. They probably have a membership list."
To his surprise, she was looking disapproving, but she said, "Why don't you?"
"Juel won't allow it."
"I think he's right."
"Peter, can't you see? What use might your list be put to in the future?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Peter said irritably. "If Jewish groups start to organize resistance to the Germans, we'll know where to look for suspects."
"And what if the Nazis just decide to round up all the Jews and send them to those concentration camps they have in Germany? They'll use your list!"
"But why would they send the Jews to camps?"
"Because Nazis hate Jews. But we're not Nazis, we're police officers. We arrest people because they've committed crimes, not because we hate them."
"I know that," Peter said angrily. He was astonished to be attacked from this angle. Tilde should know that his motive was to uphold the law, not subvert it. "There's always a risk that information will be misused."
"So wouldn't it be better not to make the damn list?"
How could she be so stupid? It maddened him to be opposed by someone he thought of as a comrade in the war against lawbreakers. "No!" he shouted. He lowered his voice with an effort. "If we thought that way, we wouldn't have a security department at all!"
Tilde shook her head. "Look, Peter, the Nazis have done a lot of good things, we both know that. They're on the side of the police, basically. They've clamped down on subversion, they maintain law and order, they've reduced unemployment, and so on. But on the subject of Jews, they're insane."
"Maybe, but they're making the rules now."
"Just look at the Danish Jews - they're law-abiding, hardworking, they send their children to school . . . It's ludicrous to make a list of their names and addresses as if they were all part of some communist conspiracy."
He sat back and said accusingly, "So, you'd refuse to work on this with me?"
It was her turn to be offended. "How can you say that? I'm a professional police officer, and you're my boss. I'll do what you say. You ought to know that."
"Do you mean it?"
"Look, if you wanted to make a complete list of witches in Denmark, I'd tell you I didn't think witches were criminals or subversives - but I'd help you make the list."
Their food arrived. There was an awkward silence as they began to eat. After a few minutes, Tilde said, "How are things at home?"
Peter had a sudden memory of himself and Inge, a few days before the accident, walking to church on Sunday morning, two healthy, happy young people in their best clothes. With all the scum and riffraff in the world, why did it have to be his wife whose mind was destroyed by that drunken boy in his sports car? "Inge is the same," he said.
"When the brain is damaged that badly, it doesn't mend. There will never be any improvement."
"It must be hard for you."
"I'm fortunate to have a generous father. I couldn't afford a nurse on police wages - Inge would have to go into an asylum."
Once again Tilde gave him a look that was hard to read. It was almost as if she felt the asylum might not be a bad solution. "What about the driver of the sports car?"
"Finn Jonk. His trial started yesterday. It should be over in a day or two."
"At last! What do you think will happen?"
"He's pleading guilty. I assume he'll be jailed for five or ten years."
"It doesn't seem enough."
"For destroying someone's mind? What would be enough?"
After lunch, when they were walking back to the Politigaarden, Tilde put her arm through Peter's. It was an affectionate gesture, and he felt she was telling him that she liked him despite their disagreement. As they approached the ultramodern police headquarters building, he said, "I'm sorry you disapprove of my Jewish list."
She stopped and turned to him. "You're not a bad man, Peter." To his surprise, she seemed to be on the edge of tears. "Your sense of duty is your great strength. But doing your duty isn't the only law."
"I don't really understand what you mean."
"I know." She turned away and went into the building alone.
Making his way to his office, he tried to see the issue from her point of view. If the Nazis imprisoned law-abiding Jews, that would be a crime, and his list would help the criminals. But you could say that about a gun, or even a car: the fact that something might be used by criminals did not mean it was wrong to have it.
As he was crossing the open central courtyard, he was hailed by his boss, Frederik Juel. "Come with me," Juel said briskly. "We've been summoned by General Braun." He marched ahead, his military bearing giving an impression of decisiveness and efficiency that Peter knew to be quite false.
It was a short walk from the Politigaarden to the town square, where the Germans had taken over a building called the Dagmarhus. It was surrounded by barbed wire and had cannons and antiaircraft guns on the flat roof. They were shown to Walter Braun's office, a corner room overlooking the square, comfortably furnished with an antique desk and a leather couch. There was a rather small picture of the Fuhrer on the wall and a framed photograph on the desk of two small boys in school uniform. Braun wore his pistol even here, Peter noted, as if to say that although he had a cozy office, nevertheless he meant business.
Braun was looking pleased with himself. "Our people have decoded the message you found in the hollow airplane chock," he said in his habitual near-whisper.
Peter was elated.
"Very impressive," Juel murmured.
"Apparently it was not difficult," Braun went on. "The British use simple codes, often based on a poem or famous passage of prose. Once our cryptanalysts get a few words, a professor of English can usually fill in the rest. I have never before known the study of English literature to serve any useful purpose." He laughed at his own wit.
Peter said impatiently, "What was in the message?"
Braun opened a file on his desk. "It comes from a group calling themselves the Nightwatchmen." Although they were speaking German, he used the Danish word Natvaegterne. "Does that mean anything to you?"
Peter was taken by surprise. "I'll check the files, of course, but I'm pretty sure we haven't come across this name before." He frowned, considering. "Real-life nightwatchmen are usually police or soldiers, aren't they?"
Juel bridled. "I hardly think that Danish police officers - "
"I didn't say they were Danish," Peter interrupted. "The spies could be German traitors." He shrugged. "Or they may just aspire to military status." He looked at Braun. "What's the content of the message, General?"
"Details of our military dispositions in Denmark. Take a look." He passed a sheaf of papers across the desk. "Locations of antiaircraft batteries in and around Copenhagen. German naval vessels in the harbor during the last month. Regiments stationed in Aarhus, Odense, and Morlunde."
"Is the information accurate?"
Braun hesitated. "Not precisely. Close to the truth, but not exact."
Peter nodded. "Then the spies probably are not Germans with inside information, for such people would be able to get correct details from the files. More likely, they are Danes who are careful observers making educated estimates."
Braun nodded. "A shrewd deduction. But can you find these people?"
"I certainly hope so."
Braun's focus of attention had switched entirely to Peter, as if Juel were not there, or just an underling in attendance rather than the senior officer. "Do you think the same people are putting out the illegal newspapers?"
Peter was pleased that Braun recognized his expertise, but frustrated that Juel was nevertheless the boss. He hoped that Braun himself had noted this irony. He shook his head. "We know the underground editors and we keep an eye on their activities. If they had been making meticulous observations of German military dispositions, we would have noticed. No - I believe this is a new organization we haven't encountered."
"Then how will you catch them?"
"There is one group of potential subversives whom we have never properly investigated - the Jews."
Peter heard a sharp intake of breath from Juel.
Braun said, "You had better take a look at them."
"It's not always easy to know who the Jews are, in this country."
"Then go to the synagogue!"
"Good idea," Peter said. "They may have a membership list. That would be a start."
Juel gave Peter a thunderous look, but said nothing.
Braun said, "My superiors in Berlin are impressed with the loyalty and efficiency of the Danish police in intercepting this message to British intelligence. Nevertheless, they were keen to send in a team of Gestapo investigators. I have dissuaded them, by promising that you will vigorously investigate the spy ring and bring the traitors to justice." It was a long speech for a man with one lung, and it left him breathless. He paused, looking from Peter to Juel and back again. When he had caught his breath, he finished, "For your own sakes, and for the good of everyone in Denmark, you'd better succeed."
Juel and Peter stood up, and Juel said tightly, "We will do everything possible."
They left. As soon as they were outside the building, Juel rounded on Peter with a blazing blue-eyed stare. "You know perfectly well this has nothing to do with the synagogue, damn you."
"I know nothing of the kind."
"You're just toadying to the Nazis, you disgusting creep."
"Why shouldn't we help them? They represent the law, now."
"You think they'll help your career."
"And why not?" Peter said, stung to retaliate. "The Copenhagen elite are prejudiced against men from the provinces - but the Germans may be more fair-minded."
Juel was incredulous. "Is that what you believe?"
"At least they're not blind to the abilities of boys who did not go to Jansborg Skole."
"So you think you were passed over because of your background? Idiot - you didn't get the job because you're too extreme! You've got no sense of proportion. You'd wipe crime out by arresting everyone who looked suspicious!" He made a disgusted sound. "If I have anything to do with it, you'll never get another promotion. Now get out of my sight." He walked away.
Peter burned with resentment. Who did Juel think he was? Having a famous ancestor did not make him better than anyone else. He was a cop, just like Peter, and he had no right to talk as if he were a higher life form.
But Peter had got his way. He had defeated Juel. He had permission to raid the synagogue.
Juel would hate him forever for that. But did it matter? Braun, not Juel, was the power now. Better to be Braun's favorite and Juel's enemy than the other way around.
Back at headquarters, Peter swiftly assembled his team, choosing the same detectives he had used at Kastrup: Conrad, Dresler, and Ellegard. He said to Tilde Jespersen, "I'd like to take you along, if you don't object."
"Why would I object?" she said testily.
"After our conversation over lunch . . ."
"Please! I'm a professional. I told you that."
"Good enough," he said.
They drove to a street called Krystalgade. The yellow-brick synagogue stood side-on to the street, as if hunching a shoulder against a hostile world. Peter stationed Ellegard at the gate to make sure no one could sneak out.
An elderly man in a yarmulke appeared from the Jewish old people's home next door. "May I help you?" he said politely.
"We're police officers," Peter said. "Who are you?"
The man's face took on a look of such abject fear that Peter almost felt sorry for him. "Gorm Rasmussen, I'm the day manager of the home," he said in a shaky voice.
"You have keys to the synagogue?"
"Let us in."
The man took a bunch of keys from his pocket and opened a door.
Most of the building was taken up by the main hall, a richly decorated room with gilded Egyptian columns supporting galleries over the side aisles. "These Jews have plenty of money," Conrad muttered.
Peter said to Rasmussen, "Show me your membership list."
"Membership? What do you mean?"
"You must have the names and addresses of your congregation."
"No - all Jews are welcome."
Peter's instinct told him the man was telling the truth, but he would search the place anyway. "Are there any offices here?"
"No. Just small robing rooms for the rabbi and other officials, and a cloakroom for the congregation to hang their coats."
Peter nodded to Dresler and Conrad. "Check them out." He walked up the center of the room to the pulpit end and climbed a short flight of steps to a raised dais. Behind a curtain he found a concealed niche. "What have we here?"
"The Torah scrolls," said Rasmussen.
There were six large, heavy-looking scrolls lovingly wrapped in velvet cloth, providing perfect hiding places for secret documents. "Unwrap them all," he said. "Spread them out on the floor so I can see there's nothing else inside."
"Yes, right away."
While Rasmussen was doing his bidding, Peter walked a short distance away with Tilde, and talked to her while keeping a suspicious eye on the manager. "Are you okay?"
"I told you."
"If we find something, will you admit I was right?"
She smiled. "If we don't, will you admit you were wrong?"
He nodded, pleased that she was not angry with him.
Rasmussen spread out the scrolls, covered with Hebrew script. Peter saw nothing suspicious. He supposed it was possible they had no register of members. More likely, they used to have one but destroyed it as a precaution the day the Germans invaded. He felt frustrated. He had gone to a lot of trouble for this raid, and had made himself even more unpopular with his boss. It would be maddening if it came to nothing.
Dresler and Conrad returned from opposite ends of the building. Dresler was empty-handed, but Conrad was carrying a copy of the newspaper Reality.
Peter took the newspaper and showed it to Rasmussen. "This is illegal."
"I'm sorry," the man said. He looked as if he might cry. "They push them through the letter box."
The people who printed the newspaper were not being sought by the police, so those who merely read it were in no danger at all - but Rasmussen did not know that, and Peter pushed his moral advantage. "You must write to your people sometimes," he said.
"Well, of course, to leading members of the Jewish community. But we don't have a list. We know who they are." He tried a weak smile. "So do you, I imagine."
It was true. Peter knew the names of a dozen or more prominent Jews: a couple of bankers, a judge, several professors at the university, some political figures, a painter. They were not who he was after: they were too well known to be spies. Such people could not stand at the dockside counting ships without being noticed. "Don't you send letters to the ordinary people, asking them to donate to charities, telling them of events you're organizing, celebrations, picnics, concerts?"
"No," said the man. "We just put up a notice at the community center."
"Ah," said Peter with a satisfied smile. "The community center. And where is that?"
"Near Christiansborg, in Ny Kongensgade."
It was about a mile away. "Dresler," said Peter. "Keep this guy here for fifteen minutes and make sure he doesn't warn anyone."
They drove to the street called Ny Kongensgade. The Jewish community center was a large eighteenth-century building with an internal courtyard and an elegant staircase, though it needed redecorating. The cafeteria was closed, and there was no one playing Ping-Pong in the basement. A well-dressed young man with a disdainful air was in charge of the office. He said they had no list of names and addresses, but the detectives searched the place anyway.
The young man's name was Ingemar Gammel, and something about him made Peter thoughtful. What was it? Unlike Rasmussen, Gammel was not frightened; but whereas Peter had felt Rasmussen was scared but innocent, Gammel gave him the opposite impression.
Gammel sat at a desk, wearing a waistcoat with a watch chain, and looked on coolly while his office was ransacked. His clothes seemed expensive. Why was a wealthy young man acting as secretary here? This kind of work was normally done by underpaid girls, or middle-class housewives whose children had flown the nest.
"I think this is what we're looking for, Boss," said Conrad, passing Peter a black ring binder. "A list of rat holes."
Peter looked inside and saw page after page of names and addresses, several hundred of them. "Bang," he said. "Well done." But instinct told him there was more to find here. "Keep looking, everyone, in case something else turns up."
He flicked through the pages, looking for anything odd, or familiar, or . . . something. He had that dissatisfied feeling. But nothing caught his eye.
Gammel's jacket hung from a hook behind the door. Peter read the tailor's label. The suit had been made by Anderson & Sheppard of Savile Row, London, in 1938. Peter was jealous. He bought his clothes from the best shops in Copenhagen, but he could never afford an English suit. There was a silk handkerchief in the outside breast pocket. He found a well-stuffed money clip in the left side pocket. In the right pocket was a train ticket to Aarhus, return, with a neat hole made by a ticket inspector's punch. "Why did you go to Aarhus?"
"To visit friends."
The decoded message had included the name of the German regiment stationed at Aarhus, Peter recalled. However, Aarhus was Denmark's largest town after Copenhagen, and hundreds of people traveled between the two cities every day.
In the inside pocket of the jacket was a slim diary. Peter opened it.
Gammel said with contempt, "Do you enjoy your work?"
Peter looked up with a smile. He did enjoy infuriating pompous rich men who thought they were superior to ordinary people. But what he said was, "Like a plumber, I see a lot of shit." He pointedly returned his gaze to Gammel's diary.
Gammel's handwriting was stylish, like his suit, with big capitals and full loops. The entries in the diary all looked normal: lunch dates, theater, Mother's birthday, phone Jorgen about Wilder. "Who is Jorgen?" Peter asked.
"My cousin, Jorgen Lumpe. We exchange books."
"And he is . . . ?"
"The American writer. The Bridge of San Luis Rey. You must have read it."
There was a sneer in that, an implication that policemen were not sufficiently cultured to read foreign novels, but Peter ignored it and turned to the back of the diary. As he expected, he found a list of names and addresses, some with phone numbers. He glanced up at Gammel, and thought he saw the hint of a flush on his clean-shaven cheeks. That was promising. He scrutinized the address list with care.
He picked a name at random. "Hilde Bjergager - who is she?"
"A lady friend," Gammel answered coolly.
Peter tried another. "Bertil Bruun?"
Gammel remained unflustered. "We play tennis."
"My bank manager."
The other detectives had stopped searching and fallen silent, sensing the tension.
For the first time, Gammel showed a hint of emotion, but it was relief, rather than guilt. Why? Did he think he had got away with something? What was the significance of the picture dealer Klausen? Or was the previous name the important one? Had Gammel shown relief because Peter had moved on to Klausen? "Poul Kirke is an old friend?"
"We were at university together." Gammel's voice was even, but there was just the suggestion of fear in his eyes.
Peter glanced at Tilde, and she gave a slight nod. She, too, had seen something in Gammel's reaction.
Peter looked again at the diary. There was no address for Kirke, but beside the phone number was a capital N, written uncharacteristically small. "What does this mean - the letter N?" Peter said.
"Naestved. It's his number at Naestved."
"What's his other number?"
"He doesn't have another."
"So why do you need the annotation?"
"To tell you the truth, I don't remember," Gammel said, showing irritation.
It might have been true. On the other hand, N might stand for Nightwatchman.
Peter said, "What does he do for a living?"
"Ah." Peter had speculated that the Nightwatchmen might be army people, because of their name and because they were accurate observers of military details. "At which base?"
"I thought you said he was at Naestved."
"It's twenty miles away."
"Well, that's how I remember it."
Peter nodded thoughtfully, then said to Conrad, "Arrest this lying prick."
The search of Ingemar Gammel's apartment was disappointing. Peter found nothing of interest: no code book, no subversive literature, no weapons. He concluded that Gammel must be a minor figure in the spy ring, one whose role was simply to make observations and report them to a central contact. That key man would compile the messages and send them to England. But who was the pivotal figure? Peter hoped it might be Poul Kirke.
Before driving the fifty miles to the flying school at Vodal where Poul Kirke was stationed, Peter spent an hour at home with his wife, Inge. As he fed her apple-and-honey sandwiches in tiny squares, he found himself daydreaming about domestic life with Tilde Jespersen. He imagined himself watching Tilde getting ready to go out in the evening - washing her hair and drying it vigorously with a towel, sitting at the dressing table in her underwear polishing her nails, looking in the mirror as she tied a silk scarf around her neck. He realized he was yearning to be with a woman who could do things for herself.
He had to stop thinking this way. He was a married man. The fact that a man's wife was sick did not provide an excuse for adultery. Tilde was a colleague and a friend, and she should never be any more to him than that.
Feeling restless and discontented, he turned on the radio and listened to the news while he waited for the evening nurse to arrive. The British had launched a new attack in North Africa, crossing the Egyptian border into Libya with a tank division in an attempt to relieve the besieged city of Tobruk. It sounded like a major operation, though the censored Danish radio station naturally predicted that German antitank guns would decimate the British forces.
The phone rang, and Peter crossed the room to pick it up.
"Allan Forslund here, Traffic Division." Forslund was the officer dealing with Finn Jonk, the drunk driver who had crashed into Peter's car. "The trial has just ended."
"Jonk got six months."
"I'm sorry - "
Peter's vision blurred. He felt he was going to fall over, and he put a hand on the wall to steady himself. "For destroying my wife's mind and ruining my life? Six months?"
"The judge said he had already suffered torment and he would have to live with the guilt for the rest of his life."
"I thought the prosecution was going to ask for a severe sentence."
"We did. But Jonk's lawyer was very persuasive. Said the boy has stopped drinking, rides around on a bicycle, is studying to be an architect - "
"Anyone can say that."
"I don't accept this! I refuse to accept it!"
"Nothing we can do - "
"Like hell there isn't."
"Peter, don't take any hasty action."
Peter tried to calm himself. "Of course I won't."
"Are you alone?"
"I'm going back to work in a few minutes."
"So long as you have someone to talk to."
"Yes. Thanks for calling, Allan."
"I'm very sorry we didn't do better."
"Not your fault. A slick lawyer and a stupid judge. We've seen that before." Peter hung up. He had forced himself to sound calm, but he was boiling. If Jonk had been at large he might have sought him out and killed him - but the kid was safe in jail, if only for a few months. He thought of finding the lawyer, arresting him on a pretext, and beating the shit out of him; but he knew he would not do it. The lawyer had not broken any laws.
He looked at Inge. She was sitting where he had left her, watching him blank-faced, waiting for him to continue feeding her. He noticed that some of the chewed apple had dribbled from her mouth onto the bodice of her dress. She was not normally a messy eater, despite her condition. Before the accident she had been extraordinarily fastidious about her appearance. Seeing her with food on her chin and stains on her clothing suddenly made him want to weep.
He was saved by the doorbell. He pulled himself together rapidly and answered it. The nurse had arrived at the same time as Bent Conrad, who had come to pick him up for the journey to Vodal. He shrugged on his jacket and left the nurse to clean Inge up.
They went in two cars, standard black police Buicks. Peter thought the army might put obstacles in his way, so he had asked General Braun to detail a German officer to impose authority if necessary, and a Major Schwarz from Braun's staff was in the lead car.
The journey took an hour and a half. Schwarz smoked a large cigar, filling the car with fumes. Peter tried not to think about the outrageously light sentence on Finn Jonk. He might need his wits about him at the air base, and he did not want his judgment to be skewed by rage. He tried to smother his blazing fury, but it smoldered on under a blanket of false calm, stinging his eyes with its smoke, like Schwarz's cigar.
Vodal was a grass airfield with a scatter of low buildings along one side. Security was light - it was only a training school, so nothing remotely secret went on here - and a single guard at the gate casually waved them through without asking their business. Half a dozen Tiger Moths were parked in a line, like birds on a fence. There were also some gliders and two Messerschmitt Me-109s.
As Peter got out of the car, he saw Arne Olufsen, his boyhood rival from Sande, sauntering across the car park in his smart brown army uniform. The sour taste of resentment came into Peter's mouth.
Peter and Arne had been friends, all through childhood, until the quarrel between their families twelve years ago. It had started when Axel Flemming, Peter's father, had been accused of tax fraud. Axel felt the prosecution was outrageous: he had only done what everyone else did, and understated his profits by inflating his costs. He had been convicted, and had to pay a hefty fine on top of all the back tax.
He had persuaded his friends and neighbors to see the case as an argument about an accounting technicality, rather than an accusation of dishonesty. Then Pastor Olufsen had intervened.
There was a church rule that any member who committed a crime should be "read out," or expelled from the congregation. The offender could rejoin the following Sunday, if he wished, but for one week he was an outsider. The procedure was not invoked for trivial crimes such as speeding, and Axel had argued that his transgression fell into that category. Pastor Olufsen thought otherwise.
This humiliation had been much worse for Axel than the fine with which the court had punished him. His name had been read to the congregation, he had been obliged to leave his place and sit at the back of the church throughout the service, and to complete his mortification the pastor had preached a sermon on the text "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's."
Peter winced every time he remembered it. Axel was proud of his position as a successful businessman and community leader, and there could be no greater punishment for him than to lose the respect of his neighbors. It had been torture to Peter to see his father publicly reprimanded by a pompous, self-righteous prig like Olufsen. He believed his father had deserved the fine, but not the humiliation in church. He had sworn then that if any member of the Olufsen family ever transgressed, there would be no mercy.
He hardly dared to hope that Arne was involved in the spy ring. That would be a sweet revenge.
Arne caught his eye. "Peter!" He looked surprised, but not afraid.
"Is this where you work?" Peter said.
"When there's any work to do." Arne was as debonair and relaxed as ever. If he had anything to feel guilty about, he was concealing it well.
"Of course, you're a pilot."
"This is a training school, but we don't have many pupils. More to the point, what are you doing here?" Arne glanced at the major in German uniform standing behind Peter. "Is there a dangerous outbreak of littering? Or has someone been cycling after dark without lights?"
Peter did not find Arne's raillery very funny. "Routine investigation," he replied shortly. "Where will I find your commanding officer?"
Arne pointed to one of the low buildings. "Base headquarters. You need Squadron Leader Renthe."
Peter left him and went into the building. Renthe was a lanky man with a bristly moustache and a sour expression. Peter introduced himself and said, "I'm here to interview one of your men, a Flight Lieutenant Poul Kirke."
The squadron leader looked pointedly at Major Schwarz and said, "What's the problem?"
The reply None of your damn business sprang to Peter's lips, but he was resolved to be calm, so he told a polite lie. "He's been dealing in stolen property."
"When military personnel are suspected of crimes, we prefer to investigate the matter ourselves."
"Of course you do. However . . ." He moved a hand in the direction of Schwarz. "Our German friends want the police to deal with it, so your preferences are irrelevant. Is Kirke on the base at this moment?"
"He happens to be flying."
Peter raised his eyebrows. "I thought your planes were grounded."
"As a rule, yes, but there are exceptions. We're expecting a visit from a Luftwaffe group tomorrow, and they want to be taken up in our training aircraft, so we have permission to do test flights today to make sure the aircraft are in readiness. Kirke should land in a few minutes."
"I'll search his quarters meanwhile. Where does he bed down?"
Renthe hesitated, then answered reluctantly. "Dormitory A, at the far end of the runway."
"Does he have an office, or a locker, or anywhere else he might keep things?"
"He has a small office three doors along this corridor."
"I'll start there. Tilde, come with me. Conrad, go out to the airfield to meet Kirke when he comes back - I don't want him to slip away. Dresler and Ellegard, search Dormitory A. Squadron Leader, thank you for your help . . ." Peter saw the commander's eyes stray to the phone on the desk, and added, "Don't make any phone calls for the next few minutes. If you were to warn anyone that we're on our way, that would constitute obstruction of justice. I'd have to throw you in jail, and that wouldn't do the army's reputation much good, would it?"
Renthe made no reply.
Peter, Tilde, and Schwarz went along the corridor to a door marked "Chief Flying Instructor." A desk and a filing cabinet were squeezed into a small room with no windows. Peter and Tilde began to search and Schwarz lit another cigar. The filing cabinet contained pupil records. Peter and Tilde patiently looked at every sheet of paper. The little room was airless, and Tilde's elusive perfume was lost in Schwarz's cigar smoke.
After fifteen minutes, Tilde made a surprised noise and said, "This is odd."
Peter looked up from the exam results of a student called Keld Hansen who had failed his navigation test.
Tilde handed him a sheet of paper. Peter studied it, frowning. It bore a careful sketch of a piece of apparatus that Peter did not recognize: a large square aerial on a stand, surrounded by a wall. A second drawing of the same apparatus without the wall showed more details of the stand, which looked as if it might revolve.
Tilde looked over his shoulder. "What do you think it can be?"
He was intensely aware of how close she was. "I've never seen anything like it, but I'd bet the farm it's secret. Anything else in the file?"
"No." She showed him a folder marked "Andersen, H.C."
Peter grunted. "Hans Christian Andersen - that's suspicious in itself. He turned the sheet over. On its reverse was a sketch map of an island whose long, thin shape was as familiar to Peter as the map of Denmark itself. "This is Sande, where my father lives!" he said.
Looking more closely, he saw that the map showed the new German base and the area of the beach that was off limits.
"Bang," he said softly.
Tilde's blue eyes were shining with excitement. "We've caught a spy, haven't we?"
"Not yet," Peter said. "But we're about to."
They went outside, followed by the silent Schwarz. The sun had set, but they could see clearly in the soft twilight of the long Scandinavian summer evening.
They walked onto the airfield and stood beside Conrad, near where the planes were parked. The aircraft were being put away for the night. One was being wheeled into the hangar, two airmen pushing its wings and a third lifting its tail off the ground.
Conrad pointed to an incoming aircraft downwind of the airfield and said, "I think this must be our man."
It was another Tiger Moth. As it descended in a textbook circuit and turned into the wind for landing, Peter reflected that there was no doubt Poul Kirke was a spy. The evidence found in the filing cabinet would be enough to hang him. But before that happened, Peter had a lot of questions to ask him. Was he simply a reporter, like Ingemar Gammel? Had Kirke traveled to Sande himself to check out the air base and sketch the mystery apparatus? Or did he play the more important role of coordinator, assembling information and transmitting it to England in coded messages? If Kirke was the central contact, who had gone to Sande and made the sketch? Could it have been Arne Olufsen? That was possible, but Arne had shown no sign of guilt an hour ago when Peter had arrived unexpectedly at the base. Still, it might be worthwhile to put Arne under surveillance.
As the aircraft touched down and bumped along the grass, one of the police Buicks came from the upwind end of the runway in a tearing hurry. It skidded to a stop, and Dresler jumped out, carrying something bright yellow.
Peter threw him a nervous look. He did not want a kerfuffle that might forewarn Poul Kirke. Glancing around, he realized that he had relaxed his guard for a moment, and failed to notice that the group at the edge of the runway appeared somewhat out of place: himself in a dark suit, Schwarz in German uniform smoking a cigar, a woman, and now a man jumping out of a car in an obvious hurry. They looked like a reception committee, and the setup might ring alarm bells in Kirke's mind.
Dresler came up to him excitedly waving the yellow object, a book with a brightly colored dust jacket. "This is his code book!" he said.
That meant Kirke was the key man. Peter looked at the little aircraft, which had turned off the runway before drawing level with the waiting group, and was now taxiing past them to the parking area. "Put the book under your coat, you damn fool," he said to Dresler. "If he sees you waving that about, he'll know we're on to him!"
He looked again at the Tiger Moth. He could see Kirke in the open cockpit, but could not read the man's expression behind the goggles, scarf, and helmet.
However, there was no room to misinterpret what happened next.
The engine suddenly roared louder as the throttle was opened wide. The aircraft swung around, turning into the wind but also heading straight for the little group around Peter. "Damn, he's going to run for it!" Peter cried.
The plane picked up speed and came directly at them.
Peter drew his pistol.
He wanted to take Kirke alive, and interrogate him - but he would rather have him dead than let him get away. Holding the gun with both hands, he pointed it at the oncoming aircraft. It was virtually impossible to shoot down a plane with a handgun, but perhaps he might hit the pilot with a lucky shot.
The Tiger Moth's tail came up off the ground, leveling the fuselage and bringing Kirke's head and shoulders into view. Peter took careful aim at the flying helmet and pulled the trigger. The aircraft lifted off the ground, and Peter raised his aim, emptying the seven-shot magazine of the Walther PPK. He saw with bitter disappointment that he had shot too high, for a series of small holes like ink blots appeared in the fuel tank over the pilot's head, and petrol was spurting into the cockpit in small jets. The aircraft did not falter.
The others threw themselves flat.
A suicidal rage seized Peter as the spinning propeller approached him at sixty miles per hour. At the controls with Poul Kirke were all the criminals who had ever escaped justice, including Finn Jonk, the driver who had injured Inge. Peter was going to stop Kirke getting away if it killed him.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Major Schwarz's cigar smoldering on the grass, and he was seized by inspiration.
As the biplane swept lethally toward him he stooped, picked up the burning cigar, and threw it at the pilot.
Then he flung himself sideways.
He felt the rush of wind as the lower wing passed within inches of his head.
He hit the ground, rolled over, and looked up.
The Tiger Moth was climbing. The bullets and the lighted cigar seemed to have had no effect. Peter had failed.
Would Kirke get away? The Luftwaffe would scramble the two Messerschmitts to chase him, but that would take a few minutes, by which time the Tiger Moth would be out of sight. Kirke's fuel tank was damaged, but the holes might not be at the lowest point of the tank, in which case he might retain sufficient petrol to get him across the water to Sweden, which was only twenty miles away. And darkness was falling.
Kirke had a chance, Peter concluded bitterly.
Then there was the whoosh of a sudden fire, and a single big flame rose from the cockpit.
It spread with ghastly speed all over the visible head and shoulders of the pilot, whose clothing must have been soaked with petrol. The flames licked back along the fuselage, rapidly consuming the linen fabric.
For a few seconds the aircraft continued to climb, although the head of the pilot had turned to a charred stump. Then Kirke's body slumped, apparently pushing the control stick forward, and the Tiger Moth turned nose-down and dived the short distance to earth, plunging like an arrow into the ground. The fuselage crumpled like a concertina.
There was a horrified silence. The flames continued to lick around the wings and the tail, stripping the fabric, eating into the wooden wing spars, and revealing the square steel tubes of the fuselage like the skeleton of a burned martyr.
Tilde said, "My God, how dreadful - the poor man." She was shaking.
Peter put his arms around her. "Yes," he said. "And the worst of it is, now he can't answer questions."