Hornet Flight

Chapter 18

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Hermia spent all Friday morning in the beautiful ruin of Hammershus castle, waiting for Arne to arrive with the vital film.

It was now even more important than it had been five days ago, when she had sent him on the mission. In the interim, the world had changed. The Nazis were set fair to conquer the Soviet Union. They had already taken the key fortress of Brest. Their total air superiority was devastating the Red Army.

Digby had told her, in a few grim sentences, of his conversation with Churchill. Bomber Command would commit every plane it could get off the ground to the biggest air raid of the war, in a desperate attempt to draw Luftwaffe strength away from the Russian front and give the Soviet soldiers a chance to fight back. That raid was now eleven days away.

Digby had also talked to his brother, Bartlett, who was fit again, back on active service, and certain to be piloting one of the bombers.

The raid would be a suicide mission, and Bomber Command would be fatally weakened, unless they could develop tactics for evading German radar in the next few days. And that depended on Arne.

Hermia had persuaded her Swedish fisherman to bring her across the water again - although he had warned her that this would be the last time, as he felt it dangerous to fall into a pattern. At dawn she had splashed through the shallows, carrying her bike, onto the beach below Hammershus. She had climbed the steep hill to the castle, where she stood on the ramparts, like a medieval queen, and watched the sun rise on a world that was increasingly ruled by the strutting, shouting, hate-filled Nazis she so loathed.

During the day she moved, every half hour or so, from one part of the ruins to another, or strolled through the woods, or descended to the beach, just so that it would not be obvious to tourists that she was waiting to meet someone. She suffered a combination of terrible tension and yawn-making boredom that she found strangely wearying.

She diverted herself by recalling their last meeting. The memory was sweet. She was shocked at herself for making love to Arne right there on the grass in broad daylight. But she did not regret it. She would remember that all her life.

She expected him on the overnight ferry. The distance from the harbor at Ronne to the castle of Hammershus was only about fifteen miles. Arne could bike it in an hour or walk it in three. However, he did not show up during the morning.

This made her anxious, but she told herself not to worry. The same thing had happened last time: he had missed the overnight boat and taken the morning sailing. She assumed he would arrive this evening.

Last time she had sat tight and waited for him, and he had not shown up until the following morning. Now she was too impatient for that. When she felt sure he could not have come on the overnight ferry, she decided to cycle to Ronne.

She felt increasingly nervous as she passed from the lonely country roads into the more populous streets of the little town. She told herself this was safer - she was more conspicuous in the countryside and could lose herself in the town - but it felt the opposite. She saw suspicion in everyone's eyes, not just policemen and soldiers but shopkeepers in their doorways, carters leading horses, old men smoking on benches, and dockers drinking tea on the quay. She walked around the town for a while, trying not to meet anyone's eye, then went into a hotel on the harbor and ate a sandwich. When the ferry docked, she stood with a small group of people waiting to meet passengers. As they disembarked she scrutinized every face, expecting Arne to be in some kind of disguise.

It took a few minutes for them all to come ashore. When the flow stopped, and passengers started boarding for the return journey, Hermia realized Arne was not on the boat.

She fretted over what to do next. There were a hundred possible explanations for his nonappearance, ranging from the trivial to the tragic. Had he lost his nerve and abandoned the mission? She felt ashamed of such a suspicion, but she had always doubted whether Arne was hero material. He might be dead, of course. But it was most likely he had been held up by something stupid like a delayed train. Unfortunately, he had no way of letting her know.

But, she realized, she might be able to contact him.

She had told him to hide out at Jens Toksvig's house in the Nyboder district of Copenhagen. Jens had a phone, and Hermia knew the number.

She hesitated. If the police were listening in on Jens's phone, for any reason, they could trace the call, and then they would know . . . what? That something might be going on on Bornholm. That would be bad, but not fatal. The alternative was for her to find overnight accommodation and wait to see whether Arne came in on the next ferry. She did not have the patience for that.

She returned to the hotel and placed the call.

As the operator was putting her through, she wished she had taken more time to plan what to say. Should she ask for Arne? If anyone happened to be listening in, that would give away his whereabouts. No, she would have to speak in riddles, as she had when calling from Stockholm. Jens would probably answer the phone. He would recognize her voice, she thought. If not, she would say, It's your friend from Bredgade, remember me? Bredgade was the street where the British Embassy had been located when she worked there. That should be enough of a hint for him - though it might also be enough to alert a detective.

Before she had time to think it through, the phone was picked up, and a man's voice said, "Hello?"


It certainly was not Arne. It might have been Jens, but she had not heard his voice for more than a year.

She said, "Hello."

"Who is that speaking?" The voice was that of an older man. Jens was twenty-nine.

She said, "Let me speak to Jens Toksvig, please."

"Who is calling?"

Who the hell was she speaking to? Jens lived alone. Maybe his father had come to stay. But she was not going to give her real name. "It's Hilde."

"Hilde who?"

"He'll know."

"May I have your second name, please?"

This was ominous. She decided to try to bully him. "Look, I don't know who the hell you are, but I didn't call to play stupid games, so just put Jens on the damn phone, will you?"

It did not work. "I must have your surname."

This was not someone playing games, she decided. "Who are you?"

There was a long pause, then he replied. "I am Sergeant Egill of the Copenhagen police."

"Is Jens in trouble?"

"What is your full name, please?"

Hermia hung up.

She was shocked and frightened. This was as bad as it could be. Arne had taken refuge in Jens's house, and now the house was under police guard. It could only mean that they had found out that Arne was hiding there. They must have arrested Jens and perhaps Arne, too. Hermia fought back tears. Would she ever see her lover again?

She walked out of the hotel and looked across the harbor toward Copenhagen, a hundred miles away in the direction of the setting sun. Arne was probably in jail there.

There was no way she was going to meet up with her fisherman and return to Sweden empty-handed. She would be letting down Digby Hoare and Winston Churchill and thousands of British airmen.

The ferry's horn sounded the all-aboard with a noise like a bereaved giant. Hermia jumped on her bicycle and cycled furiously to the dock. She had a complete set of forged papers, including identity card and ration book, so she could pass any checkpoint. She bought a ticket and hurried on board. She had to go to Copenhagen. She had to find out what had happened to Arne. She had to get his film, if he had taken any pictures. When she had done that, she would worry about how to escape from Denmark and get the film to England.

The ferry hooted mournfully again and moved slowly away from the dock.

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