Hornet Flight

Chapter 4

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Peter Flemming's alarm clock went off at half past five in the morning. He silenced it, turned on the light, and sat upright in bed. Inge was lying on her back, eyes open, staring at the ceiling, as expressionless as a corpse. He looked at her for a moment, then got up.

He went into the little kitchen of their Copenhagen apartment and turned on the radio. A Danish reporter was reading a sentimental statement by the Germans about the death of Admiral Lutjens, who had gone down with the Bismarck ten days ago. Peter put a small pot of oatmeal on the stove, then laid a tray. He buttered a slice of rye bread and made ersatz coffee.

He felt optimistic, and after a moment he recalled why. Yesterday there had been a break in the case he was working on.

He was a detective-inspector in the security unit, a section of the Copenhagen criminal investigation department whose job was to keep tabs on union organizers, communists, foreigners, and other potential troublemakers. His boss, the head of the department, was superintendent Frederik Juel, clever but lazy. Educated at the famous Jansborg Skole, Juel was fond of the Latin proverb Quieta non movere, "Let sleeping dogs lie." He was descended from a hero of Danish naval history, but the aggression had long been bred out of his line.

In the past fourteen months their work had expanded, as opponents of German rule had been added to the department's watch list.

So far the only outward sign of resistance had been the appearance of underground newspapers such as Reality, the one the Olufsen boy had dropped. Juel believed the illegal newspapers were harmless, if not actually beneficial as a safety valve, and refused to pursue the publishers. This attitude infuriated Peter. Leaving criminals at large, to continue their offenses, seemed madness to him.

The Germans did not really like Juel's laissez-faire attitude, but so far they had not pushed the matter to a confrontation. Juel's liaison with the occupying power was General Walter Braun, a career soldier who had lost a lung in the battle of France. Braun's aim was to keep Denmark tranquil at all costs. He would not overrule Juel unless forced to.

Recently Peter had learned that copies of Reality were being smuggled to Sweden. Until now, he had been obliged to abide by his boss's hands-off rule, but he hoped Juel's complacency would be shaken by the news that the papers were finding their way out of the country. Last night, a Swedish detective who was a personal friend of Peter's had called to say he thought the paper was being carried on a Lufthansa flight from Berlin to Stockholm that stopped at Copenhagen. That was the breakthrough that accounted for Peter's feeling of excitement when he woke up. He could be on the brink of a triumph.

When the oatmeal was ready, he added milk and sugar then took the tray into the bedroom.

He helped Inge sit upright. He tasted the oatmeal to make sure it was not too hot, then began to feed her with a spoon.

A year ago, just before petrol restrictions came in, Peter and Inge had been driving to the beach when a young man in a new sports car had crashed into them. Peter had broken both his legs and recovered rapidly. Inge had smashed her skull, and she would never be the same.

The other driver, Finn Jonk, the son of a well-known university professor, had been thrown clear and landed in a bush, unharmed.

He had no driving license - it had been taken from him by the courts after a previous accident - and he had been drunk. But the Jonk family had hired a top lawyer who had succeeded in delaying the trial for a year, so Finn still had not been punished for destroying Inge's mind. The personal tragedy, for Inge and Peter, was also an example of the disgraceful way crimes could go unpunished in modern society. Whatever you might say against the Nazis, they were gratifyingly tough on criminals.

When Inge had eaten her breakfast, Peter took her to the toilet, then bathed her. She had always been scrupulously neat and clean. It was one of the things he had loved about her. She was especially clean about sex, always washing carefully afterward - something he appreciated. Not all girls were like that. One woman he had slept with, a nightclub singer he had met during a raid and had a brief affair with, had objected to his washing himself after sex, saying it was unromantic.

Inge showed no reaction as he bathed her. He had learned to be equally unmoved, even when he touched the most intimate parts of her body. He dried her soft skin with a big towel, then dressed her. The most difficult part was putting her stockings on. First he rolled the stocking, leaving only the toe sticking out. Then he carefully eased it over her foot and unrolled it up her calf and over her knee, finally fastening the top to the clips of the garter belt. When he started doing this he had put runs in them every time, but he was a persistent man, and could be very patient when he had his mind set on achieving something; and now he was expert.

He helped her into a cheerful yellow cotton dress, then added a gold wristwatch and bracelet. She could not tell the time, but he sometimes thought she came near to smiling when she saw jewelry glinting on her wrists.

When he had brushed her hair, they both looked at her reflection in the mirror. She was a pretty, pale blonde, and before the accident she had had a flirtatious smile and a coy way of fluttering her eyelashes. Now her face was blank.

On their Whitsun visit to Sande, Peter's father had tried to persuade him to put Inge into a private nursing home. Peter could not afford the fees, but Axel was willing to pay. He said he wanted Peter to be free, though the truth was he was desperate for a grandson to bear his name. However, Peter felt it was his duty to take care of his wife. For him, duty was the most important of a man's obligations. If he shirked it, he would lose his self-respect.

He took Inge to the living room and sat her by the window. He left the radio playing music at low volume, then returned to the bathroom.

The face in his shaving mirror was regular and well proportioned. Inge had used to say he looked like a film star. Since the accident he had noticed a few gray hairs in his red morning stubble, and there were lines of weariness around the orange-brown eyes. But there was a proud look in the set of his head, and an immovable rectitude in the straight line of his lips.

When he had shaved, he tied his tie and strapped on his shoulder holster with the standard issue Walther 7.65mm pistol, the smaller seven-round "PPK" version designed as a concealed weapon for detectives. Then he stood in the kitchen and ate three slices of dry bread, saving the scarce butter for Inge.

The nurse was supposed to come at eight o'clock.

Between eight and five past Peter's mood changed. He began to pace up and down the little hallway of the apartment. He lit a cigarette then crushed it out impatiently. He looked at his wristwatch every few seconds.

Between five and ten past he became angry. Did he not have enough to cope with? He combined caring for his helpless wife with a taxing and highly responsible job as a police detective. The nurse had no right to let him down.

When she rang the doorbell at eight-fifteen, he threw open the door and shouted, "How dare you be late?"

She was a plump girl of nineteen, wearing a carefully pressed uniform, her hair neatly arranged under her nurse's cap, her round face lightly made up. She was shocked by his anger. "I'm sorry," she said.

He stood aside to let her in. He felt a strong temptation to strike her, and she obviously sensed this, for she hurried past him nervously.

He followed her into the living room. "You had time to do your hair and makeup," he said angrily.

"I said I'm sorry."

"Don't you realize that I have a very demanding job? You've got nothing on your mind more important than walking with boys in the Tivoli Garden - yet you can't even get to work on time!"

She looked nervously at his gun in the shoulder holster, as if she was afraid he was going to shoot her. "The bus was late," she said in a shaky voice.

"Get an earlier bus, you lazy cow!"

"Oh!" She looked about to cry.

Peter turned away, fighting an urge to slap her fat face. If she walked out, he would be in worse trouble. He put on his jacket and went to the door. "Don't you ever be late again!" he shouted. Then he left the apartment.

Outside the building he jumped onto a tram heading for the city center. He lit a cigarette and smoked in rapid puffs, trying to calm himself. He was still angry when he got off outside the Politigaarden, the daringly modern police headquarters, but the sight of the building soothed him: its squat shape gave a reassuring impression of strength, its blindingly white stone spoke of purity, and its rows of identical windows symbolized order and the predictability of justice. He passed through the dark vestibule. Hidden in the center of the building was a large open courtyard, circular, with a ring of double pillars marking a sheltered walkway like the cloisters of a monastery. Peter crossed the courtyard and entered his section.

He was greeted by Detective Constable Tilde Jespersen, one of a handful of women in the Copenhagen force. The young widow of a policeman, she was as tough and smart as any cop in the department. Peter often used her for surveillance work, a role in which a woman was less likely to arouse suspicion. She was rather attractive, with blue eyes and fair curly hair and the kind of small, curvy figure that women would call too fat but men thought just right. "Bus delayed?" she said sympathetically.

"No. Inge's nurse turned up a quarter of an hour late. Empty-headed flibbertigibbet."

"Oh, dear."

"Anything happening?"

"I'm afraid so. General Braun is with Juel. They want to see you as soon as you get here."

That was bad luck: a visit from Braun on the day Peter was late. "Damn nurse," he muttered, and headed for Juel's office.

Juel's upright carriage and piercing blue eyes would have suited his naval namesake. He spoke German as a courtesy to Braun. All educated Danes could get by in German, and English as well. "Where have you been, Flemming?" he said to Peter. "We are waiting."

"I apologize," Peter replied in the same language. He did not give the reason for his lateness: excuses were undignified.

General Braun was in his forties. He had probably been handsome once, but the explosion that destroyed his lung had also taken away part of his jaw, and the right side of his face was deformed. Perhaps because of his damaged appearance, he always wore an immaculate field service uniform, complete with high boots and holstered pistol.

He was courteous and reasonable in conversation. His voice was a soft near-whisper. "Take a look at this, if you would, Inspector Flemming," he said. He had spread several newspapers on Juel's desk, all folded open to show a particular report. It was the same story in each newspaper, Peter saw: an account of the butter shortage in Denmark, blaming the Germans for taking it all. The newspapers were the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Also on the table was the Danish underground newspaper Reality, badly printed and amateur-looking beside the legitimate publications, but containing the original story the others had copied. It was a small triumph of propaganda.

Juel said, "We know most of the people who produce these homemade newspapers." He spoke in a tone of languid assurance that irritated Peter. You might imagine, from his manner, that it was he, not his famous ancestor, who had defeated the Swedish navy at the battle of Koge Bay. "We could pick them all up, of course. But I'd rather leave them alone and keep an eye on them. Then, if they do something serious like blowing up a bridge, we'll know who to arrest."

Peter thought that was stupid. They should be arrested now, to stop them blowing up bridges. But he had had this argument with Juel before, so he clamped his teeth together and said nothing.

Braun said, "That might have been acceptable when their activities were confined to Denmark. But this story has gone all over the world! Berlin is furious. And the last thing we need is a clampdown. We'll have the damned Gestapo stamping all over town in their jackboots, stirring up trouble and throwing people in jail, and God knows where it will end."

Peter was gratified. The news was having the effect he wanted. "I'm already working on this," he said. "All these American newspapers got the story from the Reuters wire service, which picked it up in Stockholm. I believe the Reality newspaper is being smuggled out to Sweden."

"Good work!" said Braun.

Peter stole a glance at Juel, who looked angry. So he should. Peter was a better detective than his boss, and incidents such as this proved it. Two years ago, when the post of head of the security unit had fallen vacant, Peter had applied for the job, but Juel had got it. Peter was a few years younger than Juel, but had more successful cases to his credit. However, Juel belonged to a smug metropolitan elite who had all gone to the same schools, and Peter was sure they conspired to keep the best jobs for themselves and hold back talented outsiders.

Now Juel said, "But how could the newspaper be smuggled out? All packages are inspected by the censors."

Peter hesitated. He had wanted to get confirmation before revealing what he suspected. His information from Sweden could be wrong. However, Braun was right here in front of him, pawing the earth and champing at the bit, and this was not the moment to equivocate. "I've had a tip. Last night I spoke to a detective friend in Stockholm who has been discreetly asking questions at the wire service office. He thinks the newspaper comes on the Lufthansa flight from Berlin to Stockholm that stops here."

Braun nodded excitedly. "So if we search every passenger boarding the flight here in Copenhagen, we should find the latest edition."

"Yes."

"Does the flight go today?"

Peter's heart sank. This was not the way he worked. He preferred to verify information before rushing into a raid. But he was grateful for Braun's aggressive attitude - a pleasing contrast with Juel's laziness and caution. Anyway, he could not hold back the avalanche of Braun's eagerness. "Yes, in a few hours," he said, hiding his misgivings.

"Then let's get moving!"

Haste could ruin everything. Peter could not let Braun take charge of the operation. "May I make a suggestion, General?"

"Of course."

"We must act discreetly, to avoid forewarning our culprit. Let's assemble a team of detectives and German officers, but keep them here at headquarters until the last minute. Allow the passengers to assemble for the flight before we move in. I'll go alone to Kastrup aerodrome to make arrangements quietly. When the passengers have checked their baggage, the aircraft has landed and refueled, and they're about to board, it will be too late for anyone to slip away unnoticed - and then we can pounce."

Braun smiled knowingly. "You're afraid that a lot of Germans marching around would give the game away."

"Not at all, sir," Peter said with a straight face. When the occupiers made fun of themselves it was not wise to join in. "It will be important for you and your men to accompany us, in case there is any need to question German citizens."

Braun's face stiffened, his self-deprecating sally rebuffed. "Quite so," he said. He went to the door. "Call me at my office when your team is ready to depart." He left.

Peter was relieved. At least he had regained control. His only worry was that Braun's enthusiasm might have forced him to move too soon.

"Well done, for tracing the smuggling route," Juel said condescendingly. "Good detective work. But it would have been tactful to tell me before you told Braun."

"I'm sorry, sir," Peter said. In fact it would not have been possible: Juel had already left for the day when the Swedish detective had called last night. But Peter did not make the excuse.

"All right," Juel said. "Put together a squad and send them to me for briefing. Then go to the aerodrome and phone me when the passengers are ready to board."

Peter left Juel's room and returned to Tilde's desk in the main office. She was wearing a jacket, blouse, and skirt in different shades of light blue, like a girl in a French painting. "How did it go?" she asked.

"I was late, but I made up for it."

"Good."

"There's a raid on at the aerodrome this morning," he told her. He knew which detectives he wanted with him. "I'll take Bent Conrad, Peder Dresler, and Knut Ellegard." Detective Sergeant Conrad was enthusiastically pro-German. Detective Constables Dresler and Ellegard had no strong political or patriotic feelings, but were conscientious policemen who took orders and did a thorough job. "And I'd like you to come along, too, if you would, in case there are female suspects to be searched."

"Of course."

"Juel will brief you all. I'm going ahead to Kastrup." Peter went to the door, then turned back. "How's little Stig?" Tilde had a son six years old, looked after by his grandmother during the working day.

She smiled. "He's fine. His reading is coming along fast."

"He'll be chief of police one day."

Her face darkened. "I don't want him to be a cop."

Peter nodded. Tilde's husband had been killed in a shootout with a gang of smugglers. "I understand."

She added defensively, "Would you want your son to do this job?"

He shrugged. "I don't have any children, and I'm not likely to."

She gave him an enigmatic look. "You don't know what the future holds."

"True." He turned away. He did not want to start that discussion on a busy day. "I'll call in."

"Okay."

Peter took one of the police department's unmarked black Buicks, recently equipped with two-way radio. He drove out of the city and across a bridge to the island of Amager, where Kastrup aerodrome was located. It was a sunny day, and from the road he could see people on the beach.

He looked like a businessman or lawyer in his conservative chalk-stripe suit and discreetly patterned tie. He did not have a briefcase, but for verisimilitude he had brought with him a file folder, filled with papers taken from a wastebasket.

He felt anxious as he approached the aerodrome. If he could have had another day or two, he might have been able to establish whether every flight carried illegal packages, or only some. There was a maddening possibility that today he might find nothing, but his raid would alert the subversive group, and they might change to a different route. Then he would have to start again.

The aerodrome was a scatter of low buildings on one side of a single runway. It was heavily guarded by German troops, but civilian flights continued to be operated by the Danish airline, DDL, and the Swedish ABA, as well as Lufthansa.

Peter parked outside the office of the airport controller. He told the secretary he was from the government's Aviation Safety Department, and was admitted instantly. The controller, Christian Varde, was a small man with a salesman's ready smile. Peter showed his police card. "There will be a special security check on the Lufthansa flight to Stockholm today," he said. "It has been authorized by General Braun, who will be arriving shortly. We must get everything ready."

A frightened look came over the face of the manager. He reached for the phone on his desk, but Peter covered the instrument with his own hand. "No," he said. "Please do not forewarn anyone. Do you have a list of passengers expected to board the flight here?"

"My secretary does."

"Ask her to bring it in."

Varde called his secretary and she brought a sheet of paper. He gave it to Peter.

Peter said, "Is the flight coming in on time from Berlin?"

"Yes." Varde checked his watch. "It should land in forty-five minutes."

That was enough time, just.

It would simplify Peter's task if he had to search only those passengers joining the flight in Denmark. "I want you to call the pilot and say that no one will be permitted to deplane at Kastrup today. That includes passengers and crew."

"Very good."

He looked at the list the secretary had brought. There were four names: two Danish men, a Danish woman, and a German man. "Where are the passengers now?"

"They should be checking in."

"Take their baggage, but do not load it onto the aircraft until it has been searched by my men."

"Very well."

"The passengers, too, will be searched before they board. Is anything else loaded here, in addition to passengers and their luggage?"

"Coffee and sandwiches for the flight, and a bag of mail. And the fuel, of course."

"The food and drink must be examined, and the mailbag. One of my men will observe the refueling."

"Fine."

"Go now and send the message to the pilot. When all the passengers have checked in, come and find me in the departure lounge. But please - try to give the impression that nothing special is happening."

Varde went out.

Peter made his way to the departure area, racking his brains to make sure he had thought of everything. He sat in the lounge and discreetly studied the other passengers, wondering which of them would end up in jail today instead of on a plane. This morning there were scheduled flights to Berlin, Hamburg, the Norwegian capital of Oslo, the southern Swedish city of Malmo, and the Danish holiday island of Bornholm, so he could not be sure which of the passengers were destined for Stockholm.

There were only two women in the room: a young mother with two children, and a beautifully dressed older woman with white hair. The older woman could be the smuggler, Peter thought: her appearance might be intended to allay suspicion.

Three of the passengers wore German uniforms. Peter checked his list: his man was a Colonel von Schwarzkopf. Only one of the soldiers was a colonel. But it was wildly unlikely that a German officer would smuggle Danish underground newspapers.

All the others were men just like Peter, wearing suits and ties, holding their hats in their laps.

Trying to appear bored but patient, as if waiting for a flight, he watched everyone carefully, alert for signs that someone had sensed the imminent security check. Some passengers looked nervous, but that could just be fear of flying. Peter was most concerned to make sure no one tried to throw away a package, or conceal papers somewhere in the lounge.

Varde reappeared. Beaming as if delighted to see Peter again, he said, "All four passengers have checked in."

"Good." It was time to begin. "Tell them that Lufthansa would like to offer them some special hospitality, then take them to your office. I'll follow."

Varde nodded and went to the Lufthansa desk. While he was asking the Stockholm passengers to come forward, Peter went to a pay phone, called Tilde, and told her all was ready for the raid. Varde led the group of four passengers away, and Peter tagged on to the little procession.

When they were assembled in Varde's office, Peter revealed his identity. He showed his police badge to the German colonel. "I'm acting under orders from General Braun," he said to forestall protests. "He is on his way here and will explain everything."

The colonel looked annoyed, but sat down without comment, and the other three passengers - the white-haired lady and two Danish businessmen - did the same. Peter leaned against the wall, watching them, alert for guilty behavior. Each had a bag of some kind: the old lady a large handbag, the officer a slim document case, the businessmen briefcases. Any of them could be carrying copies of an illegal newspaper.

Varde said brightly, "May I offer you tea or coffee while you're waiting?"

Peter checked his watch. The flight from Berlin was due now. He looked out of Varde's window and saw it coming in to land. The aircraft was a Junkers Ju-52 trimotor - an ugly machine, he thought: its surface was corrugated, like a shed roof, and the third engine, protruding from the nose, looked like the snout of a pig. But it approached at a remarkably low speed for such a heavy aircraft, and the effect was quite majestic. It touched down and taxied to the terminal. The door opened, and the crew threw down the chocks that secured the wheels when the aircraft was parked.

Braun and Juel arrived, with the four detectives Peter had chosen, while the waiting passengers were drinking the airport's ersatz coffee.

Peter watched keenly while his detectives emptied out the men's briefcases and the white-haired lady's handbag. It was quite possible the spy would have the illegal newspaper in hand baggage, he thought. Then the traitor could claim he had brought it to read on the plane. Not that it would do him any good.

But the contents of the bags were innocent.

Tilde took the lady into another room to be searched, while the three male suspects removed their outer clothing. Braun patted down the colonel, and Sergeant Conrad did the Danes. Nothing was found.

Peter was disappointed, but he told himself it was much more likely that the contraband would be in checked baggage.

The passengers were allowed to return to the lounge, but not to board the aircraft. Their luggage was lined up on the apron outside the terminal building: two new-looking crocodile cases that undoubtedly belonged to the old lady, a duffel bag that was probably the colonel's, a tan leather suitcase, and a cheap cardboard one.

Peter felt confident he would find a copy of Reality in one of them.

Bent Conrad got the keys from the passengers. "I bet it's the old woman," he murmured to Peter. "She looks like a Jew to me."

"Just unlock the luggage," Peter said.

Conrad opened all the bags and Peter began to search them, with Juel and Braun looking over his shoulders, and a crowd of people watching through the window of the departure lounge. He imagined the moment when he would triumphantly produce the newspaper and flourish it in front of everyone.

The crocodile cases were stuffed with expensive old-fashioned clothing, which he dumped on the ground. The duffel bag contained shaving tackle, a change of underwear, and a perfectly pressed uniform shirt. The businessman's tan leather case held papers as well as clothing, and Peter looked through them all carefully, but there were no newspapers or anything suspicious.

He had left the cheap cardboard suitcase until last, figuring the less affluent businessman was the likeliest of the four passengers to be a spy.

The case was half-empty. It held a white shirt and a black tie, supporting the man's story that he was going to a funeral. There was also a well-worn black Bible. But no newspaper.

Peter began to wonder despairingly if his fears had been well founded, and this was the wrong day for the raid. He felt angry that he had let himself be pushed into acting prematurely. He controlled his fury. He was not finished yet.

He took a penknife from his pocket. He pushed its point into the lining of the old lady's expensive luggage and tore a ragged gash in the white silk. He heard Juel grunt with surprise at the sudden violence of the gesture. Peter ran his hand beneath the ripped lining. To his dismay, nothing was hidden there.

He did the same to the businessman's leather case, with the same result. The second businessmen's cardboard suitcase had no lining, and Peter could see nothing in its structure that might serve as a hiding place.

Feeling his face redden with frustration and embarrassment, he cut the stitching on the leather base of the colonel's canvas duffel and felt inside for concealed papers. There was nothing.

He looked up to see Braun, Juel, and the detectives staring at him. Their faces showed fascination and a hint of fear. His behavior was beginning to look a little crazy, he realized.

To hell with that.

Juel said languidly, "Perhaps your information was wrong, Flemming."

And wouldn't that please you, Peter thought resentfully. But he was not finished yet.

He saw Varde watching from the departure lounge, and beckoned him. The man's smile looked strained as he contemplated the wreckage of his customers' luggage. "Where is the mailbag?" Peter said.

"In the baggage office."

"Well, what are you waiting for? Bring it here, idiot!"

Varde went off. Peter pointed at the luggage with a disgusted gesture and said to his detectives, "Get rid of this stuff."

Dresler and Ellegard repacked the suitcases roughly. A baggage handler came to take them to the Junkers. "Wait," Peter said as the man began to pick up the cases. "Search him, Sergeant." Conrad searched the man and found nothing.

Varde brought the mailbag and Peter emptied the letters on the ground. They all bore the stamp of the censor. There were two envelopes large enough to hold a newspaper, one white and one brown. He ripped open the white one. It held six copies of a legal document, some kind of contract. The brown envelope contained the catalogue of a Copenhagen glassware factory. Peter cursed aloud.

A trolley bearing a tray of sandwiches and several coffeepots was wheeled out for Peter's inspection. This was Peter's last hope. He opened each pot and poured the coffee out on the ground. Juel muttered something about this being unnecessary, but Peter was too desperate to care. He pulled away the linen napkins covering the tray and poked about among the sandwiches. To his horror, there was nothing. In a rage, he picked up the tray and dumped the sandwiches on the ground, hoping to find a newspaper underneath, but there was only another linen napkin.

He realized he was going to be completely humiliated, and that made him madder.

"Begin refueling," he said. "I'll watch."

A tanker was driven out to the Junkers. The detectives put out their cigarettes and looked on as aviation fuel was pumped into the wings of the aircraft. Peter knew this was useless, but he persevered stubbornly, wearing a wooden expression, because he could not think what else to do. Passengers watched curiously through the rectangular windows of the Junkers, no doubt wondering why a German general and six civilians needed to observe the refueling.

The tanks were filled and the caps closed.

Peter could not think of any way to delay the takeoff. He had been wrong, and now he looked a fool.

"Let the passengers board," he said with suppressed fury.

He returned to the departure lounge, his humiliation complete. He wanted to strangle someone. He had made a complete mess of things in front of General Braun as well as Superintendent Juel. The appointments board would feel justified in having picked Juel instead of Peter for the top job. Juel might even use this fiasco as an excuse for having Peter shunted sideways to some low-profile department such as Traffic.

He stopped in the lounge to watch the takeoff. Juel, Braun, and the detectives waited with him. Varde was standing nearby, trying hard to look as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. They watched while the four angry passengers boarded. The chocks were removed from the wheels by the ground crew and thrown on board, then the door was closed.

As the aircraft moved off its stand, Peter was struck by inspiration. "Stop the plane," he said to Varde.

Juel said, "For God's sake . . ."

Varde looked as if he might cry. He turned to General Braun. "Sir, my passengers . . ."

"Stop the plane!" Peter repeated.

Varde continued to look pleadingly at Braun. After a moment, Braun nodded. "Do as he says."

Varde picked up a phone.

Juel said, "My God, Flemming, this had better be good."

The aircraft rolled onto the runway, turned a full circle, and came back to its stand. The door opened, and the chocks were thrown down to the ground crew.

Peter led the rest of the detectives out onto the apron. The propellers slowed and stopped. Two men in overalls were wedging the chocks in front of the main wheels. Peter addressed one of them. "Hand me that chock."

The man looked scared, but did as he was told.

Peter took the chock from him. It was a simple triangular block of wood about a foot high - dirty, heavy, and solid.

"And the other one," Peter said.

Ducking under the fuselage, the mechanic picked up the other and handed it over.

It looked the same, but felt lighter. Turning it over in his hands, Peter found that one face was a sliding lid. He opened it. Inside was a package carefully wrapped in oilcloth.

Peter gave a sigh of profound satisfaction.

The mechanic turned and ran.

"Stop him!" Peter cried, but it was unnecessary. The man veered away from the men and tried to run past Tilde, no doubt imagining he could easily push her aside. She turned like a dancer, letting him pass, then stuck out a foot and tripped him. He went flying.

Dresler jumped on him, hauled him to his feet, and twisted his arm behind his back.

Peter nodded to Ellegard. "Arrest the other mechanic. He must have known what was going on."

Peter turned his attention to the package. He unwrapped the oilcloth. Inside were two copies of Reality. He handed them to Juel.

Juel looked at the papers, then up at Peter.

Peter stared at him expectantly, saying nothing, waiting.

Juel said reluctantly, "Well done, Flemming."

Peter smiled. "Just doing my job, sir."

Juel turned away.

Peter said to his detectives, "Handcuff both mechanics and take them to headquarters for questioning."

There was something else in the package. Peter pulled out a sheaf of papers clipped together. They were covered with typed characters in five-letter groups that made no sense. He stared at them in puzzlement for a moment. Then enlightenment dawned, and he realized this was a triumph greater than he had dreamed.

The papers he was holding bore a message in code.

Peter handed the papers to Braun. "I think we have uncovered a spy ring, General."

Braun looked at the papers and paled. "My God, you're right."

"Perhaps the German military has a department that specializes in breaking enemy ciphers?"

"It certainly does."

"Good," said Peter.

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