Harald felt a few drops of rain as the ferry approached its dock at the north end of the island. The hotel's horse-drawn taxi was waiting for the well-dressed couple. The fishermen were met by the wife of one of them driving a horse and cart. Harald decided to cross the island and drive home along the beach, which had hard-packed sand--in fact it had been used for speed trials of racing cars.
He was halfway from the dock to the hotel when he ran out of steam.
He was using the bike's petrol tank as a water reserve, and he realized now that it was not big enough. He would have to get a five-gallon oil drum and put it in the sidecar. Meanwhile, he needed water to get him home.
There was only one house within sight, and unfortunately it was Axel Flemming's. Despite their rivalry, the Olufsens and the Flemmings were on speaking terms: all members of the Flemming family came to church every Sunday and sat together at the front. Indeed, Axel was a deacon. All the same, Harald did not relish the thought of asking the antagonistic Flemmings for help. He considered walking a quarter of a mile to the next nearest house, then decided that would be foolish. With a sigh, he set off up the long drive.
Rather than knock at the front door, he went around the side of the house to the stables. He was pleased to see a manservant putting the Ford in the garage. "Hello, Gunnar," said Harald. "Can I have some water?"
The man was friendly. "Help yourself," he said. "There's a tap in the yard."
Harald found a bucket beside the tap and filled it. He went back to the road and poured the water into the tank. It looked as if he might manage to avoid meeting any of the family. But when he returned the bucket to the yard, Peter Flemming was there.
A tall, haughty man of thirty in a well-cut suit of oatmeal tweed, Peter was Axel's son. Before the quarrel between the families, he had been best friends with Harald's brother Arne, and in their teens they had been known as ladykillers, Arne seducing girls with his wicked charm and Peter by his cool sophistication. Peter now lived in Copenhagen but had come home for the holiday weekend, Harald assumed.
Peter was reading Reality. He looked up from the paper to see Harald. "What are you doing here?" he said.
"Hello, Peter, I came to get some water."
"I suppose this rag is yours?"
Harald touched his pocket and realized with consternation that the newspaper must have fallen out when he reached down for the bucket.
Peter saw the movement and understood its meaning. "Obviously it is," he said. "Are you aware that you could go to jail just for having it in your possession?"
The talk of jail was not an empty threat: Peter was a police detective. Harald said, "Everyone reads it in the city." He made himself sound defiant, but in fact he was a little scared: Peter was mean enough to arrest him.
"This is not Copenhagen," Peter intoned solemnly.
Harald knew that Peter would love the chance to disgrace an Olufsen. Yet he was hesitating. Harald thought he knew why. "You'll look a fool if you arrest a schoolboy on Sande for doing something half the population does openly. Especially when everyone finds out you've got a grudge against my father."
Peter was visibly torn between the desire to humiliate Harald and the fear of being laughed at. "No one is entitled to break the law," he said.
"Whose law--ours, or the Germans'?"
"The law is the law."
Harald felt more confident. Peter would not be arguing so defensively if he intended to make an arrest. "You only say that because your father makes so much money giving Nazis a good time at his hotel."
That hit home. The hotel was popular with German officers, who had more to spend than the Danes. Peter flushed with anger. "While your father gives inflammatory sermons," he retorted. It was true: the pastor had preached against the Nazis, his theme being "Jesus was a Jew." Peter continued, "Does he realize how much trouble will be caused if he stirs people up?"
Reprinted from Hornet's Flight by Ken Follett by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2002, Ken Follett. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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