"I'm sure he does. The founder of the Christian religion was something of a troublemaker himself."
"Don't talk to me about religion. I have to keep order down here on earth."
"To hell with order, we've been invaded!" Harald's frustration over his blighted evening out boiled over. "What right have the Nazis got to tell us what to do? We should kick the whole evil pack of them out of our country!"
"You mustn't hate the Germans, they're our friends," Peter said with an air of pious self-righteousness that maddened Harald.
"I don't hate Germans, you damn fool, I've got German cousins." The pastor's sister had married a successful young Hamburg dentist who came to Sande on holiday, back in the twenties. Their daughter Monika was the first girl Harald had kissed. "They've suffered more from the Nazis than we have," Harald added. Uncle Joachim was Jewish and, although he was a baptized Christian and an elder of his church, the Nazis had ruled that he could only treat Jews, thereby ruining his practice. A year ago he had been arrested on suspicion of hoarding gold and sent to a special kind of prison, called a Konzentrazionslager, in the small Bavarian town of Dachau.
"People bring trouble on themselves," Peter said with a worldly-wise air. "Your father should never have allowed his sister to marry a Jew." He threw the newspaper to the ground and walked away.
At first Harald was too taken aback to reply. He bent and picked up the newspaper. Then he said to Peter's retreating back, "You're starting to sound like a Nazi yourself."
Ignoring him, Peter went in by a kitchen entrance and slammed the door.
Harald felt he had lost the argument, which was infuriating, because he knew that what Peter had said was outrageous.
It started to rain heavily as he headed back toward the road. When he returned to his bike, he found that the fire under the boiler had gone out.
He tried to relight it. He crumpled up his copy of Reality for kindling, and he had a box of good-quality wood matches in his pocket, but he had not brought with him the bellows he had used to start the fire earlier in the day. After twenty frustrating minutes bent over the firebox in the rain, he gave up. He would have to walk home.
He turned up the collar of his blazer.
He pushed the bike half a mile to the hotel and left it in the small car park, then set off along the beach. At this time of year, three weeks from the summer solstice, the Scandinavian evenings lasted until eleven o'clock; but tonight clouds darkened the sky and the pouring rain further restricted visibility. Harald followed the edge of dunes, finding his way by the feel of the ground underfoot and the sound of the sea in his right ear. Before long, his clothes were so soaked that he could have swum home without getting any wetter.
He was a strong young man, and as fit as a greyhound, but two hours later he was tired, cold, and miserable when he came up against the fence around the new German base and realized he would have to walk two miles around it in order to reach his home a few hundred yards away.
If the tide had been out, he would have continued along the beach for, although that stretch of sand was officially off limits, the guards would not have been able to see him in this weather. However, the tide was in, and the fence reached into the water. It crossed his mind to swim the last stretch, but he dismissed the idea immediately. Like everyone in this fishing community, Harald had a wary respect for the sea, and it would be dangerous to swim at night in this weather when he was already exhausted.
But he could climb the fence.
The rain had eased, and a quarter moon showed fitfully through racing clouds, intermittently shedding an uncertain light over the drenched landscape. Harald could see the chicken-wire fence six feet high with two strands of barbed wire at the top, formidable enough but no great obstacle to a determined person in good physical shape. Fifty yards inland, it passed through a copse of scrubby trees and bushes that hid it from view. That would be the place to get over.
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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