Peter Flemming undressed his wife.
She stood passively in front of the mirror, a warm-blooded statue of a pale, beautiful woman. He took off her wristwatch and necklace, then patiently undid the hooks and eyes of her dress, his blunt fingers expert from hours of practice. There was a smear on the side, he noticed with a disapproving frown, as if she touched something sticky then wiped her hand on her hip. She was not normally dirty. He pulled the dress over her head, careful not to muss her hair.
Inge was as lovely today as she had been the first time he had seen her in her underwear. But then she had been smiling, speaking fond words, her expression showing eagerness and a trace of apprehension. Today her face was blank.
He hung her dress in the wardrobe then took off her brassiere. Her breasts were full and round, the nipples so light in color they were almost invisible. He swallowed hard and tried not to look at them. He made her sit on the dressing-table stool, then removed her shoes, unfastened her stockings and rolled them down, and took off her garter belt. He stood her up again to pull down her underpants. Desire rose in him as he uncovered the blond curls between her legs. He felt disgusted with himself.
He knew he could have sexual intercourse with her if he wished. She would lie still and accept it with blank impassivity, as she took everything that happened to her. But he could not bring himself to do it. He had tried, one time, not long after she came home from the hospital, telling himself that perhaps this would rekindle in her the spark of awareness; but he had been revolted by himself, and had stopped after a few seconds. Now the desire came back, and he had to fight it off, even though he knew that giving in would bring no relief.
He threw her underwear into the linen basket with an angry gesture. She did not move as he opened a drawer and took out a white cotton nightdress embroidered with small flowers, a gift to Inge from his mother. She was innocent in her nakedness, and to desire her seemed as wrong as to desire a child. He drew the nightdress over her head, put her arms into it, and smoothed it down her back. He looked over her shoulder into the mirror. The flower pattern suited her, and she looked pretty. He thought he saw a faint smile touch her lips, but it was probably his imagination.
He took her to the bathroom then put her to bed. As he undressed himself, he looked at his own body in the mirror. There was a long scar across his belly, souvenir of a Saturday-night street brawl he had broken up as a young policeman. He no longer had the athletic physique of his youth, but he was still fit. He wondered how long it would be before a woman touched his skin with hungry hands.
He put on pajamas, but he did not feel sleepy. He decided to return to the living room and smoke another cigarette. He looked at Inge. She lay still with her eyes open. He would hear her if she moved. He generally knew when she needed something. She would simply stand up, and wait, as if she could not figure out what to do next; and he would have to guess what she wanted: a drink of water, the toilet, a shawl to keep her warm, or something more complicated. Occasionally she would move about the apartment, apparently at random, but she would soon come to a halt, perhaps at a window, or staring helplessly at a closed door, or just in the middle of the room.
He left the bedroom and crossed the little hallway to the living room, leaving both doors open. He found his cigarettes then, on impulse, took a half-empty bottle of aquavit from a cupboard and poured some into a glass. Sipping his drink and smoking, he thought about the week past.
It had started well and finished badly. He had begun by catching two spies, Ingemar Gammel and Poul Kirke. Better still, they were not like his usual targets, union organizers who intimidated strikebreakers, or communists who sent coded letters to Moscow saying that Jutland was ripe for revolution. No, Gammel and Kirke were real spies, and the sketches Tilde Jespersen had found in Kirke's office constituted important military intelligence.
Peter's star seemed in the ascendant. Some of his colleagues had begun to act coolly toward him, disapproving of his enthusiastic cooperation with the German occupiers, but they hardly mattered. General Braun had called him in to say that he thought Peter should be head of the Security Department. He did not say what would happen to Frederik Juel. But he had made it clear that the job was Peter's if he could wrap this case up.
It was a pity Poul Kirke had died. Alive, he might have revealed who his collaborators were, where his orders came from, and how he sent information to the British. Gammel was still alive, and had been handed over to the Gestapo for "deep interrogation," but he had revealed nothing further, probably because he did not know any more.
Peter had pursued the investigation with his usual energy and determination. He had questioned Poul's commanding officer, the supercilious Squadron Leader Renthe. He had interviewed Poul's parents, his friends, and even his cousin Mads, and had got nothing from any of them. He had detectives tailing Poul's girlfriend, Karen Duchwitz, but so far she appeared to be no more than a hardworking student at the ballet school. Peter also had Poul's best friend, Arne Olufsen, under surveillance. Arne was the best prospect, for he could easily have drawn the sketches of the military base on Sande. But Arne had spent the week blamelessly going about his duties. Tonight, Friday, he had taken the train into Copenhagen, but there was nothing unusual about that.
After a brilliant start, the case seemed to have dead-ended.
The week's minor triumph had been the humiliation of Arne's brother, Harald. However, Peter felt sure Harald was not involved in espionage. A man who was risking his life as a spy did not daub silly slogans.
Peter was wondering where to go next with the investigation when there was a knock at the door.
He glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. It was ten-thirty, not outrageously late but still an unusual time for an unexpected visit. The caller certainly could not be surprised to find him in pajamas. He stepped into the hallway and opened the door. Tilde Jespersen stood there, a sky blue beret perched on her fair curly hair.
"There's been a development," she said. "I thought we should discuss it."
"Of course. Come in. You'll have to excuse my appearance."
She glanced at the pattern on his pajamas with a grin. "Elephants," she said as she walked into the living room. "I wouldn't have guessed."
He felt embarrassed and wished he had put on a robe, although it was too warm.
Tilde sat down. "Where's Inge?"
"In bed. Would you like some aquavit?"
He got a fresh glass and poured for both of them.
She crossed her legs. Her knees were round and her calves plump, quite different from Inge's slender legs. She said, "Arne Olufsen bought a ticket for tomorrow's ferry to Bornholm."
Peter froze with the glass halfway to his lips. "Bornholm," he said softly. The Danish holiday island was tantalizingly close to the Swedish coast. Could this be the break he was waiting for?
She took out a cigarette and he lit it. Blowing out smoke, she said, "Of course, he might simply be due for some leave, and have decided to take a vacation . . ."
"Quite so. On the other hand, he may be planning to escape to Sweden."
"That's what I thought."
Peter swallowed his drink with a satisfying gulp. "Who's with him now?"
"Dresler. He relieved me fifteen minutes ago. I came straight here."
Peter forced himself to be skeptical. It was too easy, in an investigation, to let wishful thinking mislead you. "Why would Olufsen want to leave the country?"
"He might have been scared by what happened to Poul Kirke."
"He hasn't been acting scared. Until today he's been doing his job, apparently happily."
"Maybe he's just noticed the surveillance."
Peter nodded. "They always do, sooner or later."
"Alternatively, he might be going to Bornholm to spy. The British could have ordered him there."
Peter made a doubtful face. "What's on Bornholm?"
Tilde shrugged. "Maybe that's the question they want answered. Or perhaps it's a rendezvous. Remember, if he can get from Bornholm to Sweden, the journey the other way is probably just as easy."
"Good point." Tilde was very clear-thinking, he reflected. She kept all possibilities in view. He looked at her intelligent face and clear blue eyes. He watched her mouth as she spoke.
She seemed unaware of his scrutiny. "The death of Kirke probably broke their normal line of communication. This could be an emergency fallback plan."
"I'm not convinced - but there's only one way to find out."
"Continue to shadow Olufsen?"
"Yes. Tell Dresler to get on the ferry with him."
"Olufsen has a bicycle with him. Shall I tell Dresler to take one?"
"Yes. Then book yourself and me on tomorrow's flight to Bornholm. We'll get there first."
Tilde stubbed out her cigarette and stood up. "Right."
Peter did not want her to go. The aquavit was warm in his belly, he felt relaxed, and he was enjoying having an attractive woman to talk to. But he could not think of an excuse to detain her.
He followed her into the hallway. She said, "I'll see you at the airport."
"Yes." He put his hand on the doorknob but did not open it. "Tilde . . ."
She looked at him with a neutral expression. "Yes?"
"Thanks for this. Good work."
She touched his cheek. "Sleep well," she said, but she did not move away.
He looked at her. The trace of a smile touched the corners of her mouth, but he could not tell whether it was inviting or mocking. He leaned forward, and suddenly he was kissing her.
She kissed him back with fierce passion. He was taken by surprise. She pulled his head to hers, thrust her tongue into his mouth. After a moment of shock he responded. He grabbed her soft breast and squeezed roughly. She made a noise deep in her throat, and thrust her hips against his body.
He saw a movement out of the corner of his eye. He broke the kiss and turned his head.
Inge stood in the bedroom doorway, like a ghost in her pale nightdress. Her face wore its perpetual blank expression, but she was looking straight at them. Peter heard himself make a sound like a sob.
Tilde slipped from his embrace. He turned to speak to her, but no words came. She opened the apartment door and stepped outside. She was gone in a breath.
The door slammed shut.
The daily flight from Copenhagen to Bornholm was operated by the Danish airline, DDL. It departed at nine A.M. and took an hour. The plane landed at an airstrip a mile or so outside Bornholm's main town, Ronne. Peter and Tilde were met by the local police chief, who gave them the loan of a car as if entrusting them with royal jewels.
They drove into the town. It was a sleepy place, with more horses than cars. The half-timbered houses were painted in striking deep colors: dark mustard, terracotta pink, forest green, and rust red. Two German soldiers stood in the central square, smoking and chatting to passers-by. From the square, a cobbled street led downhill to the harbor. There was a Kriegsmarine torpedo boat in the dock, with a group of small boys clustered on the quayside staring at it. Peter located the ferry port, across from the brick custom house, the largest building in town.
Peter and Tilde drove around to familiarize themselves with the streets, then returned to the port in the afternoon to meet the ferry. Neither mentioned last night's kiss, but Peter was intensely aware of her physical presence: that elusive flowery perfume, her alert blue eyes, the mouth that had kissed him with such urgent passion. At the same time, he kept remembering Inge standing in the bedroom doorway, her expressionless white face a more agonizing reproach than any explicit accusation.
As the ship came into the harbor, Tilde said, "I hope we're right, and Arne is a spy."
"You haven't lost your enthusiasm for this work?"
Her reply was sharp. "Whatever makes you say that?"
"Our discussion about Jews."
"Oh, that." She shrugged it off. "You were right, weren't you? You proved it. We raided the synagogue and it led us to Gammel."
"Then, I wondered if the death of Kirke might have been too gruesome . . ."
"My husband died," she said crisply. "I don't mind seeing criminals die."
She was even tougher than he had thought. He hid a pleased smile. "So you'll stay in the police."
"I don't see any other future. Besides, I might be the first woman to get promotion to sergeant."
Peter doubted that would ever happen. It would involve men taking orders from a woman, and that seemed beyond the bounds of possibility. But he did not say so. "Braun virtually promised me promotion if I can round up this spy ring."
"Promotion to what?"
"Head of the department. Juel's job." And a man who was head of the Security Department at thirty could well end up chief of the entire Copenhagen police, he thought. His heart beat faster as he envisioned the crackdown he would impose, with the backing of the Nazis.
Tilde smiled warmly. Putting a hand on his arm, she said, "Then we'd better make sure we catch them all."
The ship docked and the passengers began to disembark. As they watched, Tilde said, "You've known Arne since childhood - is he the type for espionage?"
"I'd have to say no," Peter replied thoughtfully. "He's too happy-go-lucky."
"Oh." Tilde looked glum.
"In fact, I might have dismissed him as a suspect, but for his English fiancee."
She brightened. "That puts him right in the frame."
"I don't know whether they're still engaged. She went back to England hot-foot when the Germans came. But the possibility is enough."
A hundred or so passengers got off, some on foot, a handful in cars, many with bicycles. The island was only twenty miles from end to end, and cycling was the easiest way to get around.
"There," said Tilde, pointing.
Peter saw Arne Olufsen disembarking, wearing his army uniform, pushing his bicycle. "But where's Dresler?"
"Four people behind."
"I see him." Peter put on sunglasses and pulled his hat low, then started the engine. Arne cycled up the cobbled street toward the town center, and Dresler did the same. Peter and Tilde followed slowly in the car.
Arne headed out of town to the north. Peter began to feel conspicuous. There were few other cars on the roads, and he had to drive slowly to stay with the bikes. Soon he was obliged to fall behind and drop out of sight for fear of being noticed. After a few minutes, he speeded up until he caught sight of Dresler, then slowed again. Two German soldiers on a motorcycle with a sidecar passed them, and Peter wished he had borrowed a motorbike instead of a car.
A few miles out of town, they were the only people on the road. "This is impossible," Tilde said in a high, anxious voice. "He's bound to spot us."
Peter nodded. She was right, but now a new thought occurred to him. "And when he does, his reaction will be highly revealing."
She gave him an inquiring look, but he did not explain.
He increased speed. Rounding a bend, he saw Dresler crouching in the woods at the side of the road and, a hundred yards ahead, Arne sitting on a wall, smoking a cigarette. Peter had no option but to drive past. He continued another mile then reversed down a farm track.
"Was he checking on us, or just taking a rest?" Tilde said.
A few minutes later Arne cycled past, followed by Dresler. Peter pulled onto the road again.
The daylight was fading. Three miles farther on, they came to a crossroads. Dresler had stopped there and was looking perplexed.
There was no sign of Arne.
Dresler came up to the car window, looking distraught. "I'm sorry, Boss. He put on a burst of speed and got ahead of me. I lost sight of him, and I don't know which way he went at this crossroads."
Tilde said, "Hell. He must have planned it. He obviously knows the road."
"I'm sorry," Dresler said again.
Tilde said quietly, "There goes your promotion - and mine."
"Don't be so gloomy," Peter said. "This is good news."
Tilde was bewildered. "What do you mean?"
"If an innocent man thinks he's being followed, what does he do? He stops, turns around, and says, 'Who the hell do you think you are, following me around?' Only a guilty man deliberately shakes off a surveillance team. Don't you see? This means we were right: Arne Olufsen is a spy."
"But we've lost him."
"Oh, don't worry. We'll find him again."
They spent the night at a seaside hotel with a bathroom at the end of each corridor. At midnight, Peter put a robe over his pajamas and knocked on the door of Tilde's room. She called, "Come in."
He stepped inside. She was sitting up in the single bed, wearing a light blue silk nightdress, reading an American novel called Gone with the Wind. He said, "You didn't ask who it was at the door."
His detective's mind noticed that she wore lipstick, her hair was carefully brushed, and the flowery perfume was in the air, as if she had dressed for a date. He kissed her lips, and she stroked the back of his head. After a moment he looked back to the door, to make sure he had closed it.
"She's not there," Tilde said.
He kissed her again, but after a few moments he realized he was not getting excited. He broke the kiss and sat on the edge of the bed.
"It's the same for me," Tilde said.
"I keep thinking about Oskar."
"Inge might as well be."
She said, "I'm sorry. But it's true. I'm thinking about my husband, and you're thinking about your wife, and neither of them cares."
"It wasn't like this last night, at my apartment."
"We didn't give ourselves time to think then."
This was ridiculous, he thought. In his youth he had been a confident seducer, able to persuade many women to yield to him, and leaving most of them well satisfied. Was he just out of practice?
He shrugged off his robe and slipped into bed beside her. She was warm and welcoming, and her round body under the nightdress was soft to his touch. She turned off the light. He kissed her, but he could not rekindle last night's passion.
They lay side by side in the dark. "It's all right," she said. "You have to leave the past behind. It's difficult for you."
He kissed her again, briefly, then he got up and returned to his own room.