"Dead?" said Herbert Woodie with a squeak in his voice. "How can he be dead?"

"They're saying he crashed his Tiger Moth," Hermia replied. She was angry and distraught.

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"The damn fool," Woodie said callously. "This could ruin everything."

Hermia stared at him in disgust. She would have liked to slap his stupid face.

They were in Woodie's office at Bletchley Park with Digby Hoare. Hermia had sent a message to Poul Kirke, instructing him to get an eyewitness description of the radar installation on the island of Sande. "The reply came from Jens Toksvig, one of Poul's helpers," she said, making an effort to be calm and factual. "It was sent via the British Legation in Stockholm, as usual, but it wasn't even enciphered - Jens obviously doesn't know the code. He said the crash was being passed off as an accident, but in fact Poul was trying to escape from the police and they shot at the aircraft."

"The poor man," said Digby.

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"The message came in this morning," Hermia added. "I was about to come and tell you, Mr. Woodie, when you sent for me." In fact she had been in tears. She did not cry often, but her heart was touched by the death of Poul, so young, handsome, and full of energy. She knew, too, that she was responsible for his being killed. It was she who had asked him to spy for Britain, and his courageous assent had led directly to his death. She thought of his parents, and his cousin Mads, and she had wept for them, too. Most of all, she longed to finish the job he had started, so that his killers would not prevail in the end.

"I'm so sorry," Digby said, and he put his arm around Hermia's shoulders in a sympathetic squeeze. "Lots of men are dying, but it hurts when it's someone you know."

She nodded. His words were simple and obvious, but she was grateful for the thought. What a good man he was. She felt a surge of affection for him, then remembered her fiance and felt guilty. She wished she could see Arne again. Talking to him and touching him would reinforce her love and make her immune to the appeal of Digby.

"But where does that leave us?" Woodie asked.

Hermia collected her thoughts rapidly. "According to Jens, the Nightwatchmen have decided to lie low, at least for a while, and see how far the police carry their investigation. So, to answer your question, it leaves us without any sources of information in Denmark."

"Makes us appear damned incompetent," Woodie said.

"Never mind that," Digby said crisply. "The Nazis have found a war-winning weapon. We thought we were years ahead with radar - now we learn that they have it, too, and theirs is better than ours! I don't give a fuck about how you appear. The only question is how we find out more."

Woodie looked outraged but said nothing. Hermia asked, "What about other sources of intelligence?"

"We're trying them all, of course. And we've picked up one more clue: the word himmelbett has appeared in Luftwaffe decrypts."

Woodie said, "Himmelbett? That means 'heaven bed.' What does it signify?"

"It's their word for a four-poster bed," Hermia told him.

"Makes no sense," Woodie said grumpily, as if it were her fault.

She asked Digby, "Any context?"

"Not really. It seems that their radar operates in a himmelbett. We can't figure it out."

Hermia reached a decision. "I'll have to go to Denmark myself," she said.

"Don't be ridiculous," Woodie said.

"We have no agents in country, so someone has to be infiltrated," she said. "I know the ground better than anyone else in MI6, that's why I'm chief of the Denmark desk. And I speak the language like a native. I've got to go."

"We don't send women on missions like that," he said dismissively.

Digby said, "Yes, we do." He turned to Hermia. "You'll leave for Stockholm tonight. I'll come with you."

"Why did you say that?" Hermia asked Digby the following day, as they walked through the Golden Room in the Stadhuset, Stockholm's famous city hall.

Digby paused to study a wall mosaic. "I knew the Prime Minister would want me to keep the closest possible watch on such an important mission."

"I see."

"And I wanted the chance to have you to myself. This is the next best thing to a slow boat to China."

"But you know I have to get in touch with my fiance. He's the only person I can trust to help us."

"Yes."

"And I'll probably see him all the sooner in consequence."

"That suits me fine. I can't compete with a man who is trapped in a country hundreds of miles away, heroically silent and unseen, holding on to your affection by invisible cords of loyalty and guilt. I'd rather have a flesh-and-blood rival with human failings, someone who gets grumpy with you and has dandruff on his collar and scratches his bum."

"This isn't a contest," she said with exasperation. "I love Arne. I'm going to marry him."

"But you're not married yet."

Hermia shook her head as if to detach herself from this irrelevant talk. Previously, she had enjoyed Digby's romantic interest in her - albeit guiltily - but now it was a distraction. She was here for a rendezvous. She and Digby were only pretending to be tourists with time to kill.

They left the Golden Room and went down the broad marble staircase and out into the cobbled courtyard. They crossed an arcade of pink granite pillars and found themselves in a garden overlooking the gray water of Lake Malaren. Turning to look up at the three-hundred-foot tower that rose over the redbrick building, Hermia checked that their shadow was with them.

A bored-looking man in a gray suit and well-worn shoes, he made little effort to conceal his presence. As Digby and Hermia had pulled away from the British Legation, in a chauffeur-driven Volvo limousine that had been adapted to run on charcoal, they had been followed by two men in a black Mercedes 230. When they stopped outside the Stadhuset, the man in the gray suit had followed them inside.

According to the British air attache, a group of German agents kept all British citizens in Sweden under constant surveillance. They could be shaken off, but it was unwise. Losing your tail was taken as proof of guilt. Men who evaded surveillance had been arrested and accused of espionage, and the Swedish authorities had been pressured to expel them.

Therefore, Hermia had to escape without the shadow realizing it.

Following a prearranged plan, Hermia and Digby wandered across the garden and turned around the corner of the building to look at the cenotaph of the city's founder, Birger Jarl. The gilded sarcophagus lay in a canopied tomb with stone pillars at each corner. "Like a himmelbett," Hermia said.

Concealed from view on the far side of the cenotaph was a Swedish woman of the same height and build as Hermia, with similar dark hair.

Hermia looked inquiringly at the woman, who nodded decisively.

Hermia suffered an instant of fear. Until now she had done nothing illegal. Her visit to Sweden had been as innocent as it seemed. From this moment on, she would be on the wrong side of the law, for the first time in her life.

"Quickly," the woman said in English.

Hermia slipped off her light summer raincoat and red beret, and the other woman put them on. Hermia took from her pocket a dull brown scarf and tied it around her head, covering her distinctive hair and partly concealing her face.

The Swedish woman took Digby's arm, and the two of them moved away from the cenotaph and sauntered back into the garden in full view.

Hermia waited a few moments, pretending to study the elaborate wrought-iron railing around the monument, fearful that the tail would be suspicious and come to check. But nothing happened.

She moved out from behind the cenotaph, half-expecting him to be lying in wait, but there was no one nearby. Pulling the scarf a little farther over her face, she walked around the corner into the garden.

She saw Digby and the decoy heading for the gate at the far end. The shadow was following them. The plan was working.

Hermia went in the same direction, tailing the tail. As arranged, Digby and the woman went straight to their car, which was waiting in the square. Hermia saw them get into the Volvo and drive away. The tail followed in the Mercedes. They would lead him all the way back to the Legation, and he would report that the two visitors from Britain had spent the afternoon as innocent tourists.

And Hermia was free.

She crossed the Stadhusbron bridge and headed for Gustav Adolf Square, the center of the city, walking fast, eager to get on with her task.

Everything had happened with bewildering rapidity in the last twenty-four hours. Hermia had been given only a few minutes to throw a few clothes into a suitcase, then she and Digby had been driven in a fast car to Dundee, in Scotland, where they checked into a hotel a few minutes after midnight. This morning at dawn they had been taken to Leuchars aerodrome, on the Fife coast, and an RAF crew wearing civilian British Overseas Airways Corporation uniforms had flown them to Stockholm, a three-hour journey. They had had lunch at the British Legation, then put into operation the plan they had devised in the car between Bletchley and Dundee.

As Sweden was neutral, it was possible to phone or write from here to people in Denmark. Hermia was going to try to call her fiance, Arne. At the Danish end, calls were monitored and letters opened by the censors, so she would have to be extraordinarily careful in what she said. She had to mount a deception that would sound innocent to an eavesdropper yet bring Arne into the Resistance.

Back in 1939, when she had set up the Nightwatchmen, she had deliberately excluded Arne. It was not because of his convictions: he was as anti-Nazi as she was, albeit in a less passionate way - he thought they were stupid clowns in silly uniforms who wanted to stop people having fun. No, the problem was his careless, happy-go-lucky nature. He was too open and friendly for clandestine work. Perhaps also she had been unwilling to put him in danger, although Poul had agreed with her about Arne's unsuitability. But now she was desperate. Arne was as happy-go-lucky as ever, but she had no one else.

Besides, everyone felt differently about danger today than at the outbreak of war. Thousands of fine young men had given their lives already. Arne was a military officer: he was supposed to take risks for his country.

All the same, her heart felt cold at the thought of what she was going to ask him to do.

She turned in to the Vasagatan, a busy street in which there were several hotels, the central railway station, and the main post office. Here in Sweden, telephone services had always been separate from the mail, and there were special public phone bureaus. Hermia was headed for the one in the railway station.

She could have telephoned from the British Legation, but that would almost certainly have aroused suspicion. At the phone bureau, there would be nothing unusual about a woman who spoke hesitant Swedish with a Danish accent coming in to phone home.

She and Digby had talked about whether the phone call would be listened to by the authorities. In every telephone exchange in Denmark there was at least one young German woman in uniform listening in. They could not possibly eavesdrop on every phone call, of course. However, they were more likely to pay attention to international calls, and calls to military bases, so there was a strong chance that Hermia's conversation with Arne would be monitored. She would have to communicate in hints and double-talk. But that should be possible. She and Arne had been lovers, so she ought to be able to make him understand without being explicit.

The station was built like a French chateau. The grand entrance lobby had a coffered ceiling and chandeliers. She found the phone bureau and stood in line.

When she got to the counter, she told the clerk that she wanted to make a person-to-person call to Arne Olufsen, and gave the number of the flying school. She waited impatiently, full of apprehension, while the operator tried to get Arne on the line. She did not even know whether he was at Vodal today. He might be flying, or away from the base for the afternoon, or on leave. He might have been transferred to another base or have resigned from the army.

But she would try to track him down, wherever he was. She could speak to his commanding officer and ask where he had gone, she could call his parents on Sande, and she had numbers for some of his friends in Copenhagen. She had all afternoon to spend, and plenty of money for phone calls.

It would be strange to talk to him after more than a year. She was thrilled but anxious. The mission was the important thing, but she could not help fretting about how Arne would feel about her. Perhaps he no longer loved her as he once had. What if he were cold to her? It would break her heart. But he might have met someone else. After all, she had enjoyed a flirtation with Digby. How much more easily might a man find his heart straying?

She remembered skiing with him, racing down a sunlit slope, the two of them leaning to one side then the other in perfect rhythm, perspiring in the icy air, laughing with the sheer joy of being alive. Would those days ever come back?

She was called to a booth.

She picked up the phone and said, "Hello?"

Arne said, "Who is it?"

She had forgotten his voice. It was low and warm and sounded as if it might break into laughter at any minute. He spoke educated Danish, with a precise diction he had learned in the military and the hint of a Jutland accent left over from his childhood.

She had planned her first sentence. She intended to use the pet names they had for each other, hoping this would alert Arne to the need to speak discreetly.

But for a moment she could not speak at all.

"Hello?" he said. "Is anyone there?"

She swallowed and found her voice. "Hello, Toothbrush, this is your black cat." She called him "Toothbrush" because that was what his moustache felt like when he kissed her. Her nickname came from the color of her hair.

It was his turn to be dumbstruck. There was a silence.

Hermia said, "How are you?"

"I'm okay," he said at last. "My God, is it really you?"

"Yes."

"Are you all right?"

"Yes." Suddenly she could not stand any more small talk. Abruptly she said, "Do you still love me?"

He did not answer immediately. That made her think his feelings had changed. He would not say so directly, she thought; he would equivocate, and say they needed to reassess their relationship after all this time, but she would know -

"I love you," he said.

"Do you?"

"More than ever. I've missed you terribly."

She closed her eyes. Feeling dizzy, she leaned against the wall.

"I'm so glad you're still alive," he said. "I'm so happy to be talking to you."

"I love you, too," she said.

"What's been happening? How are you? Where are you calling from?"

She pulled herself together. "I'm not far away."

He noticed her guarded manner and responded in a similar tone. "Okay, I understand."

She had prepared the next part. "Do you remember the castle?" There were many castles in Denmark, but one was special to them.

"You mean the ruins? How could I forget?"

"Could you meet me there?"

"How could you get there - Never mind. Do you mean it?"

"Yes."

"It's a long way."

"It's really very important."

"I'd go a lot farther to see you. I'm just figuring out how. I'll ask for leave, but if it's a problem I'll just go AWOL - "

"Don't do that." She did not want the military police looking for him. "When's your next day off?"

"Saturday."

The operator came on the line to tell them they had ten seconds.

Hastily, Hermia said, "I'll be there on Saturday - I hope. If you don't make it, I'll come back every day for as long as I can."

"I'll do the same."

"Be careful. I love you."

"I love you - "

The line went dead.

Hermia kept the receiver pressed to her ear, as if she could hold on to him a little longer that way. Then the operator asked her if she wanted to make another call, and she declined and hung up.

She paid at the counter then went out, dazed with happiness. She stood in the station concourse, under the high curved roof, with people hurrying past her in all directions. He still loved her. In two days' time she would see him. Someone bumped into her, and she got out of the crowd into a cafe where she slumped in a chair. Two days.

The ruined castle to which they had both enigmatically referred was Hammershus, a tourist attraction on the Danish holiday island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea. They had spent a week on the island in 1939, posing as man and wife, and had made love among the ruins one warm summer evening. Arne would take the ferry from Copenhagen, a trip of seven or eight hours, or fly from Kastrup, which took about an hour. The island was a hundred miles from mainland Denmark, but only twenty miles from the south coast of Sweden. Hermia would have to find a fishing boat to take her across that short stretch of water illegally.

But it was the danger to Arne, not herself, that she kept thinking about. He was going to meet secretly with an agent of the British secret service. She would ask him to become a spy.

If he were caught, the punishment would be death.

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