Harald approached the church cautiously.
There had been a shower, and the grass was wet, but the rain had stopped. A light breeze blew the clouds along, and a three-quarter moon shone brightly through the gaps. The shadow of the bell tower came and went with the moonlight.
He saw no strange cars parked nearby, but that did not much reassure him. The police would have concealed their vehicles if they were serious about setting a trap.
There were no lights anywhere in the ruined monastery. It was midnight, and the soldiers were in bed, all but two: the sentry in the park outside the mess tent, and a veterinary nurse on duty in the horse hospital.
Harald listened outside the church. He heard a horse snort in the cloisters. With utmost caution, he stood on the log and peeped over the windowsill.
He could see the vague outlines of the car and the aircraft in the dim reflected moonlight. There could be someone hiding in there, lying in wait.
He heard a muffled grunt and a thud. The noise was repeated after a minute, and he guessed it was Hansen, struggling with his bonds. Harald's heart leaped with hope. If Hansen was still tied up, that meant Mrs. Jespersen had not yet returned with Peter. There was still a chance Harald and Karen could take off in the Hornet Moth.
He slipped through the window and padded across the floor to the aircraft. He got the flashlight out of the cabin and shone it around the church. There was no one here.
He opened the boot of the car. Hansen was still tied and gagged. Harald checked the knots. They were holding firm. He closed the boot again.
He heard a loud whisper: "Harald! Is that you?"
He shone the flashlight on the windows and saw Karen looking through.
She had been brought home in an ambulance. Her parents had ridden with her. Before they parted, at the theater, she had promised to slip out of the house as soon as she could, and join him in the church if the coast was clear.
He turned off the flashlight, then opened the big church door for her. She limped in, wearing a fur coat over her shoulders and carrying a blanket. He put his arms around her gently, careful of her right arm in its sling, and hugged her. For a brief moment he thrilled to the warmth of her body and the scent of her hair.
Then he returned to practicalities. "How do you feel?"
"I hurt like hell, but I'll live."
He looked at her coat. "Are you cold?"
"Not yet, but I will be at five thousand feet over the North Sea. The blanket is for you."
He took the blanket from her and held her good hand. "Are you ready to do this?"
He kissed her softly. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
"Do you? You've never said that before."
"I know - I'm telling you now in case I don't survive this trip," she said in her usual matter-of-fact tone. "You're the best man I've ever met, by a factor of ten. You're brainy, but you never put people down. You're gentle and kind, but you've got courage enough for an army." She touched his hair. "You're even nice-looking, in a funny way. What more could I want?"
"Some girls like a man to be well dressed."
"Good point. We can fix that, though."
"I'd like to tell you why I love you, but the police could get here any minute."
"That's all right, I know why, it's because I'm wonderful."
Harald opened the cabin door and tossed the blanket in. "You'd better get on board now," he said. "The less we have to do once we're outside in plain view, the more chance we have of getting away."
He saw that it was going to be difficult for her to get into the cabin. He dragged a box over, and she stood on it, but then she could not put her injured foot inside. Getting in was awkward anyway - the cabin was more cramped than the front seat of a small car - and it seemed impossible with two injured limbs. Harald realized he would have to lift her in.
He picked her up with his left arm under her shoulders and his right under her knees, then he stood on the box and eased her into the passenger seat on the right-hand side of the cabin. That way, she could operate the Y-shaped central control stick with her good left hand, and Harald, beside her in the pilot's seat, would be able to use his right.
"What's this on the floor?" she said, reaching down.
"Hansen's gun. I didn't know what else to do with it." He closed the door. "Are you okay?"
She slid the window open. "I'm fine. The best place to take off will be along the drive. The wind is just right, but blowing toward the castle, so you're going to have to push the aircraft all the way to the door of the castle, then turn it around to take off into the wind."
He opened the church doors wide. Next he had to get the aircraft out. Fortunately it had been parked intelligently, pointing directly at the door. There was a length of rope firmly tied to the undercarriage which, Harald had surmised when he first saw it, was used to pull the aircraft. He got a firm grasp on the rope and heaved.
The Hornet Moth was heavier than he had thought. As well as its engine, it was carrying thirty-nine gallons of petrol plus Karen. That was a lot to pull.
To overcome its inertia, Harald managed to rock the aircraft on its wheels, get a rhythm going, then heave it into motion. Once it was moving, the strain was less, but it was still heavy. With considerable effort he pulled it out of the church into the park and got it as far as the drive.
The moon came from behind a cloud. The park was lit up almost like day. The aircraft was in full view of anyone who looked in the right direction. Harald had to work fast.
He undid the catch holding the left wing against the fuselage and swung the wing into position. Next, he flipped down the foldaway flap at the inner end of the upper wing. That held the wing in place while he moved around the wing to the front edge. There he turned the lower wing pin and eased it into its slot. It seemed to catch against an obstruction. He had encountered this problem when practicing. He wiggled the wing gently, and that enabled him to slide the pin home. He locked it with the leather strap. He repeated the exercise with the upper wing pin, locking it by stowing the jury strut.
It had taken him three or four minutes. He looked across the park to the soldiers' encampment. The sentry had seen him and was walking over.
He went through the same procedure with the right wing. By the time he had finished, the sentry was standing behind him, watching. It was friendly Leo. "What are you doing?" he said curiously.
Harald had a story ready. "We're going to take a photograph. Mr. Duchwitz wants to sell the aircraft because he can't get fuel for it."
"Photography? At night?"
"It's a moonlight shot, with the castle in the background."
"Does my captain know?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Duchwitz spoke to him, and Captain Kleiss said there would be no problem."
"Oh, good," Leo said, then he frowned again. "It's strange that the captain didn't tell me about it, though."
"He probably didn't think it was important." Harald realized he was probably on a loser. If the German military were careless, they would not have conquered Europe.
Leo shook his head. "A sentry must be briefed on any unusual events scheduled to take place during his watch," he said as if repeating from a rule book.
"I'm sure Mr. Duchwitz wouldn't have told us to do this without speaking to Captain Kleiss." Harald leaned on the tailplane, pushing.
Seeing him struggle to move the tail, Leo helped him. Together they swung the back around in a quarter-circle so that the aircraft was facing along the drive.
Leo said, "I'd better check with the captain."
"If you're sure he won't mind being woken up."
Leo looked doubtful and worried. "Perhaps he's not asleep yet."
Harald knew that the officers slept in the castle. He thought of a way to delay Leo and speed up his own task. "Well, if you've got to go all the way to the castle, you could help me move this crate."
"I'll take the left wing, you take the right."
Leo shouldered his rifle and leaned on the metal strut between the upper and lower wings. With the two of them pushing, the Hornet Moth moved more easily.
Hermia caught the last train of the evening from the Vesterport station. It pulled into Kirstenslot after midnight.
She was not sure what to do when she reached the castle. She did not want to call attention to herself by banging on the door and waking the household. She might have to wait until morning before asking for Harald. That would mean spending the night in the open. But that would not kill her. On the other hand, if there were lights on in the castle she might find someone with whom she could have a discreet word, a servant perhaps. And she was nervous about losing precious time.
One other person got off the train with her. It was the woman in the sky blue beret.
She suffered a moment of fear. Had she made a mistake? Could this woman be following her, having taken over from Peter Flemming?
She would just have to check.
Outside the darkened station she stopped and opened her suitcase, pretending to search for something. If the woman were tailing her she, too, would have to find a pretext for waiting.
The woman came out of the station and walked past her without hesitating.
Hermia continued to fumble in her case while watching from the corner of her eye.
The woman walked briskly to a black Buick parked nearby. Someone was sitting at the wheel, smoking. Hermia could not see the face, just the glow of the cigarette. The woman got in. The car started up and pulled away.
Hermia breathed easier. The woman had spent the evening in the city, and her husband had come to the station to drive her home. False alarm, Hermia thought with relief.
She started walking.
Harald and Leo pushed the Hornet Moth along the drive, past the petrol tanker from which Harald had stolen fuel, all the way to the courtyard in front of the castle, then turned it into the wind. Leo ran inside to wake Captain Kleiss.
Harald had only a minute or two.
He took the flashlight from his pocket, switched it on, and held it in his mouth. He turned the catches on the left side of the fuselage nose and opened the cowling. "Fuel on?" he called.
"Fuel on," Karen called back.
Harald tugged on the pull-ring of the tickler and worked the lever of one of the two fuel pumps to flood the carburetor. He closed the cowling and secured the catches. Taking the flashlight from his mouth, he called, "Throttle set and mags on?"
"Throttle set, mags on."
He stood in front of the aircraft and swung the propeller. Imitating what he had seen Karen do, he turned it a second time, then a third. Finally he gave it a vigorous heave and stepped smartly back.
He cursed. There was no time to deal with snags.
He repeated the procedure. Something was wrong, he thought even as he tried it. Before, when he turned the propeller, something had happened that was not happening now. He tried desperately to remember what it was.
Once again the engine failed to start.
In a flash of recollection he realized what was missing. There was no click when he turned the propeller. He recalled Karen telling him that the click was the impulse starter. Without that, there would be no spark.
He ran to her open window. "There's no click!" he said.
"Magneto jam," she said calmly. "It often happens. Open the right cowling. You'll see the impulse starter between the magneto and the engine. Give it a sharp tap with a stone or something. That usually does the trick."
He opened the right cowling and shone his flashlight on the engine. The impulse starter was a flat metal cylinder. He scanned the ground at his feet. There were no stones. "Give me something from the tool kit," he said to Karen.
She found the kit and handed him a wrench. He tapped the impulse starter.
A voice behind him called, "Stop that right now."
He turned to see Captain Kleiss, dressed in uniform trousers and a pajama jacket, striding across the courtyard toward him, with Leo close behind. Kleiss was not armed, but Leo had a rifle.
Harald stuffed the spanner into his pocket, closed the cowling, and moved to the nose.
"Stand away from that aircraft!" Kleiss shouted. "This is an order!"
Suddenly Karen's voice rang out. "Stop right where you are or I'll shoot you dead!"
Harald saw her arm sticking out of the window, pointing Hansen's pistol straight at Kleiss.
Kleiss stopped, and so did Leo.
Whether Karen knew how to fire the thing, Harald had no idea - but neither did Kleiss.
"Drop the rifle on the ground, Leo," said Karen.
Leo dropped his weapon.
Harald reached for the propeller and swung it.
It turned with a loud, deeply satisfying click.
Peter Flemming drove to the castle ahead of Hermia, with Tilde Jespersen in the passenger seat beside him. "We'll park out of sight, and watch what she does when she gets here," he said.
"About what happened on Sande - "
"Please don't speak of it."
He suppressed his anger. "What, never?"
He wanted to strangle her.
The car's headlights showed a small village with a church and a tavern. Just beyond the village they approached a grand entrance.
"I'm sorry, Peter," Tilde said. "I made a mistake, but it's over. Let's just be friends and colleagues."
He felt he did not care about anything anymore. "To hell with that," he said, and turned in to the castle grounds.
On the right of the drive was a ruined monastery. "That's odd," Tilde said. "The church doors are wide open."
Peter hoped there would be some action to take his mind off Tilde's rejection. He stopped the Buick and turned off the engine. "Let's have a look." He took a flashlight out of the glove compartment.
They got out of the car and went into the church. Peter heard a muffled grunt followed by a thud. It seemed to come from the Rolls-Royce car that was standing on blocks in the middle of the room. He opened the trunk and shone his flashlight on a policeman, bound and gagged.
"Is this your man Hansen?" he said.
Tilde said, "The airplane isn't here! It's gone!"
At that moment, they heard an aircraft engine start.
The Hornet Moth roared into life and seemed to lean forward as if eager to go.
Harald walked quickly to where Kleiss and Leo stood. He picked up the rifle and held it menacingly, putting on an air of confidence that he did not feel. He backed away from them slowly and walked around the spinning propeller to the left side door. He reached for the handle, flung open the door, and threw the rifle onto the luggage shelf behind the seats.
As he climbed in, a sudden movement made him glance past Karen out of the far window. He saw Captain Kleiss throw himself forward, toward the aircraft, and dive to the ground. There was a bang, deafening even over the noise of the engine, as Karen fired Hansen's pistol. But Harald could see that the window frame prevented her bringing her wrist low enough, and her shot missed the captain.
Kleiss rolled under the fuselage, came up the other side, and jumped on the wing.
Harald tried to slam the door, but Kleiss was in the way. The captain grabbed Harald by the lapels and tried to pull him out of his seat. Harald struggled, trying to dislodge Kleiss's grip. Karen was holding the pistol in her left hand and could not turn around, in the cramped cabin, to get a shot at Kleiss. Leo came running up but, because of the door and the wings, he was unable to get close enough to join in the fight.
Harald pulled the wrench from his pocket and lashed out with all his might. The sharp end of the tool hit Kleiss under the eye, drawing blood, but he held on.
Karen reached past Harald and thrust the throttle lever all the way forward. The engine roared louder and the aircraft moved forward. Kleiss lost his balance. He flung one arm out, but held on to Harald with the other.
The Hornet Moth moved faster, bumping over the grass. Harald hit Kleiss again, and this time he cried out, let go, and fell to the ground.
Harald slammed the door.
He reached for the control column in the center, but Karen said, "Leave the stick to me - I can do it left-handed."
The aircraft was pointing down the drive but, as soon as it began to pick up speed, it veered off to the right. "Use the rudder pedals!" Karen shouted. "Keep it in a straight line!"
Harald pushed the left pedal to bring the aircraft back onto the drive. Nothing happened, so he pressed it with all his might. After a moment, the aircraft swung all the way over to the left. It crossed the drive and plunged into the long grass on the other side.
She yelled, "There's a lag, you have to anticipate."
He understood what she meant. It was like steering a boat, only worse. He pushed with his right foot to bring the aircraft back then, as soon as it began to turn, he corrected with his left foot. This time it did not swing so wildly. As it came back to the drive he managed to line it up.
"Now keep it like that," Karen shouted.
The aircraft accelerated.
At the far end of the drive, a car's headlights came on.
Peter Flemming thrust the gearshift into first and floored the pedal. Just as Tilde was opening the passenger door to get in, the car jerked away. She let go of the door with a cry and fell back. Peter hoped she had broken her neck.
He steered along the drive, letting the passenger door flap. When his engine started to scream he changed up into second. The Buick gathered speed.
In his headlights he saw a small biplane rolling down the drive, coming straight at him. Harald Olufsen was in that plane, he felt sure. He was going to stop Harald, even if it killed them both.
He changed up into third.
Harald felt the Hornet Moth tilt as Karen pushed the stick forward, bringing the tail up. He shouted, "Do you see that car?"
"Yes - is he trying to ram us?"
"Yes." Harald was staring along the drive, concentrating on keeping the aircraft on a straight course with the rudder pedals. "Can we take off in time to fly over him?"
"I'm not sure - "
"You have to make up your mind!"
"Get ready to turn if I say!"
The car was dangerously close. Harald could see they were not going to lift over it. Karen yelled, "Turn!"
He pressed the left pedal. The aircraft, responding less sluggishly at higher speed, swung sharply off the drive - too sharply: he feared his undercarriage repair job might not stand the strain. He corrected quickly.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw the car turn the same way, still aiming to ram the Hornet Moth. It was a Buick, he saw, just like the one in which Peter Flemming had driven him to Jansborg Skole. It turned sharply, trying to maintain a collision course with the aircraft.
But the aircraft had a rudder, whereas the car was steered by its wheels, and this made a difference on the wet grass. As soon as the Buick hit the grass it went into a skid. As it slid sideways, the moonlight momentarily caught the face of the man behind the wheel, fighting for control, and Harald recognized Peter Flemming.
The aircraft wobbled and straightened out. Harald saw that he was about to crash into the petrol tanker. He stamped on the left pedal, and the right wingtip of the Hornet Moth missed the truck by inches.
Peter Flemming was not so lucky.
Glancing back, Harald saw the Buick, completely out of control, slide with terrible inevitability toward the tanker. It smashed into the truck at top speed. There was a booming explosion, and a second later the entire park was lit up with a yellow glow. Harald tried to see if the tail of the Hornet Moth might have caught fire, but it was impossible to look directly behind, so he just hoped for the best.
The Buick was a furnace.
"Steer the aircraft!" Karen yelled at him. "We're about to take off!"
He returned his attention to the rudder. He saw that he was heading for the mess tent. He pressed the right pedal to miss it.
When they were on a straight course again the aircraft sped up.
Hermia had begun to run when she heard the plane engine start up. As she came into the grounds of Kirstenslot she saw a dark car, very like the one at the station, tearing along the drive. As she watched, it went into a skid and crashed into a truck parked alongside the drive. There was a terrific explosion, and both car and truck burst into flame.
She heard a woman cry, "Peter!"
In the fire's light she saw the woman in the blue beret. Everything fell into place. The woman had been following her. The man waiting in the Buick had been Peter Flemming. They had not needed to follow her from the station, because they knew where she was going. They had come to the castle ahead of her. Then what?
She saw a small biplane rolling across the grass, looking as if it was about to take off. Then she saw the woman in the blue beret kneel down, pull a gun from her shoulder bag, and aim at the aircraft.
What was happening here? If the woman in the beret was a colleague of Peter Flemming's, the pilot must be on the side of the angels, Hermia deduced. It could even be Harald, escaping with the film in his pocket.
She had to stop the woman from shooting the aircraft down.
The park was lit up by the flames from the petrol tanker, and in the brightness Harald saw Mrs. Jespersen aim a gun at the Hornet Moth.
There was nothing he could do. He was heading straight for her and, if he turned to one side or the other, he would merely present her with a better target. He gritted his teeth. The bullets might pass through the wings or the fuselage without causing serious damage. On the other hand they might disable the engine, damage the controls, hole the petrol tank, or kill him or Karen.
Then he saw a second woman runnning across the grass, carrying a suitcase. "Hermia!" he shouted in astonishment as he recognized her. She hit Mrs. Jespersen over the head with her case. The detective fell sideways and dropped her gun. Hermia hit her again, then grabbed the gun.
Then the aircraft passed over them and Harald realized it had left the ground.
Looking up, he saw that it was about to crash into the bell tower of the church.