“Kay Eberstern was moving as unobtrusively as she could manage through the tongue-shaped wood of ash and birch which ran alongside the lake on her husband’s Danish estate. It was five o’clock on an early November evening in 1942.
It was important not to be seen.At this time of the evening the men working on the estate went home and they would be taken aback if they caught sight of Kay lurking here. They would ask: ‘What is the master’s wife doing?’ If it were peacetime, they might conclude that she was meeting a lover. But it was not peacetime. It was war, Hitler’s war, and British-born Kay had got herself caught up in it. If she was spotted, gossiped over, or betrayed, there could be, almost certainly would be, serious repercussions for the Eberstern family.Her orders had been to wait for an hour every evening in the wood at Rosenlund, for up to three days. Here she was to rendezvous with ‘Felix’, a British-trained agent who, if all had gone to plan, would have arrived in the area in order to set up resistance operations. She had also been warned that the plans might go awry and the mission aborted. The agent was being parachuted into Jutland and faced a difficult sea journey to Zealand and a subsequent cross-country one into the Køge area.Kay could have no illusions as to what might happen to Tanne and Nils, her children, or to Bror, her husband. Everyone knew that the Danish police weren’t backward in coming forward in rounding up anyone involved in this sort of activity and handing them over to the German Gestapomen.Was outraged decency a sufficiently good reason to put Tanne and Nils, and her marriage to Bror, at risk? Was her refusal to tolerate evil, cruelty and a creeping fascism worth it?Being seriously apprehensive was a new and unwelcome sensation and Kay was struggling to master it. If her task hadn’t been so crucial, and in other circumstances, she might have set about analysing its effects. Damp palms and a queasy stomach were predictable. Less so, were the upsurges of bravado followed by the slump into panic. Like a disease, fear caused weakness and debilitation.The winter was gearing up and, at this time of the evening, it was growing cold. She pushed her gloved hands into her pockets. Tomorrow, if there was a tomorrow, she would take pains to kit up more warmly. It hadn’t occurred to her until she was actually standing and freezing in the wood that she should think practically and prepare. For a start, she needed a torch.Why was she here?What was happening back at the house? Had she been missed yet? Birgit was preparing dinner and Kay had been careful to tell her that she hadn’t been sleeping well – not an untruth – and would be taking a nap.An owl hooted: a hollow, eerie sound.Kay shifted uneasily.Two years ago, on 9 April 1940, Hitler marched into Denmark and declared it a Protectorate with a special blood-brother relationship with the Reich, completely ignoring the non-aggression pact which he had signed with Denmark.It looked as though the Danes had been caught napping.Rumours of Hitler’s intentions had been circulating for months. Kay had turned into an obsessive listener to the BBC while it reported what was happening in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland – but in Denmark, even with Germany just next door, events had seemed removed, almost remote. She and Bror took their places at the breakfast table early on that April morning, he pale and grim, she flushed and on edge. They gazed at each other and Kay imagined she heard in her head the appalled cries of protest at this new arrangement of Europe.It had taken all day to get a phone connection to her mother in England. Fretful, anxious hours, and lipstick-stained cigarette butts were heaped in the ashtray by the time she got through.‘Kay …’ Her mother was on the verge of weeping, which was unlike her. ‘Your sisters and I have been desperate to hear from you. We’ve heard the news. Are you all right?’‘Are you all right?’It was baffling how such important conversations could be reduced to the basics.Kay searched to make the verbal connection mean something. ‘We’re getting over the shock.’‘Darling, couldn’t you come home?’Home.She thought of Piccadilly Circus, of the lisle stockings she used to wear, of nips of sherry in meanly sized glasses and overdone beef for Sunday lunch, and of her mother standing in the passageway of her tiny cottage at the end of a water-logged lane clutching the telephone receiver. She thought, too, of her mother’s deferential, polite widowhood lived out on the edges of a society that didn’t rate widows very highly.Coming to live in Denmark, she had left all those things behind.”
What do you think? Does it sound like something you’d read?