Authors: Robert Elmer
Also by Robert Elmer
THE YOUNG UNDERGROUND
A Way Through the Sea
Beyond the River
Into the Flames
Far from the Storm
Chasing the Wind
A Light in the Castle
Follow the Star
Touch the Sky
A Way Through the Sea
e-book copyright © 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the author.
Originally published by Bethany House Publishers, Bloomington, Minnesota
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
A way through the sea / Robert Elmer.
p. cm. — (Young underground ; #1)
Summary: In 1943, when the Germans plan to send all Danish Jews to prison camps, Peter and Elise, eleven year old twins, face danger trying to help their Jewish friend Henrik escape to Sweden.
1. World War, 1939 1945—Underground movements—Denmark—Juvenile fiction. [1. World War, 1939 1945—Underground movements—Denmark—Fiction. 2. Denmark—History—German occupation, 1940 1945—Fiction. 3. Brothers and sisters—Fiction. 4. Jews—Denmark—Fiction.] I. Title. II. Series: Elmer, Robert. Young underground ; #1.
[Fic]—dc20 94 19922
ISBN 1 55661 374 1 (pbk.) CIP
For the people of Denmark
who found courage
to stand up for what was right.
ROBERT ELMER has written several popular series for young readers, including the
Young Underground, Promise of Zion,
series was inspired by stories from Robert’s Denmark born parents, as well as friends who lived through the years of German occupation. He writes from his home in the Pacific Northwest (USA).
Table of Contents
The clock was ringing right in his ear, from somewhere under the pillow. It almost felt like an electric shock, and eleven year old Peter Andersen jerked up, reached under the pillow, and snapped off the alarm. He sat in bed for a minute, caught his breath, and listened to make sure his parents or sister weren’t making any noises. All quiet, except for his dad’s soft, rattly snoring from down the hall. It had to be almost midnight, the time he had set his alarm to go off.
Crawling out of bed, Peter peeked out from behind his window shade and looked up and down the deserted cobblestone street below.
Any German patrols?
At this hour of the night, soldiers would be the only ones out on the street. They usually came in pairs, strolling along between the tall, narrow buildings, looking as if they owned the world.
No one in sight.
Peter looked again in the direction of the big old Church of Saint Mary, and past that, Helsingor Harbor. He couldn’t see it in the darkness, and there were no lights on down in the street.
Would Henrik be awake?
As his eyes got used to the dim August moonlight, he tried to remember whose turn it was to start the message. He pulled out his silver colored metal flashlight from underneath his bed, waited by the window, and shivered in his pajamas.
A minute went by, then two; then a faint yellow light blinked twice through a corridor of buildings. Peter scanned the street once more, making double sure no soldiers were passing below. All clear again.
After two months of practice, it had become a lot easier to pick out the little patterns of light from a flashlight three blocks away. One short blink. Two long. A long and a short. Each set of blinks, long or short, stood for a letter in Morse code, which Peter and his best friend, Henrik Melchior, had memorized over the summer.
Peter whispered out the letters as they blinked. “H.E.Y. A.R.E. Y.O.U. T.H.E.R.E.”
One more check down on the street before he blinked back a reply. The strolling soldiers never seemed to look up much, but if they did, it would not be a nice surprise to have them see a blinking light in his window. After sundown, everyone was supposed to keep their windows completely dark. Peter pointed his flashlight back in the direction of the first blinking light and worked the switch back and forth, back and forth.
O.F. C.O.U.R.S.E. I.M. H.E.R.E.
Have I ever been late for a signal? Not counting the time my alarm didn’t go off, or the time I couldn’t get the flashlight to work.
He continued blinking the light.
S.O. A.R.E. Y.O.U. R.E.A.D.Y. F.O.R. T.H.E. P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. R.A.C.E. T.O.M.O.R.R.O.W.
Peter almost missed several of the letters, but he got the message through.
I.M. R.E.A.D.Y., Henrik flashed back. S.O. I.S. M.Y. B.I.R.D. T.O.O. B.A.D. A.B.O.U.T. Y.O.U.R.S.
Peter grinned in the dark. Typical Henrik. He was always Mr. Competition, wanting to go head to head.
So okay, we’ll see whose homing pigeon wins the race tomorrow. My bird is just as fast, and he knows it.
W.E. W.I.L.L. S.E.E. T.O.M.O.R.R.O.W. M.O.R.N.I.N.G. A.N.D. M.A.Y. T.H.E. B.E.S.T. B.I.R.D. W.I.—
There was a noise out in the hallway, as if someone had gotten up. Peter snapped the flashlight off in mid blink, yanked down the heavy canvas shade, rolled back into bed, pulled the covers over his head, and pretended to be asleep. He heard his door squeak open, and there was no sound except his father’s breathing. Peter held his breath. Then the door closed again, and the shuffling went back down the hall toward his parents’ room.
That was too close,
thought Peter. He would have to explain to Henrik in the morning. Peter’s dad did a lot of midnight checking around the house lately, especially since the war had started. He would check the windows to make sure the shades were pulled all the way down, then he would peek outside, and Peter’s mom would ask if anybody was out there, and they would worry about everything all over again.
Worry, worry. Peter thought
in the little country of Denmark was worrying these days. His parents worried about how much food they could get, and they worried about the German soldiers all over their city. They even worried about Peter’s friend Henrik, whose family was Jewish. Peter overheard them talking about it once, and at first, it didn’t make any sense to him. No one in Denmark had ever seemed to care about who was Jewish (there were only a few thousand in the country) and who was Lutheran. But from what Peter’s father said, the Germans thought a different way about the Jews, as if the Jews were to blame for every problem in the whole world or something. The Germans didn’t want anyone to know how they captured Jews in other parts of Europe, said Mr. Andersen—whole families and everything—and how they took them to prison camps, even killed them. Peter was way too afraid to talk about anything like that with Henrik.
He did understand what he could see, though: German soldiers in the streets, German boats in the harbor, sometimes German planes in the sky. They had just raced into the country about three years ago—when Peter and his twin sister, Elise, were eight—with tanks and planes and ships, and they had completely taken over. They didn’t ask or anything. Denmark was a little country, and the Danes didn’t have much to fight back with. “They’ll leave again after they get what they want,” Mr. Andersen said one night at dinner, right after the invasion.
He did say that once, and Peter remembered it. But when he and Elise asked him more questions, their father wouldn’t talk about it anymore. “We’re just trying to keep things as normal as we can for you two,” he said, closing the book on the subject. The way he looked at them, serious and sad, told Peter not to ask anything else.
But now that Peter and Elise had just turned eleven, the Germans were still around, and Peter wondered how much longer it would go on. The war.
They must not have gotten what they wanted yet.
He lay awake, trying to fall asleep, trying to remember anything else his dad had said. After a while, though, he gave up. Pigeon races were more fun to think about than wars.
May the best bird win, Henrik.
Before long he heard his dad snoring again.
Numbers One, Two, and Three
Too excited to sleep, Peter lay in his bed, thinking back to the year before—1942—the year their birds had hatched. The first problem had been figuring out names for the ugly things. But Elise solved that on a Saturday morning when they were in their grandfather’s boathouse, down by the harbor.
They had already waited twenty one long days from the time the eggs were laid until they hatched. Then when they did, everyone was excited—but kind of disappointed, too.
“Boy, are those things ugly,” said Peter, wrinkling his nose at the three squirming creatures and bending down for a closer look. “They don’t even open their eyes.” He didn’t mention that they were fat and blubbery with splotches of fluffy down here and there, or that they were mostly blue. Elise looked closely when Maxine (the mom) left the nest to get a drink.
“Yeah,” agreed Henrik, combing his jet black hair with his left hand. He wasn’t blond and blue eyed like Peter and Elise, but instead had the sharp, dark features that hinted strongly at his Jewish background. “I can see their veins and everything. And look at those crazy crooked beaks. Are you sure they’re not baby vultures?”
“Maybe they’re part vulture,” said Peter. “It’s just too bad they can’t come out cute and fuzzy, like a baby chick or something.”
sure weren’t born cute and fuzzy,” snapped Elise. She and Peter had grown up sharing a lot of things, and they were still quite close. But sometimes when they all got together with Henrik, Peter found his sister getting irritated at some of the things he said. Like now.
“So how do you know?” asked Peter, looking up at her with a grin. “Were you there or something?”
“As a matter of fact, I was,” she shot back. “For about a whole half an hour before you, don’t forget.”
“How can I, when you remind me about it once a week?”
Peter and Elise had faces that looked much the same, with their mom’s long, straight nose and their dad’s steel blue eyes. And they were both kind of skinny, with knobby elbows and knees. The main difference was that she had passed him up on the height chart in the living room two years earlier, something Peter tried to forget but couldn’t. He also tried to forget that technically she was older than he was.
Peter and Elise’s grandfather, who was working on a piece of wood, only laughed at the conversation. “They’re ugly, all right. But give them a few months. Six months. They’ll be flying around, growing feathers, and turning into big, beautiful homing pigeons.”
They looked over at the ugly chicks’ parents, who liked to strut around in the sunlight coming in from the window. The neck feathers of the birds turned different colors in the sun—green and blue mostly. In the case of the three new birds, this would have to be like the Hans Christian Andersen story where the ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan.