(Author's note: We'll skip some adventures in Berlin, including one that won't pass the censors, and send poor Roman to the Finnish work camps.)
After another welcomingly hot supper, the workers sat mutely watching the lights of Sweden on the distant shore. The thought of the peace in that neutral country was unbearable, and Roman's legs twitched with a mad impulse to hop the fence, dive over the railing, and swim to freedom. He needed to lay face down on his bunk to shut out the view and blind the temptation.
The next morning, the ships moved through a dense fog with blind, slow caution and reached the port at Helsinki late in the afternoon. The Finnish coastline was a long, deep stretch of smooth and rounded stones that glinted in the setting sun like immense, basking whales.
After the Nordfolk coasted to its berth and stopped with an echoing wooden bump, the Todt workers were marched off almost immediately and herded to a vast villa with polished white pillars and hardwood floors. Roman's flimsy memories of the baron and his mansion were blurred even more by the stark emptiness of the huge Finnish house.
They were all free to wander the grounds and marbled rooms, and excited talk turned again to saunas and naked blonde women romping in the snow.
As Roman stood on the back terrace and gulped greedily at the fir-scented air, a lithe, curly-haired Frenchman who was generally avoided by the others came to stand beside him. Though Antoine was impressive, able to speak fluently in four languages and to recite long Polish poems by Adam Mickiewicz, he had the disconcerting habit of frequently whinnying like a horse. The word among the Todt workers was that he had been an Olympic-calibre horseman, and had become unbalanced when the invading Germans had cooly shot his favourite mount to get Antoine's father's undivided attention.
"Maybe the worst is over now?" he suggested. "It is so beautiful and peaceful here."
Roman nodded hopefully, but was distracted by the dark pine forest that beckoned from the rear of the gardens. He'd be free, he thought wildly.
"Free, of course, to starve or freeze to death," snorted Antoine as if reading his thoughts.