The Meister Spy
Airdate: Sunday, January 17, 1971 at 7:30:00 PM
Columbia House Tape: 21051 - Spy vs. Spy
Transcribed By Leslie Kirk
A sopping wet shirt sailed across the compound in answer, wrapping itself around Corporal Peter Newkirkís chest.
"Thank you, I needed that," the RAF flier said sarcastically, shaking his head as he hung it on the clothesline. Sergeant Baker, a reserved black American, grinned as he wrung the water out of another piece of laundry. Strolling over to clip it on the clothesline that the prisoners had stretched between barracks two and three, he suddenly stopped short. The barbed-wire double gates of Luft StaLag 13 had just swung shut behind a standard German truck. As he watched, guards wearing the Luftwaffe gray prodded four tired-looking men in flight jackets down from the back. Not an extremely unusual sight in a POW camp in the middle of Germany, but one that never made Sergeant Kinchloe feel any better.
"Hey, colonel! It looks like they got another one of our planes," he called back over his shoulder.
Colonel Robert Hogan, a tall, black-haired, handsome man with a brown bomber jacket and an intelligent light in his eyes, walked up behind him. He looked slightly surprised. "Thatís strange, there havenít been any raids near here recently." Newkirk, Sergeant Andrew Carter, and Corporal Louis LeBeau joined them to watch the Sergeant of the Guard, Shultz, lead one of the men over.
"Well, gentlemen, another guest."
"Hi. Iím Colonel Hogan, the senior POW officer." The American colonel smiled and shook the flierís hand. He looked young and shaken up.
"Iíve heard about you, sir. Lieutenant J. B. Miller. 0876707."
Carter spoke up from behind Colonel Hogan. "You okay?"
Shultz interrupted, saying, "Sorry I couldnít give you any advance notice, but he just dropped in." He guffawed.
"It was the craziest thing, colonel. We werenít hit, but we lost all power. Fell out of formation. We finally made a wheels-up landing in a field near here."
"Just as I said before, he just dropped in!" Shultz laughed loudly as the prisoners ignored him. Newkirk rolled his eyes.
"Shultzie, did anyone ever tell you youíve got a awful sense oí humor?"
"You know, my wife used to tell me thatÖ" Still chortling, he waddled back to the truck.
"What outfit were you with?"
"504th bomb group."
Hogan gave the Lieutenant a sharp look. "Operations officer?"
"Lieutenant Colonel Prewett. Glancing back at Shultz, he said in a lower voice, "The code is blue jay."
Hogan nodded to the four men behind him. "Heís clear." A slight smile creased his face, bringing out the laugh lines at the corners of his eyes. "You did fine. Any landing you can walk away from is a good one."
"Wouldnít have made it except for Major Martin. Observer from headquarters. He was somethiní. Kept his head. Took over for the navigator. Spotted a field. Great job."
LeBeau asked, "Where is he?"
"They took him to the Kommondantís office." Colonel Hogan looked at Baker and tilted his head toward the barracks. He nodded and left.
Newkirk thrust his hands deeper into the pockets of his blue uniform. "Our charminí kommondantís probably screaming Ďis bloody Ďead off at him."
"Come on and you can listen to Colonel Klinkís exciting indoctrination lecture," Hogan said. He led the men into his quarters in one end of barracks two. "Weíve got Klinkís office bugged. If he gives Martin any heat, Iíll run over." Baker already had the coffee pot set up.
"Good. Heís some guy. A real hero," Miller said. Hogan flipped a switch. A voice crackled from the coffee pot, sounding loud and clear. From the one-sided conversation, the speaker appeared to be talking on the telephone.
"Herr Mierink, this is Hans Strausser." Miller looked shocked.
"Thatís Major Martin!" The other five men looked at him, and then back at the coffee pot as the voice continued.
"Thatís right, Hans Strausser. Iím here at StaLag--"
"13!" Klink eagerly supplied.
"13. I had to leave London. I have important information. Complete details of the next Allied offensive." The men froze. Colonel Hogan, head of the undercover rescue/sabotage/espionage operation, stared at the innocent coffeepot.
"Heís a hero all right," he said grimly. "But for the wrong side."
* * * * *
"I suggest you call your top intelligent people together immediately to receive my report." Colonel Klink, not paying any attention to the fact that the spy was trying to talk on the telephone, commented,
"So you are really German." Hans Strausser sighed and put a hand over his free ear. Taking no notice, Klink rambled on. "You know, the moment you came in I said to myself, Ďthat American officer is a German agent.í I could sense it."
"One hour? Sehr gut. Yes, the Hauserhoff hotel tonight at nine oíclock. Danke. Iíll arrange transportation from here with Colonel Klinkel."
"Klink! K-L-IÖ" The kommondant gave up. That arrogant Strausser wasnít listening anyway. Still, it was better to stay on the good side of intelligence people.
"What? Oh, it was really quite simple. I cut the fuel lines, the plane lost power, and then I directed them to a field I had previously selected." He laughed coldly. "The fools even consider me a hero!"
Miller was outraged. "Major Martin, a German spy! Why, thatÖ" He got up, his hands tightening in the air over an imaginary "Major Martinís" neck.
"Hold it, hold it! Thatís not going to do any good."
"There is nothing we can do, mon colonel." Hogan thought for a minute. He looked at the men around him, all faithful that he would come up with an idea despite their skepticism. He had to. It was vital that the plans be kept secret. MaybeÖ
"Maybe there is."
"Iím looking forward to meeting you, too. Heil Hitler." Strausser hung up the telephone. Klink got up from his chair and walked around the front of his desk where Strausser was standing, wearing a self-integrating grin.
"Fascinating. You know, I should be in espionage work. I have a great talent for it. Even when I was a boy, I used to write messages in invisible ink." He leaned conspiratorially toward Strausser. "Lemon juice." Hans Strausser stared at Klink, wondering just how an idiot like this ever got to run a prisoner of war camp.
"Colonel, you never asked for my credentials."
"Hah! Thereís no need for it! As I told you, I knew the very minuteÖ"
Strausser interrupted him, growing more impatient by the minute. "You may call Herr Mierink for verification. His private number." He handed Klink a slip of paper.
"Really, Herr Strausser!"
Hogan snapped his fingers. "Thatís it. Baker, weíre going to need a Ďphone tap. Miller, listen and remember everything he says. Newkirk, Carter," he put an arm across each of their shouldersÖ
* * * * *
"Motor pool, send my car over immediately." Colonel Klink hung up the telephone. He was sitting at his desk, surrounded by piles of paperwork waiting to be done. With a sigh, he picked up a pen and wondered where to start. He couldnít wait until Helga, his beautiful blond secretary, got back from her leave. Suddenly the door swung open and banged against a metal filing cabinet, admitting Colonel Hogan and one of the new USAF fliers. Klink noticed with annoyance that Hogan was grinning. That man didnít even act like a prisoner!
"Sorry to disturb you, but youíve got to hear this, sir! Go ahead, Miller."
"Just a minute, Hogan. What are you doing here?"
"You have to listen to this, Kommadant! Heís been spouting it in the barracks for the last half hour. Okay, youíre on." The young man stood in front of Klinkís desk, hat in hands.
"I must speak with you, Colonel Klink. I am Hans Strausser from German intelligence." Klink looked bewildered.
"Wait, thereís more, thereís more!"
Miller continued. "It is vital that I see Herr Mierink at headquarters. I have detailed information on," "The next allied offensive." Hogan joined in. "Is that beautiful? Is that ever beautiful?"
The young flier looked indignantly at the head POW. "Colonel Hogan!"
Now Colonel Klink was starting to get worried. There couldnít be two Herr Straussers. Supposing the story the other one had told him was a fake too, and he let him go! His perfect no-escape record would be ruined. And when General Burkhalter heard about it, he would be at the Russian Front before nightfall and probably shot by those terrible Reds before morning. Klink remembered Hoganís suggestion that he buy a shatterproof monocle. All of a sudden, it didnít seem such a bad idea. Then he made a desperate effort and pulled himself together. Wilhelm, you will be fine! Herr Strausser or Major Martin, whichever he is, is still here! You will be FINE! Aloud he said,
"What is all this?"
Hogan was still grinning as though he had just heard a hilarious joke. Okay, heís starting to get nervous. Better make this good. "Wait, you havenít heard the best part! Where he asks for you to get him a car to leave in!"
"A car?" Klink glanced nervously down at the telephone.
"The wild things they tell you fliers will work as escape plots! Look, Mac, Iím all for you, honest, but you never had a chance! Not with an intelligent officer like Colonel Klink here."
Klink noticeably straightened up. "No, certainly not."
"So spare him the rest of the routine about sabotaging the plane and the phony phone number bit."
"The phony phone number bit?" Now Klink was really worried.
Hogan went on, pretending not to notice. "Nice try, Lieutenant. I mean, it never would of worked! Not here! Heís way ahead of all of us."
"I certainly am! óWhat about the phony phone number bit?" Hogan grinned mentally.
Miller answered. "Well, they told us to just make up a number. Chances are nobody would ever really call it!"
"Who thinks up these things? He would have called it like that!" Hogan snapped his fingers. "Iím sorry, sir. Good night. Iíll go dig up a bunk somewhere for old Clark Gable here." They headed for the door. "What a character!" As soon as the door closed between them and Klink, Hoganís grin disappeared. He waved Miller on and stood listening to what went on in the room beyond. He heard Klink pick up the phone and ask the operator to get him five-six-nine-three-two-two.
Baker, Carter, and Newkirk were down in the tunnel control room, the center of the huge network of tunnels they had built under StaLag 13. Wooden beams supported the earthen walls, and the floor was made of rough-hued planks of wood. This particular room, the nerve center of the whole system, held all of Kinchís radio equipment. It enabled them to sent and receive messages from Allied headquarters in London and local underground units. A buzzer sounded and a red light lit up on Kinchís switchboard. He flipped a switch and pointed at Newkirk, who was wearing headphones and holding a microphone. When the English corporal spoke, his voice was gruff and heavily German accented.
"Good afternoon, Shimmelís Bakery."
"Shimmelís Bakery?" Colonel Hogan choked back laughter outside Klinkís door. Newkirk answered,
"Yes. Who is this? Is that you, you no-good Hiney Bellhime?" In the background, Carter simpered in a high voice,
"Is it for me, Papa?"
"Never mind!" Then back into the microphone, "You cannot speak to Helga now, she is busy making strudel." Carter started crying "oh, Papa" and sobbing. "Now you listen to me, Hiney. You stop calling here, you understand? Donít bother her; sheís a good girl! Go away, do something! ó Join the Army!" Newkirk signaled Baker to hang up. Then he looked at Carter, who was still crying "oh, Papa".
"What are you doiní?" Carter kept right on with his performance. "Oh, shut up." Wearily, Newkirk leaned one elbow on a wooden shelf. That ought to throw olí Blood-aní-Guts off a bit!
Herr Strausser walked back into Colonel Klinkís office.
"Is my car here yet?"
"No, I wanted to ask you which you preferred, a staff car or a limousine." Klinkís sarcasm went unnoticed.
"Either would be fine."
"Oh, I wouldnít want to do anything that might offend a big, important super-spy like yourself, Herr Strausser." The German finally noticed the change in Klinkís behavior.
"Whatís gotten into you, Colonel?"
"Nothing! Nothing at all! Itís just that Iím bored with your charade, Major Martin!" Klink pushed back his chair and walked up to Herr Strausser, jabbing a finger in his face at the last two words.
"MajorÖ? Look, if you question my identity you can call that number."
"I did call that number! You didnít think I would, did you?"
"But didnít they tell you?"
"All they told me is that no-good Hiney Bellhime should stay away from Helga Shimmel!!!" Outside Klinkís office door, Hogan grinned and walked outside to the porch where Shultz was standing guard.
The huge, good-natured guard looked up. "Yah?"
"Colonel wants you."
Shultz looked puzzled. "I did not hear him call me."
"Yeah, I know, but why wait until the last minute? I think he has a prisoner he wants locked in the cooler."
The Sergeant Major started to chuckle. "How can you think you know what he wants me to do before the Kommondant even thinks he knows what he thinks he wants me to do? Impossible!"
Klink opened the door and leaned out on the porch. "Shultz, on the double! I have a prisoner to go into the cooler!" The door slammed. Hogan smirked at Shultz and walked back to the barracks. Shultz watched him go with an open mouth. How?
* * * * *
Carter and LeBeau were tossing a ball back and forth in front of barracks two, their coat collars turned up against the cold gray day. Newkirk and Colonel Hogan stood watching them. The flimsy door next to Hogan opened and Baker came out, carrying a decoded message from Allied Headquarters. He handed it to Hogan, who read it quickly.
"Hey, fellas, we are staging a big attack on the Northern sector Wednesday night. All right, weíll keep Strausser under wraps Ďtil then."
"Londonís really shaken up about all Strausser found out, sir."
Hogan nodded. "Someone high up in our general staff is passing on top secret information."
LeBeau called "What?" Carter started to call back, "He said somebodyÖ"
Newkirk cut across his words. "Shut up! You know, guvínor, with a little friendly persuasion, Ďeíed tell us who Ďis contact is."
"Not likely. But that Mierink guy downtown might mention it, if Strausser or a reasonable facsimile did go to that meeting tonight."
* * * * *
Colonel Hogan and Sergeant Carter strode through the lobby of the Hauserhoff, dressed in civilian clothes. They halted behind a potted fern.
"Is the camera ready?"
Carter showed him the tiny camera concealed beneath one of the buttonholes in his coat. "Weíre going to need good light."
"Youíll have light."
Carter was a little worried. This plan seemed so risky, meeting in a public hotel with three German intelligence agents and pretending to be another one of them. Still, the colonelís plans somehow always managed to work out. Aloud he voiced one of his doubts, "Wonít Mierink be able to tell that youíre not Strausser? "
Hogan wasnít entirely calm about it either, but what else could they do? Anyway, "How could he? Strausser said on the Ďphone theyíve never met. Heíll like me better anyway. Iím taller." The two men walked down the hall and paused before a closed wooden door. Hogan rapped twice, and it was opened immediately. A dark-haired man, with a look of perpetual alertness, asked,
"Herr Strausser?" Hogan casually flipped up his hand in a salute.
"Heil Hitler." Indicating Carter, he told Herr Mierink, "This is my pilot, Johann Carter. A very good friend of the Fatherland. Heís been most helpful." Carter clicked his heels and bowed slightly. Mierink waved them inside.
"Come in, please. These are my key people. Fraulien Kissinger," he indicated a blond woman with something cool and hard about her. Hogan acknowledged the introduction with "Fraulien," and Carter clicked his heels and bowed again.
"Guten Aben," she said in a voice that would have done justice to an iceberg.
"And Herr Shneer." The man indicated rose from the sofa beside Fraulien Kissinger and clicked his heels. He was a middle-aged aristocrat, with expensive clothes, a monocle, and an ugly, shrewd face. Herr Mierink turned toward him. "This, of course, is Herr Strausser and Herr Carter. Now, you say you have news about the next allied offensive."
Herr Shneer gave each of them a quick, searching glance, and interrupted. "One moment. I have followed your career closely, Herr Strausser."
Hogan gave a slight nod. Mentally he readied himself. "Thatís very flattering."
"I even recorded that you once had a hunting accident. Lost the tip of a thumb, I believe. óWhich thumb was that, Herr Strausser? The right? Or the left?" Both Hogan and Herr Shneer looked at Hoganís hands, which were buried in his coat pockets. Hogan gave a slight smile and turned his head to look at Carter, whose eyes were panicky. Mentally his brain was racing. Letís see, he isnít sure whether Iím the real Strausser or not, so the question must be true. Should I guess? No, too risky. I have to turn aside the question, give an excuse for having two perfect thumbs. Dammit! How?
"óWell, Herr Strausser? The right? Or the left?"
Hogan answered in an indifferent voice. "You have an excellent memory, Herr Shneer, excellent." He withdrew two whole thumbs from his pockets and held them up. "But thanks to some prime German surgery, you canít really tell which, can you?" Herr Shneer looked disconcerted and turned around, resuming his place on the couch.
To cover the awkward pause, Mierink said, "You say that the enemy is planning a new attack."
Hogan nodded, "Yes. Wednesday evening, from the southern sector."
Mierink appeared surprised. "We have not observed any unusual activity in the southern sector."
Herr Shneer raised one gray eyebrow, looking slightly incredulous. "It doesnít seem possible. Are you quite sure?"
"Would I have taken this extreme method to get through if I wasnít absolutely certain?"
Herr Shneer still wasnít convinced. "StillÖ"
Mierink broke in. "I think we can assume that Herr Strausserís information is correct. It comes from a very high source." He tapped the forged report Colonel Hogan had given him. Maybe this would be a good chance to find out who the spy was.
"Incidentally, about my contactÖ"
Mierink ignored it. "You will excuse me, it is urgent that I order our forces to move south immediately. Meanwhile, there are refreshments. Adla..." He looked at the Fraulien and then went through a curtained doorway to a back room. Fraulien Kissinger rose gracefully from the sofa and went to a small table to pour them glasses of red wine. Carter sat down on a chair right next to a bright lamp. After giving him a quick glance, Hogan walked over to try his luck with the lady.
"So, at last we meet, Fraulien." He lifted one of her hands to his lips and kissed it, and then let his lips linger there while his eyes rested on the large diamond ring she wore. "Hmm. Exquisite!"
Her voice thawed twenty degrees. "Danke."
"May I examine it under the light?"
Hogan brought her over the lamp where Carter was sitting. "Most unusual! Itís an Amsterdam cut." Carter casually reached inside his coat and pushed a tiny button, causing the camera hidden in his buttonhole to take a photo of Fraulien Kissinger. Hogan looked over his shoulder at Herr Shneer, who was sitting morosely on the sofa. "Have you examined this beautiful stone, Herr Shneer?"
"Not in any detail," he said impatiently. Fraulien Kissinger glided over and showed it to him. Before he could get a good look at it, she withdrew her hand and said,
"Oh, you must look at it under the light."
"Yes, it could be an Amsterdam- or possibly a Rubiconís." Carterís camera snapped again. At that moment, Herr Mierink emerged from the back room, looking very happy.
"We have six divisions moving south, thanks to your excellent report."
"And now, we have a little surprise for you."
Warning bells went off inside Hoganís head. "Oh?"
"The lovely Fraulien Wessel, who met with you in the Paris sector. She is here, in this hotel!" He dropped a set of keys in ĎHerr Strausserísí hand. "I know you two are very close. So, take a few minutes. You have earned it."
"Itís too good to be true." He turned toward the door, and then stopped. He faced Herr Mierink again.
"What is it?"
"I canít do it. I made a pledge; that I would not seek my happiness while our gallant men are still fighting. Not until our Fuehrer is sitting victoriously in the White House, only then would I look into Fraulien Wessenís eyes again." He spoke in a halting, passionate voice.
"Wunderbar!" Fraulien Kissinger murmured.
Herr Mierink looked at Herr Strausser with respect and a little bit of awe. "I understand."
"Yes, well, I must be going. Theyíve arranged my escape; I must return to London and my duty." Hogan turned toward the door and buried his face in his hand. "So near, and yet so far. Give me strength!" He choked out. Carter rose from his chair and clasped his shoulder briefly.
Mierink told him, "Youíve done an excellent job."
Colonel Hogan turned around. Okay, last shot. "Thereís one more thing. Herr Shneer seems uncertain. He would probably like to know who my contact in London is. Perhaps- you could explain matters to him?"
"Iíd be glad to. Herr Strausserís contact in Allied headquarters isÖ is so highly placed that his identity cannot be divulged. I do not know myself, and Herr Strausser can reveal it to no one except in the presence of Herr Keppleman himself in Berlin. These are orders, Herr Shneer. Iím sorry."
Hogan said, very sincerely, "So am I."
* * * * *
Back in the barracks, Colonel Hogan was leaning against a wooden pole next to the stove. LeBeau, Carter, and Baker were sitting around the table, and Newkirk was up in his bunk cheating at a game of solitaire. The American officer had been glum ever since they had gotten back from the Hauserhoff thirty minutes ago. Baker broke the silence.
"It sounds like you did really good, sir."
Carter joined in. "Got the pictures, and sent six divisions to the wrong place."
"But you still seem unhappy, mon colonel."
Before Hogan could answer, Newkirk looked up from his game. "Course Ďeís uníappy. Who wouldnít be? He had to pass up a chance to play with that litíl Fraulien at the Ďotel."
Hogan ignored Newkirk. "I didnít find out who our leak is back in London."
"But you couldnít find out. Nobody knows who he is."
"Strausser knows. Weíll get him to talk."
Carter thought that the colonel was being unreasonable, even for an officer. "But they told you. He wonít talk to anyone but that big cheese Keppleman in Berlin."
Hogan started to grin in a way that usually meant trouble for the Germans. "So? Weíll take him to Berlin."
* * * * *
LeBeau drove a truck around to where Shultz was standing guard outside the "Cooler."
Shultz panicked. Prisoners were supposed to be in the barracks at night, and the Big Shot would blame him in anything happened. On top of that, the Cockroach had a truck! "Was is los? What are you doing with the truck!?"
"Talk to your crazy kommondant! He said thereís something wrong with the engine, that we had to fix it if it took all night. Well, itís not fair!" LeBeau jumped down and opened a panel so Shultz could see the engine. "Now listen to this engine. It sounds all right to me!" As the fat sergeant bent down to listen, LeBeau pulled a little whistle out of his pocket and blew it.
"Wait a minute! Thereís a whistle in it!" The Frenchman blew the whistle again. "Donít you hear it?"
"No, it sounds all right to me." While LeBeau kept Shultz busy, Colonel Hogan and Newkirk jumped down from the back of the truck. With a trench coat and a white scarf around his neck, minus his cap, there was nothing to show that Hogan was a prisoner. Newkirk was dressed in the Luftwaffe uniform for a corporal. They slipped into the cooler and located the cell where Strausser was being kept. Silently, Newkirk took a little shiny tool from his pocket and proceeded to pick the lock. In a matter of seconds, he nodded to Hogan and straitened to attention by the wall next to the door. Well, here goes!
Hans Strausser was sitting hunched up in one corner of his cell, shivering and thinking thoughts not lawful to be uttered about prison camp kommondants in general and Colonel Klink in particular. How was he going to get out of here? It was urgent that he get this information to Berlin immediately. He was frustrated, because for the first time in his life there was nothing he could do. Then he heard a faint clicking from the lock of the cell. Probably just that fat incompetent guard, checking to see if he was still there.
The door swung open, revealing a tall dark-haired man, erect in bearing and dressed inconspicuously. He asked, "Herr Strausser?"
Strausser got up. "Oh, finally! That stupid colonel-"
"I know. My apologies. He will be punished."
"Are your people ready at the hotel?"
Herr Mierink moved his head slightly in a negative gesture. "This is too big for them. Youíll make your report direct to Berlin. Come, we have a truck waiting."
"A truck? Wouldnít a plane be quicker?"
"Yes, but we donít want the Luftwaffe in on this. That Goering and his big mouth. Heíd take credit for everything. Come." He led Strausser outside, where LeBeau was still blowing his whistle. "All right, get in the truck."
Strausser stopped. "Herr Mierink, you understand that I must insist on proper identification."
"Exactly my thoughts. Which thumb did you injure in that hunting accident, the right or the left?"
"Why, the left, of course."
"Youíre Strausser all right, but we canít be to careful." Mierink lowered his voice slightly. "Tomorrow night youíll be back with Fraulien Wessel again."
"Fraulien Wessel? Youíre very kind." The mention of his ladylove put suspicions out of Strausserís head.
Herr Mierink gave a slight smile, perhaps having anticipated that reaction. "We are human, too."
Inside the truck, which was bouncing and rattling along at a high speed, Strausser pulled his coat closer around him. "Weíve really moving."
"Yes, we have to take the back roads." Mierink poured Strausser a cup of something hot from a bottle he had brought along. He gulped it down eagerly, trying to bring some warmth back into his chilled body. When it was gone, Mierink poured him more. It was soothing and warm, and even the smell was relaxing. It made him slightly drowsy. It was a long way to Berlin. Perhaps he could take just a small napÖ Herr Mierink watched with a small smile as the German spy drifted deeper and deeper into sleep. The truck rattled on toward BerlinÖ
Or so he thought. Actually, the truck was still parked in the motor pool. LeBeau ran the engine, and in the back, Newkirk and Kinchloe each had a board inserted under the truck and across two water barrels. They rocked the truck back and forth, as Carter sat on a motorcycle and watched them.
Newkirk commented, "Berlinís just a state oí mind. You donít really have to be there, you just have to think you are. Uh-oh, Ďere comes a very nasty bump." He pushed down hard on his board and shook his head mournfully at Carter. "Oh, dear."
After a few minutes, Hogan leaped down from the back of the truck. "All right, cut." The rattling and engine noise stopped abruptly. "He should be out for at least fifteen minutes. Newkirk, start rearranging Klinkís office."
"Carter, go get your play clothes on, and letís get this stuff out of here." LeBeau, Baker, and Hogan tackled the boards and barrels.
Herr Mierink led Herr Strausser through a door. As they entered, Strausser heard a man say, "Auf Wiedersehen. Heil Hitler." and hang up a telephone. The blindfold was suddenly removed from his eyes, and Strausser blinked in the unexpected light.
"Iím sorry about the blindfold. Security. Colonel Bier, this is Herr Strausser. As I said on the phone, he has vital information about a new enemy attack in the north." Colonel Bier was sitting behind a desk opposite the door, wearing the black and silver uniform of the SS. His gray eyes, set in a sharply chiseled face, looked nervous and his brown hair showed premature wings of gray. When he spoke his voice sounded nervous, too.
"Yes, be seated. I will find out if he can see you." He waved at two wooden chairs against a wall. As Mierink and Strausser sat down, Colonel Bier knocked cautiously on a wooden door. From the inner room someone yelled something unintelligible. Bier entered, and as he opened the door, Strausser could see a figure pacing back and forth with his head down and his arms crossed behind his back. Then the door swung nearly shut. The sight seemed somehow threatening. He looked at Herr Mierink and voiced the question that was foremost in his mind.
"Where are we?"
"The summer place. Iím sorry the trip was so rough."
This did nothing to allay Strausserís nervousness. "The summer place? But whoís?" Suddenly the door was yanked open and a figure stood there, yelling inarticulately. Then he slammed the door closed. Strausserís eyes widened, and his mouth fell open and then snapped closed.
Mierink interrupted in a voice that held a touch of warning. "He asked to see you personally."
"He has a little office like this?"
"Just for weekends. Itís part of the austerity program. He feels he should set an example; no frills, just a plain little office. And out back, just a plain little forty-room cottage by the lake."
More yelling came from the inner room, rising to a frenzied pitch. Colonel Bier opened the door just enough to slip out. He leaned against the door, eyes closed. Then he murmured, "Un moment," and sat down is his desk chair. The SS colonel poured three white pills from a bottle into his hand. Putting them in his mouth, he took a large gulp of water. This seemed to give him strength enough to speak. "WellÖheís not too happy with your information." Colonel Bier said in a shaky voice. "Heís still convinced that the attack will come from the south because thatís what the gypsy astrologer told him."
"The gypsy astrol-"
Mierink overrode him. "He must listen to us!"
"If only you had some proof. Where did you get your information?"
Strausser said, "Well, IÖ"
Mierink interrupted again. "Donít tell him! You know he cannot reveal his contact unless Herr Keppleman is here. Weíll wait." He turned to Strausser. "I have calls all over town for him."
Colonel Bier stood, leaning forward against his desk, his voice rising at each word in near panic. "Wait a minute, you want me to go in there and say that heíll talk to Keppleman- but not to him!" His voice cracked on the last word.
Mierink slammed a hand down on the arm of his chair. "And thatís final no matter what!"
Colonel Bier swallowed and pushed back his chair. Closing his eyes, he knocked on the door and went in.
Herr Mierink sighed. "Youíre doing the right thing." Hans Strausser looked at the door, from behind which more nervous and angry yells were coming. Now it was his turn to swallow.
Suddenly the outer door swung open and a fat guard came partway into the room. Mierink leaped to his feet, saying "Quick! Outside," and pulled the guard, who was trying to say something, back through the door. He closed it firmly behind him. Strausser sat frozen in the chair, bewildered.
Out on the front porch of Klinkís office, Colonel Hogan told Sergeant Shultz, "Poor guy must have hurt his head in the plane crash. Heís all mixed up. I saw him break out of the cooler." Shultz stared at his trench coat, which was certainly not standard American issue. "Oh, I threw this on and came over. Found him rearranging all the furniture."
"I saw that, but why?"
"Told us he wanted it to look nice because Hitler was in the next room, spending the night."
Shultz looked incredulous and scared at the same time. "No! Iíll get my men, we better put him right back into the cooler!"
"Give me a couple of minutes first, huh?" Hogan asked, putting on his most persuasive manner.
"No, wait a minuteÖ"
"Just to try to settle him down!"
"Two minutes only!"
"Two minutes." Hogan opened the door and went back inside.
Mierink came back in, and Strausser stared at him. "That guard, he looked just like the one at StaLag 13."
Mierink sat back down, his manner slightly changed. Now it seemed a little more sinister, somehow. "You mean the guard at 13 looked like him. All the sergeants imitate him. Heís Kurtz, a real brute. The Fuhrurís personal hatchet man. A real killer."
"Whatís he doing here?" Little shivers of subtle cold fear trickled down Strausserís back.
"Donít even think about him. Iíve done him a few favors. He said heíd wait a few more minutes."
The inner door across the room opened, and Colonel Bier edged out, a hand held palm out in front of him as if to hold something away from him. His eyes were closed, and he was white and shaking. He closed the door as quietly as he could and slumped against the desk.
Immediately the door was yanked open again from the inside by a thin, frenzied figure who yelled something like "Idiots! Idiots! No wonder we canít win a war!" and slammed the door so hard that the flimsy latch didnít catch and the door bounced back open again. This seemed to infuriate the man further, who screamed, "Even the doors are against me!!" and kicked it furiously with one polished black jackboot. This time it stayed closed.
Colonel Bier appeared ready to faint as he sank into his black leather chair and half-whispered, "You boys sure picked a bad night." After gulping a glass of water, he exhaled a long, shaky breath and looked up. "Heís been having trouble. Itís something to do with Eva- and the sergeant in the motor pool. Itís been murder around here- and I do mean murder! He shot two men just in supper- and around here, everything happens in threes."
Strausser caught his pointed gaze, horrified. "He- wouldnít-"
The SS colonel nodded, his voice still nervous. "Unless you can verify your information. Tell him who your contact is, that would satisfy him!"
"Well, I-" Strausser said, rising to his feet.
Mierink cut him off, also rising. "Never! He will take the name to the grave with him."
"Then I suggest you make a reservation with your undertaker. Without the name of your contact, heíll go with the gypsy every time." Colonel Bier opened the inner door and entered, shutting it behind him.
Mierink clasped Strausserís hand. "Iím proud of you. Itís a far, far better thing you do. Keppleman will be proud of you, tooÖ where ever he is."
The outer door burst open, admitting Kurtz. "All right, time is up. Lets go, raus, raus, raus, raus!" He grabbed Strausserís arm and started to haul him outsideÖ where the gun smoke would disperse more easily.
Mierink raised his hand in a salute. "Goodbye, a brave man dies but once."
"Raus, raus, raus!"
Strausser panicked and tried to pull away from Kurtz, his life flashing before his eyes. "My contact! Tell him itís Medwin! The under secretary on the war council! Tell him itís Medwin!!!"
"Iíll see that the word gets out. All right, Shultz, take him to the cooler." Mierink started to remove his trench coat.
Strausser stopped. "Shultz? ó That uniform. Youíre an American!"
Colonel Hogan smiled. "Someone around here has to be."
* * * * *
As two guards hauled the struggling Hans Strausser off to the cooler, Sergeant Shultz turned to Hogan, speaking tenetivly. "Colonel Hogan. It would be better if the Kommondant didnít know that the man escaped from the cooler while I was on guard duty, you understand?"
Hogan grinned at him. "Letís just say it never happened, huh?"
"Of course, itís up to you to see that none of his wild stories get back to Colonel Klink."
Shultz chuckled. "Oh, Iíll see to it that he is in the cooler for a long, long time to come."
"OK, Shultz. Itís really not his fault; heís been under such a terrible strain." Hogan stepped out onto the porch, and Shultz took a last look around the now normal office.
"Can you imagine him? Rearranging all the furniture because the Fuhr-" Carter, still in ReichFuhrur regalia, pulled open the inner door and stood frozen for a moment. Then he shut it again, very gently. Shultz just stood there with his mouth open.
"Whatís the matter?" Colonel Hogan asked.
"I thought I saw- but it couldnít- could it? Can it?"
"Better get some sleep, Shultz." The American colonel patted him on the back. "You look like youíve just seen a ghost."