Her Second Chance
Disclaimer and Note: First of all, I don’t own any of the characters from Hogan’s Heroes or any of the song lyrics that I have posted. I have merely taken the characters and involved them in a story I had been developing since I was a child watching Hogan’s Heroes, a good decade in the making. The songs (which some of you might recognize) are the ones that I liked best, and have been my favorites for some time (I don’t wish to show my poetry yet). I do thank those who have created the show and have written the songs, and who have motivated and inspired me to write a strange story.
I always thought about a female, a dominant figure and lover in Colonel Hogan’s life, and it whirled and was thrown around from there, especially after I saw I Look Better in Basic Black. How did she get to Stalag 13? Who is she, what unique circumstances might have landed her in a storm of fury? These questions bothered me, until I finally developed them. Then more questions popped up: can Hogan be as serious and quick-thinking as he portrays himself to be? And, can there be a softer, more protective side to him to the people he loves? Despite Hogan’s flirting, I always thought he had that other special person in his life and maybe an argument with that special someone MADE him go after other women because he felt so lost and lonely without her.
I do warn that this story
deals with the serious, dark side of Nazi
Lt. Colonel Nikola Anna Michalovich sat down at the desk in her quarters at Barracks 2 at Luftstalag 13 and thought about what has happened to her, before she met him and her journey to this camp. She had only a few hours before the dawn roll call, Schultz’s yelling and Klink’s idiocy. She tried humming some songs of long ago, she knew that it usually helped her in times of trouble, but it was it was no use. She also knew that just writing this down, like all else, would help her, but the war had shattered her dignity so far. How can she write this down and destroy whatever demons she had? She had the love of someone, had friends to rely on and a cause that she can rally for. What more does she need?
She looked to the sleeping form on the top bunk. She loved this very being, the person who has saved her so many times, and has been her constant companion, even in the deaths of her family. He understood her, as she understood him. She had argued with him, lost him and had the chance of seeing him again in Stalag 13. Their storms had passed over them and their comrades for now.
This was her second chance to start anew.
Drawing a fresh paper in hand, she started to write:
July 12, 1943, 0400 Hours
Lt. Colonel Nikola Anna Michalovich, U.S. Army Nurse of M*A*S*H 6147: LC8547960
shudder trying to remember who I was, and how I ever came to be. I could have
met the firing squad so many times and have had close calls with Death and Fate
It is long story, the journey from there to here. But today, it can just be called a second chance, a lucky break and even a coincidence that I survived the odds and met up with him again. We had our sad parting, a very close shave with death and before, so many years together. We are life and love, a part of the strength of this prison camp’s operation.
This is the beginning of all things.
Although we had a four year age difference (he was older) it didn’t matter. We were alike in temperament, thinking and ability that many thought of us as twins, which was quickly dismissed when they saw who we really were. With my fiery green eyes and red-gold hair, I give the appearance of a woman not to be reckoned with. I was soft and caring to those I loved and ruthless and aggressive when those I loved were threatened and hurt. I was also very prune to depression and had been known to be blunt and snappish. He was just as dark-haired and -eyed and much more cautious and more thoughtful and fast thinking. He was more immune to stress and was very worrisome when I worried him. I was more reckless than he was.
But for the first fourteen and a half years of my life, I have never met him, but he watched me from afar, knowing who I am and what has happened to me. He never met me until that day in the back of the alleyway, where my stepbrothers were trying to kill me.
Forgive me for starting at the wrong point in time. It is careless of me to think that all know where and how I came to be, but it is not so. That day in the alleyway marks a major turning point in my life and I should fill in the blanks on how three strong-willed and easily manipulated members of my family tried to kill me. This all started before I was born and even thought of, the real beginning of all things.
father was a Jewish Russian soldier in the former czar’s army, religious first
and devoted to country second. He had
lived in the same Siberian village for years and has never left it until Alexander
III released the pogroms, meant to
destroy those of the Jewish faith. At eighteen, Father was sent from his
village by my grandfather, with a new name and identity. Before heading to
He meant to keep these promises.
dashing red-headed peasant Father made his way to
the 1905 October Manifesto he met a young German noblewoman, who had just been
widowed, my mother, Victoria von Rumey. Her dead husband had left her millions
of dollars and marks, a voucher in
In 1906 Father asked leave of the Russian Army to pursuit his dream of marrying the beautiful Victoria von Rumey. He was granted this by the czar himself, Nicholas II. The weak ruler all too quickly accepted resignation and bid him a fond farewell. Nicholas also told him of the importance of the family, knowing that he too chased love and within a decade’s time, cost him his life.
But understand his about Mother. Sweet as she was, she rebelled against family tradition, but believed in the one she herself developed, establishing her own rules and iron rule. She took care of her ambitions and those she bothered to care for. Otherwise, she’d have someone else to it for her. Her politics were of different structure, what we call Hitler’s government today. She liked total control and developed a hate of those not white, blonde-haired blue/green eyed and Protestant. This made Father cringe. He never told her about his history and wanted to wait for the right time.
For seven years the two of them battled her family for marriage and love. It doesn’t help that Mother’s sons from von Rumey, George, Warner and Kurt, supported the family’s claims that Father was a Jew, a dirty scoundrel that offered nothing. The latter, who were twins, were strongly influenced by the former, only a few years older. This influence lasted them until now, when only last month, they were killed, a fault that I have deeply felt…
early 1913 my parents and my stepbrothers fled to
had told me once how they felt the moment they landed in
1913, our neighbor had a wife, three boys and a home that his family had held
for generations. He had met his wife in
I was born, to the disappointment and bitterness to Mother. She didn’t want to
hold me or have anything to do with me. She just handed me to my first nurse,
Margaret Bradley (Maggie, I called her) and immediately turned her attention to
the social whirl of the city. Father was delighted with me, of course. At the
first chance, he held me and would take care of me himself. He took me
everywhere and showed me off to his friends from a new organization he joined:
the American Socialist Movement in
But in anyway, something did happen, and it changed the course of my life forever.
Father had thought that this was the time to tell Mother who he really was. One day, as she was preparing for yet another last-night party in the city, he knocked on her door and asked that he talk to her.
“Oh, whatever reason Peter?”
trialed, and told her, in simple black and white words: “
looked at him with her cold eyes, the ones that I have always feared, and
silently left the room, ignoring every desperate protestation and pleading from
She spun around to face him, and the last words to him were: “You bastard, you fucking bastard! You have let me chase a dream for seven years, and look where it’s landed us too! Away from my family and a place where I knew they’d never see me again. No, Peter, I’ll never hear the end of it from you, I’ve had enough! I’m divorcing you, and you’re leaving, for good! I’m taking Nikole with me, away from this house and away from you, most certainly!”
Maggie had told me a few years later that Mother had slapped Father, and then stormed to her room. Father had knocked and cried at the door, knowing all too well that it was for naught. I was gone from him, his little one, and he had to live with the fact that someday, I might be able to see him where he was going…or that he would somehow win me back.
next day, when Mother still in her room, Father packed his things and, with
Nicholas, Alexander and Paul, left for
Maggie had said that I was so quiet that night. The neighbors watched from their porches as everything was loading and carried away by car. Our neighbor that vouched us smoked his pipe as he watched the move. He looked at me and Maggie and realized that I had bruises on my body and that I barely had clothes on. He continued to smoke and wonder when I was going to be able to walk on my own and escape this tyranny. Taking out a camera, a new household object back then, he snapped some pictures of the move. By his side was his second son, at that time only five years old. The child had just stared on and smiled.
The next fourteen and a half years passed very quickly. 1928 was another magical year in the decade, and like every other girl in an all-Catholic School in the city, I had dreamed of other venues of freedom: flappers, parties and all-night drinking, an illegal activity back then. But it was very hard, when I was stuck in the room in the attic and only allowed to go down for school.
Oh yes, I had been kept by Mother. She had been winning the custody battle for a while, but by the time I was fourteen, Father, as I found out later, was finding evidence of abuse in the household, which was true to an extent. Although the servants and my stepbrothers were encouraged to hit me every time I stepped out of line, I always found a way to escape. The servants actually liked me, and only hit me in the presence of Mother. My stepbrothers, however, had taken every chance they had.
But I had one weapon against them: I was raising high in school and because of it, I could hide anywhere. Just as Mother was becoming excited over the rise of dictatorship and Mussolini and Hitler, I was becoming excited over graduating secondary school at fifteen and becoming a military nurse. I had a love of the military at an early age and was thrilled at helping the army with nursing, which was my second love. When I was a small child, I had wanted to help everything and everyone that was hurt, and was sullen when I couldn’t. As I grew older, I even treated myself at night when I had a rough day with Mother.
At the all-girls’ school, I had a mentor, Nurse/Major Nancy Donovan-White, the school’s nurse. She was thirty-one, married and she had a family who loved her. She became the mother I never had, and always asked me questions. She grew alarmed and frustrated when nothing could be done in my “abuse case,” as the school calls it. “You need to stick up for yourself. I know you’re stronger than they are, Nikki. One of these days, you’ll show them.” She was the first to call me Nikki and the name just stuck. She was also the first to realize I had a gift in writing and gave me my first journal, which was quickly filled with my poetry. I remembered the first one I had written:
I didn't know what time it was the lights were low
Oh how I leaned back on my radio
“Some cat was layin' down some rock 'n' roll 'lotta soul,” he said
Then the loud sound did seem to fade
Came back like a slow voice on a wave of phase
That weren't no d.j. that was hazy cosmic jive
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us but he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it cause he knows it's all worthwhile
He told me: let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie
Mrs. Donovan-White (she didn’t become Nancy to me until later) had also obtained permission from the nuns of the school to have an army recruited drill me and keep me up-to-date with military tactics, rules and disciple. It was becoming reality – escape the house forever, see the world and settle down…with Father? Scratch that thought. I don’t know where he even was then or even if he was dead or alive.
School was torture after that. I was a loner and after so many years of dealing with Mother, developed a feeling hopelessness, where, at any given low point in my life, I would become very depressed. When I was younger, it had seemed like the world was on top of my shoulders. I had no advantages and people knew who I was – the daughter of a Socialist Jew. Nobody talked to me and bothered me. They knew that to do so would mean swift discipline from my stepbrothers.
But those years went by quickly and the time I waited for graduation was the hardest year ever. August, September, October…finally it was February, only three more months to go. The middle of the month drew over three feet of snow and it became harder to head to someplace other than home. By the thirteenth of February, the snow had cleared enough for me to walk to school, but that day had promised more snow, cold and wind. It was unusually weather for this time of year, for we usually get rain in the winter.
That day passed fast, and by the time the bell rang at 1430 hours I ran out the doors and walked the five blocks to get to the library for books. I then ran the last three to get home. After grabbing books for the next day’s storms, it was 1545 hours and time to get home before Mother does. After all, she does keep up with the social whirl of the city.
The next day changed my life forever.
It was February 14, 1928.
Ah, Valentine’s Day, the lovers’ holiday in which those switch love notes and other trinkets to their crushes and the people they love. The storm clouds were gathering that morning…
But today, something made me wonder why my neck was prickling, for today seemed to be a normal day. I had gotten out of bed before anyone else, snuck out when the lights went on in the kitchen and gotten into school at 0630 hours. Of course, I had met Mrs. Donovan-White (“Slow down sweetheart, you look like you’re in a hurry!”) at 0700 hours and lessons with her and the military recruited until 0840 hours, and classes took over my mind, etc., etc. It was, all and all, a regular day. 1430 hours roll by, the bell rings and I zip out of there and into the busy intersections, to avoid all other people and the cars. I had eight blocks to walk and I wanted to get home quickly because it was going to snow again.
But, my neck was prickling more than ever before. Why, I wonder…why it would be when there was nothing to be afraid of except the zooming cars and the sloshing water? But there was nothing behind me, except George, Kurt and Warner.
I then became filled with dread and terror.
This went by so quickly that I had no time to think. Kurt and Warner and grabbed me by each side and I dropped my books. Both had me slammed against the wall of the nearest building. I couldn’t move or cry out. Warm blood trickled down my neck like rain dripping down the outside of a window. I closed my eyes, only hoping that George would help me from this torment. Instead, he threw one hit after another.
More blood and laughing…dragging…”No, you can’t do this!” I cry out in vain. The alleyway was near…my books? Yelling…”Jewish bitch!” they scream in my face…more laughing…oh no, not the bloody knuckles…a knife…?
“Nikola…see here, Nikki? Nikki, please pay attention! I know the weather looks wrong, but this moving plan for the wounded is worse. How would you, as Head Nurse, fix this mess?” Mrs. Donovan-White handed me a scenario worksheet and I began to look into their complex words, but it made no sense to me…why would the greatest minds in the military do such a thing as this? Moving wounded to a cave during a bombing…unheard of!
Mother Nature was dumping her fury and the struggling was for naught. What was the point when I’m just going to die anyway? Suddenly…
“Hey! What the hell are you doing?” The hitting stopped and I was dropped to the ground. Pain rippled in me…
“Oh shit, Ted, she’s hurt!” Oh, it was just some voices…
The last face I saw before I went out was someone I’d thought I’d never see. He was saying something to me, only it seems light years away. His lips were moving but there was no sound…
That face was that of Robert E. Hogan.
I awoke to blinding light and was coughing. I felt some hands grabbing me. Because I had been so quick in defending, I had hit the hands of those who had wanted to help me. I was so used to being beaten upon that I had not realized that somebody was trying to help me. The hands then tried holding me again, feeling my forehead and washing me. I felt like…
I was loved.
I think it was four faces that had peered in towards the back? I couldn’t tell, just hushed angry female voice saying, “Go!” Everything then seemed to disappear.
That was the beginning of our now-dangerous relationship.
The next thing I remember was waking up one morning. It was dark, and the slightly opened curtain revealed some snow falling. It was day (I think) and I was alive.
I turned to find someone asleep in the
chair next to the bed I was in. He was wearing a
“So, sleepyhead tired of scaring us now?” he had a twinkle of laughter in his eyes and looked like…
“Robert! I told you to…well, hello Nikola.” The woman who popped herself into the room smiled and made her way to the bed. “How are you feeling?” I tried to get up, but both Robert and the woman put me back down.
“Well, at least we know she’s as stubborn as her father,” Robert said. The woman laughed, and said to me, “Well…he can see her now, can’t he? Oh Nikola…this is so…” She trialed off and abruptly left the room. I was confused until Robert got up and said, “Your father has wanted to see you for a while now, but since you’re awake, I think it’s time.”
He soon left me, but when someone popped his head into the room, I never thought that my life would be so complete. It was really my father.
After a week of getting to know Father, we left the home of Thomas and Sally Hogan, the people who had vouched our family so long ago. Just lying in a bed made me restless, and by the end of my third night in bed, I was walking down the stairs to join the rest of the family for dinner in the dining room. The first thing I saw was a small child who came up to me, hugged my legs and said, “Nik Nik! You’re not sick anymore!” The small child was scolded by his mother Sally, who said, “Nikola, just ignore him, he’s just…wait, what are you doing out of bed?!”
I had laughed for the first time in a long time. I said, “Well, I thought that I might be more available out of bed.” I laughed harder when Robert popped his head into the dining room and said, “Yup…she’s still stubborn. She has that saucy tongue too!” His eye twinkled at me again.
At the end of the week, Father collected me
from their home and walked me back to where he was to live. I was surprised
that when we ambled out the door, we walked to the abandoned home next door. It
was the same place Mother had forbidden me to go to and now I know why. There,
standing at the porch, were Father’s friends and co-patriots of
“Nikola, sweetheart, we’re home, together at last.”
And this began our relationship. ”Tell me
everything,” Father told me, and as time went on, I did. He, too, shared a part
of himself. He shared with me more on his faith, his life and exchanged what
life had been in
But at the point, he and the others led me inside. I turned around to see Rob (he asked me to call him that) looking at me from the porch, this time in civilian clothing. He smiled and waved at me. I waved back, and went inside. I was happy to be home.
As I got to know Father more and realize that he more or less succeeded in the divorce case, the more I thought about where Mother, Maggie and the others went. Where could they have gone? How? When?
The answer hit me when I saw the divorce
and custody papers on the kitchen table a week after I can home. She went to
Father saw me stare at them, and hugged me from behind. He put his arms around my neck and attached a heart-shaped locket around it. His Star of David had been melted years ago to commemorate my birth and had been for Mother, but Father held on to it, after Mother rejected me, and kept it for the time he would see me. Inside was a picture of or family and the empty slot, which later was filled.
He could not see the tears streaming down my face.
Rob had become a different matter altogether. He was the second out of the five surviving sons of Thomas and Sally Hogan. He had four brothers and a sister for a brief winter in 1911. Ted was his only older brother, two years his senior at twenty-one, followed by Rob (nineteen), Christopher (eighteen), Sally (the little one who died in infancy), Jimi (thirteen) and little Jerry (five). The family was close-knitted and very devoted to each other, although the occasional argument arises with the brothers.
I knew that I loved him and he loved me. When
graduation came in May 1928, I was surprised to see him in the crowd to see me
graduate and off to
The band was fun, but a pain when traveling
from one base to the next. It was named Desertstar, Rob’s nickname for me. (He
had said once that my eyes shined like a “desert’s star,” and the name stuck.)
We picked up any players that could play any gig at the time we needed to, and
played. Rob banged the drums (he was SO good!), I played the piano and
sometimes the guitar and sang and various players hit the band. His family,
Father and Nicholas, Paul and Alexander always saw us whenever they can. It was
terrific, until, three years later I found out that I was pregnant. I was in
I was nineteen years old, only nineteen and very stupid…how we broke the news to our families, I don’t remember, but they urged us to get married quickly. Both Rob and I couldn’t do it, so we pretended and let everyone in town think we were married. We even wore the rings to prove it, only to exchange them back for a better time. I slid his ring next to my locket and always looked at the inscription in it. Love is forever entwined to us.
Sally, Thomas and Father knew better, of course. They knew what we did, and allowed us to make our mistakes. Father has never said a word to me about this, ever.
On October 6, 1932 little Michael Robert was born…a week later he was dead. Funny, Mother had visited me a few days after he was born. She even left a day after he died, before his funeral.
You are the shell around, I cannot escape
And I swallow my pride…entwined together, entwined forever…
And you take me over, over again and you take me over, over again…
I was still singing that song at twenty-five, full of pain and hurt. It was 1938; the years had rolled on and had taken a toll on everyone. A storm cloud rolled over us and was not moving. I was afraid that it would never move. The years had been hard and so much has happened over the course of time.
Rob and I, always competing with each other, had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel by 1939. We celebrated that day together, like all the days we, simultaneously, have gotten promoted, through enlisted ranks to officers.
I was offered command of a bunch of nurses
Father had moved back to
Lay down, lay down, lay it all down
Let your white birds smile up at the ones who stand and frown
Lay down, lay down, lay it all down
Let your white birds smile up at the ones who stand and frown
We were so close, there was no room…we bled inside each other’s wounded
We all had caught the same disease and we all sang the songs of peace
My things were sent to Thomas and Sally and
a note explained why he had moved and why he chose them to watch me. I
understood and I was the only one who did. He misses Socialism and being in the
shadow of a republic ruined him. He sent me a note as well, obviously going
through many stations before reaching me, explaining why and when. Worse, the
When I received the note, Rob was looking over my shoulder after he packed up his drum set. He must have read the note beforehand for he said, “We’ll manage Desertstar and you know we always did.” He tossed my hair about with his hands and continued. “After all, somebody has to watch that saucy tongue of yours.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that Rob,” I said. I blushed for my insolent reply and left for the dressing rooms. Rob was still laughing behind me.
And we went back home, just like that.
The kids (those younger than us, we mean)
have grown up. Jerry was fifteen and heading for the military like Rob; Jimi
had married a girl named Jeanette and joined the Navy after his daughters,
Jeanie, Nina and Helga, were born; and Christopher went through school and
became an engineer. Ted had, long ago, eloped with a Japanese-American girl
named Rose and moved to
Mrs. Donovan-White (
Thomas Hogan had died the year that the
army called off the band Desertstar – September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany
Rob never forgave himself.
Suddenly, the war in Europe was in full
swing…1940, the Bombing of England, 1941…the bombing of
On January 4, 1942, Jerry, Jimi, Rob and I
were called to service in
The storm came, full-force at last.
four of us split after reaching the port city of
how the trainer gets shoved into the pit. Damned
Our small talks always relieve the tension when the bell sounds. When it does, we run to O.R. to help fix the wounded coming from the continent that had been “cast aside.” Not in that sense, but in the sense that they can wait, and that the quick job can be fixed. The more seriously wounded had been situated on the continent, wherever the medics would place them. For those here, this is the final step before being sent back to the continent for combat or back home…the lucky chums.
least Rob visits me when the both of us were off duty or at a bar down a few
blocks where we’re both stationed. His squadron has been rumored to be used for
the Underground bombings of
And so it goes.
Springtime had finally come, changing the rainy and cold days to warm and sunny ones. Trees blossomed and the flowers popped up and gave a warm aroma. It feels like an insult to me, life coming up after so much death. The flowers can die for all I care, I thought.
Father’s letters had stopped coming about this time. There was no word from the Soviet army as to why or even anything that would point out where he was last or where he could be. Rob tried searching through the Head, but there was no information there.
One day in the middle of May, I looked at the reassignment list and felt horror. Rob was leaving for the continent with his unit the next day. His last visit, later that night in my quarters, had made me bitter, especially of my selfishness.
About a few hours before dawn and his
Then he told me the news. His unit was moving out soon, on some “bombing missions.” Then I knew the rumors to be truth: the Underground has grabbed the unit and Rob consented to be part of the danger I had hoped he’d avoid. Besides, everyone knew that to be on a “bombing mission” meant that the Allied Underground wanted you. Or that you accepted being part of the spying ring…and spying equals a firing squad when caught by the Germans, or Krauts as Rob calls them.
Secondly, he hugged me close and told me that he’ll love me forever, no matter what. He said that he didn’t want me to follow him into danger. That just confirmed it my suspicions.
I was startled and broke free of the embrace. “What danger Rob? What does the Allied Underground want you to do this time?”
He put his hand to my mouth, as if to cover my stupid mouth, and said, “Nikki, Desertstar, we have to follow –”
I interrupted him, breaking free from his grip (and almost biting his hand) and saying, “Those damned careless voices! The same voices that I have! I know dammed good and well what! What dangers? I can’t follow you, and why?”
Rob was hurt by my sudden outburst. He knew that I had a nasty temper, but this was the icing on the cake. My temper was rising higher (like it usually does) and so was his by the time he heard that. I knew that he loved the freedom of flight, but he was in Death’s Lane. Why give up freedom in the face of Death?
Rob equaled my voice. “Desertstar, I couldn’t live with myself if you tried to follow me and had gotten killed by the Krauts. What is the Gestapo…?” He didn’t finish his thought and turned away. His voice couldn’t be heard and I could tell that he was turning to despair. My anger turned to pity and extreme sorrow. I was ready to cry for my cruel words.
“Rob, please, I couldn’t, wouldn’t…” Now, I was pleading and crying with him. I tried to hold him once more, accept that he was going, but he turned and left. I was sobbing now…no goodbye, words or anything…
I was really alone, at long last. And it’s my entire fault.
I couldn’t feel anymore. I was numb to everything around me. Rob is gone, Rob is gone, he’s gone…why, why, why, why?
After Rob left, everything fell into pieces. More and more wounded came from the continent and there was too much time thinking, Rob might be here…Rob might be dead...Rob might be missing. I checked every list of wounded, missing and dead and came up empty. I never received a word from him or any notices from Sally. Oh, of course letters came from Jerry and Jimi, all censured, but nothing from Rob.
I became more worried about him day after
June came, and summer was in full swing. It
was hot, humid and unsanitary. Conditions at the hospital worsened and the Head,
as everyone else, knew that it was time to break up the 6147th. We
had a short-staffed medical team, constant shortages of supplies and more and
more wounded that died than lived. I just had to wait for my new assignment; it
came, unexpectedly, in the end of June. I was seeing the last living patient we
have going home to the
Then I knew that something is very, very
I seated myself in the chair, and, sighing,
She paused, letting it sink in before continuing. I couldn’t cry, but I felt pain pound in my heart. “The Germans have him. He is safe at Luftstalog 13, a prison camp.”
Robbie, no, how could you?
‘Nikki, he’s fine. He contacted us, and he’s not hurt, but we’re…” She drifted and shifted her eyes to the floor. Then she looked up and talked again. “You can talk to him again, but it cannot, and I repeat, cannot, be in the way that we’re talking now. Or the way you talk to him.”
I still couldn’t cry. Rob was safe, but how did he contact us from a
prison camp in the middle of
That was my step closer to Stalag 13. This was also the beginning of my espionage activities for the Underground. A simple order from whomever and off I went, to help defeat the Germans. Before leaving the 6147th, I was packing and reflecting upon my selfishness. Maybe people were needed for a common cause, after all. It is the danger that they have to watch out for. A sense of adventure and excitement, I think not! It’s more manipulation and knowing what you want, just asking in a different way without the other knowing what it really is you want. I had so much practice in this while I was in Desertstar with Rob, and I hated it. I hate manipulating people.
I was assigned to
During the day, when the club was closed,
boarded, locked and dark, Nancy and I gave information to Royal Navy 371,
But Rob was alive and well. That’s all that matters to me.
All I had to do, to relay the information,
was to tap the middle floorboard three times and it revealed our underground
radio station, so I had to be careful when I was performing. The curtains were
usually drawn onstage and passersby couldn’t see inside anyway, like I said. “This
is creative, first-class thinking
It was very chilling when the Head
explained to me Nancy that
Lites was also full of
recording devices and bugs. I mean, they were everywhere; they verified secret plans from generals and top secret
information that was, obviously, passed along. What was so funny was that
Sometimes, and I feel ashamed to say this,
I had some generals do some “favors” with me. The things I do for my country
make me feel just as equally guilty. Well, as they slept, I always grabbed
every paper I needed, photographed it and placed it back wherever it was. Most
of the generals missed me because they were sleeping off their drinks. Once I
was almost caught – the general, who had been difficult and stubborn, had been
sleepwalking. Anyhow, each tidbit went off to Camp 13, Royal Navy 371 or
I always wondered, in those six months in
Rob was lucky. By late 1942, he was lucky enough that he didn’t know exactly about what the Germans planned next. It was so extraordinary, how they wanted to destroy Allied cities: rockets that are programmed to hit their destinations and cannot be stopped. Rob and his crew are going to blow up the fuel and supplies for it. Nancy, Duncan and I were assigned to destroy the rockets themselves. About twenty others from the Underground – “Henry VIII and his wives and children” (also known as H8WC) – are joining us in this endeavor. We had six months to destroy it, and the time was to do it is when the security was low – which was now. Agents came and went during the day and night at Nite Lites and constantly briefed us on security, changing of the guards and the codes and dates.
December 3, 1942 Duncan, Nancy and I had
It was strange the night before we left. I
was packing in my dressing room (the club was closed for the night and for the
remainder of our mission) when I heard the floorboards move from the stage. I
peered into the stage from my room and saw
I felt fear prickle up in my neck and disappear.
The next day, just as dawn was brightening the skies, we left. The three of us were in high hopes for the mission. After all, every detail was paid attention to and no rock was left unturned. We all had luck in the past and had believed that the mission was going to be perfect.
But luck was not on our side that cold night…
It was a long journey. We traveled through
After we left Langres, I felt a prickling feeling in the back of my neck again. It never left.
About six miles away from Hammelburg (it was all forest, pretty much) we met up with the rest of the agents. There were about fifteen of us (including myself, Nancy and Duncan) and five and a half miles to walk before reaching the hill in front of the rocket base. While ten of the party disable the now-numerous guards (as they are suppose to be assigned to replace them) others check for the fuel explosion from Rob’s side and wait for capture of the remaining German guards and disable the rockets’ control panel. Nancy, Duncan and I wire the place up and into the skies it goes!
The location point where we were to wait for the explosion of the rockets’ fuel and for our signal from the other agents was #36AP9ZG6I4OU, that half mile point from the rocket base. Like I said, it was the hill on front of the base and it was a great place to sit, wait and then charge to destroy…
At about 2315 hours, ten agents went down to the base, as according to the plan. Rob and his crew had already blown up the fuel (I saw it from the hill) and the agents’ job to disable guards was suppose to be quick and when it was they signaled safety, the rest of us crossed. But by 2345 hours, the signal never came, and silence prevailed. The only noises I heard were birds chirping and the occasional owl hooting.
Where were the agents?
Gunfire, seeming to come from nowhere, abruptly erupted everywhere.
Was that what happened to the agents below?
I think I screamed, but I couldn’t hear
anything, but I felt myself do it.
I felt a sharp pain in my right shoulder and something warm dripping down my uniform. I couldn’t stop to think but then realized…
I had been shot.
I was now dragging
“Nikki, I’ll never leave without you, you
The boy was grinning at his catch. He
almost looked glad to see us hurt and among the dead Allied agents. The poor
child…he undid the safety to his gun and aimed it at
When I became conscience of my surroundings, I had planted my first images of the infantry, forever stuck in my brain. There was screaming, crying and the ever-lingering smell of human flesh and ash.
I opened my eyes and looked around. Death was everywhere; its silent form stood over many other inmates of the dingy ward. The silent taker of life touched each one, caressing the body and lifting the soul.
The crying came from my left.
My shoulder, side left arm and head buzzed
and throbbed. The last thing I remember was being hit and shot, but why is my
arm…? I looked and saw why: my serial number, LC8547960, was tattooed in a
bright blue. That was why it hurt like hell. Even
I tried sitting up, but I fell back on the
I wanted to get the information as to where
we were because obviously, this isn’t a prison camp. It took a while, but I
finally croaked. I tried again and again with words (how I never used them in a
while) and finally managed to murmur. The only words I could say to
It had explained it all…the dingy walls, people screaming in pain, the constant smell of death and ashes. Nancy and I were at a death camp. This must be a mistake…
I was in the hospital’s rag-tag infantry.
“Nikki, it was so strange how we came here. After you were shot, the German soldiers, who seriously had looked like boys, led us from the hill. I begged to carry you with us, and I knew I couldn’t forgive myself if I did leave you. They consented, for the boy motioned that he wanted me to take you along. I fixed you up as best as I could, but it was on the few breaks on our walk to the train station that I did this. I don’t know, maybe the Germans think we have some value and information. Anyway, I had no help on our seven mile walk and two days later we reached a train station, empty of a booth and, as far as I can see, having nothing but bare land and railroad tracks. Other poor souls were boarding a cattle car and I was motioned to move along with them.
“I was baffled to see about fifty other people, plus, being herded into the cattle car. Again, I was urged to get into the car with you, this time at gunpoint. I turned and asked in French, since I don’t know German, ‘What is this? Where are we going?’ The child with the gun, who captured us and made me walk with you in tow for seven miles, just grinned at me, and suddenly, shot his gun. I don’t know if someone was hit or something, all I heard was agonized screaming. Someone pushed me and I almost fell forward with you, but I had to regain balance. After all, you were still unconscious.
“At least, I think he understood me, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you, he looks like one of you brothers. I don’t know is he might be related, but…at least he was rewarded for his captures, for he was given to some cheering and pats on the back.
“Of course, I persuaded that you could work in the factories with me. I nursed you here, I insisted on it. Every night after that factory work made me worry more about you. It was fortunate that our medbags are still intact to us, and this.” I noticed that her wedding band and dogtags were still together, but from her pocket came my locket, the one that Father had given me, with Rob’s ring next to it. My dogtags came next. “Nikki, I knew that I had to save these.” I couldn’t thank her enough for the gift of –
Suddenly, some bell sounded, harsh and
loud. Guards, in German, yelled, “Achtung! Achtung!
Those to the factory leave!”
She worked in the factories…but does it guarantee safety from being killed by the Germans? What does she do? Is she fed, clothed and sheltered, at least for a little while? What does she do? Why did she choose to do this sort of work? What about the other people here? Do they have this choice too? There are so many questions, but so few answers to obtain.
She finally cried again. I put a reassuring hand on her knee and tried to comfort her, but I knew she had something more to say. She stopped suddenly and looked at me, saying the most chilling words I could ever hear…
“I saw your father.”
Suddenly, this world seemed so cold…
By the end of December, I was well enough
to leave. Well, sort of; I was still sore and the bullets are still inside me,
but at least I could walk and take care of myself. I was thin because of the
lack of food and a threat that another day would kill me. Mengele, the doctor
who has done experiments with twins (or so
I think it was almost Christmas or New Year’s Eve when I left. I wouldn’t know because there was no time limit or anything that indicated months, days, moments…
As I went out the doorway, Mengele spoke to me for the last time. “Red, don’t come back.” All I could do, to return that kind-looking stare, was to turn back and stare down my adversary. Shaking my head, I ran out of there for the last time. I wanted to find Nancy, and more importantly, Father. Is he alright?
But I ran into a guard instead.
He was convinced that I stole something,
food most likely. Rifle and my life in his hands, he barked in German, “Strip
knave!” I hesitated because of the cold and wind, but when he flipped off the
safety latch, I obeyed immediately. He didn’t find anything of value, for a
heart-shaped locket and ring mean nothing to him. The dogtags just told who I
was and what does that mean to him? Nothing, of course, just that I belong to
I was turning blue from the cold. He laughed at me, and said, “You speak German, little American spy?” I nodded my head, but I was more concerned about the cold and the fact that he knew I was an American spy. Taking my bundle of clothes, he shoved them in my arms and turned me towards a building…a store? Was it the barracks? I had no clue, but he was inclining that I go there.
“Go shave shit!” he said, shoving me in the mud and laughing as I ran naked to the building.
I came out of that building colder and lighter in the head. My hair was really gone. I couldn’t believe that everything else was shaved off too…
By the time I left, it was almost nighttime.
Shots were constantly heard otherwise, night and day.
Morning came finally. At dawn, the bell
rang and I rolled over, almost dropping to the ground.
I think about four or five months had
passed before I was told Nancy and I are to be transferred, with other Allied
soldiers, to a real P.O.W. camp in
The months were one of survival and
constant worry. Yes, my wounded never healed properly. It hurt every day I up
got, hurt when I worked for the German war effort at the factory and hurt when
I stood in long roll calls at night and when someone next to the block was
being shot at the Black Wall. It was an unbearable dreamland, a nightmare I
couldn’t get out of. The only things that kept me alive was
It seems like every morning is just another part of the last day. And every morning after the first, I fall down my bunk. The flight down always felt as if I was really free, like I never existed in this place. I knew what Rob felt when he was in the air! Always, always, I felt the swift air soar past me until hit the ground and rub my knees. The nightmare still goes on, even in the wait for the transport.
One morning, about a week after the news that I was being transferred out of here, I snuck out of my block and was walking around the camp. It was before dawn and the guards usually looked in another direction this time. So, I walked along the fence, where so many people have met their end because of the electrical wires. But anyhow, it was before factory work and roll call and time to be alone. Crowded places make me miss Father more, if only I could see him…
The barbed fence that divided the men’s and women’s side held a lone figure that looked as if he was waiting for his pathetic daily ration of food. I squinted my eyes for a clearer view of the poor soul. It was Father! I walked as quickly as I could and reached carefully to touch his thin arm…and he touched me back...
“Achtung, achtung!! What are you doing kikes?”
I looked to Father who had tears running down his face. All he said to me was, “Remember the power of the light child…see you at the transport.” Then he disappeared as the guards on the other side shoved him away and yelled in German that he was to spend the rest of today in solitary confinement. The guards on my side, however, were displeased with me but had a lighter punishment. No portion of food for me today plus I had to spend the night at the factory. Of course, it was better than being killed. Or being at the Black Wall next to my block…either way…I had seen Father.
The next night, after roll call, was the night we were moving to a transport, then to a Stalag. The extra night at the factory was going to be hard…
The next night finally came. Nancy, myself and other female soldiers leaving have gotten clothes (potato sacks, really, but we sewed them, sort of, if you want to count taking rope apart and sewing). I stayed in my uniform, still dirty, ripped and bloody. The extra clothes were in my block along with my few belongings.
Next to the guards doing roll call was men from the other camps, people coming with us. Father was among them, because he is a Soviet soldier. It was highly unlucky that we were mistaken for Jews yesterday. What if the Head here actually believed it? What if Father and I couldn’t reach the transport?
The head guard called out a series of army serial numbers and then the other guards released the dogs to get us moving. Nancy and I were called, really, really called, with five other female Allied personal. Us and ten male personal were going and like I mentioned, Father was among them. That’s all that matters now, we’re all going together from this nightmare. And so we ran back to Block 11, for the last time, and grabbed our things.
Envious, thin faces looked at us when we got back from the blocks. Dogtags, necklace with locket and ring and still ragged uniform and extra clothes with medbag…all ready to go.
We boarded the cattle car that was outside
the gate of the female part of the camp and skipped the main gate. Father was
in the same cattle car Nancy and I were in. The three of us stayed in the storm
together and never spoke a word. Father was very sick and couldn’t speak of
what happened, either in the days he came to
About four days later, Father was
transported to Stalag 10’s hospital, hopefully to stay there and recuperate. He
was taken as I was sleeping, for
Our journey to a Stalag took longer. Two
days later, I think, we stopped in
Upon arriving, Nancy and I were herded into a car with the Gestapo. We were heading to Stalag 13 for interrogation by the Gestapo for being Underground agents and spies. Alive, we stay at a prison camp full of men; execution is strong.
According to the guards, it was May 4, 1943.
I was in pain that day and by the end of it…
Nancy and I met the hangman of the Stalags, one that would hunt down Allied spies and kill them as he went. He was Herr Major Hochstetter, the grand nightmare for us in the coming hours.
My body went cold as he smiled at us and my neck prickled at his presence. The door slammed after we climbed in and the driver started the car. The driver headed to the forests ahead. Lucky for the driver, there was a closed window between the three of us and him. Then our attention fell to the Major.
“So,” he began, “let’s get down to business.” He indicated that we notice that he clutched a handgun that he wasn’t afraid of using on us. Nancy and I watched nervously as he gazed at the window and then back at us. His face changed from calm to anger in seconds. He screamed, “What were you doing at the rocket base with the Underground?!”
Nancy and I tried to look bewildered. It
was hard to tell what we were expressing behind all that ash and dirt on our
faces. But I was the first to speak. It was a wonder why I didn’t have to
“SILENCE SPY!” he screamed. Hochstetter’s
voice seemed to echo into the woods. I wondered if the driver was oblivious to
this or was just used to his yelling when Hochstetter grabbed me by the collar
of my neck and said, “I know who you are and what you two were doing. But the
Gestapo has ways to prove it.” He let me go…I was gasping for air.
Obviously, this person was not to be taken
lightly. But Hochstetter continued anyway, still screaming. “I will find out
that you both are involved in this! I will find more survivors in H8WC and they
will be shot!” He calmed down at last and glared at us again then looked out his
window. As soon as he gazed back at us, he smiled. His next question haunted us.
I couldn’t answer the Major’s question
either. Instead, I turned to the window over
The driver parked the car in front of an office and opened the door. As soon as the door opened for us, I heard thunder sounded off in the distance.
Guards surrounded us. “So, this is Stalag
13,” I said in Russian. Hochstetter shot me a dirty look and motioned for the
guards to lead us into the office ahead. But the guards had different ideas.
The ones at the door said that their Kommandant cannot be disturbed and that we
cannot enter. It was 0700 hours already and probably too early for us visitors
As I looked around I saw that behind me there was a tall figure that was very familiar to me. He was leaning against the Barracks 2 wall outside and had a crew of four other enlisted personal around him. He still wore his bomber’s jacket and his hat with his Colonel’s eagle perched on top. His dark hair was still hidden under his hat, but whatever hair was sticking out was flapping in the breeze from the coming storm. The sides of his head held some white hair.
A desire to fling myself into his arms and a want to scream “Rob!” had to be extinguished because it was better not to familiarize ourselves with each other and risk our necks. I met his eyes, and did he ever meet my glare with surprise, alarm and anger! He quickly went inside his barracks and the four men followed him, each with their own confused looks of concern.
Hochstetter finally straightened everything out, it looked like. The Kommandant will be hosting us in his office with Hochstetter in attendance. Hochstetter even had the courtesy to call over an enormous guard, the one that said that we couldn’t disturb the Kommandant. “Schultz, you will be taking these new prisoners over to the Kommandant’s office and to wherever I say when we are done. Move before our beloved Colonel Hogan sees them and declares them in part of the Geneva Convention.” Beloved Colonel Hogan?
The guard, Schultz, mobilized us to the
front office. It took a while for me to get
“Come on, come on now. Move, move,
every-BOD-Y inside!” Schultz opened the door to the front office. At the desk
of the office was a woman in some maid’s outfit cleaning. I almost laughed and
The nameplate on the next door read “Wilhelm
Klink, Kommandant.” I wondered what kind of sappy Kommandant laid beyond those
doors. Is he the same one that doesn’t realize that the prisoners have an
operation under his nose? Is he really as idiotic as
“So, the game begins,” Hochstetter said.
Ah, interrogation by the Gestapo – nothing can be more relaxing than getting hit constantly and screaming at over and over again. (Name, rank and serial number…name, rank, serial number…)
Nancy and I still sat in silence as
Hochstetter questioned us about Paris, Nite
Interrogation began at 0715 and by 0745 hours Hochstetter was blue in the face from yelling and his hands red from slamming us in our chairs. Nancy and I remained silent, still, for anything we said could be used against us. After those thirty minutes, Klink tired to interfere again, but for the worse, I fear. “Major Hochstetter, get out of my camp! I will not tolerate you interrogating female prisoners in this fashion –”
Hochstetter is a fast one, for he charged
Klink as he sank in his chair. Face-to-face, Hochstetter said through clenched
teeth, “And the Gestapo does as they please, especially to interrogate female
Obviously, this showed that Klink was only not
a fool, but a coward. The village idiot, some joke the Third Reich is playing
on us. How sad? I looked at Klink and felt some pity to the innocent fool. But just
as suddenly as he charged Klink, without warning, Hochstetter charged at us,
Rob knocked on the door and walked in. “Colonel Klink, you have some new prisoners -”
Hochstetter turned to face Rob. “Klink, what is this man doing here?!” he yelled. As Hochstetter tried to create more chaos for Klink, I got up from the floor, but found that I was too dizzy to stand. Klink, I saw, was still sinking lower in his chair. Rob, meanwhile, was hiding his fear back and biting his lip, which he does when he’s very nervous. He plainly stated, just like his sentence before, “I am senior P.O.W. officer here and I reserve the rights of all prisoners that come here. According to the Geneva Convention, I have –”
Klink, recovering some courage, said, “Hhhhhoooogggggaaaaannnnn, OUT!” as Hochstetter was saying, “Shut up Hogan!”
Suddenly, the storm broke outside. Pouring
rain, strong winds and violent thunder and lightning raged, causing the windows
in Klink’s office to rattle. Sitting straight, I locked my eyes into
Hochstetter’s and prepared to say my only words to him today.
I found my voice…I followed the Geneva
Convention’s protocol of P.O.W.s by saying what all should say when captured.
“Nikola Anna Michalovich, Lieutenant Colonel, LC8547960.” I was shaking as I
said the next words. I pulled up my uniform’s right sleeve and showed my tattoo.
My next statement wasn’t part of the code, but nonetheless I had to show Klink
that this government has the power to kill and not help a dying nation. “I am
an U.S. Army Nurse and former prisoner of
Another voice came, this time it was
Her dirty face was indomitable and her hands
were not shaking anymore. She then lifted her uniform sleeve and showed her
tattoo. Without faltering, stuttering or speaking in broken sentences, she
spoke chilling words: “I was a former prisoner at
Everything suddenly erupted again. Before I
would say a word to
I tried to speak to her before she was led
away, but Rob wouldn’t let me go. Even in the storm before us, he wouldn’t let
me go. I couldn’t go to my exile until I spoke to
At the barracks’ door, right in front of
the Kommandant’s office, I used all of my strength to break away from Rob to
As I tried to reach
Rob must have been behind me, for he grabbed quickly me and took me back to the barracks. Schultz was right behind us and as soon we safely went into the barracks, he shut the door behind us. I heard creaking noise as Schultz leaned against it. (Were those his orders?)
As soon as Rob turned to face his men, they yelled joyously, “Colonel!” but stopped short when they saw me, wet and in some sorry state, I’m guessing. Rob led me ahead, to what appeared to be his quarters, quickly and quietly. Closing the door, he guided me to the bottom bunk. I sat, but he gently had me lay down. He was saying some words, but like so many years ago, in another cold place and in another dark time, there were no sounds. His voice seemed so many light years away…
All I remember after closing my eyes was hearing a series of shots in the distance…
The sun shone in my face one fine morning. I was startled at first, thinking that I had factory work to do. I was going to be late! I immediately looked for some boots and tried to fix my clothing, tried biting my lips for blood to smear on my face, check for ticks and fleas and the rats under the bunk…
Then I remembered that there was no work here, no factory, screaming or a gas chamber…
I even remembered that
I sat up on the bunk and sobbed, putting my hands in my face to muffle the noise.
After a while, I stopped crying. I heard some loud siren and jumped to my feet, almost hitting head against the top bunk. “Everybody out, out, out!” guards yelled. Outside Rob’s quarters, boots scraped against the floors and doors opened and shut. Was I supposed to follow them?
I ventured out into the enlisted men’s part of the barracks…if that’s what they call it, I have no idea. But, it was empty. No men, no activity, nothing. So I took a chance and went out the door.
Outside, there were about fifteen men. Other men in different barracks stood in attention, each with about fifteen or twenty men in each. Guards were counting and I spotted Schultz, counting as the men yelled and whistled at me. Obviously, they’ve been here too long and haven’t seen someone like me in a long time. Wait, Schultz counting, then recounting…roll call?! I groaned and noticed Rob to my right. He was motioning for me to stand by him. (Is this formation by rank?)
I jogged to Rob’s side and stood in the
straightest attention. You had to do this at
Rob nudged me in the arm. “You alright?” he asked. But all I could do, after standing up so straight, was look at my boots. My eyes had filled with tears again and I knew that if I started to bawl, I’d lose it for a while. Rob tried grabbing my attention again. “Nikki? Nik Nik?”
“I’m fine,” I said, too quickly. Damnit, if he only knew, if only he understood…
Around me, the men were complaining and
moaned. “Come on Schultzie, I’m hungry!” “We’re all here, let’s go already!” At
least it was a warm, spring day and we’re not in the coldest part of
Rob looked at me very darkly, strangely. He just replied, “We’ll talk later.”
As soon as he said this, Klink came out from his office and screamed at Schultz, “Schultz, Rrrrreeeepppppppoooooorrrrrrtttttttt!”
Schultz saluted and went off. “All present and accounted for, Herr Kommandant. Including the pretty little Colonel –”
“Schultz, shut up and get Colonel Hogan and Colonel Michalovich to my office and dismiss the men.” Klink turned around and, forgetting something, turned right back around and said, “Dismissed!” Then he finally went back to his office with Schultz trailing behind me.
Rob gave his one of his famous sideways glances and shrugged his shoulders at me. He followed Schultz and Klink back to the Kommandant’s office. What else could I do but follow them?
“Colonel Michalovich, where have you been? Reports have said that you and…”Klink was flipping papers on his desk and finally came up to the one he wanted. “Major Donovan-White were to have been transferred here over five months ago. Now, tell me this. Where have you been?”
Rob was standing next to me as Klink asked
questions. Great, just ask me why the
Third Reich put me and Nancy at
I answered, finally. “Kommandant, I have been disposed in a horrid place and all I wish for is some –”
“Colonel, answer me. Where have you been?”
Klink had never been so forceful and so authoritative before. Rob answered before I could snap at him. “Sir, it was just that she was hiding in our tunnel for five months under your office. Our Escape Committee helped her to stay there, and then the Gestapo found her –”
“Quiet, Hogan! I won’t have any of your sarcastic remarks today. Answer me Colonel, where have you been?!”
This time, I snapped and Rob let me go.
“Damnit, Kommandant, I have just been released from a nightmarish camp in
“Colonel, that’s enough!” Ron stopped me before I got any further. “Kommandant, I think we should be going before she stresses out. You know women.” He winked at Klink and led me out the door. But Klink thought he had the final word…but not quite.
“Hogan, Colonel Michalovich now outranks you as senior P.O.W. officer according to her transfer papers. I wish you to take your belongings out of the Colonel’s quarters and bunk elsewhere. Colonel Michalovich, I warn you: if you so as much vent your anger like that again, it’ll be thirty days in the cooler.” Klink grinned and was just swimming in this victory until I said something that blew him away. I actually calmed down enough to make a nicer comment to our lovely Kommandant.
“Kommandant, I’m flattered. My first order is that Colonel Hogan be given back his position. I have no wish to be senior P.O.W. officer and command these men.” I paused. “I guess the Colonel and I will share quarters and respect the others’ space and privacy.” I stopped again, shrugged my shoulders and continued. “Well…I guess he could bunk elsewhere if he got on my nerves.” Klink had become angry at me, and screamed, “OUT!” as us. Rob saluted and led the way out the door and grinned at me. “That saucy tongue!” he said, laughing.
The door opened to Barracks 2 as soon as Rob pushed the door. ‘Moi Kommandant!” a small Frenchman stood in the doorway and let us in. I walked in with Rob, but it was awkward the way the men just looked at me. They haven’t seen a woman in months, maybe a year or so, and they look at me like I’m something new to play with. I was one of a kind in this camp.
A man in a blue British uniform jumped on the bunk next to the door and whistled at me. Rob was getting angry. “Fellows, stop it. This is –”
“Aww, gov’nor, this front seat view is just so nice!” the Englander said. “I ‘et that she ‘asn’t seen a male in a –”
“Enough Newkirk,” Rob said, “This is Colonel Michalovich and she’ll be bunking in my quarters.” Loud protests persisted until Rob said, “Until we find better quarters for her.” Silence prevailed in the room. Every face was looking at me. Rob continued. “She’s the last survivor.”
I inclined my head to the floor. I never felt so embarrassed in my life. The last survivor of H8WC and here she was, looking at the floor, in all of her glory. Rob tried getting me to look up. “Let me introduce you to the crew. Newkirk you’ve met.” The Englander waved from his bunk and whistled. “Blimey gov’ness, welcome to Stalag 13. Been through ‘ell I see. Nice pale ‘ace.” I almost laughed at the absurdity of being called “gov’ness” and let it go. They probably will be confused when calling me “Colonel” anyway and trying not to call me “Sir.”
The little Frenchman came up to me again. “Moi Colonel, you are so skinny and small.” He was right though, I was smaller and thinner from months of starvation and little humanity. I turned away quickly but the Frenchman pulled me back and kissed me on both checks. “LeBeau!” Rob exclaimed. He laughed at me and said, “LeBeau is our chief and obviously very emotional today.” This time I laughed, very hard too. Then I stopped. It was the first time I had laughed in months and I wondered how I could do that…
Rob then looked at me strangely again. Then, he looked around the barracks and asked, “Where’s Carter?” Then, a boyish face popped up from the crowd. He, too, was looking down and was shy at first. Bashfully, he said, “Hello Colonel,” but this wasn’t enough for me. I felt that I didn’t need anybody to be shy around me. So, uncharacteristically of me, I tipped his head up with my hand and kissed him on the check. Boy, did Carter turn red…
Newkirk jumped from his bunk and took Carter by the arm. “Mate, ‘ere lie the mysterious ‘orld of birds!” Then everybody laughed at Carter. I blushed and looked at Rob, who was laughing. He caught my gaze and winked. His eyes twinkled and this just made me laugh more. I joined in for a while. Maybe things here will be alright after all.
That night, Rob almost startled me. I found out how their operation worked, and how Schultz always lets them get away with their tunnel system.
LeBeau was cooking a “semi-good” meal (LeBeau’s words, not mine) and still complaining how thin I was. He asked, “Moi Colonel, what did the Krauts do to you? Hang you by your thumbs and dangle you without food for five months?” I didn’t answer him. How can you explain something like a death camp to somebody who hasn’t known horror?
Nor did I answer why I was always so pale and weak-looking. Those were the questions of the days – “Why are you so pale and sad-looking Colonel?” “Why are you so thin Colonel? Your clothes are hanging on you like a scarecrow.” Again, how could I answer? All I care at the moment was that I was in a safer place and so was Father (hopefully) and that I had two meals a day and a bunk to sleep in. That’s all that mattered, right now.
Before dinner, Rob sat next to my on the table. I was sipping some awful-tasting coffee (better than nothing, really) when he said some Underground phrase (was this to make sure the Krauts didn’t send him so phony?): “The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.” He stopped himself, then said. Whispered really, “She will be loved…Nikki?”
He went personal, alright. But damn, I knew some of that somewhere. The rest of the phrase I mean. The last tidbit was a part of a song that we did as Desertstar. I sighed, and calmly said the rest. “The nineteenth dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.” I paused and said the last part of our song in a small whisper. “It’s so hard to say goodbye…Rob.”
The men suddenly came up and patted me on the back, welcoming me here. Some appeared angry for not showing respect for the Colonel. But anyhow, I guess just standing there and not being sure who I was confused and scared them. They have some doubles come in and fool them into revealing their operation or something?
Suddenly, everyone jumped as they heard a
rattling noise. “Carter, watch the door,” Rob said, and he tapped a bunk, the
one near the window, twice. The bunk collapsed and it showed how they got away
with everything. It was the entrance to their tunnel, and up it came a black
American soldier. “Colonel, questions and orders from
Rob took the paper from him and said, “Yes, the Krauts gave us the right one this time. Oh, by the way, this is Sergeant Kinchloe, head of radio operations here.” I smiled at him and said, “Hello Sergeant.” He greeted me back and tapped the bunk again, making sure it was closed completely. The black sergeant just said to me, before he seated himself for some coffee, “Call me Kinch.”
Rob read the paper and looked back up at me. “We’ve had the Gestapo send agents that look like you, to try to see if we had an operation. All failed miserably, and all found themselves at the firing squad.” I winced…all of them? And why use my identity to obtain information?
Rob continued. “You know about the tunnel, but make sure the Krauts never know.”
I nodded my head and wondered in amazement. I wasn’t surprised at their operation anymore or am I surprised that they ran the operation under Klink’s nose for a long time. But Hochstetter, what about him?
Rob moved from his position and said, “Carter, watch for the Krauts.” He then moved back to the bunk and tapped it again. It opened, and he started to climb down. I wasn’t sure what he was doing or what he wanted until he stuck his head back up and said, “Coming?”
I sighed. I was in no condition to be climbing ladders and knew I was going to faint the instant I tried to position myself that way. But I followed down anyway. It was tough, but I think I made it without showing that I was wounded. Even if Rob noticed, he made no mention of it.
So, this is their operation, I thought as I looked around. The radio room was the first to grace my eyes, while a bunk, bookshelf and extra table and chair shared their space in the room. Beyond the room was a never-ending maze. I dreaded trying to learn more about the labyrinth.
Rob motioned that I seat myself at the chair. He then looked at me carefully, his forehead etched with lines of anger and frustration. Then, relief filled it and he hugged me close and kissed my head. He seated me back and grabbed another chair from a different room. The first personal words that came from his mouth were, “You have the ring?” Stupid question, I thought, as I pull out my locket. He pulled out mine, which was hanging next to his dogtags. He was silent for a while, until he pulled my hand out and said, “Promise me, after the war? This time, for real?” I nodded my head, and he laughed.
“Now, to business,” Rob continued. “Nikki, you have to listen to me this time. Nikki?” I felt myself daze off into another world of blackness, but I caught myself. Rob looked at me and continued. “Nikki, I know that this has been hard enough for you as it is. I wish I could tell you that everything will be alright and that I can promise protection for you. But it isn’t this easy anymore.
“Nikki, our relationship has to be hidden and forbidden and that’s an order. That would be one of my only orders to you. If the Gestapo found us about us, we’d be in front of a firing squad and I, for one, couldn’t afford to miss you or your father ever again. We parted on dire terms and…” He stopped, noticing my tears. I wasn’t upset at him though, I was in pain now. My side and shoulder started to pound.
He waited until I tried to stop tearing,
and when I did (it took a while to stop), he continued. “Ok, waterworks off.
Now, Nikki, listen. The Gestapo has you, Desertstar, on their hit list and
“Nikki, you keep this operation a secret and cease being an agent/singer for the Underground. Or…” He trialed, but I knew what he was saying. State the over obvious why don’t you? Join and risk my neck. Join and have everyone else shot and killed as spies because the Gestapo finally caught up with our operation and found out who I was.
I gulped and spoke my peace. “Rob, you’re right. I have been thinking about this operation for months now. Yes, you’re right that our relationship must be kept a secret from everyone. G-d knows that, we all know that. The Krauts can’t find this tunnel. Yes, I will keep this a secret, but, I haven’t decided whether I can continue this work and risk this whole operation or keep this from the Krauts.”
I stopped and thought. Did I really want to go back to the Underground? Was I being more selfish if I stayed behind and minded the fort? And, what about Hochstetter? I sighed and continued. “I will decide later if I can join, but I can keep this from the Gestapo as much as I can and –”
Carter’s voice sounded from above. “Colonel Hogan, Gestapo with Hochstetter! They have picks and shovels and guards with guns!” Rob immediately grabbed my wrist (which I never knew was so thin until I saw it Rob grabbed it that easily) and led me up the ladder just in time for an inspection from the Gestapo…again.
Rob dragged me back to the table where more steaming coffee was. He sat down calmly and started to sip his coffee. I tried pushing myself to my seat, but I felt pain.
The room spun.
Newkirk and Kinchloe caught me from behind and got me to my seat just as Hochstetter and his gang of Krauts tore down the doorway and stormed our barracks. Guns filled their hands, just like Carter said.
Rob was the first to speak, a wise-crack that almost made me laugh. “So, Major Hochstetter, have you come here for business, or is this a social call?”
Just as Rob said that, Klink came in and wrinkled in forehead in aggravation. Hochstetter closed his glare on Rob and shook his head in anger. “Klink, what is this? This camp seems to think I am some sort of social butterfly!”
Laughter erupted in the barracks among the prisoners, but a shot to our ceiling stopped it. Silence prevailed. Prisoners looked at each other, making sure the other is not hurt. Nobody noticed the cool air that was filtering into the room. I was freezing however.
Hochstetter turned to his guards with the shovels and picks. “Tear this place apart, and make sure not to miss an inch!” The guards started their duty, ripping everything apart. The hidden tunnel was, of course, untouched for now. They never detected it even as they dug within the bunk.
Rob seems to be the only calm person in the room. He continued to sip his coffee and didn’t notice anything, not even the cool air or the guards pulling the place apart. Putting down his cup of coffee, he turned to face Hochstetter again. “Sorry about the already messy barracks Major, but our cleaning lady just woke up from her appointment from two days ago.” I was out sleeping for two days? “We’ll make more room for you and your men so that you can find our tunnels under the sink. After all, a clean barracks is a happy barracks.”
I was amazed that Rob actually talked that long. Before long, other chipped in. Newkirk said, “And a happy barracks make a happy prison camp.”
Kinch added, “And a clean prison camp –”
“SHUT UP!” Hochstetter said, “Klink, put these men on report!” Hochstetter then smiled at me. But that smile was saved for a reason…and I’ve learned quickly that Hochstetter always got to the point. First he told the men to stop because they found nothing. Second, he targeted me. “I’m here for you Colonel Michalovich. You see, we have somebody here who wants to see you.” I was so confused until he revealed that person.
It was George. He was quickly approaching me. After fifteen years, he still looked boyish. White temples and a willow’s peak indicated that he was really forty years old.
He quickly stood me up, grabbing my right arm and twisting it to my back. He held me close to him and pleaded. After all these years he still knew my weak points. So, it was very strange to have him plead at me. “Nikola, run. Hochstetter has something planned –”
Suddenly, a gun (or was it two?) sounded and I was dropped. Rob grabbed me before I hit the floor and wrapped something around my right shoulder, which was now bleeding, drop by drop. My side was just as worse; the wound was soaking my clothes…
Rob held my shoulder so tightly I was gasping in pain and a want for breathe. But nobody, not even LeBeau and Carter, could hide the horror that was lying on the barracks’ floor. The lump was bleeding profusely in the head and was tranquil.
George was dead.
I finally passed out.
I had so many dreams…
One of them I remembered was walking down the halls of my secondary school, frantically looking for Rob. I knew that I had to find him or else something was going to happen to him. I felt something evil lurking behind me, always looking for Rob, always using me to find him. His breathe was always on me.
Another dream I had I felt to be a clear message.
Rob and I were still in the big band, and
singing in our second hometown of
So, there I was, singing in front of an array of soldiers and the generals. Father was seated up front, as usual, and Nicholas, Alexander and Paul waited for me backstage, where they were standing. Rob was playing the drums, as usual, and there I was, singing my favorite song, “Highwayman” in the silk light-green dress I had.
The only parts I remember singing was its climax.
A dream as the thunder wakes her and her highwayman disappears
For a life already loved before…in eyes wet with tears
Today and still today they ride…will they ever win?
He the glory, she the love…but still they try again
Paul and Alexander were whistling at me, for they loved me in shows like this (especially in the green silk gown), but Nicholas, the pessimistic one always, stood in silence and anger at me. Father sat smiling at me, as always, and tapping his foot to the rhyme of the song. It was so slow and bluesy, people were dancing to it.
So, as I was singing the ending, the band started playing slower and slower until they stopped altogether; it wasn’t even the end of the song. I was wondering what the hell was going on until I looked behind me.
The band was gone! Only Rob remained, and he was sitting behind his drum set, head in hands. I turned back to the audience to see that they were gone too! Everyone, including Father, was gone as if they evaporated like mist.
Bewildered, I turned behind me to find Nicholas. Paul and Alexander were gone backstage. There was no sign of them at all. Nicholas, still looking like the world is going to end soon, put his hand on my shoulder and sighed.
Nicholas started to speak and at first I
couldn’t hear his words, but it eventually got louder. He said, “Nikola, you
must decide what you must be. You cannot be a good German and kill what we have
fought hard to destroy. Nor can you be a good Russian and follow
Soon, Nicholas disappeared like the rest. I gasped and jumped back. But then, there was Rob, standing up from his drum set and finding his way to me, his face still covered with his hands. I ran to him and grabbed him, holding him close. But he gently pushed me back. (Why did he?)
I then realized when he slowly removed his hands. His face was mutilated and bloody. Death had warmed him over and…
…he was dead…
Rob still stood in front of me, proud as ever. He took off his Colonel’s hat and said, ‘Nikki, it’s time for you to decide. The choice was yours and since you declined, we too, have met our end. Our destiny was in your hands and now, Fate has blown in our direction. Maybe we will meet again.”
I woke up after that point and sat right up, gasping and sweating. Rob suddenly jumped out of nowhere and pushed me back down. I was panicking at that point, gabbling in a mix of Russian and German, “Robbie, run, escape and save yourself!” I kept repeating this and fighting back whatever person was trying to hold me back along with Rob. Then I felt something cold hit my arm.
I woke up again to a sunny morning feeling groggy and dizzy. I turned my head and saw Rob, sleeping in a chair. His uniform and jacket was still on, his hair messed up and face unshaven and his hat tipped to one side. It was almost the way I remembered him the first time I saw him except for the uniform. I almost laughed at him! I wanted to get out of bed, wake up him and fix him some breakfast, just like I used to. This was absurd – why be stuck in here when there was a nice day ahead of us?
But there was someone else in the room. A lone figure was facing the window, his cool voice trailing in German. It grabbed my attention. “Ah, Colonel, I see that you’re awake. Don’t I know how nurses hate attention towards them.” He opened the window and warm air came in. I breathed it in…so warm!
I replied back to him in a whisper, as to not wake Rob. “Ja…but who are you?”
He turned to face me, still talking in
German. This time, his voice was lower. “I am a friend of Colonel Hogan’s,
Mezle.” He paused and looked at me severely now. Still speaking in German, he
said, “Yes, I work for the Third Reich and
He continued. “All you did when you gained consciousness, Colonel, was yelling in German and Russian, I believe, that the men had to escape and save themselves.” I was silent. I hadn’t realized I had screamed it more than once. I answered him: “I was also very worried and still thinking about a major decision I have to make.” Why make him know more about what I think? Was this a trap from Hochstetter?
Just as suddenly as I felt alive, I felt tire. I then slipped back down the bed covers. Mezle raised his eyebrow and asked, “And you have just made your decision?” It was as if he knew what I was about to decide.
Before closing my eyes to sleep, I said, “I have decided to stay in.”
About a few days later, I was deemed by
Mezle to be well enough to get out of bed. This was because I was, stubbornly,
slipping out and joining the others in roll call. Klink, of course, was angry,
Mezle was laughing. Mezle was also amazed that I can still walk, for my knees
were bruised and swollen from falling off my bunk at
The day Mezle left, I was walking out of the barracks alone for the first time. I was walking in the clothes sent in the recent Red Cross packages and I felt heavy at heart. I was alone, for Rob and the others were told to leave me alone for the duration I was in bed, but I haven’t seen (talked to them, more like) them since Hochstetter came in the last time I was conscious.
Outside, Rob and his crew of four were playing basketball with Schultz, who was off duty. Others from different barracks were enjoying the rare warm weather. The constant social buzz rang with letters from home and some rumored war news about the Allied Forces.
I walked away.
Since I haven’t really seen the unvarying
barracks around the camp, I decided to take a little tour around the camp.
Guards posted around with guns constantly reminded me that I needed to stay away
from the fence. I obeyed;
A warm breeze went through whatever hair had grown. I hurdled myself further into my jacket and walked towards the back of the camp. One of the last barracks, 19, stood neatly in the back. I sat down near the door of that particular barrack and tried to ignore the entire whirl around me.
I bunched myself into a ball, silent as a grave. Nobody had taken any notice of me there, at the door of Barracks 19, anyway.
I was still outside Barracks 19 at dusk when that siren rang for roll call. I stood up and looked about, wondering where Barracks 2 was from here. I had wandered around the camp and didn’t seem to know where I was or where I am supposed to be. So, I ran in the opposite direction, the other side of the camp. I think that was where Klink’s office was. If I can’t find it now and am late, I had to endure a surprise. Or did prison camps give surprises to those who are late for roll call?
In the maze of barracks, at 13 I think, Newkirk found me. He was running from behind the building and came around. What was he doing there? “’p and ‘t it gov’ness, before ‘ld Klink goes mad.” He turned towards the direction of the Main Gate, I think, and ran there. I trailed behind him.
Schultz was still counting our barracks as
Newkirk and I arrived. I struggled to find my spot next to Rob when Newkirk
snuck behind me and whispered in Rob’s ear. I tried not to eavesdrop, but it
was hard, considering that they were next to me. Rob answered back, “Kinch
couldn’t get any information from
After counting, Schultz turned to Klink and happily said, “All present and accounted for Kommandant!” Klink didn’t look to be in a fine mood and just saluted Schultz and turned back to his office.
The next evening was calm enough. Dinnertime and roll call were done and it was 2038 hours, twenty-two minutes and some sweet seconds before the lights have to go out. I was sitting down, drinking some coffee with Rob and the others when Schultz strolled in with a package. Since nobody was doing anything in the tunnels, we didn’t have to worry about stalling him.
LeBeau looked at Schultz. “Hey Schultzie, who’s the package for?” The bumbling guard looked at me and said, “Package for the sweet little Colonel. Orders from the Kommandant to give it to her, it’s from somebody very im-por-TANT!”
“Who though Schultz?” Rob asked.
“I know NOTHING!” Schultz answered back. “Oh, and Colonel Hogan…lights out soon. You know the Kommandant. He’s in a FOUL mood tonight.” He then turned to the door and walked out. I think he might have been listening at the door again, for the door creaked under some major weight. I sighed. This was going to take a while to get used to…
I felt the blood rush to my face as everyone in the room stared at me. I opened the package and out came a silk nightslip which almost stood in the air, as if pausing for all to see, before sliding to the floor. There was a note along with it, in German, which I sadly understood:
Dearest love, how I would hate the moment in which I would have to wait for you. I could hold you in my arms and kiss your thin body. Forget the past – think of the future.
“The nightie came with the note.” Rob picked up the note on the table where I dropped it. He quickly scanned it and left it beside me on the table. I, however, could not talk; I was so disgusted with what I’ve read that I wanted to vomit.
“I never knew you had any German admirers Colonel.” Rob continued on as if this was nothing. I tried to hold back the lump in my throat as I replied. “I didn’t know even know I had any either.” My neck prickled. There is something fishy about this note and about the way Rob was acting. I knew that our relationship had to be kept down, but the way he said that…
Newkirk popped his head from under his pillow and sat up in his bunk. “Maybe it’s Carter ‘nd his newf’und ‘love! Blimey Carter, I ‘ever knew you ‘ad it!”
The men started to laugh. Even I was getting a small chuckle out of this idiocy until I saw the postscript on the bottom of the note. This was meant not to be seen except for me, but it scared me worse, for it was in Russian. Please wear this gift. You know, love, how much it’ll mean to me to see you in it. Suddenly, the laughter stopped.
I must have looked distressed about this, for a few men started to express their concern. “What did the Kraut put? It must not be that bad!” “Damn Krauts, they’re always scaring off our women!” All I could do was shake my head and get this package away from me as fast as humanly possible…”It’s nothing, really,” I said. A few satisfied men climbed into their bunks and rolled over for sleep. Others stared at me, convinced that the damn Krauts really upset me. I just wanted to get away…
At that point, thank G-d, Schultz opened the door and broke their attention off of me. “Come on, come on, come on, lights out! EV-ERY-BODY lights out!”
Rob, always sitting calmly sipping his coffee, got up and offered me his arm. “To bed?” he asked. I took the package in my hands and linked my arm with his. We went to his quarters and separated our link as Rob went to close the door. I sat in my bunk and started to dress into own night clothes. Rob was turning off the lights and closing the windows when he turned to me and asked, “What did the Kraut really say?”
I popped my head out and told him, but I could tell this made him more nervous than ever. I knew this, because Rob started to pace the small quarters. Just watching Rob pacing like that always made me just as nervous as he was. I whispered, as to not let the guards or the other men hear, “A German – general? – who knows Russian, probably works at the Eastern Front and has probably seen me or has heard about me from Mother. But who and wh – to get information from me through favors.” I gulped audibly.
Rob stopped pacing and looked at me. “It’s
that damned rocket base Nikki, the Germans must now think you are really the
last survivor of H8WC and want information from you. The Underground and the
Germans both have been hearing things about you, how you danced and flirted in
Rob stopped mid-pace and turned to face me. “We need to destroy that rocket base – and you’re going to help us achieve it Nikki.”
I was midway to Klink’s office the next
morning, remembering how Rob was insane – is
insane, more like it. Oh yes, he told Kinch, Newkirk, LeBeau and Carter what
was going on. The entire plan still needed verification and more direct orders
Newkirk was the first, and quite frankly, I wanted to slap him. “Colonel, may I suggest that our little bird not be put to flight so soon. This way –”
“Oui, come on moi Kommandant, we can use her in a different manner,” chimed LeBeau.
A thousand voices were raised then, but Rob quieted them for now. “Ok, ok, fellows, I understand your sudden concern for the Colonel, but she has agreed to this plan. Without any hesitation.”
All four of them, plus the others in the barracks, stared at me. Carter, especially, looked at me with concern. Ever since that first day, he has had this silly attachment with me. He was showing me around the tunnels yesterday morning after roll call. I was amazed at how many rooms and tunnels there are. There is a tunnel under every barrack except for Barracks 4, the empty barracks. ‘Why don’t you dig under here, just in case something happens?” I asked him. Carter could only shrug his shoulders at me and move on.
Kinch was the first to speak after this revelation. “Colonel, can you explain?” I was afraid that there were bugs around this place from Hochstetter, but I wasn’t at all afraid of him at that moment. Rob and the others would have known if there was anything phony around here. Plus, I knew that I was safe here.
I started. “Because the general, most
likely from the Russian Front, has probably seen me through connections from my
family or has seen me someplace during the first mission, he might be using me
for information concerning the rocket base. Before
All heads turned as we heard the Main Gate open and guards yelling – a car was coming in. I stood up and said, “That’s my cue.” I walked out the door, only to have Carter follow me.
I was just about to go into Klink’s office when Carter tapped my unhurt shoulder. I nearly whammed him in the face until I took a good glance at him. Obviously, he was carrying his trash stick and bag to clean the camp (a cover-up, for sure) but why was he following me?
“Good luck S-sir…I mean, Mad’m,” he said.
I sighed, not knowing what to do with him. He was afraid for me, apparently, but this mission has to be done. I sighed and with some hesitation, hugged Carter (he gently put his arms around me, dropping his cover-up) and said to him, “I’ll be fine, thanks Carter. I think it’ll be best to stand back.”
At least he understood to let go. I lingered a little, locking my eyes into his, before going inside. I could hear Carter behind me picking up his cover-up and hurling out his rage, anger and frustration by throwing trash and even his cover-up at various buildings.
“Klink, I never knew that you had such a charming prisoner!” General Frederick Hozellenan of the Russian Front said. I had “accidentally” interrupted their meeting, and upon talking to me about my life (I was very vague and to the point – I lived with my mother and moved in with my father at fourteen and eventually, lived with the family of my fiancé), the general had asked that I stay. I used all the charm I knew, which was, sadly, too much manipulation for me. Like I said, I hate to manipulate people. I am more blunt and to the point than that.
The general offered me a cigarette. I took it and held it out for him to light. I also took note of a black bag the general had carried to the back of Klink’s office when I arrived. He kept his eyes on it, I could see, and that something urgent was in there. I smoked on, knowing all too well about what might happen to me if he knew I had nabbed the contents of his black bag. I have to get LeBeau or somebody to photograph those contents, I thought. Anything missing might throw suspicion on us.
Klink broke my train of thought with his babbling. “Yes, charming, charming! I never knew about how charming she was! So quiet General, she only came here! One of a kind, a woman of –”
“Yes, yes Klink.” Hozellenan waved his hand
at Klink and drew closer to me. I could smell the alcohol on his breathe and
felt his hand rest on my injured shoulder. I had to fight the impulse to flinch
away. Trying to concentrate on something other than Hozellenan, I looked at the
picture of Adolf Hitler, sounding off his speech, on Klink’s wall next to the
door. It seemed like it was years, not just mere days ago, that
Tears were prickling my eyes. I felt relieved that Rob couldn’t see them, but at least he and the others were listening to this from the bug in the picture of Hitler, the one I found was connected to a coffee pot in Rob’s office. (Just to think yesterday I almost made coffee with that pot! LeBeau and Kinch stopped me in time.) Klink looked as if he believed I had the general curled around my finger. Hozellenan was drunk, to be sure, because he was flirting with me. Figures.
But is Hozellenan the one who suspects me? Is he the mysterious writer, the one who wants to lure me away from the plan of destroying the rockets? Does he even work there? Even better, does he even know who I am? Even worse – is he the disastrous link in H8WC?
Again, my thoughts were interrupted, but this time, it wasn’t Klink. “So quiet, Colonel. Why are you staring at our wonderful Führer? Power-looking, is he not?” Hozellenan drew his hand off my shoulder and chuckled. I nearly slapped myself in the face for choosing to stare at the picture. I could have indicated that there was a bug in the picture’s microphone! Rob and the operation could have been discovered!
Hozellenan downed his last drink and turned
to face Klink. “Well Kommandant, it was lovely to see you again.” Hozellenan
picked up his black bag and continued. “But, alas, I must be going back to
Hozellenan wasn’t paying attention to my surprised face; either that or he was stoic in his manner, which I know to be not the case. “Klink, I hope to leave this bag in your safe for, ummm, safe keeping? I’ll have my Gestapo man change the combination for you.” Hozellenan winked at me and said, “Top secret, you know?” He then offered me an ashtray for my now wet cigarette and had Klink call his man in. He also had his car called to the front of the office.
While Klink was excitedly saying how much he enjoyed this visit and the Gestapo man was working away on Klink’s safe, Hozellenan locked his beady eyes into my face. I caught his eyes and wondered why he would look at me so. He surprised me even more when he asked in Russian, “Are you busy tonight?”
Klink stopped his babbling and stared at me. I was silent, until Hozellenan asked again, in Russian, “Well, are you Colonel? I should love your company.” I thought quickly – so, he’s luring me away from the black bag with a night – daytime trip? – with him. Just leaving them with Klink is trying to tempt me to steal them, or even photograph them for that matter. Damnit, this general has thought of everything!
So Hozellenan is the mysterious writer! I turned to face him, giving him my best smile, which was very forced indeed. I answered him back in Russian, “Will I have a choice in the matter? I am bound to serve and obey my betters.”
Hozellenan tilted his head back, laughing. In English, he said to Klink, “You’re right Klink – one of a kind indeed!” Turning to leave for his car, which was now pulled up, Hozellenan spoke again in Russian. “I will take care of your escape. Leave it to me, and please bring your gift, my dear!”
Saying “Heil Hitler!” behind him, Hozellenan left, the black bag now safely deposited in Klink’s safe and his Gestapo man gone with him. Klink, who was once so giddy and smiling, now turned to face me, very angry indeed. “Colonel Michalovich, I will NOT tolerate you interrupting important visits like Colonel Hogan does. Next time it happens, it’s going to be forty-five days in the cooler and ten days confined to the barracks without privileges. And I don’t care that it’s harsh and extreme or that you’re a woman! Dismissed!” Klink saluted and moved back to his desk
I saluted him back (I hated to do that, I was always bad at saluting my “betters”) and went out of the office, almost bumping into Mrs. Linkmeyer, who was secretary for Klink, for now. I giggled how she lovingly went into Klink’s office with a tray full of food. But, nothing will be funnier than telling Rob what I think Hozellenan really is.
“He ‘ants to what?” Newkirk was the first to speak when I came back. The others,
minus Rob and Kinch, almost simultaneously pitched in their opinions. LeBeau,
who was preparing dinner, yelled over the voices. Before, when I inquired from
LeBeau where Kinch and Rob were, he replied that they had an urgent message
Meanwhile, the uproar about the planned night (or day) visits with Hozellenan continued. Like I said, even LeBeau, in continuing to set up dinner, tried to get rid of his anger and anxiety by yelling out his opinion. I could tell that he was just as frustrated as the rest of them.
“It’s a trap! It’s someplace to get you
killed!” “Don’t go gov’ness!” “Oui, oui, moi Colonel, it’s a trap!” Nobody had
noticed the rattling or that Rob and Kinch had popped their heads up from the
tunnel. Rob tapped the bunk behind him and noticed the men yelling at me.
“Fellows, fellows, information from
It was silent at last. Rob pulled up a seat
by the table and grabbed a cup of coffee that LeBeau had placed for him. Rob
then pulled a paper from his jacket pocket and said, “Kinch, watch the door.”
He unfolded the paper, carefully looking to the windows. Satisfied that we were
alone, he said, “I’ve got the information from
I tapped the table with my fingernails
until Rob looked up to an irritated Colonel and some men. “My, aren’t we touchy
today?” he said. Laughing, he finally read the paper. “Hozellenan is a top
general at the Eastern Front, except he’s been avoiding the sleigh rides. He
has been known to take himself behind the lines to counterspy on the
Underground and has taken part, as an agent, in their assignments.” Rob then
lowered his voice and almost hesitated in saying this. “His last assignment,
I was shocked. So,
Rob folded the paper and continued. “This
is a serious undertaking Colonel. Hozellenan knows who you are and what you
might be doing with the Underground and probably us.
Kinch interrupted him. “Colonel, Krauts coming, Hochstetter and gang!” Shutting the door quickly behind him, Kinch and the others resumed their normal prisoner of war activities, such as reading letters from home and sipping our weak, sorry coffee. I remained very still in my seat and tried to eat the dinner LeBeau had given me. Often, it’s been a larger portion than the others’, for he still thinks I’m too thin.
The door swung open. Hochstetter marched in again, with guards. His eyes planted themselves on Rob this time. I was afraid for a split second that this was the moment that he’ll take him away and shot us all as spies. But I knew better. What did Hochstetter want from us this time?
Hochstetter started out too nicely. “Ah,
Colonel Hogan, I see that you’re here.” Rob ignored him and continued to sip
his coffee. But when I saw that Hochstetter’s eyes started to gaze back at me,
I knew what he wanted: me and some more information for
“Shut up Hogan, or you’ll be joining her, instead at a firing squad, which is where you and your men should be.” Hochstetter’s men, meanwhile, had grabbed me and dragged me out the door. This was my chance to tell LeBeau that tonight was the night to get those pictures and quickly.
“LeBeau, remember the pictures for the scrapbook! I would like to package it to my father tonight. It has to be tonight!” Hochstetter slammed the door behind him as soon as I tried yelling and directed the guards to put me in the car in front of his. I think LeBeau heard me though, and I sure hope he did!
Behind me, I heard no uproar to being me back. Everyone in camp knew where I was going. It was just a matter of if I’d come back alive or at all.
Hochstetter had followed the car I was in for about five miles and then turned to go into town. Meanwhile, the guards had directed the driver deeper into the woods. Where was I going? And why did Hochstetter leave in another direction, or even in another car? He was heading to Gestapo headquarters, I think while we were going deeper into these forests…I thought that Hozellenan wanted me at Gestapo headquarters. No, he would want me alone and without the Gestapo on his back. Wait, he probably runs the Gestapo.
The guards had been silent on this ride so it was a surprise to me that one of them spoke to me. The guard to my left finally talked in this hushed ride but the only word I heard from him was “Colonel?” It was only an inquiry. I turned my head, only to find some handkerchief in my face.
I passed out.
I awoke to a dark room with my head resting on my chest and feeling stiff as a board. I started to gag and realized that not only was I stiff, but I was tied up in a chair and that I had something in my mouth that I couldn’t get out. I felt vomit rising in my throat.
I tried tipping my chair to one side but I found that I didn’t have the strength to. My side and shoulder throbbed for the first time in a few days. Damnit, where’s Mezle when you need him? Is Rob and the men alright? Did Hochstetter nab them too? Did Hozellenan have them killed on the spot, or he is just after me?
My thoughts were disturbed by some noises, namely some chairs or something being over-turned. Then I heard some yelling by two people and finally, a lone gunshot. I winced and became paranoid. Was that for me, my Fate? Was that an Underground agent, killed because of me? Was it Rob or any of his crew? Had they caught us at last? I heard a click and looked up. The door in front of me opened and in came someone I preferred not to see – Hozellenan with a gun. My neck prickled at the sight of him.
He clucked his tongue at me, shaking his head. Hozellenan then took up a chair from the other room and sat next to me, stroking my head with the barrel of his gun. I couldn’t move; I knew I was a goner. Beyond him in the hallway, a pool of blood flowed and a lone arm reached out. Hozellenan stopped cuddling me and went out to shot the person, who soon became still. Who this person was, I had no idea. He or she was just another victim if this madness.
Hozellenan then returned to me, removing my gag and letting me breathe. I looked at him maliciously and received a hit in the face for that. Hozellenan afterward got up and slammed me, still in the chair, as hard as he could to the nearest wall. I felt blood running down my head.
After slamming me back to the ground, still intact in the chair, Hozellenan began his chilling explanation. “Nikola Anna Michalovich, Colonel, LC8547960, Jewish bitch! Your mother was right: there was no time in chasing after you, like George did. And for working with the Allied Underground, he was shot.
“Oh my Nikola, how you have fallen into
your own demise! Yes, stepdaughter, I have married your mother and killed her
off too. She dangled in politics like you and had evidence to condemn me to the
hangman’s noose because of my actions against the Fatherland. At least you
stopped this nonsense as soon as you hit
“Don’t you mean, safe guarding your own
ass?” I asked spitefully. I was already angry, and it quickly turned to fear as
soon as Hozellenan hit me and pulled out his gun again. “Don’t tamper with me
Nikola. You know about the rocket base…did you know that Duncan McLean was the
one who betrayed you all and was shot because he changed his mind and tried to
save you? Oh yes, Nikola, I know about Nite
Lites and dancing with the top generals in
Suddenly, Hozellenan fell unconscious to the floor. The light behind him revealed people I couldn’t be gladder to see – Kinch and Rob dressed in Gestapo uniforms. Kinch was holding some chair midair, but he dropped it on Hozellenan. “Good riddance. Colonel, according to Carter, we have five minutes to get the Colonel to the agents and back to camp. This place is going to go up!”
Rob was untying me from the chair and already noticing all the bruises and bloody spots I attained from Hozellenan. He gently touched me head and pulled himself away from me. Turning back to Kinch, he said, “Tell Newkirk to hurry with the safe and get the remaining papers out about the rocket base. That would fill in the missing links to the papers LeBeau and Newkirk photographed.
“And Kinch, make sure that you get Newkirk and Carter out of here and meet LeBeau at the lookout. Watch out for Hochstetter, he’s looking out for the Colonel here on the orders of Hozellenan. Get back to camp and don’t wait for me. And that’s an order!” Kinch said “Right Colonel” and ran out of the room.
Rob turned his attention back to me. “Hochstetter has orders to nab you at the corner, under guard. We figured out Hozellenan’s signal that will ensure that you’ll get back to camp alive and untouched by Hochstetter.” He grinned at me and finished getting the ropes off of me. Upon finishing, he picked me up against my weak protests and carried me downstairs. At the doorway were two Underground agents dressed as my guards, ready to escort me back to Hochstetter.
Rob kissed me hastily before putting me back on my feet again. “See you at camp,” he said before running out the door, into the night.
The Underground agents, dressed as guards, escorted me about half a mile from Hozellenan’s home. Hochstetter’s car was parked there, and was he surprised to see me (alive?). Hochstetter, never one for expressing how he feels directly, said, “Well, well, Colonel, I’m surprised –” An explosion interrupted him. Fragments from the house shattered in our direction. Hochstetter threw himself to the ground just as the guards threw themselves on top of me.
As soon as the major explosions ceased, Hochstetter got up and said, “Sabotage! Colonel, when I find out you and Hogan did this, heads will roll! Get her into the car!” The agents, acting as the usual Gestapo guards, threw me into the car harshly and shut the door. Hochstetter climbed in and screamed at the driver to move onward to Stalag 13.
The next hour in the car was one of the worst with Hochstetter I ever had.
Dawn was drawing lines in the skies when I returned to Stalag 13. Schultz was doing roll call then and Klink was actually standing outside and by the looks of it, searching for me. Klink was actually concerned for me and ran to the car when Hochstetter shoved me out. Immediately, Hochstetter drove out. I don’t think he wants to listen to Klink anymore than I did. I was ready to scream if he started to babble about the camp’s escape record – which was none, according to him.
Schultz glanced at me and counted me as is. “All present and accounted for, Kommandant!” he said happily. Klink was, obviously, very snappish. “I know that Schultz. Dismiss the men and get Hogan into my office at once!” Rob, worried about me when he saw my new collection of bruises from Hochstetter, took my arm and led me to Klink’s office. I couldn’t stand up and was ready to pass out again and was all too glad to hand my arm to him.
In his office, Klink was just as worried. He indicated that I be seated next to Rob. “Colonel Michalovich, please sit. Now, take a cigar, make yourself at home here.” I was puzzled…what did Klink want? Why was he welcoming me with open arms this time? Did he want information, just like everyone else? Do I need to manipulate him too?
Rob grabbed a cigar out of Klink’s box and handed me one. Taking out a lighter I’ve never seen before from my coat pocket, Rob lit my smoke and his as well as Klink paced his office. That was unusual for Klink as well, for he usually is trying to keep up with us prisoners and “run” the camp. Of course, there have been no successful escapes at Stalag 13, as he likes to brag, over and over again.
But Klink got to the point finally. “Colonel, I understand that the general was killed not even an hour ago at his home and the Major is pinning this on you and Colonel Hogan and…” Klink turned to face us, only to see bruises on my face and arm. “Colonel, what happened?!” Klink shouted, obviously more concerned than I thought he really was. Rob, always adding to the drama and getting away with things, pulled my uniform sleeve up, also jumped back on how many bruises Hochstetter gave me in the car. This doesn’t count what I had received from Hozellenan.
And of course, Klink gets my usual sarcastic remarks. “Oh, geez Kommandant, these? Oh, I was just playing in some room with Hozellenan when Hochstetter came in and planted –”
“Colonel, shut up!” Klink said, “Dismissed! You too Hogan! Out! Colonel, take a warm shower and see the medic! That’s an order!”
Puffing the last of our cigars, Rob and I left the office and went back to the barracks. Rob ruffled my hair at the door of the barracks and said, “Nikki, you give our Kommandant too much information. Why, he’ll be jealous of that general soon!” I laughed and opened the door, intent on sleeping for the remainder of the day. I even gave my second and third order: to let me sleep and not send for the medic.
That week, I tried to stay in the barracks as much as possible, for Hochstetter had suspected me and Rob in the bombing of Hozellenan’s home. “One down and a rocket base to go,” Rob said. Hozellenan is dead, the one person that could have known about the operation and about who I really am. The threat, my stepfather (it is strange writing that word) is gone. The threat to our operation has vanished for now.
LeBeau had taken those pictures in the
safe, of course. He and Newkirk had traveled to Klink’s office the night I was
taken to Hozellenan’s and cracked the safe. The small photographed pictures
showed that Hozellenan was really involved with that rocket – he was the
scientist that made it happen. All those papers showed were the formulas, vivid
diagrams and how to dismantle it. Also inside, which was surprising to me and
Rob, were a few pictures of his wedding with Mother and another one of me and
Rob just a few months before Michael was born. The two of us were standing in
Lucky for me and Rob, all these pictures were taken by Newkirk and deposited on the table in Rob’s quarters. Those other papers, however, were taken to Gestapo headquarters, unfortunately, as Hochstetter took charge in the investigation involving the bombing of Hozellenan’s house. Hochstetter has found nothing yet and has not suspected that we (Rob and I) are both just as incriminated with the bombing. For me, it was a relief. My relationship with Rob is still a secret to the Gestapo. Now, all we had to do was try to avoid questions from the other men. Already, Rob’s crew of four and some idiotic enlisted men has bothered us about it.
Also during the time between the bombing of
Hozellenan’s house to the night of the mission, I let myself heal and try to
stop obsessing that this mission will be another failure. And by that time, a
plan was formulated by the Underground and
The Underground has detected a shack near the rocket base and a tunnel was dug by a guard assigned there, alias an Underground agent. He has been in charge of that shack on order of the Gestapo, but in reality, he has let agents into the tunnel, had them dig and ordered a bomb under the rocket. The bomb needs wiring, which is impossible to do now with added security, which is where we come in.
A raid has been scheduled for that night, except at an ammunitions dump. The Krauts know about this, which is why, when the planes start to bomb the place, the guards over at the rocket base will come scrambling, for it is within the same mile of each other. We capture them and wire the place from the bomb under the rocket, past the shack and to where we push for the flames. Carter and Newkirk, who are best at impersonating Germans in person, will be a help in capturing those guards at the rocket case. The Allied bombers will do the rest at the ammo dump. LeBeau will be making sure that the mission can be a go for us when he asks Schultz when and if there will be any bed checks and extra roll calls in the night. LeBeau and the others prisoners of our barracks will also distract the Krauts if there’s any trouble.
Meanwhile, Kinch, Rob and I will be waiting
with the extra wiring to blow the place up. I was the one who knew where the
base was and the best spot to escape, sit, wait, etc. The three of us would be
waiting for a signal to come down when the coast was clear at the half mile
mark on top of the hill where Nancy and I were last. We wire the place, get
everybody out and watch for the fireworks. All plans of escape were planned, no
notion of failure possibly thought of. Everything was formulated and approved
The night of our raid, two days before they were scheduled to launch the rocket, was drawing quickly. June 19, that night to end all nights, found me jittery and just as nervous as the others in this mission. Carter was, I’ve noticed, was just as nervous as I am. Without his explosives and wirings working, this mission would be a failure and the Allied Forces gone within a split second. I thought that he needed somebody to talk to, so I went to the tunnels to see him and comfort him. I knew he never failed Rob with his explosives before – how can he be unsuccessful this time?
I was aware of more tension as soon as I stepped out of Rob’s quarters. I had already prepared for my part of the mission and was watching the others pack and prepare. Rob had gone to Klink’s office to inquire about our Red Cross packages (sure to be covering for some information); Wilson, our camp medic, was flipping through my medbag and “preparing for the worst”; Kinch was writing last minute instructions from London in the tunnels; and Newkirk was measuring the last of the uniforms needed for tonight.
Searching for any signs of susceptive
Krauts, I slipped down to the tunnels. I passed Kinch taking in his messages and
looked for Carter. I found him in a room under Barracks 3, working on his
bombs, but also something else. Was it his last letter? I couldn’t tell, but the
paper in front of him was dated and addressed to his hometown in
The last letter was something Rob explained to me last night. This letter, either kept as is or slightly altered in the coming missions, is the note your comrades send to your family when the worse happens. In this, you can say whatever you wish, except reveal what we were doing. For all our relatives know, we’re regular P.O.W.s. Well, everyone except Father, I think.
I couldn’t bring myself to write mine yet.
What can I say to Father, to erase his pain of losing his only child? I’m sorry Father; I had to help the cause?
Jesus! And what about Sally, Jerry, Chris and the rest of them in
Before knocking and talking to Carter, I thought about this morning. By dawn, about 0550 hours, Rob woke me up and was sitting on the end of my bed. I needed sleep for the mission and here he was, waking me up! I rolled over, despite the pain in my side and shoulder and faced him. I sat up and hissed at him (for I must have been angry and half-asleep), “Rob, are you out of your goddamn mind already?”
He only grinned at me, that mischievous smile of his, and held me close. I put my head to his shoulder, thinking of what it was before the storm and recoiled. Why this so early in the morning? Why the morning of an important mission?
Rob sensed it and said, “Nikki, stop. This is just in case…” he trialed and just held me closer. And I let him, fool that I am. (Mission first, mission first…) So we held on, life preservers in the oceans’ waves, for a long time.
I finally got the courage to knock on the door. Carter quickly hid his paper and looked back at me, relieved. He was miserable, though, so boyish still. I asked, “Carter, what’s wrong?”
He replied, “Sir, I’m just worried about my last letter home. A-and about the mission. It’s u-up to u-us now. B-but how can I explain that?” If he was a child, I would have swiftly held him in my arms, but this is a grown man.
I walked over. “Carter, look, I don’t think we can use any adequate words to describe how much love we have to sacrifice to make a country safer for democracy. I know –” I sat in the neighboring chair. “- do I ever know how it feels. We can never fully explain what our motives are in this war and why we would kill Germans to win this half of the war. Nobody but us can understand that we will always love our fellow countryman and homeland or that the latter wants us to kill what is evil. Or that –” I was crying now. “– we love them and that we’re safe from pain that we’re sorry we let them down.”
Now I was sobbing. I knew Father would understand what I was doing, but how can he bear my death? At least Carter was less upset, that was the important thing. While I was crying my heart out, he was holding me, so unusual in him. He also said some weird words. “Thanks sister, I mean sir! I mean – I really am sorry sir, it’s just feels like, you know somebody in my family saying stuff like that. You know?”
I sniffled and stopped crying. I smiled and laughed and hugged Carter before letting go. “Thanks Carter. I really appreciate what you said to me.” I got up and walked out, but as soon as I walked into the hallway, Carter stuck his head out of the door and said, “Colonel, I think I know w-what I should write in my letter now.”
I smiled. By then, I knew what I needed to write in mine too. “Carter, you’re welcome. I think I have something to write too.” That baffled face made me laugh some more, so I walked away and climbed back up to the barracks. On my way up the ladder, Kinch stopped me, for he was done writing what he was transmitted, and asked me, “Is he done revising that letter yet?”
I was sitting in Rob’s quarters when I finished it. So simple, brief and addressed to his Stalag. I was shoving it under my pillow when Rob came in. He shut the door behind him and smiled when he saw what I was doing.
“Finished with what I told you to do?” he asked. I nodded and asked, “Could you send this…I mean, if it doesn’t cause, or I mean, hurt…”
He shook his head and laughed at my attempt to talk some sense. “That saucy tongue can’t say anything now?” he said, tilting his head back to laugh. I smiled, knowing that he too was nervous. I noticed that he was trying hard not to bite his lip again.
Rob stopped laughing about me and held me again. I was confused, for I thought that this morning was our last goodbye. But he had something to ask. “Nikki, just as long as you do the same for me, I have no problem mailing yours. Same spot, top bunk.” His nervous laughter rippled in my ear. But he didn’t have the last word. “Nik Nik?”
I looked up – he was using my childhood nickname that Jerry gave me the first time I came down from bed? I laughed, saying “What Robbie?” He was laughing harder at his childhood nickname. When his laughter stopped, he said, “Better make sure that saucy tongue doesn’t get tongue-tied. Maybe we’ll need it!”
Klink’s plans for a bed check threw us off-track for an hour. Of all the nights, Klink had to make his money this night, the night of an important mission. Lucky for us, it was just about the time we would undress from our nightclothes and move. LeBeau had warned us ahead of time as well. A little apple strudel never hurt Schultz! (“A little means a lot for Schultz,” Kinch said.)
It was about 2243 hours before the Krauts left. Newkirk remarked, “’ld Klink needs some ‘uteye, suppose,” as he tapped the bunk and climbed down with Carter. Carter was confused. “Why would he need his shuteye though?” Newkirk just whammed him in the head and pushed him down the tunnel. According to plan, LeBeau was staying behind to distract the guards with some other prisoners. Rob, Kinch and I, meanwhile, were getting antsy to go. We were due at the top of the hill an hour ago.
Before we left, LeBeau looked sulky. “Why do I have to be left behind?” he asked.
Finally, Newkirk and Carter snuck out the exit and called for a coast cleared. Kinch, Rob and I snuck behind them and headed in a different direction, towards the hill. The point to watch for the signal was the same - #36AP9ZG6I4OU, the half mile point from the base.
I led the way to the hill. The journey was silent the whole way. The only noises I heard were German guards on the roads, the faint calls of nature and Kinch panting away, carrying the fragile explosives.
Tears filled my eyes as the three of us reached the top of the hill. The place was the same, except the Germans had created a mass grave for those they killed and executed. A few, grotesque human arms popped out of the ground, as if reaching to get out, to call for help. I was so overwhelmed that I was feeling nauseous.
So far, so good though. There was no prickling in my neck.
Kinch had, the whole walk, carefully
carried the explosives and wiring Carter created this morning. Rob was
constantly offering to help carry them, only to get a negative answer. All I
concentrated on was getting them up the hill safely. I made no mistakes and we
arrived safely to that hill, past the German guards and checkpoints. All three
of us sat on the same hill H8WC waited on. Kinch set himself next to the place
I looked out from the hill, looking for the signal. Rob stood behind me and gripped my unhurt shoulder. I turned to meet his glance, smiling. This meant so much to me, for it meant he, as well as I, were ready for anything. We were but riders in another storm we had to stop.
Kinch, when seated, took out a pair of binoculars and stared out to where the signal was suppose to be flashed. He positioned himself that way for a long time before putting them down a few minutes later. “Colonel Hogan, the signal is being flashed!” he said. Rob broke away from me and peeked out. The light, flashing ten times, meant that the coast was clear. And that dim light did flash those ten times and then it was darkness once again.
Rob watched for the light again, just in case something went wrong, but nothing did. “Ok, let’s move on now,” he said. But when I moved, Rob suddenly turned back and looked at Kinch, who was groaning at the weight of the explosives as he picked them up again.
“Kinch, are you ready? Can you carry that demo pack?” Rob asked him. I stuffed my knuckles in my mouth, for it was a little amusing how Kinch was trying to get up and walk with the explosives, which can blow us up any minute he does something wrong. Careful and cautious and yet determined and stubborn.
Kinch could only say these words under his panting. “Colonel, I’m alright. I just think that my shoulders will need a Purple Heart after tonight, thanks to Carter.”
In the distance, the three of us heard a hum of planes and an explosion at the ammo dump. “So far, so good,” Rob said, staring up enviously at the starry skies. Below us, as we headed downhill, were the rocket base and the gallows, full of traitors to the Third Reich, hanging.
“Lucky for us, this is all downhill. I can’t imagine how much fun sledding is on this hill,” Rob said. Quickly, quietly, we moved downhill where we met Carter at the open gate.
“Geez, where have you been? We’ve signaled you ten minutes ago!” was all Carter would say. I was ready to hit him on the head for the child he was acting like, but stopped myself. Did he really act like this all the time here?
“Carter, shut up. Let’s just get this place wired and get it over with. Where are those guards?” Rob was becoming worried about the guards that ran off when the ammo dump exploded. But Carter reassured of him not only his continuing childlike behavior, but that we were really clear. “Boy, I mean Sir, we’re ready for those explosives. All ready to wire.”
I was relieved and relaxed a little. Carter was showing Rob and Kinch where to wire while Newkirk was yelling from beyond the shack. “Blimey!” he yelled. I ran off in the direction of his voice and almost laughed. Newkirk was watching over some German guards that didn’t get anywhere near the ammo dump and was trying to keep them intact like children in a pen. He had most of them, but others escaped.
I came over and unhooked my gun from my belt yelling in German, “Get the hell over here or I shoot!” Most had listened, but two escaped, both similar in temperament and size. Others, instead of listening and coming over, shot themselves in the head to escape Allied P.O.W. camps. I winced at their brutal ends. But it was a gory mess all right. What a sticky wicket they’re in!
“’loody hell gov’ness, they’ll such an ‘andfull!” Newkirk said, “The ‘nderground also took the important ones, but why they leave us ‘ith the ‘ifficult ones, I’ll ‘ever know.” I smiled at him. He was right: we’re usually left with the thorny ones.
I watched the wiring for a while. The remaining German guards were behaving and some agents had come to take the rest, to the relief of Newkirk and myself. The two that escaped were searched for, but nobody could find them. It chilled me that they could be a threat to the operation. However, it wasn’t hard to find them when, as the last of the guards were loaded into a truck and rolling away an hour after we arrived, a gun barrel was pointed at my head.
Newkirk was startled at first, but stopped when the voice said, “Move and the Colonel dies!” The other disarmed Newkirk and tried shooting at the moving truck with the remaining guards, but in vain. He continued to hold onto Newkirk and put him in a headlock. A gun was also pointed at his head.
The voice belonged to Kurt. Warner was holding Newkirk hostage in a headlock. Newkirk was unable to move or to even yell for help. Our only hope was that somehow, Rob, Kinch or even Carter will see this mess. And by the time the wiring was done, they did.
Rob was running when he saw what was really going on. Kurt only held me tighter and moved the gun closer to me head. “You Jewish bitch…you traitor, you spy…what George would do if he were here and not a spy like you…” was all he whispered. I closed my eyes and waited for the end. Rob will forgive me…
A gun spoke.
Newkirk was down, face-first, on the ground with his controller on top of him. I wasn’t sure who was shot until I heard another gun sound.
I ducked down, missing whatever came my way. Kurt fired, but he missed my neck.
But it was too late to think. What happened next went so fast that I couldn’t remember anything but what went in a blur. All I felt was Rob picking me up and carrying me uphill. Newkirk, Carter and Kinch were already running way in front of him. About three quarters of the way up, Rob stopped and put me down. “Nikki, come on. We have to get going. This place is going to go up soon…”
I wasn’t listening to him, I was in such a daze. I stood up and was gazing back at the base. Warner was face-down on the ground still and Kurt was getting up. I wasn’t sure if he was hurt or not, but it didn’t matter. The rocket base exploded and was in flames. Debris was flying everywhere.
Rob knocked me to the ground and was lying on top of me. I was still; I couldn’t move but stare at the fire. It lit the night skies like another sun.
“Colonel!” Kinch was running down the hill. “What an explosion! This is got to be the best one Carter –” Kinch stopped as soon as he saw us. Newkirk trialed downhill after him and skidded to a stop next to me head. “’ome on gov’ness, let’s get out of here,” he said. But I couldn’t shift myself back to camp, I couldn’t. Kurt and Warner are dead and it’s my entire fault…
Rob lifted me up again and put me over his shoulders. “Nikki? You alright? Miss Saucy Tongue, are you answering?” I didn’t answer and didn’t need to. Rob knew what was wrong and didn’t press his jokes any further. “All right fellows, good job. Let’s get back to camp before Hochstetter does,” he said.
And yet, I still wouldn’t speak. When we reached the camp, I went straight into my night clothes and to bed. Not a word was spoken.
For weeks after the destruction of the rocket base, I still wouldn’t speak. I barely ate and slept, stood in roll call three or four times a day and isolated myself from the other prisoners. I especially made sure that nobody would ever find me and that they never talked to me, especially Rob.
The deaths hit me hard.
Father had been writing to me from Stalag 10, but each letter has been censured by the Krauts, even his profound lines of wisdom and love to me. I couldn’t read them; I stuffed them under my pillow. They were all wet with my tears of anguish and pain. I knew, even then, that this was some spell I couldn’t get out of this time, not for a long time.
The prisoners around the camp were not the only ones that noticed how unusual my behavior was. Rob, as it turns out, told Klink about it, minus our activities, after he noticed that I had forgotten to eat for a few days at a time. For almost a week, I didn’t bother to come for breakfast, lunch or dinner and LeBeau has been badgering me to eat. And just like that, Klink has to know my problems.
Early in July, I was called to Klink’s office. I was around Barracks 14 this time and trying to hide from the constant staring I felt. Schultz had found me, curled up in a ball on the ground, and said that the Kommandant wished to see me in his office immediately. I got up; what difference would it make? Easy in, easy out, just like always.
Apparently, this was not one of those
visits that required some bullshitting and get out easily. No, Rob was standing
there talking in whispers to Klink as soon as I arrived and stopped when they
noticed. Schultz quickly left and let me be vulnerable someplace I’d rather not
be in. Rob, however, looked at me with his anxious eyes, and even Klink was stopped
his idiocy. Klink motioned me to a chair next to Rob and said, “Colonel, please
sit.” Both, I’m sorry to say, were genuinely disturbed by my appearance. In the
first weeks I was at Stalag 13, I had gained some weight, especially after
Mezle visited me. Now, weeks after the explosion, I had lost it all and was
almost back to the weight I had when I left
I obeyed, only waiting for Klink to ramble on how I should carry on, but his words touched me this time. “Colonel Michalovich, I am regretted by the sudden loss of most of your family. I also understand that how you feel about this and that somehow, you are responsible. There has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13 –” Rob gave Klink a look and he stopped rambling about his record. “Colonel Hogan has noticed a sudden change in your behavior and that you’ve stopped eating. I just wanted you to know that, even though we’re enemies, my door is open, as else everyone humane around this camp.”
Klink then took some alcohol out of a cabinet and poured out three glasses. He handed a glass to me and Rob and declared treasonous words to the Third Reich: “To those who died.”
We stood up with our glasses. Our glasses clanked and we drank. The bitter liquid burned my throat, making me tear up. I couldn’t take it anymore and put my glass down on Klink’s desk. “Thank you Kommandant,” was all said before I practically ran out the door and into Linkmeyer, the first words I had said in weeks. Before I even reached the door to go back outside, Rob ran out grabbed me by the arm and escorted me to the barracks. I wanted to go in another direction, but Rob held onto me steadfast. “Lunch?” he asked. I sighed and nodded my head. Before we went into Barracks 2, however, Rob pulled me closer and whispered in my ear, “Window washing tonight, 2430 hours.” He let me go and opened the door for me. I entered in, trying to dodge LeBeau in the process. Coincidentally, he was serving lunch and making sure I was going to eat.
Window washing…that means that somebody wants to see me tonight. But who was it? And was this a trap? Tonight, I needed to find out. In the interim, it was time to quiet down some concerns.
Kinch had that the meeting was at 2430 hours about five miles east of the camp, in an abandoned house. Since most of the guards were off-duty tonight, it was perfect to escape to this meeting. However, since Hozellenan’s house has been destroyed, the Gestapo has been stepping up its patrols and checkpoints. Tonight, I had to be careful and carry enough false papers to satisfy any Gestapo agent in the woods.
As I was dressing privately in the tunnel, Rob and his crew came down, each person having a piece to say to me. I had calmed down enough from the episode in Klink’s office and wasn’t as upset as I had been before. I was still just as depressed as ever and didn’t need anyone coming down and wishing me well on my meeting. I wanted to be left alone. But behind the curtain, I heard them all.
Newkirk: “Careful now gov’ness, too ‘any Krauts ‘nd Gestapo around.”
LeBeau: “Come back safely Colonel and be careful.”
Kinch: “Be cautious Colonel. Run away if necessary.” I had come out from behind the curtain. He handed me a small handgun and the coordinates to my destination. I accepted them and stuffed them, along with my false papers, in my bag.
Carter: “C-come back sir. This place wouldn’t be the same without you. Oh no sir, there can’t be another Colonel –”
“Carter, shut up.” Rob handed me the last of my papers and glanced at me. There can be no more words between us now, for our eyes said out goodbyes. Not wanting to linger, I picked up my bag and left and climbed up the ladder, wordless and not at all afraid. I ducked under the spotlight that shone upon the stump for a few seconds and then went off into the night.
I reached my destination on time, at about 2430 hours, after dodging too many Gestapo agents. All and all, it was really a small hut that has seen too many bombings and raids. The woods around it covered all signs of detection. If the Gestapo cannot find me now, they will never find me here.
I knocked five times and waited for the door to open. A few minutes later, the door opened slightly, an old, wizened face peering out. “Who’s there? Who is this person that bothers me in the middle of the night?” he asked. He spoke in German, but had a Russian accent to his voice. A Soviet soldier or spy to the Underground? I was not sure.
Now it was my turn to volley the code. I
whispered in German, “Sir, I have been searching for some answer up the stairs
and down the hallway of my home. Instead of finding an answer, I did hear the
call of a nightbird, singing ‘Come away.’” This was the only code that can
The man opened the door some more. “Come in little nightbird, I see that you have heard me in the morning,” he said. To complete the code, I said, “I even heard you at nightfall and sometimes to be near someone is to be unable to hear you.”
The man sighed audibly and let me inside. “Welcome back Desertstar,” he said.
I entered the hut. It was a one room hut with a dingy bedroom, kitchen and sitting room combination. Half of the roof had been destroyed in some bombing, so cool air sank into the hut. A table to the left showed some sort of domestic environment. The man, while noticing that I was looking around, motioned me to a seat at the table. As soon as we sat, he quickly stated his business, blunt and to the point. I like him already, I thought.
“Colonel, I am Jozef Pulokt of the Soviet Underground. On behalf of the Underground sects here, I would like to thank you and those at Stalag 13 who have participated in the destruction of the rocket base. As the last survivor of H8WC, we at the Allied Command and the Underground couldn’t have done this job without your knowledge.
“The High Command, in recognition of this
deed, has offered to bring you home with a promotion and a transfer,
permanently, to the
I couldn’t believe my ears or what was
going on. Go home…but to where? What about Rob, Father and the rest of the
prisoners at Stalag 13? I couldn’t just leave them there while I danced around
stateside. Sure, they can all go on without me, but how can I live with myself?
I can’t live safely while men everywhere are being killed for defending their
Pulokt must have noticed my confused and worried look, for he said, “Colonel, it has always been your choice. The High Command understands if you stay. But, if you stay, you stay until the tanks roll into the gates of Stalag 13 when the war is over or whenever the Germans wish to release you from captivity.”
I thought for a minute before untimely deciding for good. To leave or stay, leave or stay? Rob and Father or the comforts of home and civilian life? But the more I thought of my decision, the more confident I grew that it was the correct choice. “I’m staying.”
Pulokt smiled at me and said, “Colonel, I figured as much.” He rose from his seat. “Again, congratulations on a mission well done.”
I too rose from my seat and was heading out
the door when Pulokt stopped me. “Colonel, I have a letter from your father for
you. He has escaped Stalag 10 a few days ago and is in Motherland
I thanked Pulokt and was going to leave when he stopped me again. “Colonel, High Command has sent out an M.I.A. notice to the family of Major Donovan-White. They still do not know her status or where she is.” I gulped, for this is the task that I have been thinking about and dreading for a while. “They ask, since you have been the last to be with her, to notify them of her status and write to her family about her position. They have had no word about her in two months. They need some word from someone they know and trust.”
I nodded my head and started out the door. Pulokt called out his thanks and said, “Little nightbird, be careful. And thank you for washing my windows!”
I arrived just in time for morning roll call, a little later than the usual dawn roll call. On the way back, I was almost caught by Gestapo agents and I was very tired when I arrived. Schultz was still trying to count our group and figuring out why I was missing. Newkirk was fooling with his head. “Oh, Schultzie, there are sixteen of us here and if you’re counting fifteen, then you’re counting wrong. You don’t count by ones, you count by…” And so it went until Rob signaled for him to stop. Newkirk then stepped back into the line, just as the Kommandant came out for his usual report and Hochstetter came in through the Main Gate with a few Gestapo agents.
Klink jumped back as Hochstetter came out
of his car and started yelling. “Klink, what is the meaning of this? You know
that the prisoners are guilty in the bombing of the General Hozellenan’s home
and in the bombing of the rocket base! When I find out who it is, heads will
roll!” Klink was babbling again about there never being an escape from Stalag
13 but was led to his office by an angry Hochstetter. Schultz sighed and just
dismissed us and left. As we scattered among the camp, Rob caught up with me as
I too walked away from the heat of the arguing. “Anything from
“No, just a word for ‘a mission well done’
and many thanks,” I said. I wasn’t really paying attention to much of anything
beyond what Rob had asked. I just stared out beyond the wired fence and
wondered how Father was right now. What is he doing? What is he thinking about
right now? And
I wasn’t aware that Rob was gone and that Newkirk
and LeBeau were leading me back to the barracks. Everything was unusually quiet
and the usual buzz from the other prisoners was gone. All I was aware of was breaking
away from the two and heading to Rob’s quarters with a thought in my head. I
had to get that letter done to
That same evening I emerged for dinner with
two letters in my hand. One was for the Allied High Command on
I searched for Kinch and found him standing
next to LeBeau, who was cooking dinner and was ready to serve it. I grabbed his
attention and asked, “Kinch, could you reply this to
I sighed and went to sit back down at a table. I hadn’t seen Rob all day, so I asked out loud, “Where is Colonel Hogan?” Everybody just stopped what they were doing and the complaints for food were silenced. Carter, who popped his head out of his bunk, said, “He’s in Colonel Klink’s office asking about our Red Cross packages.”
“Good,” I answered, “I want you all to hear this letter I was writing. The Colonel can read this later.” I heard many groans from many prisoners, who just went back to what they were doing, but at least Rob’s crew of four was always there. Kinch moved in closer to table and sat down. “We’re listening Colonel,” he said. Newkirk, who had been one of those who complained about the food earlier, jumped to his bunk and leaned forward. LeBeau was serving dinner to those who wanted it, so he stood in attention by the table. Carter got out of his bunk and sat next to Kinch. Like I said, everyone else ignored me, for they had better things to do than to listen to the letter from a female Colonel to the family of her dead comrade. I still sensed that hostility from them.
I cleared my throat and started. “This is an overdue letter to the family of Major Donovan-White’s family. They have had no word about her…status after her capture by the Germans and I feel, as many others so, that I should crack the news to her family about what the Gestapo did. I was the last person to be with her and to know of her…demise.”
I shuddered at the word “demise” and I still do today. At that moment, and even right now, I could still feel the pain I felt when I lost her and I wanted to get this letter out and done with. I also didn’t want Rob to read this yet, or even be there when I read this out loud. I still don’t know why I did this, and always wondered why I trusted these people from the start.
I began to read the letter.
To whom this may concern:
I cannot express the extreme sorrow and pain in telling you of the death of your wife, Nancy Donovan-White. I cannot also convey the courage she has shown in the last moments of her life.
I stopped and gazed up. The four of them were still listening so I continued.
I cannot even say how she died. In my own grief I still cannot comprehend why she chose the path that she went down. Her actions have saved me and those around her that she barely knew.
sorry to have confirmed the army’s claim that
Colonel Nikola Anna Michalovich,
I finally finished reading the letter and looked up to see the same four serious faces around me. I put the letter on the table next to my plate, which LeBeau had put down for me when he was serving. At the point, I had tears fill my eyes and then, suddenly, I put my knuckles to my mouth to suppress a sob. I finally let myself go and cried.
I felt what seemed to be a thousand pair of arms around me.
It had taken a few weeks, but I felt myself slowly adjust to prison life and turn back to normal. I let myself, slowly as first, out of my isolation and talked to the other prisoners of the camp. So far, most had treated me with respect and gave me distance and privacy. Most knew that I was in a horrible place before Stalag 13 and never asked what had happened. Rob said that, someday, when I was ready, to tell him about my misadventures.
Which reminds me…the pictures that Newkirk took from Hozellenan’s black bag came back to haunt me. Now everyone in the camp knows of my relationship with Rob, which has never bothered me until now. This is all in thanks to Newkirk, who has graciously passed them around. Most just scowled at me and walked off; they don’t care about my life or even the pictures. Others inquire, especially for the embarrassing stories. Mostly, it is just Carter and Newkirk asking and teasing us, those devils! Now I wish that they never found them!
My wounds never exactly healed, but since Klink allowed exercise, I, as time went on, went out of the barracks and join in a game of basketball or baseball or whatever the guys were playing. I had also learned, through the help of my friends here, to try to let go of my guilt for the deaths I had learned of. In turn, I have made myself available to anyone who needs to talk to me. I am always there to listen, console and offer advice when it’s wanted. Plus, being a nurse is an advantage, for they all trusted me when they fell sick.
Best of all, Father was safe, Rob was alive and I had the respect of many men in this camp, even Schultz and Klink (Schultz has told me that he often thinks of me as his daughter, which I took to be a compliment, which surprised him). It’s all I can be thankful for.
More importantly, I had joined the
Underground operation here on a permanent basis. I had no special talents,
other than being female and knowing German, Yiddish and Russian, but am always
there for anything Rob, the Underground and
And so it goes.
What was so funny about being here is the
way I was always eager to execute my duties to the Underground and
I almost went giddy with glee when our next
That night, I was ready and willing to go
back to where I started, in this game of spying. I’m feeling almost as ready
and willing to put my past behind me and move on with my life. I have mostly accepted
what has happened and am more than happy to save those in
I went to Rob’s quarters to prepare for the mission.
The Colonel put her pen down and looked out the slightly opened window. The day was going to be long and hot and the dawn’s sun was already proving it. Maybe Klink would let roll call be short today, she thought to herself, Maybe we can open the windows to the barracks this time too. Klink can’t be all that inhumane and cruel. I mean, I can’t strip the way the others can.
Her companion on the top bunk, Colonel Robert Hogan, had stirred from his sleep and rolled over in the direction of Colonel Michalovich. He looked down and smiled at her. “Been writing your grand speech to Klink about this heat and the medical supplies you need?” he joked. She nodded her head, smiled and tilted her head to laugh. She felt more in harmony and closer to Colonel Hogan and the men in this camp more than before.
Colonel Hogan jumped from his bunk and opened the window some more. He let the small breeze that come through miraculously and let it comb his hair. He grabbed Colonel Michalovich and held her against him to the breeze, enjoying another small moment with her. Shortly afterward, the bell rang for roll call. Both colonels quickly left each others’ grasps and went to get dressed, ready to put on another stoic face to their Germans captors.
As she watched Colonel Hogan leave to rouse his men, Colonel Michalovich looked back to her account. She took it, stuffed it hurriedly in her footlocker and left the room, confident that the Gestapo will never find her confession.
went outside to join the others at roll call. As she was walking out the door,
she softly sang a song that she and Colonel Hogan had written together when
they were but children in
Oh, but does she call to me from a feather
in the meadow, "Fly to me”
You can dance and sing and walk with me and dreams will fade and shadows grow in weed
She does as she pleases, she waits there for me
She does as she pleases, her heels rise for me
My love, she talks to winking windows as
she murmurs to her feet, thoughtfully
She separates in laughter to my side, caught for me
She does as she pleases, she waits there for me
She does as she pleases, her heels rise for me
Afterward: Again, I am grateful to those who have created these characters and the musicians who have written these lyrics, for the story will never be the same without them. I also want to apologize for those I offended in writing this story, for history is never the same, nor is it as vivid, as those who have witnessed it firsthand. I’m sorry that I have not gotten everything accurate or have invaded a part of history that should remain private. For all those who have read it, thank you! If you enjoyed this, I do have another story being written as we speak, part two. Again, thank you to all who have read this!
Text and original characters copyright 2007 by Emily Swearingen
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.