2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Original Character - Lieutenant Fleischer
No ownership of Hoganís Heroes characters is implied or inferred. Copyright belongs to others and no infringement is intended.
Give me a break!
Colonel Robert E. Hogan rolled his eyes, sighed, and settled in for the speech that had become almost a daily ritual. He cast a quick glance at the men standing on his left. All prisoners like himself, they each appeared to be having the same thoughts. Resignedly he turned his attention back to the camp Kommandant, Colonel Wilhelm Klink.
"As you are all aware, there has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13. There never has been, and there never will be. I rule this camp with an iron hand of discipline. It is time you men learned this. You all must resign yourself to the fact that for you, this war is over."
If only you knew, Kommandant. Unbeknownst to Klink and the other Germans in camp, Hogan was the leader of a complex sabotage and espionage operation based inside Stalag 13. While outwardly they maintained the appearance of regular POWís, in reality they were a top-notch fighting team, working with London and the local Underground to fight the Nazis on their own turf. It was an organization he was proud of.
Colonel Klink, characteristically unaware that his prisoners were not paying the least bit of attention to him, was still rambling. "This only goes to show the superiority of the German forces and the total ineffectiveness of the Allies."
Just wait a couple hours, and weíll see about that German superiority. Hogan allowed himself a brief smile at this thought. Three hours earlier he and his men had wired explosives to a nearby bridge. At precisely 0730 hours, a train carrying crucial supplies to the German troops on the Eastern front would cross that bridge. The train schedule had been confirmed and the timers had been set. At the right time, the explosives would go off, destroying both the bridge and the shipment. It was a system they used often, and with great success.
"That is all, men. Diiiiismissed!" Klink, satisfied that he had yet again shown the prisoners that he was in charge of the camp, turned around and strutted back to his office.
Hogan walked with the other prisoners towards the barracks. RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk stepped up beside him. "Blimey, I thought Ďe would go on all morning. Itís enough to drive a man daft, ainít it govínor?"
"I guess itís the price we have to pay..."
He was interrupted mid-sentence when a massive explosion ripped through the air, knocking the two men to the ground. Throwing their hands over their heads, they waited for the debris to stop falling. Finally, Hogan stood up and reached down to help Newkirk. "You all right, Newkirk?"
"Yeah, sure, govínor. But what was that all about?"
"Beats me, Newkirk. But explosions donít just happen. Go tell Kinch to radio the Underground and see if they had any sabotage planned. Then you and Carter get up on the roof and see if you can see any troop movements in the area. Iím going to go inside and see what Klink knows."
Hogan pulled the plug out of the coffeepot in frustration. The listening device had been designed by Hoganís radio operator, Sergeant Kinchloe, and it allowed them to listen to everything that happened in Klinkís office. The German guards never thought to suspect such a harmless looking object. "Nothing. Klink knows nothing."
"Does that surprise you, Colonel?" asked Corporal Louis Le Beau.
Hogan looked at the Frenchman in amusement. "No, but sometimes it would be nice if he knew something. It would make our job a whole lot easier. Maybe Kinch or Newkirk found out more than we did."
At that moment Newkirk walked in with Carter. "Nothing up there, Colonel Ďogan. No trucks, no troops, nothing."
"Well, we did see something," volunteered Carter. "We saw lots and lots of smoke. I mean tons of it. You couldnít have all that smoke without there having been a huge explosion, thatís for sure. I bet it was some really good dynamite, lots of it. And I bet they usedÖ"
"Carter!" Newkirk and Hogan both rolled their eyes in exasperation. Sergeant Andrew Carter was the munitions man, and he loved to demonstrate his knowledge of the subject he loved. But sometimes his excessive enthusiasm, coupled with a general lack of common sense, was hard to handle.
"Look, Andrew," explained Newkirk. "We know there was an explosion. We just donít know what it was."
"We do now," Sergeant Kinchloe said grimly. He joined the others and waved a paper in the air. "We just got news from the Underground, Colonel. I donít think youíre going to like it."
"Why, what did they say?" Hogan frowned.
"They said that we caused that explosion."
"What?" Hogan stood up abruptly and snatched the paper Kinch was holding.
"The bridge we wired last night just went up into a million pieces, almost two hours too early."
"Carter!" accused Le Beau. "You set the timer wrong!"
Carter seemed to shrink under the shorter manís glare. "I-Iím sure I set that timer right. I remember, I set it for five hours. Exactly five hours. UmÖI think."
"It wasnít Carterís fault!" Hogan snapped. "He knows what heís doing. And besides, I was there when he set it. He did it right."
Le Beau looked sheepishly at Carter. "Iím sorry, Carter. I should have known you would not make a mistake like that."
"Itís all right, I guess. If I were you, I would have blamed me, too."
"Look, weíll worry about blame later." Hogan opened the door to his barracks. "Iíd better go down and notify London."
Carter threw his cards down with a sigh. "I donít know about you guys, but Iím not really in the mood for a dumb old card game."
"No, me neither," said Newkirk. "I sure would Ďate to be in Colonel Ďoganís shoes right now."
"Wouldnít we all?" agreed Kinch. "But surely they have to know that it wasnít our fault. It was just a bad timer, thatís all. Couldnít be helped."
Hogan stepped out of the tunnel. He hit the top of the bunk bed two times, hard, to close the tunnel entrance. Le Beau looked at him knowingly. After all the time they had spent living in very close quarters, depending on each other for their very lives, it was not difficult to guess what was going through his commanding officerís mind at the moment. Le Beau knew that Hogan felt tremendous responsibility for the success of his operation. He demanded a lot of his men, and they gave it to him whole-heartedly. But he never demanded perfection of them-only himself.
"Colonel, itís not your fault." Le Beau tried to sound reassuring. "You can not blame yourself."
"I know. No one could have known that would happen." He sighed and leaned a hip against the table. "But even mistakes have consequences. That shipment was rerouted, and the Krauts will get their supplies. London canít get to it now. And that means that more of our boys are gonna get hurt, or worse."
"What about London? What did they say?" asked Carter, ignoring the scowls he received from the other men.
"Letís just say theyíre as happy about it as I am. One thingís for sure. Weíre not taking any chances with tomorrowís mission. Now I canít leave camp because General Burkhalter will be here to go over camp business with Klink. They shouldnít need me, but Klink might decide he wants to use me to show off in front of the General. I have to stay here. Newkirk, Carter, Le Beau, I want you to go."
"Oui, Colonel." Le Beau answered for the three of them.
Hogan walked over to the bunk by the door, reached behind the frame, and pulled down a map.
"At 1000 hours tomorrow, a train is going to pass through this tunnel." He pointed to a spot in the center of the map. "That train is carrying experimental rockets that the Krauts are planning to test in Dusseldorf. It is headed for the factoryÖhere. It is imperative that this train does not reach its destination."
"I bet I know what youíre thinking, Colonel." Carter looked at Hogan expectantly.
"Oh, is that so, Carter?" asked Hogan with practiced patience. "What am I thinking?"
"Well, the way I see it, we donít want to use those timers again. No siree, not if theyíre gonna go off too soon. So I bet you want us to wire the tunnel and wait, and when the train comes byÖKapow!"
"Your grasp of the obvious is astounding," muttered Le Beau.
"All right, thatís enough." Hogan put the map back in its place. "Are you guys clear about what to do?"
"Sure thing boy, I mean sir!" Carter grimaced when he realized the mistake he had madeóagain.
"Good," Hogan walked over and laid his hand on Carterís shoulder. "This oneís important, guys."
"Donít you worry about a thing, govínor," Newkirk reassured. "We wonít let you down."
Hogan walked into the barracks and looked around. This feels weird. He rarely ever had the place to himself. But with three of his men outside the camp, Kinch down in the tunnel, and the others engaged in a baseball game on the other side of camp, the place seemed eerily quiet. I might as well take advantage of this. He grabbed a book from his desk and jumped up on his bunk.
He shut the book with a sigh a few moments later. Iíve read this page five times and I still donít know what it says. He had to laugh a little. In earlier years he had often wished for more free time, time to do whatever he wanted. Now, after having spent almost two years working all hours of the day and night, surrounded by other people, Ďdoing nothingí had lost its appeal, and the silence was disconcerting.
Hogan hopped down from his bunk and stood uncertainly for a moment. Although the emptiness of the barracks was unusual, he had a feeling that it wasnít the only reason for the uneasiness he felt. Maybe thereís something elseÖ He wondered if anything new had come over the radio, then realized that Kinch would have come up to get him if that were the case. Finally, unable to figure out the reason for his pensive mood, he grabbed his jacket and hat and headed for the door. Might as well get some fresh air.
"Come on, Carter. We Ďavenít got all day!" Newkirk stopped to wait for the fumbling Sergeant to catch up. Adjusting the load he carried in his arms, he continued,
"I still donít see why we 'ad to bring all this stuff."
"Colonel Hogan said this was important. So Iím gonna make sure that we have everything we need." Carter defended himself.
Le Beau scoffed, "We could blow up three tunnels with these explosives. Come on, my arms are getting tired."
They continued through the woods, treading carefully, until Carter stopped and whispered, "Hey, guys, I think I hear something."
Le Beau and Newkirk paused to listen. After several moments of silence, Le Beau motioned for them to continue. "Thereís nothing here, Carter. Letís go. Weíre almost there."
Five minutes later, they reached the edge of the trees. Carter stopped again, causing Le Beau to crash into him. "Carter! You almost made me drop the explosives!"
"OhÖsorry! Itís just that I thought I heard something else."
Le Beau again stopped to listen, then sighed heavily and walked on, muttering loudly in his native tongue as he went. Carter listened a moment longer, then shrugged and joined his two comrades at the edge of the woods.
"All right, mates, thereís the tunnel. Le Beau, you and I can take this end, and Carter can start on the other end. Weíll meet in the middle."
After nodding his understanding, Carter jogged towards the far end of the tunnel, while Newkirk and Le Beau headed in the other direction. They had no sooner stepped out of the shelter of the woods when an enormous roar split the air and the tunnel disappeared in a sea of smoke and fire.
Le Beau reached out and pushed Newkirk to the ground, nearly falling on top of him and praying that Carter had not been too close to the explosion. After the noise from the fire subsided, he called out.
"Carter, are you all right?"
"Yeah." Carter got up shakily from the ground and walked over to Newkirk and Le Beau
"How about you guys?"
Newkirk stood up and reached out a hand to help Le Beau. "All right, I guess. What just Ďappened Ďere?"
"Gee, it looks to me like the tunnel exploded," Carter answered innocently.
Newkirk looked at him in amazement, and then, deciding it wasnít worth the effort to respond, changed the subject. "Look, you and Le Beau go wait for me in the woods. Iím just going to go have a quick look around."
"Oui, díaccord. We will be waiting there. Please be careful." Newkirk headed out, and Le Beau picked up his pack and turned back towards the shelter of the woods, Carter close at his heels. He was trying very hard not to think about what had just happened. But when they reached the woods and sat to wait for Newkirk, Carter forced his thoughts back to the subject.
"You know, I was just thinking. That wasnít an accident, was it Louis? Somebody did that on purpose."
"No, Andrew, it wasnít an accident." And I donít want to think about what it was. A chill swept through him as he suddenly realized what might have happened if Carter hadnít slowed them down.
Le Beau looked over and saw a confused, hurt expression on Carterís face. He wanted to say more, but the right words seemed impossible to find. So he simply sat next to his troubled friend.
The silence was finally broken by Newkirkís return.
"Well, I didnít find much. Whoever it was covered Ďis tracks pretty well. All I found were some footprints over there." He pointed to a spot at the edge of the woods, a short distance away from where the three of them had been when the explosion occurred.
"See, I told you I heard something!" Carter cried.
Le Beau looked at Carter, relieved to hear him sounding more like his normal self. "You did, and I am glad you stopped to look."
Carter was surprised at Le Beauís change of heart.
A look of understanding dawned across Newkirkís face as he realized the meaning of what Le Beau had just said. But his scowl quickly returned as he realized what had to be done next. "Come on. Weíve got to go tell Colonel Ďogan."
Carter flinched. This was the third crash from Hoganís quarters in the last five minutes. He didnít have to think too hard to know what that meant. "Boy, I guess we really blew it, huh?"
"No, Carter, thatís not it." Kinch had come up through the tunnel entrance shortly after Hogan stormed into his quarters and slammed the door behind him. He walked over to the stove and poured himself a cup of bitter coffee. "Itís just that London had a lot to say, and none of it was pretty."
Newkirk looked down from his perch on the bed where he lay. "Well, I canít say that I blame them, can you? Thatís two times somebody beat us to the punch. It does raise quite a few questions, doesnít it?" He realized he didnít really want to know the answer to most of them.
"Yeah, like what do we do now?"
"Thatís the question weíre all asking, Carter." No one had noticed Hogan open his door. He walked over to the table and took a seat. "I guess youíre wondering what our friends in London had to say."
As he unfolded the blue sheet of paper with the message on it, his mind registered the fact that it already looked worn. He fleetingly wondered how many times he had put it away, only to pull it out and look at it again.
He took a deep breath before speaking. "They suspect that we have a security problem. I have to say I agree. Somebody knows what weíre doing before we do it. It might be as simple as someone overhearing our transmissions. We are to use the emergency frequency and keep communications to a minimum." He looked at Kinch, who indicated that he understood. Hogan continued.
"You fellas know that probably isnít as simple as that. We have to find out whoís doing this." Hogan looked at the paper again and hesitated before reading the next part. "Will not tolerate another failure. Find problem and fix it immediately." He had to stop for a moment as he struggled to control the anger that rose within him. After all the times they had come through for London, accomplishing the impossible, London had the nerve to send a message like this, and to speak to him as if he were a disobedient child.
He folded the paper and slid it into his pocket. "We have one more shot, gentlemen. Those rockets made it to the factory. It is imperative that we destroy them before they can be used. Weíll have to take out that factory."
"But Colonel, what if it happens again?" Le Beau expressed the worry that also plagued the others.
"Even if it does, our mission is accomplished, right?" Carter looked at the other men to see if they saw it the way he did. Apparently none of them did. "I mean, the way I see it, even if somebody else blows it up, itís still destroyed. Itís not like a factory can be rerouted."
Hogan sighed, but took notice of the change Carterís comment made on the mood in the room. He decided to take advantage of it. He needed to break away so he could complete his other tasks.
"We still have to do it right, Carter," he said as he stood up. "And we still have to find our problem, but we can talk about all of this later on tonight. Right now I have to go meet Tiger and get information on the fortifications at the factory.
"If I may be so bold, govínor," Newkirk said as he hopped down from his bunk. "At a time like this I donít think it would be safe for you to go out there all by yourself. I Ďereby volunteer to accompany you."
"I appreciate your concern, Newkirk," Hogan replied, placing a hand on the Englishmanís shoulder. "But I think the fewer people involved, the better." Giving Newkirk a half-hearted smile, he turned towards the bunk that led to the tunnel.
Le Beau watched the entrance close. He tried to push back the fear that was gradually growing within him. Dangerous missions, he could handle. He could carry out crazy schemes that shouldnít work but somehow always did. He could live cooped up in these drab, overcrowded barracks. He could live without having many of the things he used to consider necessities. All of these things he could handle; after so long some of them had even become strangely comfortable. But he found the uncertainty, not knowing for sure who was a friend and who was the enemy, to be something he wasnít sure he could handle.
He looked up, surprised to feel a hand on his arm, and saw Newkirk smiling at him. Le Beau offered a grateful smile in return. It was comforting to know that, no matter what, there were four people he never had to wonder about.
Newkirk seemed to read Le Beauís thoughts, "Donít worry. Colonel Ďogan will find a way. Didnít you see that look in his eyes when he got up to leave? Iím sure that brilliant mind of his is workiní on a plan right now, and he needs Tigerís help to do it. She always comes through for us, doesnít she?"
"Oui, I suppose you are right," he sighed. Knowing that Hogan had a plan made the worries that were haunting him fade a bit.
Carter had been listening to the exchange. "Do you think we can trust her, Newkirk?"
"Of course, Andrew. If we canít trust Tiger, then who can we trust?"
Hogan returned later that night acting like a new man. Newkirk supposed that spending a couple of hours with the beautiful Underground agent would be apt to lift any manís spirits. But he also noticed the renewed confidence in Hoganís step and the look of determination in his eyes. Itís good to have Ďim back.
"Carter, Newkirk, Le Beauóin my office," he ordered. They followed him in, knowing the details of a new plan would be revealed shortly.
"Le Beau, I need you to come up with three Gestapo uniformsóone for a Captain and two for a Lieutenant. How soon do you think you can have them finished?"
"By tomorrow morning, Colonel."
"Good. Newkirk, I need orders authorizing three officers to post a security detail at the factory tomorrow."
"Righto, govínor. Piece of cake. I can have them finished tonight as well."
Newkirk knew that Hogan had a plan and he was eager to hear what it was. "Whatís on your mind, govínor?"
"I think I have a way to catch whoever is doing this. Now only a few people know what we have been doingónamely, London and the Underground. I suspect that someone in the Underground is trying to sabotage our operation."
"Why would they do that, Colonel?"
"I donít know, Newkirk. But right now itís the theory that makes the most sense, so itís the one weíre going to run with. I told Tiger that we plan to hit the factory tomorrow night."
"Surely you do not suspect Tiger!" Le Beau cried. A strong bond existed between the passionate Frenchman and his compatriot. Like him, she loved her country, and was determined to strike against the Germans any way she could. She would never betray the Underground, or their cause.
"No, Le Beau. Calm down. I donít suspect her. But if our culprit is in the Underground, he has more than likely gotten information from her in the past. She was, after all, the one who provided us with those train schedules. He would know that she was meeting with me and would try to find out when we planned to strike our next target. If he plans to undermine our mission in any way, I want him caught."
"She would not give him the information," Le Beau continued on stubbornly.
"Why shouldnít she?" asked Hogan. "I havenít told her whatís been going on here, so what reason would she have to suspect another member of the Underground?"
Le Beau visibly relaxed as he realized she was not being accused. "Sorry, Colonel. I had to defend her."
"I know, Le Beau." Hogan had long admired the passion and patriotism that Le Beau displayed. It made sense that he would defend the honor of any person who had a similar passion and was fighting for the same cause.
"So where do these other things fit in?" Carter asked, anxious to move on to the rest of Hoganís plan. "The uniforms, the papers, and all that?"
"Thatís easy," Hogan replied with a confidence he hadnít felt for a while. "You, Newkirk, and Le Beau will leave after noon roll call. Youíll go to the factory and present yourselves as Gestapo. You have received intelligence that a band of partisans is planning to strike in the very near future, and your job is to remain there and capture the saboteurs when they come. "
"But Colonel, wonít we be missed?"
"Donít worry, Carter. Kinch and I will cover for you."
"All right, let me get this straight," Newkirk said. "We go as Gestapo, waiting for our man. What are we supposed to do if Ďe shows up?"
"Youíll Ďarrestí him and bring him here," Hogan answered matter-of-factly. "If you run into trouble, the guards at the factory will assist you. You know how convincing the Gestapo can be when they want to be."
"And if no one shows up?" Carter asked.
"If I havenít heard from you by lights out, then I will leave and meet you at the factory. Carter, youíll need to prepare some explosive packs and I will bring them with me. Weíll blow the building and then beat it back to camp. Is this clear so far?"
The three men nodded.
"Good." He pulled out a pencil and a piece of paper. "All right, hereís what weíre gonna do."
Hogan stood with his back pressed against the wall. The day had passed without incident, and it was now time to carry out the second part of his plan. With his gun in hand, he cautiously glanced around the corner. Seeing no one but Newkirk, he proceeded.
"Howís everything going, Newkirk?" he whispered.
"No sign of anybody all day. Weíve been watching, govínor, but thereís been no movement out Ďere."
"Good." Hogan handed Newkirk a bag filled with dynamite and wire. "Go get Carter and Le Beau, and place this where I showed you last night. Iíll wire the outside of the building. If it looks like thereís going to be any trouble, get out of there, and fast. Is that understood?"
"Okay, weíll all meet here in exactly thirty minutes. Get going."
Newkirk scrambled off to get Carter and Le Beau, and Hogan went in the opposite direction, careful to stay in the shadows. He worked quickly but carefully, affixing the bundles Carter had created to the parts of the building where he believed they would cause the most damage. Finally, satisfied that he had done all he needed to do, he started back the way he came.
The sound of the familiar voice stopped him in his tracks. What is Tiger doing here?
Another urgent whisper. "Colonel Hogan, you must come here!" Sheís not supposed to be here. This is wrong.
Every instinct in Hoganís body told him that he was in danger, that he should turn around and run for his life. He almost did. But his sense of duty and honor was stronger than his fear. This woman had on more than one occasion risked her life to save his. He could not leave her here to die while he ran. He knew he had to help her, and, having made his decision, turned to carry it out.
He saw her in the shadows. The vision was short-lived.
The image of her face was replaced by a thousand shards of light. As he fell to the ground, the warning bells that had been clanging so loudly fell silent, and the painful light receded into unfeeling darkness.
"We canít wait any more. We Ďave to go and look for Ďim." Hogan had not met them at the designated place, which most likely meant that he had run into trouble. Newkirk didnít know whether he had been caught, or run into another kind of problem, and he didnít like either possibility. "How much time do we Ďave, Carter?"
"Ten minutes. Boy, I hope we can find him fast!"
"Yeah, me too. Letís go!" They took off in the direction Hogan had gone. Newkirk led the others, his fear increasing with every passing second. If Hogan had been captured, he knew there would not be much time to find him and get him out before the explosives went off. To leave their commanding officer behind would be unfathomable. To stay could be fatal.
Newkirk knew there was no question about it. He would never consider leaving Hogan behind, and knew the others wouldnít either. So he moved on, forcing himself to walk. The urge to break out at a full run was tempered only by the awareness that there were Germans around.
They rounded the corner, and, now out of sight from any who might be walking by or casually looking out a window, they broke into a run, their eyes scanning every shadow and corner.
They almost missed him.
Newkirk spotted him first. He saw an odd shape in the darkness, several feet to the left. He couldnít tell what it was, so he went closer. At first he could only make out vague images. A hand. A face. Blood. He stumbled to a halt as he recognized the man lying on the ground.
No. No! Newkirk stood in shock for a moment, scenes of the past dayís events flashing through his mind. A hand reaching to help him up in the compound. A planning session. A promise. Donít you worry about a thing, govínor. We wonít let you down. A tunnel disappearing before their eyes. The message from London. Hogan trying to conceal his anger and humiliation. Fitting the Gestapo uniform. A pat on the back. "Good luck." His eyes searching all day for any sign of their mysterious person.
And I missed him.
Newkirk called to the others and they came running up behind him. Tentatively he reached out a hand to feel Hoganís pulse, and he sighed in relief when he felt it.
His mind raced to come up with a plan. Newkirk felt horribly inadequate in this area. He was rarely the one to come up with the ideas, and this one had to work.
"Halt! What are you doing?"
Carter thought his heart would stop. For a second he froze. All his mind could think of was the clock ticking down on the timers. Less than five minutes!
He motioned for Newkirk and Le Beau to lay down the injured man, and then turned to face the guards. "You will be pleased to know that we have captured a saboteur." Carter looked at the still, black clad figure and sneered, "As you can see, he will offer no further resistance." He chuckled to himself as if enjoying a private joke, and his eyes took on a cold, cruel glint. "We have taken care of that. He will be taken back to Gestapo Headquarters. Rest assured that when he wakes upóif he wakes up, we will find out exactly what he was doing here." He looked down at the prisoner with undisguised contempt.
The two guards stood motionless. They had dealt with the Gestapo many times, and they had no doubt that this particular officer would get the information he wanted.
Carter continued, now warmed up to his role. "What are your names?"
The two stood at straight attention. "Sergeant Mueller and Sergeant Richter, Herr Hauptman," the taller of the two men answered.
"I will remember you." He paused and looked them over with a calculating stare, an action that sent a chill through the two Sergeants. "You are to be commended for your cooperation today. I will make mention of your names in my report."
The two guards relaxed visibly.
"Now, put this prisoner in the car. Schnell!"
The Germans jumped to carry out his order. Newkirk stepped out of the way and willed himself to appear emotionless. He didnít dare look at Le Beau, who he suspected was having the same struggle.
He watched as they carelessly lifted Hogan off the ground, and tried not to cringe when they tossed him roughly into the back seat. No one knew what injuries he had sustained. The head wound was all they could see right now, and there hadnít been time to do a thorough exam. Newkirk hoped fervently that this rough handling would not aggravate any of his injuries.
The task was done, and the two guards turned to face Carter.
"That will be all. You may return to your posts now," Carter said, his clipped tone clearly indicating that the matter was finished. The Sergeants saluted and walked hastily back to the factory.
Newkirk raced to the driverís side. He threw the door open and slid behind the wheel. Hogan lay sprawled on the back seat. Carter reached in and gently lifted Hoganís head so that Le Beau could slip into the back, then, after slamming the door shut, ran to get into the front seat. The car took off before he could close his door.
Newkirk pushed the car as fast as it would go. "How much time, Carter?"
"Iíd say about ten seconds."
True to Carterís prediction, the factory went up in a ball of flame only moments later, sending out a shockwave that caused the car to swerve violently on the road. Newkirk fought for control of the vehicle, and Le Beau tried to hold Hoganís body still as he was rocked with the motion of the car.
Carter just sat in the front and prayed.
Finally, Newkirk was able to stabilize the car, and he slowed his speed to a more normal level. For a moment, time stood still, everyone grateful just to be alive.
Newkirk glanced into the rearview mirror and saw Le Beau sitting quietly, his lips moving in a silent prayer. He hasnít said a word since we found Colonel Ďogan. Le Beau now sat with the Colonelís head cradled in his lap, his handkerchief pressed against the still bleeding wound.
"How is Ďe, Louis?"
"His pulse is stable, but he is still bleeding, and his skin is cold to the touch. We need to get him back to camp, fast."
He stood in the shadows, fuming, cursing softly to himself. It had almost been perfect. Tiger had performed beautifully, and, after so much planning, he finally had Hogan right where he wanted him. If I had only had thirty more seconds.
Then the other men had shown up, and ruined everything.
He watched the tall American order the dimwitted guards to place Hogan in the car, and a malicious smile crossed his face as the seed of an idea started growing in his mind. An idea that would give him exactly what he wanted. Tiger can help with this one, too.
Whistling to himself, he turned and walked away.
Hogan awoke in a panic. His body tensed as his mind screamed at him to run, to move, to go anywhere except where he was, a command that his body was unwilling to obey. Through a haze of pain, he struggled to make out his surroundings. He found his vision blurry, and the objects around him seemed to be alive, pulsing, moving in cadence with the pounding in his head.
He felt something cool and wet being pressed against his face as a hand gently grabbed hold of his own. Someone was calling his name. As he became more aware, he realized that he wasnít in imminent danger, and, as his body relaxed, his breathing gradually slowed and his heart rate began to return to a normal level. The voice gently called his name again. ~Kinch?~
Finally he realized where he was, and as he closed his eyes, a feeling of peace overtook him, and he slipped into a tranquil sleep.
Kinch returned the cloth back to the basin of water, and then sat and looked at Hogan for a quiet moment. It was unnerving to see him lying so completely still.
When he first heard Hogan stir, he had hoped that the man would awaken and relieve the worry they all felt, and be able to give them some much needed answers. Seeing Hoganís first reactions when awakingóthe rapid, shallow breathing, the rigid, tense body, the sweat that broke out on his brow, and the moaning, had only raised more questions. What happened to you, Colonel? It seemed that Kinchís touch and his voice had set Hoganís mind at ease, and now he was resting peacefully.
When Sergeant Wilson had finished his examination, he left instructions on what to do when Hogan awoke. Wilson didnít expect him to be unconscious much longer. Kinch, Carter, Newkirk, and Le Beau had all wanted to stay by Hoganís side, but Wilson had stated firmly that only one should stay. It would be too overwhelming to the injured man to wake up to a room full of noisy, anxious people. Kinch had won the argument.
So there he sat, with nothing to do but wait. His mind was working overtime, trying to think of a way to explain Hoganís condition to Colonel Klink. There was only an hour until roll call, and there was no way Hogan would be able to appear normal. Kinch and the others would have to cover for him.
Eventually, his own fatigue won out over his troubled mind, and he dozed off. A faint moaning sound woke him up several minutes later. He moved to Hoganís side, as before, ready to help make what he hoped was the journey into consciousness as comfortable as possible.
Carter flipped over onto his back with a heavy sigh. He had been unable to sleep all night. He figured that it was partly from the excitement of the evening. It had certainly been a harrowing experience. But there was something else, something he couldnít quite put his finger on.
Shifting yet again, he leaned up on one elbow and looked into the darkened barracks. His brow furrowed in concentration as his eyes scanned the darkness. Over and over again, he went over the scene at the factory, analyzing every detail, replaying every movement, and listening to every sound in the night.
Still unable to quiet his troubled spirit, he lay back down, but there would be no sleep. He was exhausted, but his mind was wide awake, telling him that there was something he had missed, something that he needed to remember.
"Öacht, neun, zehn, elfÖ"
Sergeant Hans Schultz, the Sergeant of the guards at Stalag 13, stopped in the middle of his counting and looked at Hogan critically.
"Whatís the matter, Schultzie? Forgot what comes after elf?" Newkirk teased.
Newkirkís question was rewarded with laughter from several of the assembled men, but Schultz ignored the ribbing and continued to stare appraisingly at Hogan, who looked back at him disinterestedly. Schultz noticed that Hogan looked pale, and he was shivering. The weather had been uncharacteristically warm, and although it was still early morning, there was no chill in the air. Schultz, by now concerned, was about to ask Hogan what was wrong when Klink came up behind him.
"Repooooooort!" Klink demanded of the Sergeant.
"All present and accounted for, Herr Kommandant." Schultz wanted to continue, but Klink had already started his morning speech.
The Kommandant had hardly spoken two sentences before he, too, noticed his senior POW officerís appearance. He stepped up and stood mere inches from Hogan.
"Colonel Hogan, you do not seem like your normal cheerful self today," Klink said sarcastically. He waited for a smart answer from the American, and was surprised when he got no response at all.
Kinch watched Hogan with growing concern. He looked as if he was barely managing to stand. Kinch had tried to keep him from coming out to roll call, but Hogan, stubborn to the end, would hear nothing of it. It was time to get him back inside.
"Heís been really sick, Kommandant," Kinch said. "Heís been up all night. We tried to get him to stay in bed, but he insisted on coming out for roll call."
Klink, his strong and ever present instinct for self-preservation kicking in, quickly backed away. "If you are sick, Colonel Hogan, you should be in bed. I suggest you listen to your men. Dismissed!"
Newkirk and Le Beau rushed to Hoganís side. "Here, let us help you, Colonel," Le Beau insisted. They each grabbed an arm, fully expecting an argument, and were surprised when Hogan quietly allowed himself to be led.
They had barely made it inside the barracks when Hoganís face turned a deathly shade of white, and, with an anguished moan, he collapsed. Le Beau and Newkirk struggled to hold him up, and with the help of Kinch and Carter, they gently carried him into his quarters and laid him on the bottom bunk.
They all stood uncertainly for a moment.
Kinch was the first to move. "Iíll go get Wilson."
Le Beau sighed and walked out into the common room. He threw himself down on his bunk and stared blankly at the slats of the bed above him. Newkirk sat at the table and shuffled his deck of cards. He laid out a game of Solitaire, and unable to concentrate, shuffled the cards againÖand again.
Carter was the only one to remain in the small office. He stood silently and looked down at the motionless man lying before him. Please wake up, Colonel Hogan. We need you to get better. We need you to tell us what happened. He turned to walk away, and then looked back once more. Heck, we just need you.
Le Beau gave up on the letter he had been trying to write when he heard Wilson open the door to Hoganís quarters. For all his effort, he hadnít been able to get past "mon cher." He set his pencil down and quietly asked, "What happened to him, Wilson?"
Wilson sighed heavily, then took a seat at the table where Kinch and Le Beau were sitting. "He was awake for a few minutes and then passed out again. Itís probably just as well. It would have been uncomfortable for him to be awake while I was treating him."
No one spoke. Wilson looked around at the anxious faces in the room, then turned back to Le Beau. "As for what happened to himóhe canít remember. He remembers leaving here, and thatís it." He was quick to continue when he noticed the panicked looks on some of the faces. "Now, thatís not unusual. Victims of head trauma often forget the incidents that happen shortly before they were injured. He may remember in time. Or then again, he may not."
His words served to provide partial relief. Le Beau had imagined something much worse.
"But he didnít really have to tell me. His injuries speak for themselves."
This was what they had all been waiting for. Wilson had treated the officer when he had first arrived, but had not provided much detail about the Colonelís condition. He had only said that he wanted to be notified when Hogan woke up. That hadnít been possible, since he awakened so close to roll call.
"Well, what is it?" asked Kinch. "What happened to him?"
Wilson looked down at his hands, unsure of which words he should use to explain what he knew.
"I can tell you that he was attacked by more than one person. And I donít think that the people who did this were simply trying to incapacitate him."
"What do you mean?" Carter had been sitting on his bunk, his back against the wall, the sock he had been pretending to mend lying forgotten in his lap. "You mean they were really trying to hurt him?"
"It would appear that way," Wilson replied. He hadnít told them everything at first, but Hoganís insistence on getting up convinced Wilson that, for the Colonelís sake, his men needed to know. If the stubborn officer would not take care of himself, someone else would have to make sure that he was taken care of.
"He was hit in the head with a blunt object. That alone would have undoubtedly left him down and out. Then he was kicked in the ribs, back, and legs."
The silence in the room was palpable as the men tried to process what Wilson had just said.
"So he was defenseless when all of this happened to him," Kinch said in a hushed voice. "He didnít have a chance to fight back."
"No, he didnít," Wilson answered. A myriad of unanswered questions raced through his mind. Why had Colonel Hogan been assaulted in the first place? And why did his attackers continue after their victim was unconscious? Wilson knew that Hoganís injuries could have been much worse. It didnít appear that his assailants were trying to kill him. But he had to wonder what would have happened if Hogan's men hadn't shown up when they did.
Wilson looked at the other men, and decided to keep his questions to himself for the moment. They didnít look as if they understood it any more than he did.
"Let me tell you what to expect," Wilson continued, willfully forcing his wayward thoughts back to the present. "You will need to take care of himówhether he wants the help or not." Wilson heard Newkirk muttering a sarcastic comment from his position by the door, and ignored it. "He should wake up sometime within the next couple of hours, but you can expect him to fall asleep often and without warning. When he does wake up, he will most likely be disoriented, nauseous, and dizzy. There may also be other side effects that we are not aware of yet."
Wilson watched to make sure that the men understood what he was saying before he went on. "Colonel Hogan aggravated his injuries when he passed out after roll call. I do not want him to get up without me giving the okay first. I know that heís not used to taking the orders around here, but for his sake, I want you to make sure he follows mine."
Le Beau nodded. "We will do what we need to do."
Newkirk quickly closed the door and ran to the table. "Schultz is coming!"
Le Beau leaned over and whispered in Wilsonís ear just as Sergeant Schultz opened the door and walked in.
"Heís asleep right now, and he shouldnít be disturbed. Heíll need lots of rest to get better. When he does wake up, make sure that he gets plenty of fluids. Take his temperature every few hours, and let me know if it doesnít go down by tomorrow morning."
Le Beau and Newkirk were both earnestly listening to the medicís directions. Wilson stood up and looked hard at them. "Take good care of him."
They nodded, understanding the real meaning behind the words. Wilson cast one final look at Hoganís door, then turning, nodded to Schultz and walked out of the barracks.
Schultz looked at Carter. "Colonel Hogan is still sick?"
"Yeah, Schultz. Heís been sleeping since roll call," Carter answered. He jumped up when Schultz started for Hoganís door. "Wilson said we shouldnít disturb him," he rushed to say.
Schultz looked at Carter curiously. "I wonít wake him up, Carter. I just want to check on him."
"What, did the old Bald Eagle send you to make sure Ďe was really sick?" Newkirk asked sarcastically.
Schultz chuckled. "Bald EagleÖ" He regained his composure quickly, though, and answered. "No, I was just worried about him this morning. He did not look well. He was shivering, and it wasnít even cold outside." He opened the door to Hoganís quarters and stepped in quietly. Newkirk, Le Beau, Kinch, and Carter followed. Hogan was lying on the bottom bunk, his face pale and his breathing quiet and even. Le Beau saw that there was no other outward sign of injury that Schultz could see from his vantage point. Thank God for small blessings.
Schultz looked carefully at Colonel Hogan. He had walked in expecting to find a sleeping man, which he did. But something didnít seem quite right. He looked more carefully, and saw a bit of blood on Hoganís pillow. He must have been injured last night. Hogan had been fine the evening before, and had even joked with Schultz and given him three candy bars for no reason at all. Coincidentally, Schultz had, for no reason at all, decided not to notice that there were three other men sleeping where Newkirk, Carter, and Le Beau ought to have been. There was always some monkey business going on with these men, and Schultz had become quite adept at seeing nothing about a great many things. But now he wondered if he should see, and say something about, Hoganís condition, especially if he needed medical attention. If the man was unconsciousÖ
But then he recalled the conversation Klink had been having on the phone a few moments ago with the Gestapo. Klinkís side of the conversation had consisted of promises of assistance and assurances of loyalty. Through all of the blubbering, Schultz had somehow been able to figure out that there had been some rather unusual sabotage activity in the area, and they wanted Klink to keep his eyes and ears open.
Schultz realized that if he reported Hoganís condition, the American would probably end up with much more serious injuries than he had at the moment. The Gestapo enjoyed Ďgetting the truth.í Sometimes, Schultz thought with disgust, they relished the process of extracting the truth more than the idea of actually finding it. He made his decisionóhe would say nothing, for now.
Schultz turned to the prisoners. "You should clean up that blood. Kommandant Klink might see it." Then, ignoring their stunned expressions, he turned and silently exited the barracks.
Le Beau mumbled to himself in rapid French as he prepared lunch. Today he would make soup. It wasnít a particularly cold day, but he hadnít had the weather in mind when planning the menu. Colonel Hogan had awakened about an hour before and had since fallen asleep, but Wilson said he wouldnít be asleep for very long this time. The soup would be easy for him to eat when he woke up.
The morning had been filled with quiet talking at the table in the common room. New questions were piling onto the ones that remained unanswered, and each person seemed to have his own theory on what was happening and differing ideas on what should be done about it. As seemed to be the norm lately, the discussion turned into an argument, feelings got hurt, and each had gone his separate way. Kinch had walked out first, with the excuse of wanting some fresh air, and Newkirk followed shortly after.
Carter was the only other person who had stayed, and Le Beau found himself fervently wishing that the young Sergeant had followed the others, and left him alone. Finally, his frayed nerves couldnít take any more, and, striking his knife against the cutting board, he looked up in exasperation. "Carter, if you must insist on whistling that stupid tune, please be kind enough to go somewhere else and do it!"
He regretted the words as soon as he said them. Carter had been the only one who hadnít argued his point of view. He mostly just sat and listened. Le Beau realized that Carter hadnít said much all day, and that was not like him at all. He set the knife down and wiped his hands on his apron.
"Iím sorry Andrew." He motioned to a spot on the bunk. "Can I sit here?" Carter nodded and made room for Le Beau, who continued carefully. "I should not have snapped at you. Iím sorry." Carter again nodded, but didnít say anything. Le Beau tried again to get him to speak. "That was a nice song. What was it?"
Carter shrugged and sighed heavily. "It bothers me."
Le Beau laid a sympathetic arm around his friend. "I know, mon ami. It bothers me too. But do not worry. After everybody has some time alone, things will go back to normal again."
Carter looked surprised. "No, the song. Itís bothering me. Itís stuck in my head, but I donít know what it is."
"Oh." Le Beau didnít really know what to say. Fortunately, he didnít have to think of a reply.
Newkirk opened the door and poked his head in. "Schnitzer is here, and he gave the signal. We need a diversion."
Kinch leaned against the barracks wall and watched as Le Beau and Carter shouted at each other.
He couldnít make out much of what was being said, but it didnít matter. He figured that most of the argument consisted of rapidly shouted French and an equally loud "Oh yeah? Well, same to you, pal!"
The mock argument was drawing quite a bit of attention from the other prisoners. When Sergeant Schultz rushed over to break it up, Newkirk would make his move and go talk to Schnitzer.
Oskar Schnitzer, the elderly veterinarian who changed the dogs at Stalag 13, worked for the Underground and also worked closely with Hoganís men. Fortunately for the prisoners, his Ďviciousí German shepherd dogs had been trained to recognize Allied uniforms, and they were friendly to the prisoners. Schnitzer was essential to the operation, but not only because he provided them with tame dogs. He also regularly brought downed airmen into camp, and occasionally he smuggled people out of camp as well. The signal probably meant that he had a person for them to get out of Germany. The prisoners had never questioned his loyalty. In the midst of the mess they were in, they still felt that they could trust him implicitly. Well, at least thatís one thing we agree on.
Kinch turned his attention from the diversion to the dog truck and was surprised to see that Newkirk and Schnitzer were still talking. Upon closer inspection, he realized that they actually appeared to be arguing. Well, this seems to be the day for it.
The diversion came to an end, and Newkirk stalked back towards the barracks. Schnitzer got in the truck and drove away. No one noticed that he had forgotten to switch the dogs.
This was turning out to be too easy.
It had taken a long time, a great deal of planning, and a lot of patience. It had not been easyóin fact, it had been painstaking work, but he had finally earned the trust of the Underground members. Tiger had been the most cautious, had taken the most work, but eventually he had won her over as well. It had not been difficult to find out about Hoganís plans.
He had been surprised to see her at the factory last night. The only reason he could think of for her to be there would be there was to warn Hogan. His plan had been to go and take Hogan. He had let his men have a little fun with him, but stopped them before they could go too far. He didnít want Hogan to be too badly injured. They had almost gotten away undetected, when Hoganís men showed up. He had considered overpowering them, killing them there or leaving them to die in the explosion. But that would have been too easy. And what purpose would it serve?
He could wait. He was a very patient man, and his patience always paid off. It would pay off once more. The seed of an idea planted in his brain last night had started to grow, and as it grew, he saw the possibilities before him. A plan was formingóa plan that would give him exactly what he had been working for. Now he saw that Tigerís unexpected appearance could be a very good thing. She would be useful to him once more.
What better way to accomplish his goal than to have the Underground and the Stalag 13 operation at odds with each other? He knew that it would work, that it was already working to some extent. He had seen the look in Hoganís eyes, the debate, the question of whether to stay or run, to trust or doubt.
Now he would carry it even further. It had not been too difficult to suggest to Schnitzer that Tiger was in trouble. Well, she is in trouble, he thought with a malicious grin. He had told the old man that Tiger was supposed to meet Hogan at a factory for a sabotage mission and hadnít come back, and had suggested, ever so subtly, that she might have even been afraid to go. Now the old fool was probably on his way to Stalag 13, thinking he would leave with answers, when in reality he would only leave with more questions.
This was too perfect. And so much fun!
He turned his thoughts back to Tiger and smiled again. It was time to get some answers of his own.
Hogan woke from his dream with a start. He opened his eyes slowly, and let out a long, low moan as he was bombarded by all the signals his body was sending him. His mind, through a haze of fog, was trying to figure out his surroundings. He could tell that he was in his bed. But he couldnít remember the reason why he should be in so much pain. Every part of his body seemed to be warring for his attention. Sharp pains stabbed his legs and his back. His chest was tight, and every breath was difficult. But the headacheóthe headache soon overpowered everything else.
He blinked his eyes several times, but the room would not come totally into focus. Through the pounding in his ears, he tried to make out sounds coming from outside his door. Everybody seemed to be talking very loudly. Hogan tried to sit up, and was forced back down by the waves of pain and nausea that rolled over him, threatening to overwhelm him. As blackness surrounded his vision, he closed his eyes and stayed as still as he could, willing himself to stay conscious. Eventually the waves subsided and the pain dulled slightly. He forced his thoughts away from his body and tried to recall what had happened to him. The factory. Newkirk. NewkirkÖ He remembered handing the bag to Newkirk, and after that, nothing. The inability to remember frightened Hogan more than the pain.
The strain of trying to force memories left him feeling very tired. He closed his eyes and was drifting off to sleep when the images from his dream began to flash through his mind. He was suddenly very much awake. What was Tiger doing there? Is she okay? The second question bothered him more than the first. All he could see in his mind, over and over again, was Tiger, frightened and calling to him for help.
A soft knock interrupted his troubled thoughts. He tried to speak, but couldnít make the words coming from his parched throat sound like more than a whisper. The door opened and Le Beau hesitantly poked his head in.
"Colonel?" Seeing that Hogan was awake, Le Beau walked in, carrying a cup of steaming liquid in his hand. "How are you feeling?"
"Donít ask," Hogan managed to rasp.
"Here, I brought you some soup." Le Beau saw that Hogan was going to decline and said, "Wilson said you needed it." He knew he was stretching the truth a little, but Wilson had told them to take care of the Colonel. "And we promised to look after you."
Hogan had a vague memory of Wilson being in his room. Obviously the medic had set out to make sure that his patient would be taken care of in his absence. Hogan looked at Le Beau, at the furrowed brow and the set chin. He had a feeling that if the little Frenchman werenít holding the hot soup, his arms would be crossed and his shoulders hunched as well. Wilson had chosen a good person for the job.
The last thing Hogan felt like doing was eating, but he didnít have the energy to fight. "Okay, Le Beau," he said softly.
Le Beau was slightly startled that Hogan had acquiesced so quickly, but decided to take full advantage of it. "Here," he said, setting down the cup and walking to where Hogan lay. "Let me help you sit up." Hogan, with his teeth clenched and his eyes squeezed shut, tried unsuccessfully to stifle the moans the movement caused. Le Beau discreetly ignored the sounds, and soon Hogan was propped up against the wall.
With Le Beau standing closer, Hogan could now see him more clearly. There was more to his expression than just the stubbornness that he had detected a moment ago. "What is it, Le Beau?" Hogan asked.
Le Beau turned his eyes away and answered softly, "Nothing, Colonel." He picked up the soup and sat down beside the bed. "Here, you need to eat this."Hogan wasnít going to let him off the hook that easily. "Spill it, Louis," he said, trying unsuccessfully to sound commanding. "Youíre upset about something. What is it?"
Le Beau hesitated, not having a ready answer. It turned out he would not need to find one for a while. Hoganís head bowed and he fell asleep. Le Beau gently lowered him onto the bed again, then, with a weary sigh, turned and closed the door quietly behind him.
Carter walked aimlessly around the compound. He couldnít take the arguing anymore. Ever since Schnitzer had come, all anyone did was argue. It had been bad before, but now it was terrible. Carter hadnít participated in the bickering. It was funny, in a way. Everybody always told him that he talked too much, but now that he wasnít talking at all, everyone was talking so much themselves that they didnít even notice.
Most of the fighting was about Tiger. Newkirk was sure she was to blame for all of their recent disasters. Le Beau defended her ferociously. Kinch was trying to be the voice of reason, but Carter thought he pretty much agreed with Newkirk. Carter didnít say anything at all. It didnít matter anyway. He knew it wasnít Tiger. But he didnít know how he knew, so there was no point in trying to explain. No one would listen to him anyway.
He was worried about Tiger, though. If she was missing, someone needed to be looking for her. But everyone was too angry to be thinking about that, so he didnít even try. He just wished he could remember what it was he had seen or heard that night. There was something, he just knew it. If he could only remember, maybe things would get better.
Le Beau paced back and forth in the tunnel. He had slipped down here quietly and, he hoped, unnoticed. He desperately needed to be alone. He needed some time to think. He needed some peace.
The strain of the past week was wearing heavily on him. In a matter of days, the world he thought he knew had turned upside down. Le Beau laughed bitterly to himself as he leaned against the tunnel wall. It hadnít been that secure to begin with. Living in a prison camp as a regular POW was hard enough. He could remember well his first few months here. The boredom and tedium were oppressive. It would have been easier if they could see an end in sight. But none of them knew if they would be out next yearÖor never. Boredom and the fear of the unknown are slow killers.
Then Colonel Hogan had arrived, and things started to change. Now the boredom was replaced by action, and the long stretch of time didnít seem quite so terrible when he knew they were doing something active to speed along the end.
Nothing replaced the fear.
Now the world that he had come to find comfortableÖLe Beau started pacing again as he pondered that word. Comfortable. Never having enough sleep. Going out every night, wondering some nights if you would be coming back. Living in cramped, cold, dirty barracks with over a dozen other men. It was funny that he could think of it as comfortable. But it was the life he knew at the moment, and the life he thought he had figured out was changing again. No missions. Enough sleep. No sneaking around. His commanding officer was injured, his friends were fighting, Carter wasn't talking, the operation was at a standstill, and the reason was a mystery.
Le Beau turned and headed back to the ladder, the peace he sought eluding him once again.
Hogan slowly lowered himself down into the chair, although it was incredibly painful to do so. The short visit he had with Le Beau had left him with a very bad feeling. Le Beau was angry and hurt, and Hogan guessed that it had something to do with the raised voices he had heard earlier. He had ordered them earlier to gather together and come meet with him all at once. He knew that if he was going to sort it out, he would be sitting up when he did. He would not lead from a bed. He heard the expected knock on the door. Le Beau was the first one in, and immediately started to protest when he saw Hogan out of bed. Hogan merely held a hand up for silence and waited as they filed into the room.
Le Beau and Carter sat on the bed, but Kinch crossed over and stood by the window, and Newkirk leaned against the door sullenly. No one was making eye contact.
Hogan sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers. "Okay guys, there are a lot of questions I want answered. First of all, I want to know whatís going on between you." They all started talking at once. "Hold it!" Hogan said, trying to sound authoritative. It didnít come out at all like he had intended, but the men quieted down anyway. "Now one at a time, what happened?"
Kinch spoke calmly, something that Hogan appreciated immensely. "Well, Colonel, Schnitzer paid us a little visit today."
Hogan raised an eyebrow. "Really? What did he bring us?"
"Thatís just it. He didnít bring anything, but he was asking a lot of questions."
"Like, where is Tiger?"
"What do you mean?" Hoganís brow furrowed. "The Underground doesnít know where she is?"
"Schnitzer said that Tiger had gone to meet you at the factory, that you told her to be there. He said she was afraid to go in the first place, but she went anyway, and now sheís missing. He told Newkirk that he heard rumors that we might have had something to do with her disappearance."
Hogan looked puzzled. "She wasnít supposed to be there," he said, more to himself than to Kinch.
Le Beau jumped up and turned to Newkirk. "See, I told you she was not there!"
"Le Beau!" Hogan snapped. Le Beau clamped his mouth shut and sat down sullenly, but he still glared at Newkirk. Hogan continued quietly. "She wasnít supposed to come, but she did."
The men sat in silence for a stunned moment. Having this confirmedóthis put things in a new, uncertain light. "You remember what happened, Colonel?" Le Beau asked uncertainly.
Hogan nodded, then wished fervently that he hadnít as he felt the pounding in his head intensify. "She was frightened," he said, almost in a whisper. "She was scared to death. I could see it on her face, hear it in her voice." He looked at Kinch. "You said she hasnít come back?"
"No, sir." Kinch couldnít help but notice the fine layer of perspiration on Hoganís face, but he knew that saying something would be pointless.
"Are you sure, govínor?" Newkirk asked. "About Ďer being afraid, I mean."
"Positive." Hogan rubbed his temples, oblivious to the worried glances the men were giving him. It hurt to think, but he was starting to get an idea. Out of the hundreds of thoughts that were bouncing around inside his head, one of them made the most sense.
"Kinch," he said, looking up, "I want you to contact Schnitzer. Le Beau, you go out tomorrow night and bring him in through the tunnel. I want to talk to him myself."
"Yes, sir," Kinch and Le Beau said in unison.
Hogan felt dizzy, and he knew he should probably lie down. He would in a minute, he told himself. He just had to take care of one more thing first. "But before you do anything else, I want you to patch things up amongst yourselves. We have enough to deal with." Hogan noted absentmindedly that Le Beau had become a red blur. "We donít need to be fighting with each other like children."
Hogan heard his voice starting to slur, and wondered if anyone else heard it, too. His vision dimmed, and he felt as if he were falling in slow motion. He heard his men coming towards him, and vaguely wondered if they would be able to catch him before he hit the ground. He was aware of strong arms around him, and then of nothing at all.
Moments later, Kinch looked up from the still form of his commanding officer and looked apprehensively at the others. Gesturing to the door, he said, "I guess we need to talk."
They shuffled out quietly and settled down in the common room. No one seemed willing to break the uncomfortable silence that hung in the air. They looked at each other guiltily, but eye contact was soon broken as everyone quickly found another spot at which to look. The floors and walls had never been so closely inspected.
Then the dam burst, and the room filled with noise as everybody started talking at once.
Everyone froze and looked at Carter in surprise. He looked a little surprised himself, but he continued. "I canít take this anymore. All weíve done all day is fight! How is that going to help anything? Weíre a team. You heard Colonel Hogan. We canít start fighting with ourselves. How do you think we get through all of the crazy stuff we have to do? We need each other! And Colonel Hogan needs us, too. He needs to concentrate on getting better, not on sorting us out."
Carter stood with clenched fists, his face red, his eyes flashing angrily. Newkirk stood slowly and walked over to Carter. Placing a hand on his shoulder, he said, "Of course youíre right, Andrew. Iím sorry, mates. I guess I just let everything get to me." He looked Le Beau in the eyes, and said sincerely, "I shouldnít have doubted Tiger, and I shouldnít have said those thingsÖ." Newkirk looked at the floor and shuffled his feet. Apologizing was not something that he liked to do, but he knew when he needed to do it. He had known when they were arguing earlier that he had gone too far, but it hadnít seemed possible to apologize then. Now he wished he hadnít waited so long. "Öabout Tiger, and about you."
Le Beau thought for a few moments. "Oui, I know, mon ami. I said some things, too." He looked at Carter. "You were right, Andrew. I think we let all of the stress get to us. We forgot what is important."
Carter looked at him sheepishly and nodded. He wasnít used to being right.
Kinch was happy to see everything being patched up. "That goes for me too." As he looked around at the other men, he could almost see the tension disappearing. Kinch sighed in relief. Now that this was taken care of, it was time to move. "Now we need to get moving. I donít want to use the radio to contact Schnitzer. Le Beau, Carter, you can go out tonight and make contact with him personally. Let him know heíll be needed tomorrow evening.
Le Beau and Carter nodded their assent. "Good," Kinch continued. "Take the walkie talkie with you so you can contact us if thereís any trouble.
"Why do you think the Colonel wants to see Schnitzer?" Carter asked, puzzled.
"I donít know, but I could tell he had something on his mind." I just hope he knows what heís doing.
"What were you doing at the factory?" A backhand across the face. "What were you going to tell Hogan?" He grabbed her shoulders, and shoved her hard against the wall, again, and again, and againÖ. "Who else knew you were going?" Another shove, and then merciful darkness.
She sat in the corner and pulled her knees closer to her chest, hoping that by curling into herself she could stop the shivering that shook her body. She didnít know if it was the temperature of the room or the memory of that morningís confrontation that left her feeling so cold inside.
Another shiver as she saw the face of the man who had already caused so much pain and misery. She knew him as Dragonfly. A member of the Underground for over a year, he had been used on many missions, and had carried all of them out successfully. He was an invaluable agent, and his dedication and willingness to fight for their cause, no matter the cost, had earned him the respect and trust of all those he fought with - including Papa Bear and his men.
And we are all fools.
Her body stiffened as she heard a key turn in the lock. Dragonfly walked in, a smirk on his face. "So, I see the Tiger is still in her little cage?"
She glared at him as he stood laughing at his own joke. He walked over and roughly pulled her to her feet. She considered trying to break away, but knew that she would be no match for a man his size, even if she were in perfect health. The two armed men standing behind him made it clear that that even if she broke free, she would not get very far. He looked down at her, a smile still on his face.
"You donít find me amusing, my dear?"
All she could do was stare at him with contempt.
"Thatís a pity," he said, as he traced a finger gently across the bruise on her jaw. "Because I find you very interesting. There are many things that I want to know. Things that you will tell me."
"Traitor!" she spat out. "I will tell you nothing!"
Anger flashed in his eyes, and he grabbed her arms tightly, causing her to gasp in pain. "You should be very careful about the accusations you make. You might live to regret them!" He did not get the reaction he hoped for. There was no fear in Tigerís eyesóonly fierce defiance, which fueled the anger inside of him. "And donít expect any help from Papa Bear. I assure you, he is in no position to help you in any way."
He saw the defiance in her eyes melt into fear and horror, a reflection of the expression on her face as she had been forced to watch the assault on Colonel Hogan. "So, you do remember some things, I see," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He pushed her to the ground. "I will be back, and weíll see what we can do about bringing back some more of your memory."
Tiger didnít bother to get up as the door slammed shut and the key turned in the lock.
"I fold." Schultz laid his cards down mournfully. "Every time I play with you, Newkirk, I always lose."
"Well, I guess itís just blind luck," Newkirk replied with a mischievous grin.
"Yeah, you know that saying," Carter offered helpfully. "Itís the luck of theÖoh, but wait a minute, youíre not IrishÖ"
Newkirk rolled his eyes. "Whatever gave you that idea, Andrew?"
"Well, your accent, for one." Newkirk opened his mouth to shoot back a sarcastic reply, but one look at the mischievous sparkle in Carterís eye made him close it again. He pasted a long-suffering look on his face, and with a dramatic sigh, turned to Schultz. "Do you see what we Ďave to live with, Schultzie?"
"Well!" Carter said with a huff.
"All right you guys, knock it off." Hogan sat on Carterís bunk, leaning against the wall for support. His presence in the room seemed to lighten the mood considerably.
"Sorry, govínor," Newkirk said, casting a worried glance at Hogan. He was relieved when he saw an amused expression on the Colonelís face.
Hogan gave him a brief smile, and then returned to his own thoughts. His condition was improving, and when Wilson had checked on him last, he had given Hogan permission to move around a little, as long as he didnít overdo it. Hogan, though irritated at being told what he could and could not do, was grateful to be able to get out of his own small room and into a bigger space. He never could stand being cooped up for long. Although he was still in quite a bit of pain, he was now able to keep it mostly to himself. But even though he wasnít losing consciousness any more, he could still sense that his men were keeping a close eye on him. He was embarrassed by the fact that he had fainted in front of his men not once, but twice. He didnít like having to rely on his men for supportóat least not for physical support.
Schultz was still playing with the prisoners, and Newkirk was still robbing him blind. Schultz had been in their barracks often, to check on him at roll call, since he was still Ďsickí.
Hogan looked at his watch, then yawned dramatically. "Boy, Iím getting tired. I think I might turn in."
Newkirk yawned as well. "I think Iím getting a bit sleepy myself." He started to stack his cards. "What do you say Schultzie? Letís call it a night, huh?"
Schultz looked disappointed. "But it is so early. Surely you do not want to go to sleep already." He looked suspiciously from Newkirk to Hogan. "You are up to some monkey businessÖ"
"At this hour of the evening?" Hogan protested, his voice full of righteous indignation. "You have to admit, Schultz, it is pretty late." When the guard started to protest, Hogan continued. "SO late, in fact, that Iím sure Colonel Klink is wondering why he hasnít seen you around for so long. I think heíd be pretty unhappy if he found out that you were gambling with the prisoners, donít you?"
Schultz was planning to protest further, but he realized that Hogan actually did look tired, and although he didnít know the full extent of Hoganís "illness," Schultz could tell that he was not yet fully recovered. He reluctantly got up from the table. It was much nicer in here than outside walking the same post time and time again.
"Good night," Hogan called cheerfully as the guard started to leave.
Schultz was halfway out the door when he turned and walked back into the barracks. "I remember what I came in here to tell you, Colonel Hogan."
Hogan smiled. Schultzís visits to Ďtell him somethingí usually lasted a long time. "What is it, Schultz?"
"Kommandant Klink says that tomorrow morning you must start coming out for roll call. He says you should be feeling well enough by now to stand out there like everybody else."
"Okay, thanks, Schultz," Hogan said, looking at his watch again. Schultz took the hint and left.
The timing was perfect. No sooner had the door closed than the bed concealing the tunnel entrance lifted and Le Beau came up, followed by Schnitzer.
Hogan slowly got up from the bed to greet Schnitzer. "Thank you for coming," he said formally.
Schnitzer had to make a conscious effort not to stare as he looked at Hogan. The man did not look well at all. Even standing obviously caused him great pain, and it looked like he was dizzy for a moment after he stood. Schnitzer also noticed the surreptitious way the men kept an eye on their leader. What has happened to him? Perhaps I have not heard the whole storyÖ
He noticed that all the men were staring at him, and was slightly embarrassed when he realized that he hadnít answered Hogan. He cleared his throat, uncomfortably aware of the silence in the room. "Certainly, Colonel."
"Would you come into my office? We need to talk."
Hogan motioned to the stool. "Please, have a seat," he said as he leaned against the bed post. Schnitzer sat and eyed Colonel Hogan critically. He looks like he should be the one sitting.
Hogan noticed the other manís appraising stare. "Our mission the other night didnít go exactly as planned," he simply stated. Schnitzer nodded, but didnít say anything.
"Okay, Iím going to lay it all on the line," Hogan said. "There have been some strange things going on around here." Schnitzer nodded again, but Hogan knew he didnít know the whole story. "Three of our missions have been sabotaged. On two of these occasions, either my life or the lives of my men were threatened. And from what I understand from my men, Tiger is unaccounted for as well."
Schnitzer looked at him in surprise. "Yes, I heard that she was going to meet you, and then she didnít return."
Schnitzer hesitated, and Hogan asked, "But thatís not all you heard, is it?"
"No," Schnitzer said reluctantly. "I have also heard that many members of the underground believe that you or your men have something to do with her disappearance."
Hoganís pinned Schnitzer with a direct stare. "Do you believe it?"
Schnitzer answered immediately, "No, I do not. Even before you told me what happened, and even before I saw you, I did not want to believe it. Now, I can not."
"Good," Hogan said as he lowered himself slowly onto the bed. Silently he cursed the injuries that made him weaker than he wanted to be. "Let me tell you the reason why I asked you to come here tonight. Like I said, there have been a lot of strange things going on. Someone has tried to discredit this operation and endanger the lives of my men, and those are two things I can not tolerate. We have broken communication with London for the moment, because right now we do not know for certain how this personóor these peopleólearned of our activities. To put it frankly, we donít know who we can trust."
Schnitzer nodded in silent agreement.
Hogan continued. "But Iíve had some time to think, and I have to believe that there are at least two people that I can trust implicitly. Those two people are Tiger, and you." Hogan noted Schnitzerís look of relief. "Tiger is in trouble, I have no doubt about that. She came to tell me something, and she was frightened. I imagine she had some information about what was going on, or wanted to warn me to be careful, but it didnít work out the way she planned."
"I intend to find out what happened to her, and to find the person responsible for the things that have been going on here. To do that, though, I need your help."
"I would do anything for you, Colonel. You know that."
"I do know," Hogan said gratefully. He could remember more than one occasion where Schnitzerís help had meant the difference between life and death for him and his men. "This operation probably wouldnít even exist without your help."
Schnitzer nodded, uncomfortable with being praised for doing something he saw as his duty. "Please continue, Colonel Hogan."
"The job I have for you isnít easy."
"Easy or no, I will do it," Schnitzer said determinedly.
"Good," Hogan said, pleased. It was the answer he had expected. "I need you to be my eyes and ears in the Underground. I want you to try to find any information that would be helpful in flushing out the traitor. We also must find out where Tiger is. I have a feeling that we canít wait around on this one. We have to find her soon."
Schnitzer look as worried as Hogan. "I agree, we must find her quickly. I will find out all that I can."
Hogan stood and walked to the door. "Thanks for coming. I knew I could count on you." They walked into the barracks, to a group of curious men. "Le Beau, would you please escort Herr Schnitzer back through the tunnel?"
"Oui, mon colonel."
Hogan shook Schnitzerís hand. "Thanks a lot, Oskar. Weíre counting on you."
The veterinarian returned the handshake. "I will do my best, Colonel."
Major Hochstetter walked into the office, not really paying attention to where he was going. Most of his attention was being given to the file he held in his hand. He was reading the interrogation record of one of the newest arrivals at Gestapo headquarters. Apparently the interrogation techniques being used right now were not yielding the necessary results. He needed to talk to the interrogator about using more effective methods.
He smiled unconsciously as he began to daydream about how he would have questioned the new prisoner. There were some who privately thought the Gestapo Major enjoyed his job a little too much, but Hochstetter didnít believe there was ever too much when it came to serving the Fuhreróand when it came to making himself look good in the process. He knew that every person had a breaking point, and all he had to do was bring the subject to that point to get everything he needed. The smile left as he envisioned the face of one man he had never had the pleasure of breaking. Your time is coming soon, Colonel Hogan. I have a feeling that what I have in my hands will have you with me very soon.
He looked up from the folder with a start as he realized that he had already arrived at his destination. He did not miss the look on the face of the young man sitting at the desk opposite the dooróa look of contempt that was quickly replaced by a mask of bored indifference. You will not like what I am about to say to you then, Lieutenant. You would do well to adjust your attitude and learn from your superiors if you ever hope to go anywhere with your career.
"Lieutenant Fleischer," Hochstetter said coldly. "I am very concerned by what I am reading in this file." He threw the folder down on the younger manís desk. "I have read this record thoroughly, and it seems to me that, with the amount of time you have had, your results should be more substantial. This person could be very useful to us."
"Yes, I understand that, Herr Major." You have no idea how much I actually understand. "But I assure you, I will continue, and when I am finished, you will have all that you expect." And more.
Hochstetter studied Fleischerís face, trying to discern his true intent. The man seemed sincere, but the Major could not forget the look he had seen on the Lieutenantís face only moments ago. He could not trust him. "Very well. I will give you 48 more hours. But if I donít see better results, I will take over myself. Is that understood?"
"Jawohl, Herr Major. It is understood."
"Very well, Lieutenant." Hochstetter raised his arm in a salute. "Heil
Fleischer raised his hand, but dropped it immediately once Hochstetterís back was turned, not even trying to disguise the look of disgust on his face. Of course I havenít put everything in the file. I have been working too hard on this to let credit go to an idiot like you. Really, Major, how long have you been after Hogan? If you only knew how close I amÖ
Hogan sat up in bed, finally giving up hope of getting any sleep, for no matter how much his body demanded rest, him mind would not shut down long enough to provide it. Indeed, it was his mind, rather than his body, which was tormenting him tonight.
He had spent the greater part of the night searching for answers, but there were none to be found. He was the commanding officer, Papa Bear, the one to whom everybody looked for the answer, for the way out of every problem. He couldnít count how many times he heard one of his men say, "Donít worry. Colonel Hogan always thinks of something." Well, this time, he couldnít. And his inability, his powerlessness to find a solution, could end up costing lives. He prayed that it hadnít already..
He held a hand to the healing wound on the back of his head and winced. Whoever had done this to him had Tiger, he would bet his life on it. He would not sit helplessly while she was in trouble. He got up from his bed and made his way to his desk. After glancing to see that the shutters were closed tight, he turned on the desk lamp, and grabbing a piece of paper and a pencil, started writing furiously.
Hogan opened the door to find a quiet barracks. It had been hours since morning roll call, and he had shut himself in his room all morning. Although he had managed to sleep for a couple of hours, most of the time he sat, his mind still working to find an answer. He hadnít been able to shake the feeling that he had missed something important yesterday when he was talking with Schnitzer. Finally, after so many hours, his tired brain had given him an answer. It wasnít as much as he wanted, but it would doófor now.
He made his way slowly to the stove, and muttered under his breath when he found there was no coffee. He put the pot down on the table and thought about making more, but decided it wasnít worth the amount of movement it would take.
He walked to the door and opened it. Carter was standing directly outside, throwing a baseball against the wall. Hogan flinched as the ball hit the wall inches from his face.
"Oh, sorry, Colonel," Carter said sheepishly. "I didnít see you there." His face turned red, and he opened his mouth to go into a longer apology.
Hogan didnít have the patience to listen to it. "Never mind, Carter. Just go and find Kinch for me, will ya?"
"You got itósir ." Carter seemed please that he had been able to catch himself this time, and ran to get Kinch. Hogan looked at him as he ran off and laughed softly to himself, wishing he had just a little bit of Carterís energy.
Kinch appeared a moment later. "Yes, Colonel?"
"Kinch, I need you to arrange to have Schnitzer meet me here tonight. Itís urgent that I speak with him."
"Well, sir, that might not be necessary." He pointed to the gate, where the veterinarianís truck was pulling through. Schnitzer stepped out and, pulling out a handkerchief, blew his nose before going to the back of the truck.
"Okay, thatís the signal. You guys go and see what he wants."
Kinch ran off, signaling to Carter, Newkirk, and Le Beau to follow him. Several other prisoners who knew the routine gathered around, and soon they formed a noisy group around Schnitzer and his dogs. Schultz was on the outskirts, trying unsuccessfully to break it up. Finally, the guard screamed at the top of his lungs. The prisoners, with feigned looks of surprise and indignation and loud protests, quickly dispersed.
Newkirk walked over to Hogan and handed him a note. Hogan looked around to make sure no one was watching, and then opened the note and read it quickly. He frowned, and then wadded up the note and nodded to Schnitzer, who nodded and went back to switching the dogs.
"What was that all about?" Kinch asked from beside him.
"He wanted to meet with me tonight." Hogan said. "I wonder if itís for the same reason." He turned and went back inside, leaving his men to wonder what that reason was.
Fleischer rubbed his eyes, stifling a yawn. He walked over to the coffeepot and poured himself another cup of coffee, and then went back to the table. With everything falling into place, he wanted to make sure that he had every detail under control. It would be worth the long hours when it all worked out.
He liked working from home more than working at the office, so he spent his extra hours here. At home, he had the privacy to look through all of his filesóincluding the files he wasnít supposed to have. Fleischer was no fool. He knew that to succeed, you had to beat everybody else, and you never did that by playing by the rules, and he didnít see any problems with stealing a few files to aid his cause. Besides, it was for the greater good, for the cause of the Fatherland and the Fuhrer. And it wonít hurt me much, either.
Some of them had been easy. Hochstetterís files, for example. That man really needed to be more careful about locking his office. It had been easy to go in and copy down the information he needed. It had taken time, but in the end it was not too difficult. And Hochstetter had been very meticulous in his note taking. Fleischer had to admit that the man was driven. He had been after Colonel Hogan for a very long time, and had been faultless in his documentation. It was a pity, really. All of the information, all of the suspicions, and no a way to prove it.
Hochstetter also had possession of Major Hegelís files. Obtaining the information in those had been just as simple. The only files he had not been able to get his hands on were the files of General Freitag, who had, like, Major Hegel, met with an unfortunate demise. That seemed to be the fate of many people who decided to investigate the activities of one particular American Colonel. Although he hadnít been able to obtain those files, Freitagís female companion had proven to be most useful. He put his coffee cup down and remembered that encounter with a smirk. Fraulein Praeter enjoyed the company of men, and even more importantly, she enjoyed pretty things. There are many ways to get information from a woman.
Now, with all of this information in front of him, he had all that he needed. But he wanted more. He was young, he knew that. But as young as he was, he deserved to be more than a Lieutenant. He was smarter and more cunning than men twice his age. It would mean a promotion, certainly, to bring in the elusive ĎPapa Bearí who had been responsible for all the sabotage activity in the area, and he had the information to do that, both in the files, and from his undercover work. But one thought made him wait. Imagine how much more glory he could earn for himself, and the Fatherland, of course, if he were able to not only bring down Hoganís organization, but also arrest and totally disassemble the Underground? He knew that he could do it. He had laid the foundation already, and had sown the seeds of distrust that was causing dissent to grow from within. And after the conversation he had with Herr Schintzer last night, he was certain his plan was working.
He picked up his cup again and grimaced when he found that the coffee was cold. He considered getting more coffee, but then, noting the late hour, decided to put his work away and get some sleep. After all, he had a very interesting interrogation to continue tomorrow morning. As he washed the cup and put it away, he whistled to himself and began to plan his steps for the following day.
Hogan stared at the closed door. He knew his men were waiting for an explanation. He had left them wondering what was on his mind all afternoon. But he couldnít face them yet. He was having a hard enough time facing himself.
How could I have missed something so obvious? In a corner of his mind, a voice told him that he wasnít at full strength, that he couldnít be expected to think normally right now. He immediately silenced that voice. I should have known.
It struck him last nightósomeone had to pass on those rumors to Schnitzer, and whoever that person was had done it intentionally to stir up strife. The news that Schnitzer brought today had validated his own suspicions, and now they could move forward.
He paced back and forth in the small office as his mind processed everything that Schnitzer had said. He stopped and closed his eyes, trying to envision the face that went with the name Schnitzer had provided. Dragonfly. It was an unusual code name, but then, most of them were. He stopped pacing as a face came to remembrance. A passionate young man, brown hair, intelligent blue eyes. They had used him on several assignments.
I should have thought of it sooner. Angered by his self-condemning thoughts, he slammed his fist against the post of the bed, and immediately regretted it as pain slammed through his still injured ribs. He grabbed the post for support as his knees buckled and his head swam. Taking slow, deep breaths, he waited until the room quit spinning and he was able to stand up straight again.
He looked again at the door. No matter how much time he spent in here, no matter how long he tried to work it out, he wouldnít be able to get rid of the guilt. Tiger was in trouble, and he might have been able to get to her by now if he had been thinking. Now Schnitzer was also involved more heavily, which put him in even greater danger. He knew that they both understood that being involved in the Underground carried certain risks, but the knowledge that Tiger had been harmed while trying to warn him weighed heavily on his conscience, and he was acutely aware of every hour that had passed without his taking action to find her.
Hogan put on his jacket and cap, and, taking a deep breath, he pushed these thoughts deep down until they became nagging whispers rather than raging accusations. It was time to talk to his men.
A few moments later, they were all gathered in his quarters.
"I think we found our traitor." Hogan sat on his bed, his men scattered around the room. Each one was listening intently.
"You mean we know who it is?" Newkirk asked incredulously.
"Yes. Schnitzer was approached by an Underground agent earlier today. This is the same agent who came up to him with the rumors about us."
Le Beau leaned forward anxiously, his worry written all over his face. "Who was it, Colonel?"
"Do you guys remember Dragonfly?"
A look of recognition registered on Carterís face. "Dragonfly! I remember him!" Carter cried. "I remember him because he had such a weird code name. Itís not like a fairy tale or anything, and I didnít know why anyone would pick Ďdragonflyí for him, because he didnít look anything like a dragonflyÖwell, not that anyone could look like a dragonfly, butÖ"
"CARTER!!!!" Four voices shouted in unison.
Carter clamped his mouth shut as his cheeks flushed. Hogan looked at him for a long moment before answering. "Youíre right, Carter, he looks nothing like a Dragonfly."
Carter smiled, pleased that someone agreed with him. The sarcasm was lost on him. Although Hogan was actually glad to hear Carter ramble senselessly, now wasn't the right time for it, so when he saw that Carter was about to speak again, he quickly continued. "Does anyone else remember him? A young guy, probably around twenty-five years old. He has brown hair, bright blue eyes, and he was very intelligent and very excited about the work he was doing with us."
Recognition dawned on the other faces as well. "Right, govínor. I do remember him. Nice enough fella."
"Yeah, well, maybe not so nice after all," Hogan said.
Kinch frowned. "You donít mean it's himÖ"
"It looks like it. Like I said, he came up to Schnitzer today, with the same kind of thing. Schnitzer got a funny feeling about it, and decided to play along. He acted like he was concerned, like he was suspicious of us, and reluctant to come back here, but would only do so because it was required of his job."
"What made Schnitzer suspicious, Colonel?" Le Beau asked.
"Nothing in particular, but he is a very perceptive man. Itís his ability to read people that has kept him alive for so long in the Underground, and that has made him so helpful to us. He felt like he was being strung along, and decided to play Dragonflyís game."
"And then what 'appened?" Newkirk asked.
"He says that Dragonfly seemed somewhat pleased when he went along with it."
"So what now, Colonel?" Carter asked.
Hogan paused as the thoughts he had suppressed came to the forefront again. We should have been having this conversation days ago. He shook his head and brought his thoughts back to the conversation at hand. "Good question, Carter. Schnitzer is going to have his son follow him tomorrow morning, find out where he goes and who he talks to. When he gets some information, he will let us know, and then we can act."
Newkirk stood up and exclaimed, "Why donít we just go and grab Ďim now, govínor? It doesnít make any sense to let Ďim keep going on when we could nab Ďim now."
Hogan rubbed his forehead wearily. "I thought of that. But this guy is smart, and he obviously has a plan here. Iím not sure that grabbing him will get us any closer to Tigeróor to finding out what he is really up to. I am positive that there is a bigger picture."
"But weíre not just going to sit around and wait?" Le Beau asked angrily.
"Look, I don't like it any more than you do!" Hogan snapped. "But we have to. Much as I hate it, there is more to be gained by waiting one day to see what Schnitzer finds out.
"Gee, it sounds like it could be pretty dangerous for Schnitzer," Carter said.
Hogan looked at him gravely, then at all the men in the room. "Youíre right. And not just for him. Dragonfly knows all about our operation here, and about the workings of the Underground. Heís up to something, and I have a feeling itís big. This could be very dangerous for all of us."
Fleischer looked once again at the rearview mirror. By now he was pretty sure he was being followed. Try as he might, he could not make out the face of the man behind him. Who could be such a fool as to follow a Gestapo agent? He then realized that no one in Hammelburg was supposed to know that he worked for the Gestapo. His mind went through a list of every person he knew, trying to find a name that would make sense.
He casually made a right turn, and then a left a few blocks later. He didnít really know where he was going, and eventually stopped at the bakery, emerging a few moments later with a pastry that he had no intention of eating. The car that had previously been behind him pulled away from the curb and followed at a distance.
His mind continued to try to find a possible suspect. He had no family still alive. The only people he had any contact with in this city were the Underground. He had told others that he worked for a tailor in Dusseldorf. He was always very cautious when he went to work, varying his route every day and checking to make sure he wasn't followed. Perhaps someone had decided to check out his story. But why now, and who would it be?
He felt his heart plummet into his stomach at the thought that he would be found out, that someone would discover just who he was before he was able to carry out his plan.
Heart pounding, he tried to think rationally about what to do. Donít panic. You are always in control. You must be in control. The words he spoke to himself did little to calm him as he felt, for the first time, what it felt like to be the hunted, rather than the hunter. He decided then to speed up, and after taking several sharp turns, eventually lost his follower.
He heaved a heavy sigh, but felt no relief as he fought the panic that welled up from deep inside. He must think of a way to make a move now, a move that would once again put things under his control.
"You are late."
Fleischer flinched upon hearing the shrill voice he hated so much. He turned to see a gloating Major Hochstetter, and fought to keep his face expressionless. He must appear contrite now. "I am sorry, Herr Major. I wasÖ" He stopped, realizing that he could not give the real reason for his tardiness. Hochstetterís first question, logically, would be to ask why he had not apprehended the person following him. He was, after all, a Gestapo agent, and not to be intimidated. If Fleischer gave any indication of how important it was that no one in Hammelburg knew where he worked, it would lead to more questions, and that could give everything away. He could not let that happen.
Hochstetter looked at him mockingly. "You wereÖwhat, Lieutenant? Out picking daisies?"
Fleischerís face reddened with anger and humiliation, but he bit his tongue. Just play along. You wonít have to take this much longer. "No, sir."
"Well, then?" Hochstetter was enjoying making Fleischer squirm. It was good to see the arrogant young man shaken up.
"Major Hochstetter!" A voice called down the corridor. Hochstetter turned to the voice, and snapped to attention. "Jawohl, Herr Oberst." He gave a sideways glance at Fleischer, and considered whispering that they would continue this conversation later, but the young man looked so uncomfortableóand surprisingly, repentant. Could I have been wrong about him? Hochstetter gave the younger man a puzzled look, and then turned and walked down the hallway towards the officer who had called him.
Fleischer watched Hochstetter's back as he walked away, anger and hatred filling him. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and forced those emotions back. They would do him no good. What he needed to do was think. He walked back towards his office, and then stopped as the idea hit him over the head like a ton of bricks. He hurried to his office, grabbed the Tiger file, and shoved it into his briefcase. Grabbing a new sheet of paper, and checking that no one was watching, he started writing. He would give Hochstetter what he wanted, and while it would mean sacrificing Tiger, and losing face in the process, neither of these things would matter in the end.
Ten minutes later, Fleischer was headed back to his office, whistling happily as he walked. After a bit of subtle ego stroking, Hochstetter had accepted his awkward admission of ineffectiveness and his humble request that the Major take over the interrogation of Tiger. Hochstetterís eyes gleamed as he called two guards to immediately go and prepare the prisoner for questioning. Now, distracted by his new and long-coveted prize, Hochstetter would pay no attention to Fleischer. He was now free to go his own way.
He eagerly picked up the phone, only to set it down again. Closing his eyes, he took several slow, deep breaths to calm himself. He must not let his excitement show in his voice. Now, having himself under control, he picked up the receiver and spoke to the operator.
"I need to speak to Colonel Klink at Stalag 13."
The final phase had begun.
"Colonel, why have we been confined to barracks?" Le Beau asked angrily. Spring had finally arrived, and it was especially difficult, after such a long and dreary winter, to be cooped up in an equally dreary building when things were alive outside.
"Looks like Gestapo," Hogan said. He stood upright and put the faucet handles back in their original position. They were part of a clever periscope that allowed them to see what was happening in camp from inside the barracks. "A car just pulled in, but I couldnít get a good look at who got out. Schultz was in the way."
Newkirk laughed. "Le Beau, if you wouldnít feed him so much strudel, we might be able to see more of what goes on around here."
"If you wouldnít feed him so much strudelÖ" Le Beau mocked under his breath, and then started rambling in French.
"All right, thatís enough," Hogan said. "We couldnít see who it was, but it must be important if weíve been confined to barracks. Letís go listen in."
Le Beau and Newkirk were still playfully arguing with each other as they walked into Hoganís quarters.
"Shhh!" Hogan impatiently demanded silence. The coffeepot hissed and popped for a while, but finally the static ended and they could hear voices.
"Yes, what can I do for you? You know that I am always anxious to help the Gestapo. I believe my record will show that I have always been most helpful."
"Oh brother! I think I can actually hear Klink shaking in his boots."
Hogan allowed himself a chuckle at Kinchís comment, and then focused in once more to the conversation.
Newkirk, the only one who could do a perfect impersonation of the groveling Klink, took a deep breath. A scowl from Hogan made him close his mouth quickly.
"I am very glad to hear that, Colonel Klink," said the visitor. His voice was strong and commanding, demanding respect. "And I am glad that you honored my request to confine the prisoners to their barracks."
"Oh yes, Lieutenant," Klink replied.
"Lieutanant?" Carter exclaimed. "Heís falling all over himself for a Lieutenant?" Hogan broke up the laughter with another impatient "Shhhhh!" and the laughter died down in time for them to hear the end of Klinkís groveling. "Öhappy to help, as I said."
"In fact, we do need your help. Tomorrow evening, a group of trucks will be driving past Stalag 13 as they make their way to the new research facility."
"The one that was built under the bombed out munitions factory in Hammelburg?" Klink asked.
"Thatís the one," the visitor replied. "You have done your homework," the voice flattered.
"Oh yes, I must say that I like to stay abreast of all the happenings in and around this camp," Klink answered proudly. "That is one of the reasons why I have always been able to have such an outstanding record. Did you know that no one has ever escaped from Stalag 13?"
"That is a very good record, Kommandant."
Newkirk rolled his eyes and laughed. "I bet Ďe grew two inches right there."
Klink, pleased with the compliment, continued. "And if I may say, Lieutenant, that is an excellent idea for a secret research facility."
"Donít tell me, Klink," the Lieutenant said, a faint hint of harshness creeping into his tone. "I did not think of it."
"Oh, of course not, I just meantÖ" The Kommandant was always trying to talk himself into the good graces of the Gestapo, or any officer, for that matter. The fact that he outranked a Lieutenant by several grades apparently never occurred to him, and he was, as ever, eager to please.
"Like I was saying," the Lieutenant continued, obviously annoyed, "The cargo they are carrying is top secret. Its contents are known only to the top officers in Berlin and the few Gestapo agents in charge of ensuring its security."
"Oh, of course, Lieutenant," Klink said ingratiatingly, unaware that he was sparking another round of subdued laughter from his prisoners. "And would I, by any chance, need to know the contents of this cargo?"
"Yes, he needs to know," Hogan said impatiently to the coffeepot.
"No you wouldnít!" the other man snapped.
Hogan rolled his eyes. "Figures."
"No. No, of course I wouldnít," Klink asked, defeated. "What could I do, then?"
"I want you to ensure that, during that time, no prisoner is allowed to see this convoy. They must be confined to barracks. Your job is to provide the security to ensure that no one is allowed to even know of this."
"Oh, certainly. Certainly!" As Klink prattled on, the prisoners turned to Hogan.
"This could be our chance, Colonel," Carter said eagerly. "A chance to actually do something."
Le Beau, Newkirk, and Kinch agreed enthusiastically.
"I donít know." Hogan shook his head and scowled. "Itís too vague. Itís too easy. I feel like weíre being fed information."
"But govínor, they canít know weíre listening. Maybe heís trying to fool Klink, instead."
"But what purpose would that serve?" Hogan asked. "All Klink is going to do is make sure we donít go out there. That wouldnít serve any ulterior motiveÖ" He stopped talking suddenly as the Gestapo agent asked Klink a question. "What did he say?" He asked, only to be frustrated when his men shrugged their shoulders. ~I should have paid more attention.~ "Maybe Klinkís answer will tell us something."
"Of course, Lieutenant. Fraulein Hilda should have that information. If you will excuse me, I will go and get it for you."
"Great," Hogan muttered. "Now we wonít be able to hear anything."
"Wait, govínor," Newkirk said. "What is that sound?" He listened intently for a moment. "Blimey, I think Ďeís going through Klinkís desk!" When they got quiet, they could definitely hear the sound of rustling.
"I bet thatís it, then, get Klink busy, and then go and steal from Ďim. Pretty clever, I Ďave to hand it to Ďim. But why?"
"I donít know," Kinch said, "but he sure sounds happy enough doing it. I donít know about you, but if I were going through someoneís stuff, Iíd at least have the brains to not be whistling out loud while I did it. He doesnít seem to care if anyone can hear him."
"Yeah," Le Beau laughed. "That is strange. You would thinkÖCarter, are you okay?"
All eyes turned to Carter, whose face had turned a ghastly shade of white.
"Andrew, come on," Le Beau urged, taking Carter by the arm and trying to steer him towards Hoganís bottom bunk. "Come and sit down. You are not feeling well."
Carter resisted, and, speaking to no one in particular, whispered, "Thatís it!"
"Whatís it, Andrew?" Newkirk asked, as confused as everyone else in the room.
"Thatís what I heard that night," Carter exclaimed. "That whistlingóthat song. Thatís what I heard that night at the factory, when Tiger disappeared."
Newkirk, Kinch and Le Beau stared at him incredulously. "All right, now I know you are not feeling well. Come on, lay down," Le Beau insisted.
"No. Hold it, hold it." Hogan said. He looked intently at Carter, at the haunted look in his eyes. "Thatís what you were trying to remember, isnít it?
"Then that meansÖ" Hogan turned to face the others. "Would you be able to recognize Dragonfly?"
"Oui, Colonel. We have worked with him several times," Le Beau answered.
"Good. Kinch, do you have your camera?"
"Yes, but I donít have any film."
Hogan began to pace as his mind, rejecting his initial plan, raced to come up with another. "All right, hereís what youíre gonna do. I want the rest of you to spread around camp. Go find a place to watch. Do not, I repeat, do NOT let yourselves be seen. Is that understood?" Everyone nodded. "When the Lieutenant comes out, I want you to get a good look at him. We have to be able to identify him. Heís the one weíre after. After he goes back inside, come back here as fast as you can.."
"And then what are we going to do?" Carter asked.
"We could wait until they leave camp, and then grab them," Le Beau suggested.
"No, that wouldnít work," Hogan said. "First of all, if heís here to set a trap, then others may know about it. It would be too suspicious. If he suddenly disappears, we could have Gestapo all over us. It would mean the end of our operation."
"It would not be good for Tiger, either," Le Beau added mournfully.
Hoganís face clouded at the mention of Tigerís name. "No it wouldnít." ~Though Iím sure itís not very nice for her right now, either.~ Pushing his own thoughts aside, he set his mind once again to the task at hand. "Letís just identify him. If itís Dragonfly, we need to know right away, and if itís not, then we need a clear description for Schnitzer to see if he knows him."
"All right, govínor," Newkirk said. "Got it."
Good. Hogan patted him on the back. "Get going."
Le Beau and Carter appeared moments later, sweating and out of breath.
"Well?" Hogan asked impatiently.
Before they could answer, Kinch and Newkirk burst through the door. "Itís him," Kinch said.
Hogan felt nauseous. "The Gestapo has her." And she has been there for so long, at this lunaticís hands. "We have to get her out."
"Oui, mon Colonel," Le Beau agreed wholeheartedly. "But how?"
"By taking the bait." Hogan began to pace.
"Colonel, are you crazy? If you think itís a trap, then why would we do it?"
"Easy. Weíll have Schnitzer pass on to our Ďfriendí that we are going to go after that research facility. When heís there, then two of you will go and get Tiger out of Gestapo headquarters. The rest of us will go and take out that research facility."
"But Colonel," Carter asked apprehensively, "what if there really isnít a research facility there? I mean, if itís a trap?"
Hogan gave a half-hearted smile. "Then the plant gets blown up twice. Itís important to do a thorough job." His smile faded, though, as he thought about the second part of the question. "Iím sure itís a trap. Itís too easy. But this guy came in knowing that we would be listening. He knows way too much about us already, and who knows how much he has been able to find out? We have to catch him or we might as well close up shop right now."
Kinch nodded solemnly, and after sharing silent looks with the others, answered for all. "Tell us what to do, Colonel."
Hogan looked at his men appreciatively, being reminded once again how lucky he was to have a team as dedicated as this one. "Thanks, Kinch. First things firstóletís go fire up that radio. We need to contact London."
"So what did they say?" Carter asked anxiously. Now that he had been released of the burden that had been weighing on him, he was a ball of energy, unable to sit still or be quiet. Newkirk had been sorely tempted to throttle him.
"Let Ďim at least get all the way into the room first, Andrew," Newkirk growled. "Then Ďe can explain." Carter gave him an embarrassed smile and sat down quickly.
"London said," Hogan answered, chuckling, "that they were going to shut down all Underground activity in this area for twenty-four hours in order for us to catch this guy. And they want us to ensure that no information about our operation survives after he is captured."
"How do we do that, Colonel?" Carter asked.
They were interrupted by Schultz , who opened the door abruptly and breathlessly announced, "Colonel Hogan, Major Hochstetter wants to see you."
"Tell him to come back later. Weíre in the middle of something," Hogan said flippantly. Hochstetter was not on Hoganís list of favorite people. In fact, Hogan mused, he would be quite happy if he never had to see that man again.
"Colonel Hogan," Schultz pleaded.
"Okay, Schultz," he said, taking a deep breath and putting a carefree, slightly cocky expression on his face. "Lead me to him."
"Never mind that, Schultz." All eyes turned to the door, where Hochstetter stood with a very anxious Klink. "I can talk to you here. What I have to say concerns you and your men."
~Uh-oh. That doesnít sound good.~ Hogan crossed his arms and leaned casually against the wall. "Oh, youíve come to tell us that the Allies finally won and youíre gonna let us all go home?"
"You will wish it was something so pleasant," Hochstetter said with a sneer. "But, unfortunately for you, it is not. You see, I have one of your operativesóan agent named Tiger."
Hogan had to use all his strength to keep the anger and fear he felt from showing on his face. Hochstetter has Tiger? Instead he furrowed his brow in confusion. "You must have forgotten, Major. Iím in a POW camp. Iím afraid I donít get out much," he said, using his most sarcastic tone. "And I have never heard of ĎTiger,í whoever he is." ~Heís not sure about her yet, or he wouldnít be here trying to play games with me.~
Hochstetter scanned the faces of Hoganís men, searching for a reaction, but he found none. "Colonel Hogan," he said, already exasperated. " Tiger is not a he. Tiger is a she."
"Well, thatís too bad, then," Hogan said with a smile.
Hochstetter scowled. "What is too bad?"
"That Iíve never met her," Hogan answered. "Like I said, I donít get out much. Tell us all about her. Is she pretty? What color hair does she have? How tall is she? Is sheÖ?"
"Enough!" Hochstetter yelled at the man who always managed, without fail, to dance on every one of his nerves. "Her appearance is not important."
"Maybe not to you!" Hogan exclaimed. "But try spending a couple of years in here. Youíll see how important it can become." He could hear his men smirking. "See? Ask them, theyíll tell you!"
Hogan clamped his mouth shut, swallowing the comment he was about to make. He thought for a minute, then asked, "So, howíd you end up with this lady, anyway? Pick her up at the Hoffbrau?"
Klink looked anxiously from the enraged Gestapo agent to his senior POW officer. Hochstetter had a very short temper as it was, but it always got shorter when he was talking to the American Colonel. And when Hochstetter lost his temper, well, as the Gestapo Major was fond of saying, heads rolled. Klink wanted his head to stay right where it was. "Colonel HoganÖ"
"You know, Iím curious, Kommandant," Hogan interrupted. "Why didnít you confine us to barracks today like you did when that other Gestapo guy came by a couple of hours ago?"
Hogan now had Hochstetterís complete and undivided attention. "What ĎGestapo guy?í"
Klink glared at Hogan. "How did you know he was Gestapo if you were confined to barracks?" he accused.
"What agent?" Hochstetter demanded of Klink.
"Yeah, and you didnít answer my question either, Kommandant."
"HOGAN!" Both men shouted.
Hogan shrugged his shoulders and pouted. "I was just asking."
Hochstetter turned once more to Klink. "What Gestapo agent, Klink?"
Hogan signaled to his men. They nodded subtly, agreeing to follow along with whatever he said.
"Lieutenant Fleischer came by yesterday. Do you know him?"
Hochstetterís expression grew angry, but a soft gasp from behind him made him forget what he wanted to say. He whirled around to face Hogan, and noticed the look of surprise on several of the faces in the room. They quickly tried to cover it up, but Hochstetter had caught them anyway. He pointed at Hogan. "You gasped. Why did you gasp?"
"Me?" Hogan asked innocently. "I didnít gasp."
"Yes, I heard you," Hochstetter snapped, by now way past annoyed. "You gasped."
"Oh that!" Hogan said. "Just a little chest congestion," he said, thumping his hand hard on his chest. "My allergies are always so bad this time of year. Makes it a little hard to breathe sometimes." Hochstetter gave him a look of pure hatred. "Were you saying something that I would have found surprising?" Hogan teased. "I'm afraid I wasnít listening."
Hochstetter clenched his fists as he heard the suppressed laughter from the other prisoners. His face turned red and the veins stood out on his neck. "Never mind. I will find all the answers I need, and then Iíll be back."
"Is that a promise, Major?" Hogan asked hopefully. "Because I sure hope it is. We always do enjoy your visits. You should drop in more often. Call next time, and weíll make sure we have a little something ready for when you get here. Tea and cookies, perhaps."
"BAH!" Hochstetter shouted, and, shoving a by now frantic Kommandant aside, rushed out of the barracks.
Klink gave Hogan his most threatening look and then followed Hochstetter, babbling almost incoherently as he tried to calm down the Major.
Hogan walked over to the table and sat down. "So, Carter, you were saying?"
"UmÖ" Carter struggled to remember. "Oh yeah. How are we gonna get this guy?"
"Easy," Hogan answered. "Thanks to you, we know who he is, where he works, and where Tiger isómore or less. All you guys have to do is go to Gestapo headquarters, bust her out, and make sure to find any incriminating papers that could be used against us."
"Easy," Newkirk snorted. "Yeah, a walk in the park. And just how are we gonna pull this off, govínor?"
"Weíre going to talk about that in a little bit. For now, let me fill you in on the rest. Schnitzer is going to arrange a meeting with Dragonfly in a public place and tell him that we said we wanted the Undergroundís help in sabotaging a research facility. Of course, Schnitzer will be a bit nervous about that, since he doesnít trust us anymore."
"Well, how do you like that?" Carter asked, angry and hurt. "You work with a guy for so long, and all of a sudden he decided youíre not good enough, and heís not gonna trust you anymore. I mean, itís just not fair."
"Carter," Hogan said, forcing himself to breathe slowly and deeply. "He will be pretending that he doesnít trust us. DragonflyóFleischer, I mean, thinks that weíre at odds with each other. So Schnitzer is going to play along with that, and ask for his help."
"And Fleischer will probably agree to help him," Le Beau surmised.
"Right. He wants us there, and he wants to be there, too. Now if things work out right, Hochstetter will be keeping an eye out on Fleischer. He was not happy to hear that Fleischer had been here, and itís obvious that he doesnít like him. It would be very convincing if someone were to call with a tip that the research facility is the target for a sabotage mission. Once Hochstetter has the details, I donít think heíd be able to keep himself away if he tried."
"Thatís pretty sneaky, Colonel," Kinch said. "I like it."
"Ruddy brilliant, if I do say so myself, govínor," Newkirk added. "Hochstetter will find Fleischer there, and that means he wonít be at Gestapo headquarters when we go to bust Tiger out."
"Exactly," Hogan said, pleased that this made sense to someone else besides himself. "Hopefully we can kill two birds with one stone."
"So Colonel, whatís the plan for getting Tiger out?" Carter asked eagerly. "Just tell us, and weíll do it."
Hogan came back to the present. "Carter my boy, Iím glad you asked. Hereís what weíre gonna do."
Hochstetter sat quietly in his car and thought about all that had happened in the past few hours. He had always disliked the arrogant Lieutenant, but had never had anything solid to back up his uneasiness about him, or even to suggest what might be the problem. Now, after finding out that Fleischer had been at Stalag 13, and after the conversation he had with Hogan, he was convinced that there was more to the young agent than met the eye. ~And if I can get something on Fleischer, then perhaps I will be able to get what I need on Hogan.~
He considered the young lady he had been interrogating earlier that day. She was stubborn, and had not yielded any informationóyet. Hochstetter did not believe Hoganís claim that he did not know her, nor did he believe her claims of innocence. He would get the truth.
His thoughts were brought to an abrupt halt when he saw Fleischer open his front door. He was now dressed in civilian clothes and appeared to be starting on a walk. Hochstetter let him get a head start, then pulled slowly out and followed. He did not have far to go. In less than two minutes, Fleischer reached his destination. He sat on a park bench, facing the street, and sat still.
A moment later, an elderly man walked up and sat on the bench next to Fleischer, but faced the opposite direction. Fleischer appeared to be having a conversation with the man, but made no direct eye contact, and didnít look at the other person. ~Very interesting,~ Major Hochstetter thought. ~I knew there was something about him that was not right.~ He considered confronting him now, but decided that he would have a stronger case if he had some more evidence. It would be prudent to watch for a few more days. ~You are up to something, I know it. I will be keeping a very close eye on you from now on.~
"Major Hochstetter, please." She wrapped the phone cord around her finger as she waited for him to pick up on the other end. "I can not give you my name," she said in an urgent whisper, "but I have some information for you."
She listened for a moment, then continued anxiously. "I was in the park last night, and I saw two men sitting on a bench, facing away from each other. I do not think they saw me." Greta gave her grandfather a thumbs-up sign. She had peaked Hochstetterís interest. "I did not hear it all, but they talked of planting bombs at the old ball bearing plant, and said something about research."
Gretaís heart was pounding as Hochstetter spoke. Although he seemed to be believing every word she said, having a conversation with a member of the group she despised so much made her feel sick to her stomach. Still, she reassured herself, it was necessary to save livesóperhaps even the life of her father.
"Jawohl, Herr Major, I did. They said that it would be tomorrow night. Danke, Herr Major. Auf wiedersein." She set down the phone with a shaking hand, and then sank wearily into the chair, smiling weakly at her grandfather as she did so. She was glad to do her dutyóbut she had hoped that after this long, it would have gotten easier. It hadnít.
"You did well, liebchen," Schnitzer said, laying a loving hand on her shoulder. "I will let Papa Bear know that you have successfully completed your assignment, and they can start on the next step."
Klink jumped up from his desk and rushed towards his door when Major Hochstetter burst in unannounced.
"Colonel Klink," Hochstetter said. "I have credible information that a band of partisans is going to target a research facility in this area."
"Oh, is that the same one that Lieutenant Fleischer was telling me about?" he asked. Hochstetterís eyes flashed in anger, and Klink wished immediately that he hadnít said anything. He remembered what a commotion the mere mention of Fleischerís name had caused when Hochstetter talked with Hogan.
Klink was surprised when Hochstetter did not shout or grow angry. "Yes, it is that same one, Klink. And I trust he gave you the whole story?"
"Yes, he told me all about the convoy carryingÖ" Klink looked around, as if to check that no one else was listening in, and continued sotto voce. "Ötop secret cargo to the new research facility. He said it was very important that the prisoners be confined to barracks and not know anything about it."
"Thatís what I thought he would have told you," Hochstetter lied. There is no convoy that I know of. Fleischer came in here with false information, and he has Klink eating out of the palm of his hand. But Klink couldnít be important in any of this. He is a pawn, as he usually is. I can only think of one person Fleischer would have come to tell.
Klink misunderstood Hochstetterís silence, thinking the Major was waiting for him to continue. "And, of course," Klink continued uncomfortably, "I agreed to help in any way I could."
"Of course you did," Hochstetter sneered. "Now you are going to help me. I want you and your guards to come assist me and arrest all of them."
"Well, um, I would love to help, Major," Klink fumbled. "But I and my guards are needed here. It is only because of my iron discipline, and the tireless work of the guards, that I have been able to maintain a perfect record here."
Hochstetterís face grew red and he stood right in front of Klink, standing on his toes until they were almost nose to nose. "I want you to be there, with your guards," he whispered, his voice oily and slick. "You will be there, and THAT IS AN ORDER!"
Klink took two steps back, bumping against his desk. "Well, Ma-Major Hochstetter, technically I am a Colonel, and you canítÖ"
"You would dare question the order of a Gestapo officer!?" Hochstetter bellowed.
Klink thought he might faint. "Oh no, no! No, Major Hochstetter. Like I was saying, technically I am a Colonel, but you canít think that I would refuse you anything. It would be an honor for me to help you. You will have my full and complete cooperation."
Hochstetter smiled ingratiatingly. "That is much better, Klink. In fact, I wouldnít have it any other way. I wouldnít dream of arresting these traitors without you by my side." That way I wonít have to go back to Stalag 13 to arrest you when I pick up Hogan and his men.
Klink beamed. "I had no idea you felt that way, Major. Of course, I will give you my full cooperation."
Hochstetter put on his gloves. "Good. I will meet you here at eight oíclock tonight."
Hogan pulled the plug out of the coffeepot. "Good. Hochstetter fell right into it. I bet he will demand a roll call right before they leave. After thatís over, we will tear out of here. You guys know what to do."
Hogan and Kinch crouched behind a row of bushes, out of sight of Fleischer and his men. They could see headlights coming down the road. Now that the charges had all been laid, all they had to do was wait for the show to begin. If things played out correctly, Hochstetter would leave with Fleischer in custody and they could detonate the charges. Itís sure to drive Hochstetter mad to have the building he just left go up in flames, and then to get back and find his star prisoner is missing. Hogan couldnít help but smile.
He looked up at the moon and the smile disappeared. A thick layer of clouds had kept the landscape shrouded in darkness while they were wiring the explosives, providing them with much needed cover. But the wind had picked up, and he feared it would blow the clouds away. Oh well, nothing I can do about it now. Hopefully it would remain dark enough to conceal their presence. At least I can see whatís happening. Fleischer looks like heís in outer space. I guess he hasnít seen the cars yet.
Fleischer was, in fact, lost in thought. He felt like he would explode with anticipation, now that everything was finally working out just as he had planned it. He was in complete and total control. Schnitzer would come with Hogan and his men soon. His own men were standing beside him, also in plain clothes. He had his briefcase by his side. After Hogan and his men were in custody, he would be able to take the prisoners and the documentation he needed back to Gestapo Headquarters. He smiled broadly. His hard work had finally paid off. His career had only begun.
He heard the sound of wheels churning up gravel, and he turned his head to the sound. Hogan and his men have finally arrived. He walked from the shadow into the light, joy at the thought of his victory threatening to overwhelm him. He struggled to keep his expression neutral and took a deep breath to keep himself under control. He was unable, however, to keep the expression of shock and dread from his face when he saw Major Hochstetter, rather than Hogan, emerge from the car. How did he find out? I guess the game is up. I will have to explain what I was up toóat least most of it. "Major Hochstetter, let me explain."
"Oh, there is no need to explain," Hochstetter crowed. Unlike the other Gestapo officer, he was making no effort to hide the pleasure he was getting from the situation. "I can see clearly for myself what is happening. You are here, after presenting false information to the Kommandant of Stalag 13."
Fleischer did not like the triumphant tone in Hochstetterís voice. His apprehension grew as three more cars pulled off the roadway.
"You went, from home, to a park and had a clandestine conversation with a person who I imagine was a member of the Underground." The fear inside Fleischer grew, caused not by Hochstetterís words, but by the guards that emerged from the cars and immediately pointed their rifles at him. Was that Klink who stood beside them?
"I received a tip from a woman who says she overheard you and the other gentleman planning a sabotage mission at this very location, the same location that you told Klink about in the unauthorized visit, which, oddly enough, Colonel Hogan knew about. How can you explain that? How did the prisoners know of your visit?"
Fleischer knew then that he had been set up. He would have to lay all of his cards out on the table to get out of this one. Although he knew he could talk his way out of this, he was sure that this meant the end of his career, of all that he had worked and planned for. I should have killed you at the factory when I had the chance. I will make up for that mistake very soon. He reached down slowly and held out his briefcase. "Major, everything you thought about Colonel Hogan is true. I have the proof right here." Hochstetter motioned for Schultz to go and retrieve the briefcase.
"M-m-m-me?" Schultz asked, teeth chattering. "Go get it from him?"
"Coward!" Hochstetter hissed. "Go and get it, now!"
Schultz closed his eyes and took a deep breath, and then, gripping his rifle tightly, walked slowly towards Fleischer.
"Colonel!" Kinch whispered from behind the bushes. "You canít let Hochstetter get that briefcase!"
"I know," Hogan said, pulling out his pistol. His mind was creating, considering, and rejecting ideas at lightning speed. His body tensed for the moment when he saw an opportunity and could take it. Beside him, Kinch did the same.
"I trust that you will surrender the briefcase without a fight," Hochstetter said, gesturing to the guards. "As you can see, you donít have much choice in the matter. Regardless of the contents in the briefcase, you will be taken to Gestapo headquarters, where you will be tried for treason and shot."
Fleischer was only halfway listening to Hochstetter. A gleam of light caught his attention. His eyes darted to the left, then back to Schultz. He held the briefcase out willingly, and after Schultz had taken it, Fleischer reached out and grabbed the guardís rifle. Schultzís eyes got wide, and, almost dropping the briefcase, he ran as fast as he could back to Hochstetter.
"Hogan is here!" Fleischer shouted, pointing the rifle towards the spot where Hogan and Kinch were hiding.
"He has a gun! Fire!" Klink ordered, before a startled Hochstetter could even respond. A volley of gunfire broke out, sending Schultz and all of the men behind him to the ground and causing the building behind them to go up in a ball of fire.
"They got Schultz!" Kinch whispered, surprised by the sorrow he felt. After all, Schultz was an enemy soldier. Still, he looked out for them, looked the other way, and sometimes actually did seem more like a kind uncle than a guard.
Hogan was silent. Then he put a hand on Kinchís arm. "No, itís okay. Look!"
Schultz lifted his head and looked around him, surprised at the amount of devastation surrounding him. Neither Fleischer nor the other men could be seenójust the fiery building behind him. He slowly lifted himself off the ground. "And it looks like he took care of the briefcase, too!" Hogan pointed to the air, where the papers from the open briefcase were being tossed about by the wind and blown into the fire. "Come on, letís get out of here before someone decides to find out how an abandoned factory explodes." He and Kinch turned and crept quietly across the road and into the woods.
Hochstetter just stood in shock, oblivious to the noise and movement around him. Fleischer was obviously dead. He did not feel any regret about that. But those papers that had instantly flown into the fire, all of the evidence against Hogan, was gone.
He turned to Klink. "Kommandant Klink," he said. "We will discuss what happened when we get back to camp. Right now I want to go and check on the prisoners."
Klink looked surprised. "Surely, you donít think that they had anything to do with this, do you?"
Hochstetter sighed wearily. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, suddenly realizing just how exhausted he was. He wanted to go home and go to bed, and he knew that there would be mounds of paperwork to fill out tomorrow as a result of this nightís events. But he needed to check on one thing first. "Kommandant Klink, it seems that anytime something strange happens, Hoganís name comes up. It canít hurt to make sure."
"There you go, easy now, love," Newkirk soothed as he and Le Beau helped Tiger down the tunnel entrance. He still hadnít recovered from the reaction he had when he first saw her in her cell. It must have been horrible. Newkirk regretted that he had ever doubted her. It was apparent by her condition that she hadnít given her captors anything that they wanted.
They led her through the tunnel. She followed silently, and while she was putting one foot in front of the other, it didnít appear that she comprehended anything around her. They sat her down at the table. Le Beau and Carter went up the ladder to get her a blanket and something to eat, and Newkirk got the first aid kit out and tried to see what he could find to help. Now that their mission was accomplished, all he could do was try and make her feel better while they waited for Kinch and Hogan to come back. "Youíll be all right, Tiger. Youíre safe now." Tiger didnít respond, but blinked slowly and continued to stare at nothing. "Weíll get you all fixed up, and Colonel Hogan will be here before you know it." And heíd better hurry up about it!
Hogan ducked down beside the tree stump and waited for the searchlight to pass him. It swept by, the edge of the beam catching one of Hoganís shoes. Hogan made sure the guard had not seen him, and, after releasing the breath he did not realize he was holding, he opened the hinged top of the tree trunk and dropped into the emergency tunnel.
Kinch was waiting for him below, where Newkirk had joined him. "Did you get her?" Hogan asked anxiously.
"Yes, govínor, and we searched his office thoroughly. There were no incriminating files in there."
"I think he had everything with him. They have all been destroyed. Whereís Tiger?"
"Down here, sir." Newkirk led the way, and together they made their way down the tunnel. Worry gnawed at Hoganís stomach, and his mind went wild as he imagined what he would see at the other end of the tunnel. Tiger had been with the Gestapo for over a week, first with Fleischer and then with Hochstetter. His stomach churned at the thought of that second name. Hochstetter was cruel and ruthless when he wanted the Ďtruthí. Tiger could not have fared well.
Rounding the last corner, fighting every urge to run, he finally saw her, huddled up on a bench, Carter draping a blanket around her shoulders and Le Beau trying to get her to eat hot soup. Hogan gave Kinch a silent look. Kinch got the message, and soon he and the other men had come up with adequate excuses to go upstairs and leave their commanding officer alone with Tiger. He reach down to her and helped her up.
He didnít know what to say. He wanted to ask if she was okay, but stopped himself. He could tell by the bruises on her face, the way she cradled her arm against her side, and the shivering that racked her body that she wasnít okay. Unable to find words that would be adequate, he simply pulled her to him.
She leaned her head against his chest and started crying for the first time since she had been captured. Hogan rubbed her back, unable to speak for all of the anger inside of him. He leaned down and kissed the top of her head.
She looked up at him with tear-filled eyes. "I didnít know. Dragonfly, heÖ"
"Dragonfly is dead," Hogan said coldly. He could feel her relax slightly against him. "And Hochstetter doesnít know you are gone yet, and even when he does find out, he wonít be able to get to you. Weíll take care of you."
"But IóI told him everything. I trusted him, and I put all of you in danger." She reached her hand back and gently touched the back of his head. "I am the reason you were hurt," she said softly.
"He fooled all of us."
"Colonel!" Kinch shouted from above. "Hochstetter just pulled in the front gate!"
He held Tiger away from him and looked in her eyes. "Iíll be back, I promise. You stay here and rest."
"Hey, whatís going on here?" a sleepy voice demanded. Colonel Hogan stood in the doorway of his quarters, hair tousled and pajamas rumpled, rubbing his eyes. "Donít you know that people are sleeping in here?"
"Some very strange things have happened tonight. I would like to discuss them with you," Hochstetter said.
Hogan looked at the men who, with blankets pulled over their heads, were trying to block out the light and go back to sleep, and then down at his wrinkled pajamas. "Okay," he said, stifling a yawn. "Just let me get dressed and we can go into the Kommandantís office and talk about this. At least some of us can get some sleep tonight."
A few minutes later, they stood in Klinkís office, Hogan having been given a general overview of everything that had transpired. Hochstetter had told the story almost exactly the way it had happened, much to Hoganís surprise, but he hadnít been able to miss the accusation in Hochstetterís voice when he told how Klink had ordered them to fire and Schultz had let all of the papers go.
Hochstetter turned to Hogan. "Fleischer said other thingsÖthings that involved you."
"ME?" Hogan asked incredulously. "Is that why we had that extra roll call and this lovely midnight chat? Come on, Major. You saw me then, and you see me now. How could I have been there, too?"
"You have a point," Major Hochstetter agreed grudgingly.
Time to change the subject. "Boy, what a story, though. I bet you sure are grateful to Kommandant Klink, arenít you? I mean, he might get a medal, even a promotion for thinking so fast under fire. And it sounds like it was under fire, wasnít it, sir?" Hogan asked, turning to Klink. "You practically saved Major Hochstetterís life!"
"Yes, I suppose I did," Klink said, warming up quickly to Hoganís idea. "I mean, he took Schultzís weapon and pointed it at you, Major."
"Really," Hogan pressed. "Itís obvious from what youíve said, Major, that Fleischer was up to no good, and was trying to get you and make you look bad!" Hochstetter gave this some thought. "Then he steals a rifle and points it at you. I bet youíre glad that Kommandant Klink thought so quickly when that happened."
Hochstetter rubbed his chin. "I suppose youíre right, Hogan. Colonel Klink, I suppose I should thank you."
"Oh, it was nothing," Klink gushed. He could not remember the last time Hochstetter had something nice to say to him. "Of course, it was just my reaction to the deeply ingrained sense of duty and honor that made meÖ"
"Klink," Hochstetter said dryly. "I did not ask for a speech."
"Oh, yes Major," Klink apologized.
"Now," Hochstetter said, "It is getting late." He wanted to get away, go home, and escape the presence of the two men who irritated him to no end. "Tomorrow we will begin a complete investigation of Lieutenant Fleischer, and we will find out who his contacts in the Underground are," he finished, pinning Hogan with a direct stare. Hogan yawned and blinked bleary eyes. "And," Hochstetter continued, trying to get a reaction from the American Colonel, "I will continue my interrogation of Tiger."
Hogan had to hold back a smile. Good luck, Major. "Okay, but I told you I donít know himóoh, sorryóher. By the way, you never did describe her. I bet sheís a real looker. Come on, describe her. I could use something new to dream about."
Hochstetter, having reached the end of his patience, turned around and stormed out the door, slamming it before him. Hogan threw a sloppy salute after him, turned and gave the same to Klink, and then sauntered out after Hochstetter.
"Okay, first of all," Hogan said, facing the men who were anxiously waiting to hear the message he had just received from London. His eyes sought out Tiger, and he motioned her to come forward. "The sub will pick you up at the rendezvous point tomorrow night. I think itís best if you lay low for a little while."
Tiger nodded. Hoganís stomach clenched as he saw the still visible reminders of her time with the Gestapo. She hadnít told him how much of it had been inflicted by Fleischer, and how much by Hochstetter. It didnít really matter. The anger he had felt towards Fleischer before was now directed towards Hochstetter. Hogan looked forward to the day when he could see the man pay for all of his crimes. But that day would have to wait. The best way to get at him now would be to run this operation as well and efficiently as he could. And he could, he knew, with the help of men like his and Underground agents like Schintzer and Tiger. He could not ask for better. And with the new verification system that they were developing, they could assure that future agents would be of the same caliber.
He realized that his men were waiting for him to continue. "And as for London," he said, rolling his eyes, "it was fairly predictable. Kinch?"
Kinch started in with his best British accent. "Good show, old chaps. We knew you would pull through." Angry murmuring was the response, but Hogan held up his hand for silence.
"Thereís one more thing," Hogan said waving a piece of paper in the air. "Our next mission." He smiled broadly as he listened to them talk excitedly. He felt the same way. It would be good to be back to normal again. He could hardly wait to get going.
Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Rebecca Cloud
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.