We are going to do something we've yet to do with our Game's universe. And that is… post a work-in-progress story, chapter by chapter. We've avoided doing this in the past because we just spend way too much time going back and forth changing and adding things almost until the last minute before posting a story. So it's always worked better for us to post a completed story.
But this time, we thought we might ask everyone for help. Confidence Game has been such a long time in coming, and we know that at least a few of you have been waiting for it to appear, that we were hoping if we started posting chapter by chapter, we'd be motivated to get our act together and finally finish this story.
And we really do want to finish, because this story when completed should, we hope that is, lay the groundwork for why Papa Bear's organization actually succeeded in our Game's Universe. We have the entire story blocked out, and even have the end written. We just need to fill in the middle!
So we were hoping to convince you all to take a gander at Confidence Game – chapter by chapter – and offer constructive criticism, positive motivational feedback, blooper location, etc. Actually, we would also like to hear if there's something you don't like about how the story is proceeding as well. With your help, we may actually get this story written. It's already been more than a year and a half since we began writing it… ugh.
So, any comments you'd like to make would greatly appreciated!
Thanks in advance for your help!
Patti and Marg
This story overlaps slightly with the events chronicled in our
story Mind Games and continues until just after the events chronicled in our
story Game in Overtime. But this story was also written in answer to two
challenges posted on the Hogan's Heroes Smartgroup's List. So to this end,
we have attempted to combine those two challenges into one story, as well as
integrating them into our continuing 'Games Universe.'
We again do not make any claims on the original Hogan's Heroes' characters. All other characters are ours. But again, those characters are free for anyone to use, if you so choose. Our rating for this story would be PG-13 for strong language and violence.
Listed below are the synopses of both challenges offered by Lauren (The Oboe One). We have chosen the HH episode entitled 'The Great Brinksmeyer Robbery' as both an inspiration and an answer to these challenges.
Hope you enjoy it Lauren!
The AWOL Challenge
High Command has discovered that several members of Papa Bear's
team have apparently been AWOL on some missions. While each mission was
successfully completed and the absent members returned without incident, it is
troublesome to learn that someone can apparently vanish without a problem.
Please advise on their location, activities, and reasons for not participating
in the main objective.
In other words...
There are a bunch of episodes where one of the guys is just, well missing. No reasons, just gone for the whole episode. And I'm not talking Kinch and the whole last season. I'm talking sporadic episodes all over the place. So come up with a story behind the missing member. Were they out on another mission? What was it? Did they really participate in the episode and we just never saw it? And if so what did they do? Did they end up in the cooler the whole time, and why?
The Redemption Challenge
Carter is my favorite character. He's sweet, enthusiastic,
funny, loyal, a bit out there, and can blow stuff up. But he does have his
faults... He can be absentminded and forgetful to the point where it
causes problems. A few missions, OK quite a few, have had to be saved by
one of the other Heroes due to a blunder on Carter's part. Lord knows he
tries hard, and he does feel awful every time he screws up.
That's where the challenge comes in. Pick an episode where Carter screws up and the others have to fix it. Unfortunately there are a few to choose from. Think about the time he forgot to put film in the camera, or even left the camera outside! Or how about taking aim with his flaming arrow at the truck carrying experimental rocket fuel only to hit the side of the window. Of course there's always that secret factory that's 5 miles due west out of Hamingleed? Leedinher? And quite a few more.
The start of your story is the end of the episode where the mission is successful but Carter feels awful cause he almost fouled up the whole thing. The others are probably razzing him about it, and he's beginning to doubt if he should even be out on missions. But he decides he's going to make it up to everyone and prove that he really does belong on the team. So he's determined that the next mission is going to go off without a hitch, no matter what he's got to do to get it right. If only the next mission was an easy one. So what happens next?
May your ideas come easy and your pen never run out of ink.
Lauren (the Oboe one)
Thanks for the inspiration Lauren.
We'll leave the judgment up to you all.
Did we answer both of Lauren's challenges successfully?
Please Read and Enjoy!
Confidence is a lot of this game or any game.
If you don't think you can, you won't.
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0220 Hours
The quiet of a dark moonless night was shattered by the sound of
an explosion near the center of the small town of Hammelburg, Germany. The
citizens of Hammelburg who did peek out from behind their tightly drawn blackout
curtains saw a familiar dark smudge against the night sky; smoke from a fire
caused by the explosion. Perhaps it was the beginning of another air
raid. Perhaps it was sabotage. The night's quiet was further
shattered by the wail of the small town's only fire truck. And of course,
the ominous appearance of the town's protectors -- the Gestapo.
Once the Gestapo were on the scene, there wasn't a power on earth that would stir the concerned neighbors of the bombed out building to rush outside to help. No one wanted the Gestapo to become interested in them. The Gestapo might protect the town, but none in the town could protect the populace from them. It was far safer to keep one's head down, maintain the curfew imposed after darkness fell, and pray that you would get through another day without being labeled an 'Enemy of the State'.
After a time...
The fire had been extinguished and the general store, one of the few remaining open in Hammelburg, had been salvaged. Clearly the incident was the result of sabotage. But luckily the explosives placed in the store had not been too powerful. The damage to the store had been significant, but repairable.
And the Gestapo was investigating...
Home of Heinrich and Olga Berger,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0450 Hours
Heinrich Berger hastily threw on a dressing gown after the
incessant pounding on his front door woke him. He made sure that his wife
Olga was awake before going to answer the door.
"The Gestapo!" Olga said fearfully as she carefully peered out the window. "What do they want, Heinrich? Do you think they know?"
"Olga. Be calm. I will go and find out what the Gestapo are doing here. Just dress and be ready. If something happens to me, you will need to run for safety to Stalag 13," Heinrich whispered to his wife as he kissed her gently on the cheek. "But, I don't believe they are here to arrest us. They would not be pounding on the door. They would have forced their way inside and we would have been taken from our bed."
Olga nodded, only somewhat reassured by her husband's logic. She dressed quickly as soon as her husband left their bedroom to confront the Gestapo. Please be careful, my love. I don't know how I will cope if something happens to you. Maybe it would be better for us to die together in this -- as one.
Yes, that's as it should be.
I'm sorry, Heinrich. I love you so very much. I will not run from this alone.
Olga sat quietly on their bed waiting for her husband's return, with or without the Gestapo.
Meanwhile downstairs in the Berger household...
Heinrich pulled open his front door to see a Gestapo Captain and two other officers. "Yes, what is it?" he asked trying to strike an attitude somewhere between annoyed and concerned -- yet all the while trying not to let his fear show. The recent mission in which he had accompanied Colonel Hogan to Dachau had taught him many things about acting. It had also convinced him that should the Gestapo or the SS ever try to arrest him, he did not want to be taken alive. I can only hope that Olga will do as we agreed and take refuge at Stalag 13. Please, my love, do not do anything foolish.
"You are Heinrich Berger, the owner of the Warenhaus on Dalbergstrasse?" the Gestapo Captain asked with no preamble.
"Yes. I am Heinrich Berger. And the Warenhaus is mine. Is there a problem, Captain?" Berger replied with his heart in his throat. What have they found? There should be nothing in the store linking me to the underground!
"I am Captain Peter Schotz. It appears that, earlier this morning, underground saboteurs targeted your store. My superior Colonel Frederick Vogel wished for me to inform you of the explosion and fire at your place of business. At this point, the fire has been brought under control."
"My store?" Heinrich questioned unbelieving. "Why would my store be the target of the underground?"
"I do not know the answer to that question, Herr Berger," Schotz replied. "But there has been an increase in underground activity in this area recently. Colonel Vogel will be by to discuss the matter with you personally later on today. He wants to give you enough time to determine your losses. In the meantime, to discourage looting, there is a small Gestapo squad of three men protecting your property."
"Danke, Captain. I will dress and my wife and I will go to the Warenhaus directly," Berger replied careful not to voice his opinion, regarding the Captain's explanation, as to how such a thing could happen. This so-called underground activity started almost three weeks ago. Certainly before Colonel Hogan had begun his new plan of restructuring the underground. And I find it curious that all of the recent underground targets have been civilian places of business. Not one has been a military target. And it is certainly not the work of the underground -- at least not the underground that I am a member of!
"Very good, Herr Berger," Schotz replied putting his hand in his uniform jacket. "Here is a pass allowing your wife and you authority to be outside during the curfew hours."
"Danke, Captain," Berger said taking the pass. "I appreciate the work that you and your fellow officers do. You make this glorious Third Reich a safer place to be. Heil Hitler."
"Heil Hitler," Schotz replied smiling as Berger closed his door.
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0630 Hours
Heinrich Berger examined his store in the weak light of
dawn. The front of the store was practically gone. He would need to
replace the plate glass storefront and the front door. The first thirty
feet of the store and its merchandise, at first glance, were destroyed. As
he sorted through the destruction he hoped that some of the stock would be
salvageable. The rest of the store was in horrible disarray but apparently
unharmed. However, the blast had piled debris in the alley next to the
store and it was now impassible. His loading dock area was unusable and no
truck would be able to traverse the alley.
And that was his main concern right now, because very soon Rolf Nehaus would be there with the morning delivery of the Deutsches Tagespost and quite possibly more customers for Colonel Hogan's Traveler's Aide Society, which they all helped to operate. This situation could not be worse! The Gestapo are still here. We have no privacy. How are we to conceal the people being moved and still get them to Stalag 13?
"What are we to do, Heinrich?" Olga asked her husband quietly more concerned as to the approaching time of Rolf's arrival than to the destruction of their livelihood.
"We will manage somehow, Olga," Heinrich said. "We've come too far now to be stopped by this."
"I hope so," Olga replied deflated as she watched Rolf Nehaus pull his truck to a stop in front of the store.
Rolf got out of his truck with great misgiving. Oh no! Heinrich's store! What could have happened? The Gestapo are everywhere! What are we to do? There are people to be moved. "Mein Gott! Are you and Olga alright, Heinrich?" Rolf questioned of the big storeowner, as he was met in front of what was left of Heinrich's store.
"Yes, we are both fine," Heinrich replied with a grateful smile. "No one was injured here."
"But what happened?" Rolf asked. "There was no word of any bombing raids last night."
"No. The Gestapo has informed me that it was the underground that sabotaged my store last night," Berger told his friend -- and fellow underground member.
"The underground?" Rolf repeated in astonishment, of course knowing that that was impossible.
"Ja. That is what I am told," Berger told him. "I am sure the efficient Gestapo of Hammelburg will discover the miscreants who have done this and punish them. We will all be safe again soon."
Rolf smiled in understanding. There is trouble brewing in Hammelburg. I can only hope that this new underground leader of ours will be capable of quelling the trouble here in his own home territory. If he cannot, I will no longer follow him. And none of my other contacts will either. "I have my delivery for you, Heinrich. Do you still want it?"
"Ja. Let's unload the newspapers onto the sidewalk. I will try to conduct some business today, despite the mess," Heinrich replied indicating a clear spot on the rubble littered sidewalk.
The two men began to unload the papers. "How many do you have today?" Heinrich asked Rolf quietly as he passed him with a bundle of newspapers.
"Four today," Rolf replied when he passed Heinrich again with his own bundle of newspapers. "I can't keep them. They have to get out of my truck."
"Ja. I understand. Take the Hammelburg road. A half-mile down from the bridge there is a small turn off on the right. Pull over. Have engine trouble," Berger directed speaking quickly and quietly as they unloaded the truck. Each man spoke only a few words at a time as the two men passed each other.
"Ja, and then what?" Rolf agreed nervously.
"A truck marked Oskar Schnitzer, Tierarzt will stop and offer to help. Transfer the men to him," Berger explained.
"Ja," Rolf agreed. "I wish you well, Heinrich," he continued in a louder voice as the two men stood at the back of his truck finished with the unloading. "I will see you tomorrow morning."
"Ja. Give my regards to your sisters. Tell them that Olga and I will be well," Berger said shaking hands with the newspaper delivery driver.
"I will," Rolf replied climbing into the driver's seat of his truck, quickly starting the engine, and driving away.
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0715 Hours
Colonel Robert Hogan, the Senior POW Officer, was traversing
Stalag 13's compound on an informal inspection tour. It wasn't long ago,
only a couple of weeks in fact, that he had set preparations for his new
expanded operation into motion. An operation that if successful, would aid
the Allies in the defeat of Hitler's Third Reich. And do it right from
under the German's noses. If unsuccessful however, it could mean the
deaths of close to a thousand men that had willingly pledged their complete
support to him, just those two short weeks ago. Hogan knew he would never
take his men's loyalty for granted, but he also knew that he was committed to
his goal of ending this war one day earlier, no matter the cost. Hogan
just hoped that that commitment would not mean sacrificing the lives of his men.
Especially since London still hasn't even agreed to support us. What have I gotten these guys into?
"Colonel Hogan," called Sergeant Ivan Kinchloe as he jogged to catch up to his commanding officer, planning to help him continue the inspection tour. He had been detained because of a message that had come in from London. "Good news, Colonel," Kinch reported quietly, after having glanced around to make sure no German guards were within earshot.
The Colonel interrupted before Kinch could continue. "London's agreed? Great! Are they going to send the stuff we need? We can really get this show on the road now..."
"Sorry, Colonel," Kinch said to stop him from continuing down that road. "It wasn't that good news. London just confirmed getting all the schematics we sent of the SS Tiger Tank that we commandeered last week. They were very impressed with the level of detail that we were able to give them."
Hogan sighed, but finally grinned at his second. "That is good news, Kinch. You and Newkirk should be proud of yourselves. You both did a great job getting that tank here. I had been real worried that Newkirk wouldn't be able to pull off the German impersonation. But with those forged orders and him being wired so that you could play Cyrano de Bergerac in his ear… well it worked out great. I'm just glad Newkirk has a good ear for accents."
"Yeah me too," Kinch replied gratefully. "Newkirk will be invaluable once he gets more comfortable with the German language. Actually, Colonel… you do remember that the classes for the men to learn the language and customs begin tomorrow. You have done your homework… right, sir?" Kinch asked his commanding officer, almost like a parent would when they were expecting an evasive answer from their child.
Hogan gave his second a look of indignation. "What?! Kinch, you don't actually think that I would shirk my duty in regards to those lessons? Of course I've done my homework. What time are the classes? And where? I'll be ready to teach," Hogan said rather forcefully, but only because he was trying to distract Kinch. I haven't even read the material he gave me. I do have the language down pat, though. I'll just begin with that and not the customs.
"Okay, Colonel," Kinch replied giving his companion a rueful and knowing glance. "Just checking. It's only you and me doing these classes. I don't think I could handle it on my own," he admitted sheepishly. "The first of your two classes begins at 1000 tomorrow, in barracks twenty. There will be only 30 men to any given class. Your second class is with barracks nineteen at 1400. I start with barracks two at 1100 and continue with barracks one at 1500. Hopefully this will work. We just have to keep the guards preoccupied, so they don't notice the small gatherings. I think we can get away with hour classes, but not much more. I guess we can always tell the Germans that we are going over proper hygiene with each barracks."
"Don't worry. We shouldn't have a problem covering a few hours a day, as long as we keep it as casual as possible. It'll work out. But, it's definitely going to be a crash course for everyone though. Hopefully we'll find someone a quick study and be able to pass off these classes to him eventually." Wow. So much has been going on in preparation for this new operation. It's almost impossible to keep on top of everything. Thanks, Kinch. You always seem to have it together. I come up with some crazy scheme and you're always there to back me up. I don't know what I'd do without you.
The two men continued quietly across the compound, heading for the motor pool. Sergeant Marlow and ten other POWs had been assigned to motor pool duty after Colonel Hogan had convinced Kommandant Klink that the POWs would be better off keeping busy and that they would be less likely to attempt an escape if they had something productive to do. But of course, Hogan had ulterior motives. His new operation required that he and his men have access to the whole camp. Hogan foresaw that the need might arise when they would need to liberate one of the Stalag's trucks and/or staff car for a mission outside of camp.
"How's it going, Marlow?" Colonel Hogan asked expectantly as he came up behind his head mechanic. He had watched Marlow and his men almost take apart and put back together each of the four trucks, the motorcycle and the Kommandant's staff car. Hogan had wanted the vehicles in tiptop shape and ready when he might need them.
"Good morning, Colonel," Marlow replied. "Everything is going well. We've been over every inch of every vehicle. I've pulled together a list of parts that we'll need to give the vehicles a complete overhaul. Do you think that the Kommandant will requisition all of these?" Marlow pulled out the list and handed it to his commanding officer.
"Well. I'm going to try my damndest to convince him. If not, we'll just have to get the stuff elsewhere. Let me try the easy way first. I'll get back to you," Hogan replied. "You and your guys are doing a great job, Marlow. Keep doing whatever you can to maintain access to the motor pool. I want it to eventually just be normal that you're all here. The guards will ease off then. So if you have too, break stuff if necessary. Okay?"
"Yes, sir. It's under control. We have enough work for weeks, cleaning and organizing the motor pool, loading and unloading the trucks, not to mention washing and overhauling them," Marlow assured his commanding officer. "We won't have to resort to breaking things for quite a while. But I assure you my men are very capable of that as well." Marlow smirked at his commanding officer and offered a sideways wink at Kinch.
"Great. Thanks, Marlow. Keep up the good work," Hogan praised as he handed Kinch the list of requested automobile parts and began to walk away, his mind already on the next stop in their informal inspection.
Kinch followed his commanding officer in silence, not wanting to interrupt the Colonel's train of thought. There has been so much going on lately and the Colonel has become so introspective. I hope we can get this crazy new operation off the ground -- without us all ending up dead.
Hammelburg Road turn-off,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0730 Hours
Rolf had been tinkering underneath the hood of his truck for
almost fifteen minutes when a small truck pulled up behind him. The vet's
truck had not come from the town but from the other direction and now the back
of each truck was quite close together. When Rolf had first 'broken down'
he had opened the back of his truck to retrieve a packet of tools and then had
casually left the back open. Quickly he tried to explain to the men inside
that soon they would be getting into another truck and to be ready. Rolf
wasn't sure how much his charges really understood, but they remained quiet and
Oskar Schnitzer got out of his truck and said to his niece, "Heidi, why don't you check on the dogs. I will see if I can help the driver." Oskar was glad today for Heidi's company. There have been far too many obstacles in our way so far. Heidi's help will prove invaluable, especially knowing that four men's lives depend on us today.
"Ja, Uncle," Heidi replied walking to the back of the truck. She opened the doors and patted the first shepherd dog inside. She looked around the area carefully and was relieved that the forest was quiet on all sides and no one was in the field near the turnoff. "Come quickly. One at a time," she called into the newspaper truck. What English she spoke had been learned hurriedly and by rote. She knew how to say a few phrases; enough to ensure the men they moved could understand and would obey quickly.
The first man scrambled over the bundled newspapers and hastily climbed into the smaller truck.
"The dogs will not hurt you," Heidi reassured the first man, with another phrase learned by rote, even as the second man clambered over the piled newspapers.
After all four men were safely inside the dog truck, Heidi fastened the door and went to where the two older men were huddled together under the bigger truck's hood. "The dogs are fine, Uncle," Heidi reported.
"Excellent. Thank you, Heidi. There now, Herr Nehaus. I believe that has fixed your problem. Why don't you try to start your truck," Oskar offered as he pretended to make more adjustments to the truck's motor.
"Danke, Herr Schnitzer, Fraulein Heidi. Danke Schon," Rolf called out when his truck started. Rolf climbed down, returned the tools to the back and closed the door. He waved his thanks at the older veterinarian and his lovely niece as they made their way back to their own truck.
"You are quite welcome, Herr Nehaus. It is splendid to meet you at last. Herr Berger speaks of you often, as I am usually the next visitor to his store in the morning after you deliver the newspapers. I feel like I've known you for years!" Schnitzer replied also climbing into his truck.
Oskar then watched his niece climb back into the front seat. He again felt relieved that today was the day that Heidi did the shopping in town. Heidi had moved in with her Aunt and Uncle to help take care of her Aunt Frieda after she'd taken ill from a stroke, close to a year ago. Occasionally Heidi would drive with her Uncle to pick up the groceries that she, her Aunt and Uncle needed. It's been such a blessing to have her with us. I could not do what I do without her. And I'm so glad that Frieda doesn't understand what I do. Her knowing would only make things more difficult.
Soon both trucks had gone their respective ways. Neither had paused long and nothing untoward had happened. And thankfully, the four men being moved were one step further along the underground chain to London.
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0805 Hours
Colonel Hogan and Sergeant Kinchloe were finally making their
way across the compound to the last stop on their little tour -- the new
I can't believe I talked Klink into letting the men build a greenhouse, thought Hogan. But we need a lot of shrubbery and flowers to continue the Beautify Stalag 13 campaign I began with Klink's approval. Not to mention, that we need to move and hide all the damn dirt from the miles of tunnels being dug under the camp. So basically, more shrubbery means more planting, which in turn means more dirt can be moved.
I can't believe how close we came to having the whole thing blow up in our faces though. Klink had actually gone off and contacted the supply depot for flowers and shrubbery. God, that was a mistake. Poor Klink. I got to be more careful what I ask of him. I'll need to work harder at keeping things internal to Stalag 13, before ever pushing any more outside contact. The powers that be had threatened Klink with death for even making such a stupid request.
Luckily, Klink still thinks that keeping the men busy will stop any more escape attempts. And we are going to let him think that for as long as we can. He's allowing work details out of camp to harvest shrubbery. And he's even purchased flowers and seeds from the local farmers as well. I've got him convinced that I have men who are proficient horticulturists. And actually, I do. Thanks to all the men knowing the intent behind Matthews's interviews, we've had 15 guys come forward and admit to either having a background as a landscaper or have actually run a greenhouse.
Wow, Hogan thought, certainly not for the first time. What an amazing group of men I've got here. I can't wait to see the completed interviews that Matthews is compiling. In all the time I've been here, I haven't seen such teamwork. Everyone is committed to this new operation. I can't be more proud of these guys.
As Hogan and Kinch reached the area cordoned off for the new greenhouse, Sergeant Matthews came up quickly behind them. "Colonel Hogan! Can I talk to you?" Matthews asked hastily.
"Sure, Matthews," Hogan replied holding up his hand indicating that Matthews should wait a minute. "Kinch," Hogan said turning to his companion. "Check to see if our resident horticulturists have everything they need. I'll be over in a few."
Hogan then turned back to Matthews. "What is it, Matthews? Is there a problem?"
"I'm not sure," Matthews began a little sheepishly. "It's just odd. As you know, I've been trying to make headway with these interviews. I've gone through a good many of the barracks so far," he explained reluctantly. "But, I've just found this really really strange, sir." He paused not knowing how to phrase his next statement to his commanding officer.
"Spit it out, Sergeant," Hogan ordered. "I'm not going to bite your head off. What's the problem?"
"Yes, sir," Matthews responded. "Well. It's Sergeant Carter." Matthews's eyes wandered over to where he had last seen Carter by the dog kennel. With a nod of his head to Colonel Hogan he continued, "He has been avoiding me like the plague. I don't know what it means, but he won't even look at me, never mind talk to me."
"Our Sergeant Carter?" asked Hogan bewildered as he glanced in the direction Matthews indicated. "Andrew Carter? Bullfrog North Dakota's Andrew Carter?" he asked again surprised, pulling his attention back to Matthews. Carter is the most honest, loyal, eager POW in the place. Why would he be avoiding an interview?
"One in the same. I thought that maybe you could talk to him," Matthews offered. "I thought he might be more open to talking to you than me."
"Okay, Sergeant. I'll take care of it. Don't worry. I'm sure it will be fine," Hogan replied casually. I wonder what's wrong? Why would Carter be so standoffish? Could it be something that could endanger this operation? Could he be trying to hide something? Could Carter be more than he seems?
No. That's impossible. It would shake my whole core to the bone to find out that I've been wrong about Andrew Carter. I'm sure it's nothing. Only Carter having a -- what do they guys call it now? -- 'A Carter Moment'.
"Thank you, Colonel," Matthews said and turned away from Colonel Hogan when he realized that his commanding officer was lost in thought.
Matthews' quiet thank you brought Hogan back to the present. He watched his Sergeant walk away and then quickly began to again make his way into the greenhouse area. But he stopped short when he saw Oskar Schnitzer's truck enter through the front gates. Hogan glanced at his watch. 0815 hours. A little late this morning, huh Oskar?
It was then that his sixth sense kicked in. Something's wrong. I can feel it. Hogan glanced casually over to the dog kennel. Carter, LeBeau, and Newkirk are all in place. Shultz is still making his rounds. Everything seems fine. You're just over reacting, Hogan.
Hogan watched until Schnitzer's truck pulled up in front of the dog kennel. But, as he turned away to look for Kinch, his attention was brought to bear, for a second time, on the front gates of their Luft Stalag. This time though, a Gestapo staff car had made its way rapidly through the gates and had come to a stop in front of the Kommandant's office. Gestapo Colonel Frederick Vogel and two of his goons jumped out of the car and barged into the Kommandant's office, leaving three additional Gestapo surveying the compound.
Damn. I should learn to listen to my sixth sense.
Hogan removed his cap, and pretended to accidentally drop it. As he bent down to pick it up, he tried to take in the activity at the dog kennel. He looked over just in time to see Carter jump into the back of the truck and close the door behind him. What's happening? What's Carter doing? Hogan so wanted to warn them to be careful, but he didn't even have time to take a breath before the Gestapo that had been surveying the compound had him surrounded.
Hogan stood ever so slowly as two of those Gestapo goons had their machine guns pointed squarely at his head. "What can I do for you, fellas?" he asked as nonplussed as he could after standing to reach his full height. Hogan couldn't help but notice that the third goon was holding Kinch and the rest of the POWs, who had started to gather in the area, at bay with machine gun at the ready. Please be careful guys.
"Raus," one of the goons ordered while the second goon unceremoniously shoved the American Colonel in the direction of the Kommandant's office.
Colonel Hogan could do nothing but comply. He just hoped his men didn't do anything stupid on his behalf, as he didn't even get a chance to warn them off. Kinch should know better. At least I hope so anyway. As Hogan and his Gestapo escort climbed the steps to the porch of the Kommandant's office, Hogan glanced quickly back toward the compound. He had heard, what he hoped was Oskar's empty truck driving past. Hogan was then almost sent sprawling as his escort again shoved him. Well, I guess that was the wrong thing to do, he thought trying to protect himself from slamming into the door of the Kommandant's outer office. He was not successful.
You know. I really hate these guys.
Luft Stalag 13, Dog Kennel,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0810 Hours
Newkirk and LeBeau had taken their positions, lingering like
they did every morning around the dog kennel. They were waiting on the
arrival of Oskar Schnitzer, the local veterinarian. If Oskar had some
visitors for the Traveler's Aide Society, he would signal them as he exited his
truck. And they would take it from there, getting those visitors into the
tunnels via the dog kennel.
But today was going to be a little different because Sergeant Carter had been added as a third man to this transfer. The Traveler's Aide Society had been getting very busy of late and another body was needed to keep watch. Carter was assigned to getting the people out of the truck while LeBeau and Newkirk were to keep watch and help distract any wandering German guards.
Andrew Carter was leaning against the wall of barracks six directly across from the dog kennel. He was sweating profusely. He's late, thought Carter. The Doc is never late. I wonder what the problem is? All Carter could do was wait and try to look as unobtrusive as possible, which was proving very difficult for the young Sergeant. Oh God. Why? Why on my first day assigned to moving people? It was just my luck to be standing near Colonel Hogan when he made the decision to add another person to this duty assignment. I tried desperately to back out of it, but once the Colonel had made up his mind, there was no changing it. I was completely content with my job taking and developing the photos for all the civilian paperwork. I knew I couldn't screw anything up. And even if I did, all it meant was that I had to take another picture. Please God, help me. If I screw up here, people could die.
Carter took a deep breath to calm his nerves and tried to look casual as he watched the goings-on in the compound. But his heart almost skipped a beat when he saw Sergeant Matthews stop and talk to Colonel Hogan. And when both men glanced in his direction, he almost fainted. Oh no. This just isn't my day. Now the Colonel must know that I've been avoiding Sergeant Matthews. That has to be what they are talking about. I hoped that Matthews would just forget about me, so I wouldn't have to lie to him. Now I have no other choice. Sometimes I wish Colonel Hogan had never decided to expand this crazy operation. I was content just helping out, and not doing more than just helping. Now I'm afraid I'll be assigned a duty that I won't be able to handle, especially if anyone finds out about my knowledge of chemistry and explosives. All it would take is a small screw up, and people could die.
I will just have to come up with a good lie, pondered Carter.
But before he could put any more thought into his lie, Oskar Schnitzer's truck entered the compound and headed directly for the dog kennel. The three POWs watched as both Oskar and his niece Heidi got out of the truck. Oskar gave the proper signal as he exited the truck. He blew his nose. But before the POWs could spring into action, they waited a beat for Oskar and Heidi to distract Sergeant Shultz, which was almost never difficult when Heidi came with her uncle.
Carter glanced at both Newkirk and LeBeau and got the go ahead signal. He immediately went to the back of the vet's truck and opened the door, signaling to the men inside to remain quiet and exit one at a time. Oh brother, there are four today. Carter quickly signaled his comrades that they had four guests.
After Carter had gotten the second man out of the truck and into the tunnel under the dog kennel, he returned to the truck to let the third man out, but heard Newkirk cough loudly. Turning quickly, Carter saw that the Gestapo had entered the compound. Without really thinking he jumped into the back of the truck, closing the door behind him and signaled again for quiet from the men still in the truck. Oh God. What do I do? Please, Peter, Louis. Help.
As Carter and the two men sat quietly, Oskar Schnitzer had come to the back to the truck and quickly changed some of the dogs. Schnitzer had barely opened the back door of the truck to let the dogs in and out. After the fourth dog, Carter heard Oskar and his niece say goodbye to Shultz, get into the truck and begin to drive out of camp. Oh no. What's going on? This can't be happening! I've never been outside camp. How am I going to get back in? And with company?
Carter quickly glanced at his two companions. They seemed even younger and more frightened than he was, if that was even possible. Oh boy. "It will be okay," he whispered to them. "This was just a little set back. It will work out. The Colonel always has a plan. Don't worry," he said and smiled, hoping to keep them calm. Carter then sat back against the side of the truck, and with a German Shepherd in his lap, waited while the truck was driven from camp. I really really need to come up with a good lie. I can't be doing this. But I guess…this whole thing may not even matter anymore. I can't shake the feeling that we're all gonna die.
Luft Stalag 13, Kommandant Klink's Office,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0815 Hours
Helga Hirsch, Kommandant Klink's secretary and part-time
manicurist for Colonel Hogan's Traveler's Aide Society, was so frightened when
Gestapo Colonel Frederick Vogel and two other Gestapo had barged into her
office. She had barely enough time to get out of their way. She
hadn't even been able to ask them what they wanted, before Colonel Vogel and his
aide, a Gestapo Captain, had barged into the Kommandant's office unannounced and
began to lambast Colonel Klink, accusing him of treason and complicity with the
The third Gestapo man, a Lieutenant, closed the door to Colonel Klink's office and remained on guard in the outer office. Helga returned to her desk, trying desperately to ignore what was happening in the inner office, as well as avoiding eye contact with the Gestapo Lieutenant. The man made her feel so uncomfortable, more than just scared. She could feel his eyes bearing down on her.
Helga knew that she would be much safer knowing nothing. So, she tried to go back to typing, hoping to drown out the yelling that was coming from the Kommandant's office. But before she could even put another piece of paper into the typewriter, a loud bang resounded at the office door from the outside. She nearly jumped out of her skin as Colonel Hogan was shoved rather forcefully through that door. Helga glanced away just as the American officer slammed into the corner of her desk and grimaced in pain.
"Hey. Come on, guys. Let's be friends here. If you tell me what you want, I'm sure we can work something out," Colonel Hogan said as politely as he could after he recovered from the shooting pain in his groin. The only response he got from his escort was to be manhandled into the chair beside Helga's desk. So, I guess that was a 'no'.
Hogan couldn't help but see that Helga was terrified. He wished he could comfort her somehow, but that was impossible. His escort had him glued to his chair, machine guns pointed squarely at him. He knew that he needed to stay calm and knew that he would never be able to, if these guys pushed him one more time. Besides, he couldn't help but overhear the rather loud conversation in German taking place in Klink's office. Goddamn it. What the hell is Vogel doing here? Is this operation over before we can even begin? Vogel is accusing Klink of complicity with me?! Klink sounds mortified, but is keeping his cool enough to spout his only saving grace, that there has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13 while he's been the Kommandant here. And therefore I couldn't be involved in anything. Keep it together Klink. Your life and mine depend upon it.
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0820 Hours
Oskar Schnitzer was terrified, for up until now the transfer of
the people being moved had always gone smoothly. Today is just not
going well. This is the second time today that the transfer has been
interrupted. Damn the Gestapo. As Oskar got back into the truck
after changing the dogs, he had no idea what he was going to do with the three
men still in the truck, as this has never happened before. His only
thought was to leave camp as quickly as possible. He glanced at his niece
Heidi, already knowing that he could do nothing to assuage the fear in her
eyes. So Oskar just started his truck and headed for the main gates of the
Luft Stalag. Luckily though, he glanced back in direction of the dog
kennel. It was only then that he had seen the Frenchman LeBeau signal to
him. Ah yes. Of course. The emergency tunnel. I had
forgotten. The tunnel was always to be the backup plan. But we have
never had to resort to it. I need to have car trouble along the North
Road, close to the bend in the river, until an escort from camp comes to meet
Oskar heaved a sigh of relief as he turned his attention back to the main compound, only to almost choke as he watched three Gestapo shove Colonel Hogan across the compound and up onto the Kommandant's porch. Oh no! Colonel Hogan. This can't be happening. We've only just begun. There is so much that needs to be done. Please. Please be careful, Colonel. What will we ever do without you? Oskar knew his question would have to remain unanswered for a time. The only thing he could do at this moment was to get his charges safely to the bend in the river. I can only pray that Colonel Hogan can keep the wolves at bay.
Schnitzer's truck, as usual, passed unchecked out of the Luft Stalag. It was always a worry that the guards would check the back of the truck as Oskar either entered or exited the camp. But luckily for their little underground chain, most of the guards were actually afraid of the dogs. It had always worked to Schnitzer's advantage that he had trained the dogs to bark incessantly if someone even tapped the truck when the doors were closed. Early on, as soon as the dogs barked, the German soldiers would back off and never check inside. Now, Oskar's appearances at the Luft Stalag were just commonplace. The German guards believed that no one was stupid enough to get in the back of the truck with the dogs. So much so, that they hardly ever watched the veterinarian's entry and exit from camp any longer. It also didn't hurt that the camp was becoming known as the toughest POW camp in Germany, with no one ever having successfully escaped. The guards had become complacent, some completely unconcerned. Their feelings were that the POWs at Stalag 13 had been cowed and therefore they had nothing to worry about.
It took just a few minutes to reach the bend in the river. Oskar had no idea how long he would have to wait for the escort to come for his charges. As he pulled over though, he realized that he still had the note that Heinrich had given him for Colonel Hogan in his pocket. Mein Gott! With all the commotion, I forgot to attach it to Bearhardt's collar. I will have to give it to Hogan's man in the back of the truck and hope I can make the young man understand that the note needs to get to Colonel Hogan. And I do hope that the Colonel will still be able to receive it.
Oskar got out and opened the hood to his truck. He then went to the back to check on his guests. As he reached the back of the truck and opened the door he said in broken English, using one of the very few phrases he knew, "Stay quiet. Everything will be all right." Oskar then gestured to the young man from Stalag 13. As the young man came to the back of the truck, Oskar took his hand and placed the note in it saying, "fur Oberst Hogan. Ja?"
Oskar closed the young man's hand into a fist around the note and repeated, "fur Oberst Hogan. Ja?" Oskar noticed that the young man looked somewhat bewildered. He hoped that giving the note to him was not a mistake. His fears were eased somewhat by the small smile of understanding that appeared on the young man's face.
"Colonel Hogan," Carter said shaking his head affirmatively.
"Ja. Ja. Danke," Oskar said and held up his hand in a stopping motion. "Wait," he continued in English and watched somewhat relieved as the young man returned to his companions. It was only another few minutes until the escort from Stalag 13 arrived. The Frenchman LeBeau and the Englishman Newkirk arrived together and were gone with their new charges almost as quickly as they had come. But they shared no news of Colonel Hogan.
Oskar Schnitzer and his niece were finally able to drive back into town and home. "Ach Heidi," Oskar said to his niece as they pulled up in front of their house. "Today is not a day that I want to repeat ever again." But Doc Schnitzer knew that his involvement in this underground operation, from this point on, was only going to increase, getting more and more dangerous. It is something I have agreed to and something I will always abide by. I just always imagined that I would die bravely facing down the enemy. Never had I thought to die of a heart attack. Mein Gott! What a day!
Luft Stalag 13, Kommandant Klink's Office,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0830 Hours
Colonel Hogan sat cooling his heels in the Kommandant's outer
office. He couldn't even shift to get more comfortable as the Gestapo watching
him weren't taking even the smallest chance that he might try something. All he
could do was sit quietly, trying to ignore the throbbing from his groin where he
had been shoved into the desk. He was also trying desperately to keep his mind
off Helga, because he knew, that if he let his guard down at all... he'd be at
the throat of the Gestapo Lieutenant who had been eyeing her in a way that made
his blood boil. I really really do hate these guys.
So Hogan sat quietly and concentrated on a plan to solve his present predicament. Okay, Hogan. Just keep your cool with Vogel. He doesn't seem to have any real proof. He just seems to be mouthing off at Klink. So you need to just stick with the tried and true cowed POW routine. But don't overplay it. This guy is too dangerous. He already knows too much, but thankfully doesn't yet realize how much he knows. It is probably going to be necessary to rid ourselves of his presence, very soon. But how? He can't just have an accident. It could lead back to us too quickly, especially after today's theatrics.
The door to the Kommandant's office opened quickly then, so quickly that the Gestapo Lieutenant guarding the door jumped to get out of the way of his superior. A Gestapo Captain ordered in German that Hogan was to be brought into the inner office. Hogan's escort resumed their shoving routine. Hogan was thrust through the door, only stopping because he grabbed onto the chair in front of Klink's desk. Still, he was quite relieved that he was able to avoid a second collision with another desk.
When he regained his balance, Hogan stood to attention and saluted Colonel Klink. "You wanted to see me Kommandant?" he asked, studiously ignoring the Gestapo Colonel. Hogan couldn't help but notice that Klink was perspiring. I'm not surprised Vogel was really going at him.
Kommandant Klink, in a stupor of fear, never returned the salute nor opened his mouth to reply.
Colonel Vogel began with an evil grin, "No, Colonel Hogan. It was I that wanted to talk to you. Please, Colonel, have a seat," he said indicating the chair that Hogan was standing behind. Hogan noticed Klink sink into his own chair behind the desk totally unaware that it wasn't him that was being told to sit. I've definitely got to get rid of this guy. Klink will crumble with any more confrontations like today. Not that he knows anything, but we can't afford to lose him at this point. Our operation needs its fearless leader to make it work.
When Hogan didn't move to seat himself, Vogel's goons took their commander at his word, quickly forcing the American Colonel into the chair. Hogan looked up calmly into the Gestapo Colonel's face and said, "Don't mind if I do." Hogan went to cross his legs, but thought better of it and just casually leaned back in the chair. "What can I do for you, Colonel?" he said amendable.
Before Vogel responded, he waved his underlings, including the Captain, out of the office. As the door closed behind them, he said in a deadly calm and quiet tone, "So, Colonel Hogan. Tell me how you've done it?"
Hogan gave Vogel a look of bewildered anticipation, as if waiting for the rest of the question. "I'm sorry, Colonel Vogel. You're gonna have to help me here. Done what?" he asked hoping to appear innocently confused.
"Ah, Colonel. You play the innocent well," Vogel accused. "I now see why this fool you have for a Kommandant has been taken in by you. But I'm not so easily duped. You are a dangerous man, Colonel. I'm sure of it. Too much has happened in the last month to permit to me believe otherwise."
Hogan appearing even more bewildered replied, "I'm sorry, Colonel. You must have me confused with someone else. I'm sure I do not know what you're talking about. As I know you know, I've spent a good portion of the last month recovering from a serious bought of pneumonia," Hogan responded politely. "And I was told that you took it upon yourself to personally assess my condition," he continued somewhat sarcastically, putting his hand up to his massage his right temple.
"You are very cunning, Colonel Hogan. I'll admit to not yet knowing how you did it. But I know you are guilty. You have proven yourself to be quite the thorn in the side of the SS this past month… with the disappearance and reappearance of a new SS Tiger Tank. I'm sure that it was quite convenient for you, that it was lost and found here at Stalag 13. Adding to that the untimely deaths of two SS officers after their tour of Stalag 13. You've been very busy, Colonel. I will prove that you had something to do with all of it. You will not be able to hide behind the walls of this prison much longer. So, you might as well just admit to your guilt. Because it will go much easier on you to confess than if I have to uncover the whole truth of your involvement," Vogel threatened.
Well, at least the bastard hasn't found out about those SS uniforms we stole along with that staff car for our trip to Dachau. I'm so glad I changed my mind and had Berger retrieve and return them to the SS after we got back. I can only be glad that Vogel has no real proof yet. We are just going to have to continue to be very careful because even the fact that he's in this camp making threats puts our whole operation in danger. I'm sure though, at this point, this is just his way of trying to get a rise out of me? Sorry Vogel, it won't work. Hogan continued with his innocent stare at the Gestapo Colonel. "I really just don't understand the reason for your accusations, Colonel. Kommandant Klink runs Stalag 13 with an iron hand. It's impossible for me to have ever done what you are accusing me of."
Vogel just smiled an evil smile. "As I thought, Colonel. You will not betray your involvement with only threats from me. But be aware that you have been warned. When I uncover the whole truth, your life will be forfeit, but death will not come quickly. I will enjoy seeing you squirm under Gestapo interrogation techniques until it is that you can no longer squirm."
Hogan sat quietly, having looked away from Colonel Vogel's eyes. He was afraid he would betray himself as he could feel the anger and hatred welling inside of him. Calm down. Keep your cool. Finally he looked up and said softly, "I'm really very sorry, Colonel. I do hope you find those responsible, but you are barking up the wrong tree here."
Vogel again smiled. "Just remember that you have been warned, Colonel Hogan." He began to leave the Kommandant's office without another word, but stopped as he opened the office door and turned back to face the German Colonel. "As for you, Klink. You are a fool to be taken in by such vermin," Vogel said nodding his head in Hogan's direction. He then walked out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
Hogan sat quietly after the Gestapo Colonel left, waiting for the Kommandant to say something, but the man just sat staring at the top of his desk. "Are you all right, Kommandant?" Hogan finally asked. "I know that man isn't the most cheery visitor you could have had this morning."
Colonel Klink glanced at his Senior POW Officer with what appeared to be an unasked question on his lips. Could Vogel be right about you, Hogan? But unable or unwilling to voice that question he said only, "You're dismissed, Hogan."
The Colonel stood from the chair, and straightened slowly as a twinge of pain reminded him of his close encounter with Helga's desk. He saluted the Kommandant and left the office quietly. As Hogan entered the outer office, he approached Helga from behind as he could tell that she was still only pretending to type.
"Sorry about all the commotion Helga. Everything should be fine now," he began gently putting his hands on her shoulders and kissing her on the cheek, but he stopped as she shivered at his touch and never turned to acknowledge him. Hogan removed his hands, came around the desk taking her hand gently and asked, "Are you okay?"
As she looked up into his eyes, all he could see was fear. But something told him that it was something more than just fear that had Helga still shivering. Goddam f'n bastards. "Did they touch you?" he asked remembering the rather lecherous look that the Gestapo Lieutenant had given Helga as they held him in her office. I just never thought he'd try something out in the open.
"Oh, Colonel Hogan," Helga began with tears beginning to show in her eyes. "They only scared me. But they made threats. I'm worried that if I ever find myself alone with them again -- that more will happen," Helga explained nervously. "It even makes me worried to travel to and from home alone."
With a sigh Hogan said, "I'm sorry, Helga. I'll work something out. Don't leave camp today until you hear from me." He turned and headed for the office door. Damn you, Hogan. You and your crazy operation. How are you going to keep all your people safe? You can't even just say your men anymore. You have so many more people committing to you now from all over southern Germany.
I know. I know. I need to come up with a better plan. But I really need to start by getting rid of Vogel and his goon squad. They are just too dangerous.
As Hogan exited the office and reached the top step of the porch, he finally remembered the incident with Carter and Schnitzer's truck. He made his way quickly back across the compound to Barracks Two to check on his men.
How many more things can go wrong today?
Luft Stalag 13, Emergency Tunnel Entrance under Barracks Two,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 0845 Hours
LeBeau, Newkirk, Carter and their two guests had all made it
back safely to the confines of Stalag 13's tunnel system. Nothing was said on
the way back as they just needed to return to camp quickly without any
unnecessary distractions. They were met by Sergeant Baker, who made sure they
knew that Colonel Hogan was still being interrogated, but assured them that
Kinch seemed to think Vogel only wanted to harass the Colonel and nothing else.
Baker then took charge of their guests and led the two men quickly down a tunnel
extension to begin the moving process.
Both young men shook Carter's hand before they followed Baker, thanking him for taking that risk for them. All Carter could do was heave a sigh and lean back against the wall after the two young men were led away.
LeBeau noticed his anxiousness and patted Carter on the shoulder as he walked by. "You did great, Andrew. Quick thinking. I had almost forgotten the alternate plan for Schnitzer's truck until you jumped in the back."
"Thanks," was all Carter could say. Oh boy. I didn't even think about the alternate plan. I just panicked.
Newkirk also came up behind Carter and said. "The Colonel is going to be proud of you, Andrew. First time out and you came through with flying colors. Great job."
"Thanks," was again all Carter could say. Oh God. I can't be doing this. Those guys could be dead now.
After a shared understanding glance, both Newkirk and LeBeau decided to give Carter some space. Both could easily see that Carter was lost now in his own world. They both remembered their first time outside the wire. It had been overwhelming. The raw emotions. The fear. The exhilaration. Their hearts pumping so hard, that they couldn't believe no one else could hear it. Their lives hanging in the balance. Both men knew those feelings never went away, but only eased somewhat when they realized that what they were doing was saving lives. It had made all the difference in the world. So both men quietly left their young friend alone to deal with his fears… trusting that Carter would join them again when he was ready.
After watching as his two friends leave the tunnel, Carter quickly turned and headed down a newly dug tunnel extension and found the small alcove that he'd claimed as his own just the day before after having been assigned to the dog-truck transfer. Andrew barely made it to the alcove before he began shaking uncontrollably. He collapsed against the dirt wall, slid to the floor, pulled his knees up tight to his chest and grasped hold tightly with both arms. I can't be doing this. I can't be responsible for other people's lives. I can't even be responsible for my own. How can Colonel Hogan expect me to do this? Why did he ever pick me for this duty? Those two kids are so young. What if they had died? How could I live with that? I'm probably only two or three years older than they are. This isn't right. I'm not the right person for this duty. I really need to find a way to back out of this. Colonel Hogan needs to know that I'm not capable. I just want to take the photographs. Nothing else.
Carter had no idea how long he'd been in the alcove when he heard his name being called from the direction of the tunnel hub. Colonel Hogan. "Here, sir," he yelled almost in reflex but never moved to leave the alcove. Andrew didn't say another thing until he heard his name being called a second time and from closer than before. "Here, sir," he repeated but this time stood to head in the direction of the Colonel's voice.
"There you are, Carter. I thought you deserted," Colonel Hogan said with a grin. Newkirk and LeBeau had briefed him about this morning's excursion. They had also mentioned that Carter had been a little unnerved by the whole process, but that Carter had done the right thing. He had been able to keep the two soldiers with him calm, so that the transfer went smoothly after the mix-up. Hogan had actually just now come from checking in with their guests and both soldiers admitted to him that Carter was the reason that neither had panicked nor made a run for it.
"No, Colonel, I would never do that, sir," Andrew spouted nervously and came to stand at attention.
"Whoa, Carter. I know that," Hogan said as he approached his nervous young Sergeant. He placed both his hands on Carter's shoulders. "It's okay. You can relax. From what I've heard, you did an outstanding job today. I know it's tough that first time out. And I'm sorry that I tossed you into that position. It probably should have been LeBeau or Newkirk as they've had experience outside the wire. I guess I got a little too cocky, as things have been going so well with that transfer. I am really very sorry. But you did a good job, kid. Really good," Hogan praised as he took one arm and put it around the young man's shoulder. "So... shall we rejoin the land of the POWs, huh?" Hogan asked trying to lead Carter back down the tunnel.
Carter pulled away from his commanding officer and backed up against the tunnel's dirt wall. "No, Colonel. You don't understand. I panicked. I jumped into that truck hoping that Peter or Louis would be able to save me. I never even thought of the alternate plan. I was so scared. I did try to calm the two others down, but my heart was in my throat the whole time," Carter admitted. "I can't do that again. I can't be responsible. They could have died. It was just pure luck that we made it back. Nothing I did mattered. Please, Colonel, find someone else. I'll do anything else you need. Anything. I just can't be responsible for other lives." Carter sunk again to the tunnel floor.
Hogan bent down next to the young man that he had come to consider almost like a son. Maybe I should just put Carter back on as photographer. But you know, there is just something about this kid. I have a feeling that he'll be an important asset to this operation. I just have to get him to believe in himself. "Listen, Andrew. The lives of everyone here and even those of our contacts and guests rely on everyone in this camp doing their job. Even if you think you were better off as our photographer, you have to realize that if your picture doesn't past muster, that person could still die, especially if they're ever caught with falsified papers. We, all of us, are in a constant life and death struggle here, Andrew. I can't even promise you that we'll make it through tomorrow. I'm sorry that you got caught in this crazy scheme of mine. But I need everyone's cooperation to make it work. And that means that I need you to pull it together and do your duty," Hogan said a little more sternly than he wanted.
Andrew Carter looked up into the face of his commanding officer, not expecting to see what he saw. He expected to see the stern face of an officer demanding his loyalty. What he saw was the face of a man, an incredibly passionate man, a man committed to a goal that even he was not sure they could reach, but also a man who was willing to strive for that goal no matter what the consequences. Carter saw that man asking for his help and he just couldn't bring himself to say no to that man. "Yes, sir," Carter finally replied. "I understand. I'll do the best I can."
"Good, Carter. That's all I can ask of you. Just remember that you are not alone. We're a team. It's okay to lean on the other guys. None of us can do this alone," Hogan said giving his Sergeant another pat on the shoulder. "Okay, so let's go topside. Are you ready?" I wonder if all this has something to do with why Carter has been avoiding Sergeant Matthews? I'll definitely have to have a talk with him about that, but I think I'll just hold off on that conversation for now.
"Yes, sir," Carter replied standing up and straightening his jacket. As he did so though, he remembered the note that Oskar Schnitzer had given him. He immediately went on a frantic search of his pockets.
Colonel Hogan couldn't help but notice the panicked look that came across the kid's face as he began searching through his pockets. "Carter. What is the matter?" When Carter didn't respond Hogan ordered, "Calm down, Sergeant and tell me what you're looking for."
Carter barely heard Hogan speak, but only relaxed when he finally found the piece of paper. "Oh, Colonel. I'm so sorry. Oskar Schnitzer gave me this note for you. I'd almost forgotten about it," he explained nervously as he handed his commanding officer the note.
Hogan sighed and almost asked himself why he was bothering to foster this kid -- but couldn't. He just shook his head slightly in frustration and read the note. "Heinrich wants a meeting tonight at Werner Kemp's barn. He doesn't say why." Hogan paused in thought for a brief moment. "All right, Carter. You're with me tonight. Be ready for 2200 hours," he ordered. "And I don't want to hear any excuses," he continued as he looked hard into the face of his Sergeant.
"Yes, sir," Carter responded quickly and then followed his commanding officer, as the Colonel had said before, back to the land of the POWs.
Offices of the Inspector General,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 1030 Hours
SS Colonel Niklas Preffrieger, Internal Affairs Liaison Officer,
read the combined reports before him with increasing concern. The reports
had been sent to the Berlin office, over a two-week period, through regular
channels from the SS Headquarters in Munich. At first and even second
glance the reports weren't out of the ordinary… if one could ignore the fact
that every single officer above the rank of Captain, in the Munich office had
died within a three-day period. But taken together the four reports were
The first report to arrive detailed the deaths of Lieutenant Klodwig Hoztein and Major Manfred Eckold. Then several days later two separate reports of the deaths of General Stefan Geist and Colonel Karl Bruer were forwarded both from Munich and Hammelburg. The reports had bounced from desk to desk here, until finally reaching his office. Where his secretary, the seventh wonder of the world, correlated the four separate reports together. Some two-weeks after the events detailed. Bureaucrats.
None of the deaths seemed to be connected. The commanding General and his closest aide had died in a car accident, in Hammelburg. The junior officer in charge of the office, a Major Eckold, had been found dead in his apartment, apparently the victim of robbery. A prisoner had killed Lieutenant Hoztein, who was the officer in charge of interrogations and then that prisoner had been summarily executed. All of the deaths had logical, reasonable explanations. However the fact remained that the Munich Office had been decimated, leaving a very junior Captain in charge.
Preffrieger leaned back in his chair, balancing carefully on two legs, staring up at the ceiling of his office. He frowned, noticing that the water stain in the corner had grown, and knowing that he'd have to have his secretary put in a maintenance order to repair the leak. Coincidence or not? Preffrieger wondered. He put his feet up on his desk; his boots ruffling the papers of the reports he had painstakingly gone through, and his mind relentlessly going over the facts, as he knew them. Conspiracy or not? Hmm.
The personnel officer here in Berlin would be sending a compliment of officers out to take command of the Munich office, but in the meantime he planned to investigate this matter personally. Those deaths are just too close together to be a coincidence. Has some partisan group targeted the SS Headquarters in Munich? And if so, for what purpose? And more importantly what might their next target be?
Luft Stalag 13, Barracks Two,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 1115 Hours
Kinch, Newkirk, LeBeau, Carter, Matthews, Marlow and Wilson were gathered at the central table in barracks two. The Colonel had told Kinch to set up a meeting for 1100 hours after he had returned from checking on the status of their guests, and Carter, over an hour ago. Then the Colonel had gone directly to his quarters and hadn't yet come out.
"So what's this all about, Kinch?" asked Marlow glancing at the door to Colonel Hogan's quarters. "The Colonel is late and that's not like him. He never makes us wait."
"I'm not exactly sure. Colonel Hogan and Kommandant Klink both got a going over by Colonel Vogel this morning. Nothing physical, but the guy seems to know way too much about Colonel Hogan and this operation," Kinch explained. "He made a lot of threats, but doesn't seem to have enough proof. I can only imagine that the Colonel is trying to work out what to do about Vogel."
"That's most of it," Colonel Hogan said as he entered the main
barracks. No one had even heard his door open. He approached the central table
and said, "I'm sorry to make you wait, fellas. I had to think some stuff
through. Kinch is right. Vogel knows too much, but doesn't yet know how much he
knows. We definitely need to eliminate Vogel and his goons somehow. It's just
that we can't do anything that will point back here. The Gestapo in Hammelburg
are already too close. Having Vogel have an accident would be convenient, but
too obvious. At this point, the only thing I can think of is that we may be able
to get him and his goons transferred out of Hammelburg, and into an out of the
way posting where they can't do too much harm."
"And how pray tell are we supposed to do that, Colonel," asked Newkirk sarcastically and immediately realized that his commanding officer wasn't in the mood for back talk.
"Give it a rest, Newkirk," Hogan said rather tersely. "We are going to need the help of our civilian contacts on this one. We are going to have to locate that out of the way posting for Vogel's transfer. The civilians certainly know the area better than we do. And that's a blessing since we have to find out all we can about the man stationed at that out of the way location and have him transferred to Hammelburg to replace Vogel. And lastly we are going to have to get a hold of Gestapo transfer papers to set the plan into motion. And Newkirk… you're going to be responsible for forging the proper signatures on those papers, since you asked."
"Yes, sir," Newkirk said softly taking the implied reprimand.
"Okay good. I have a meeting tonight with Heinrich Berger. I'll get them started working on Vogel's transfer. But first, we have another more immediate problem. It seems that while I was being questioned by Vogel, his men were threatening to have their way with Helga. That bastard's goons have her terrified of traveling to and from work alone," Hogan explained. He shook his head negatively and looked down at the table. "If you could have only seen her eyes... her whole body shook when I went to touch her. She's terrified. She really needs our help."
After a moment, Hogan raised his eyes and saw blind rage in the eyes of his men standing around the table. They all started talking at once. Each man had his own ideas for dealing with those animals. Unfortunately, as much as I would like too, I can't sanction any of this. "Whoa, guys. Calm down. I understand how you feel. I really do. That's why I was late for this meeting. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to take each of those guys apart with my bare hands, just for even thinking what they were thinking. We just can't do it that way, but I think I have a plan that will keep Helga out of harm's way until we can get rid of Vogel and his goons."
"So give," Newkirk said expectantly. "Sir," he finished a beat later.
"Okay. This is what were going to do..." Hogan said beginning to outline his plan.
Luft Stalag 13, Kommandant's Outer Office,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 1215 Hours
Colonel Hogan followed Colonel Klink into his office after the
noon roll was called, wanting to use this time to ask Klink to request the
needed supplies for the motor pool. Although, his real intent was to let
Helga in on the plan he had concocted.
As Hogan entered the outer office behind the Kommandant, he gave Helga a wink and a smile, wanting to make sure she knew he hadn't forgotten her. He heard her sigh of relief as he pushed through the door behind Klink.
"Kommandant Klink," Hogan began. "I have something important to discuss with you."
"Hogan. You have caused me enough grief today. Get out of my office," Klink said forcefully as he sat at his desk, not even looking up at his Senior Officer.
"But, Colonel," was all that Hogan got to say.
Klink stared angrily up at the American. "What are you still doing here, Hogan? Will it take me throwing you in the cooler for you to leave this office? Get out, Hogan. Now!" Klink said as he turned his attention back to his desk.
Hogan was a little taken aback. Vogel must have really done a number on Klink this morning. He decided it was probably best to leave Klink be at the moment, so he turned on his heels and left the office. With Klink in a mood, Hogan knew that he couldn't take the chance of Klink barging in on him and Helga before he could explain to her what she needed to do. So Colonel Hogan just quietly whispered to Helga what was expected from her. After getting her nod of understanding, Hogan left the office with a wink and a soft 'everything is going to be fine' mouthed to Helga.
Helga watched the American Colonel leave, relieved that someone would try to help her, but she still couldn't believe how cold she felt inside. I can't believe that I have to rely on those that I've been taught are the enemy. But, what would I do without these men? I, of course, know that these men, and Colonel Hogan in particular, are not evil and that they are fighting for what they believe in. And for something that I believe in as well. I just find it bone-chilling that I have to ask for help to keep me safe from my own countryman.
She felt another shiver run down her spine. I only hope that I can do what I need to today.
Doctor Freiling's Home,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 1308 Hours
Ursula, Doctor Freiling's wife, hurried to the side door that
led to Oskar's clinic as the bell hanging on the outside of the door rang.
"Yes, can I help you?" she said to the elderly woman who stood there leaning on
"Eh, eh?!" the old woman replied, holding a gloved hand cupped over her ear.
"Please come in," Ursula replied louder, while ushering the elderly woman inside. "What is the problem?"
The woman hobbled inside and didn't answer the question, but took in the waiting room with a quick glance. Empty. Good.
"Please sit," Ursula continued. "The doctor would have heard the bell. He will be here shortly, Gnadige Frau."
"Eh?" the older woman repeated, this time putting a cone shaped hearing aide to her ear.
"Hier Herein. Bitte Nehman Sie Platz!" Ursula repeated loudly, gesturing the old woman to a chair.
"Danke," Corporal Peter Newkirk said, as he stood upright. He quickly turned back to the door, locked it, and pulled the shade. Bloody disguise always gives me a pain in me back!
"Was ist los?" Ursula asked alarmed.
"Guten Tag, Frau Freiling," Newkirk said trying to calm her down, by beginning the memorized phrase that Colonel Hogan had taught him. "Ich habe eine die Notiz vor Oberst Hogan fur Doktor Freiling."
"Oh!" Ursula said surprised to have one of Colonel Hogan's men in the clinic in broad daylight. There must be something wrong! "Newkirk...?" she asked, but couldn't help but grin as she recognized the dashing young Englishman. He was quite the charmer and would be a hard man to forget. Ursula had met him and the Frenchman LeBeau just last month, when they had come to get the doctor to treat a critically wounded flyer at the camp.
"Ja. Ja," Newkirk replied with a grin of relief.
"Newkirk, was ist los?" Doc Freiling asked coming into the consulting room. He'd heard the bell, but was astonished that it was not a patient. It is broad daylight. Colonel Hogan doesn't generally let anyone out of camp during the daylight hours. It is far too dangerous. "E - mer - gen - cy?" Oskar asked in broken English.
Newkirk nodded and handed the doctor Colonel Hogan's note.
Oskar Freiling read the note quickly. "Helga Hirsch is working for Colonel Hogan?!" Doc Freiling exclaimed surprised, glancing at Ursula.
"She is?" Ursula asked equally surprised.
"Ja. That is what Colonel Hogan says. Let me write a reply for this young man to take back," Oskar said sitting down to write on the back of the paper. He stood, clapped the younger man on the shoulder, gave him the folded note and nodded affirmatively. "Ja. Ja. Oberst Hogan."
Newkirk nodded in return. I hope, Doc that means you're gonna do it. I've got to learn more German so these exchanges are easier. All I can do now, is hot foot it back to camp and hope I'm carrying good news. Newkirk gave the German couple a smile, quickly rearranged his disguise, opened the door to the clinic and headed back to camp – well make that heading back to camp as quickly as his disguise as an 80-year-old woman would allow.
The Freiling's watched amused as the 'elderly woman' left the clinic.
It is a very convincing disguise! Oskar thought.
"What did the note say, Oskar?" Ursula asked after Newkirk had gone.
"Colonel Vogel visited the camp today, I gather. He and his men threatened everyone… including Helga, in a way that has Helga frightened to be alone. The Colonel wants me to confirm that Helga has broken her ankle when she is transferred here later today. He wants me to keep her here for a couple of days, ensuring that she isn't alone here in town," Oskar explained with a scowl. "Colonel Hogan says he's working on a contingency plan for after her release from the clinic."
"Those animals!" Ursula exclaimed deeply disturbed. "Helga is merely 18, a child."
"Exactly," Oskar replied with a heart felt sigh. Poor Helga, she must be scared to death. I will do anything in my power to protect you Helga. I would never again want to see the anguish on your father's face if he was to lose another. It was enough to see it when your mother and little brother died. I've felt guilty ever since I was unable to save your mother Urs and her baby. I would die before I'd let anything happen to you.
Day One, April 2, 1943, 1420 Hours
The bell to the front door amazingly still jangled cheerfully.
Heinrich Berger looked up from where he was kneeling on the floor of his store,
still sorting through his stock to see what was salvageable. At the first
sight of his visitor, Berger rose hastily to his feet and glanced at his wife
where she worked at the far end of the store.
Olga also rose and came to stand near her husband. Colonel Vogel himself! I've seen way too much of the Gestapo today!
"Good afternoon, Colonel Vogel," Berger greeted wiping his hands on the apron he wore. "What can we do for you?"
"I see you have cleaned up a great deal, Herr Berger," Vogel said glancing around. "Captain Schotz reported your store to be in horrible disarray."
"Yes. Olga and I have worked very hard today," Berger replied warily, though trying to appear open and trusting. "Your Captain Schotz was a great help earlier today. Thank you for the loan of him and the men he posted to protect what remained of my store through the early morning hours."
"You are welcome, though I am afraid that such assistance does not come cheaply. Unfortunately there has been an increase in underground activity both in and around Hammelburg. I fear that before too long that the small budget I am allotted to see to the safety of the good citizens of Hammelburg will no longer cover the cost of that safety. Too many of my men will be needed to watch for underground activity. Such a shame. I would hate to see someone hurt or someone's property damaged because I could not afford to protect them," Vogel said.
"It is your duty to see to our protection, Colonel," Berger reminded the Gestapo officer.
"Of course," Vogel replied almost purring in satisfaction. "However it would be terrible if at the crucial moment the funds supporting myself and my men were to run out -- say just when another bomb is planted in your store. You have already been a target once. You are re-building. Who is to say that the miscreants will not return?"
"What do you suggest, Colonel, to avoid that most unfortunate of occurrences? I of course would like my property to be protected," Berger asked all the while his mind was racing. Vogel is going to ask for protection money and there will be no choice but to pay it! To turn him down is a death sentence. And it will all be legal. Vogel has ultimate authority here. Damn the whole Nazi Party! How can my country be so blind as to support this madness?
"Ah yes, perhaps a small weekly donation towards my budget. A sum of 50 marks should not be too small of a price to pay to ensure that you get the protection that you deserve," Vogel said with a shark like grimace that Berger supposed was to be a comforting smile. "I will give you some time to think about it. I will return tomorrow."
Berger stood, seething and watched Vogel leave the shop.
"How can we afford 50 marks a week?" Olga cried softly hoping she was not overheard. "It is disgraceful!"
"I know. I've asked Oskar to arrange a meeting with Colonel Hogan for tonight. Hopefully he will have some idea as to how to deal with this," Heinrich sighed. "But Olga we don't really have any option here. We either pay Vogel, get arrested as an enemy of the state, or get shot using any number of excuses. Vogel has all the power here."
Olga sighed, bowing her head in acceptance. "I know. It is why we are fighting our own countrymen. Colonel Hogan will know what to do, he must!"
Heinrich hugged his wife to his chest, caressing her hair. "I know he will. He is a most resourceful man. We could not ask for one better to lead us."
Day One, April 2, 1943, 1630 Hours
Berger straightened when he heard the bell to his shop ring
again. He smiled in genuine welcome when he saw that it was Geoff Hirsch
the cobbler who shared this storefront with him.
"Things look much more organized in here now, Heinrich," Geoff said glancing around at the organized chaos in Heinrich's usually orderly store.
"Ja. Olga and I have tried to reclaim as much as possible," Berger replied. "Your shop was undamaged?"
"Ja. Ja. Only a few things knocked off their shelves. Nothing more serious than that," Geoff replied thankful, but then glanced around him, almost fidgeting.
"What is it, Geoff?" Heinrich asked. "Is there something wrong?"
Geoff sighed and continued to look around them carefully, noticing that there was no one in the store and from his vantage point, no one in sight on the street. "Gestapo Colonel Vogel came to visit me today," he said quietly hoping that Heinrich would understand.
Heinrich kept his face impassive though inside he was wilting. Vogel must be trying to enroll all the shopkeepers in Hammelburg. He only nodded at his long-time neighbor.
"He suggested an interesting proposal to me," Geoff said quietly. "I know he visited with you. Did he make a proposition of you, Heinrich?" I've known you a long time, Heinrich. I can only hope you are sympathetic. Other than that, I will soon be dead for speaking out against the Gestapo.
Heinrich replied warily seeing the fear and uncertainty in Geoff's eyes. "Ja. He did Geoff. What will you do?"
Geoff sighed relieved. "The way I see it, I have no choice. I will have to pay him. Though how long I can afford to give him 50 marks a week...!"
Heinrich could only agree. "Ja. Ja. I will also pay him. There is not much that can be done." I can only hope that Colonel Hogan will be able to do something. He has been so resourceful. He should be able to manipulate the situation. And with the added knowledge that more of the Hammelburg merchants have been approached... I'm certain that Colonel Hogan will take this situation very seriously.
Geoff sighed again when Heinrich appeared lost in thought and left the store without saying another word.
Heinrich watched his long time neighbor leave, unable to say anything to ease his fears. I wonder if Geoff would ever join us in fighting against Hitler? Geoff has always been a hard-working man. He never asks anything of anyone, preferring to make his own way in the world. He is a dedicated family man, though he lost his beloved wife Urs, to the birth of their stillborn son. That left Geoff as a single father to a five-year-old girl. He has done such a wonderful job with Helga. She, now quite the young lady, works as a clerk at Luft Stalag 13. I wonder how Helga makes out in the camp? Does she have anything to do with the prisoners? Colonel Hogan is such a charmer, and Helga is quite good looking. Perhaps someday I will have a word with him regarding Helga?
Ach. Matchmaking Heinrich?
There is a war on. Mind your manners.
Olga entered the store from the back room, after having heard Geoff Hirsch leave. She could only sigh at the still shabby state of the store, though a small smiled came to her face at the sight of the new plate glass windows in the door and display windows. The glazier had finished not more than an hour ago. It is so much better now than it had been earlier this morning. We lost so much time inside the store while we cleaned the alley for Rolf's morning delivery. But at least, that delivery can occur easily tomorrow morning, and we should be able to avoid the near disaster of today. Hopefully we will be able to open for full business tomorrow, and still finish with the clean up inside. "Heinrich," Olga said, as she approached her husband from behind. "Geoff didn't stay long, what did he want?"
"Vogel made the same proposition of him," Heinrich replied shaking his head, not willing to talk more in the store where anyone might overhear. "We should go home, Olga. Let's lock up."
"It is still early. There is still much to be done," Olga pointed out.
"It is late enough and it's been a trying day," Heinrich said firmly. "Let us go home."
Hammelburg, Germany, Luft Stalag 13,
Compound outside Barracks Two,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 1650 Hours
Colonel Hogan and a few of his men were lounging outside
barracks two, and trying to remain inconspicuous, because they knew that within
the next ten minutes another one of Colonel Hogan's schemes was going to take
place. Everything had been set up to keep Helga safely away from the Gestapo
goons who had threatened her.
LeBeau was the first to see Helga emerge from the office and tapped Colonel Hogan lightly on the jacket. Colonel Hogan glanced at Helga and gave her the signal, removing his cap and wiping his brow. That would tell her that it was time for her part in their little charade. Helga continued down the staircase and into the compound from the porch, but mistook the final step. She went sprawling and a loud cry was heard as she grabbed her right ankle. Hogan had his men remain unconcerned, not wanting to cause an uproar if they tried to come to her rescue, especially with Klink in the mood he's been in all day. They waited quietly for Kommandant Klink to emerge from his office wondering about the commotion and watched in relief as Sergeant Shultz and Corporal Langenscheidt also rushed to the porch to help Helga.
Kommandant Klink immediately took charge and assessed his secretary's condition. Very soon, with the proper coaxing from Helga, Klink ordered her to be transported by Corporal Langenscheidt to the nearest clinic -- Doc Freiling's clinic. Newkirk had returned with the good word from Doc Freiling a few hours ago. The doctor was well aware of the plan and was a quite willing participant and would do whatever he could to keep Helga safe.
Hogan smiled to himself as he watched Helga leave the Stalag with an escort. The plan called for Helga to stay at Doc Freiling's for a day or two of observation. Then at that point she would be allowed to go home, but Helga was to call Kommandant Klink and offer to work, as she was to feel guilty leaving him in the lurch with no secretary. She would explain to Klink that she couldn't possibly walk or ride her bicycle to work. So Helga would sheepishly ask the Kommandant if Corporal Langenscheidt could pick her up for work and drive her home everyday.
So if all goes as planned, thought Hogan. And it should work like a charm, as Klink is such a sucker for Helga. She will be safe during the day at Stalag 13 and safe at night as well, as the curfew will keep her father at home with her. We should only have to keep this up for a few weeks until I can get rid of Vogel and his goons. Then hopefully things will settle back to normal. I hope so anyway.
Doctor Freiling's Home,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 1720 Hours
Doc Freiling rushed out of his house when he heard the insistent
beeping of an automobile horn sounding in his driveway. There was a
military truck outside. "Was ist los?" Doctor Freiling asked as he
approached the truck.
"There has been an accident at Stalag 13," Corporal Langenscheidt said, rushing to the back of the truck where another of the Corporal's from the camp had ridden with Fraulein Helga.
"What happened?" Oskar Freiling asked as he joined the young Corporal at the back of the truck.
"Fraulein Helga fell down a short flight of stairs, Herr Doctor," Langenscheidt replied helping the pretty secretary from the back of the truck.
"Ja. It's my ankle," Helga added standing very unsteadily on her left foot.
"Come. Bring her inside," Doc Freiling said rushing ahead of the two soldiers to open the consulting room door.
A short time later...
Doc Freiling had Helga situated in his back bedroom, with her casted right foot resting on a pillow. The soldiers from the camp were hovering in the background. So Doc Freiling said, more for their benefit than for Helga's, "Fraulein Helga, your ankle is broken. I would like you to stay here for a day or so for observation, and then you may return home. You should try to stay off your foot for about four weeks."
"Oh thank you, Doctor," Helga replied shifting on the bed. "Will you please contact my Father? I know he will be worried that I am not yet home."
"I will go and call him, Fraulein Helga," Corporal Langenscheidt offered from the doorway. "Then we will return to the camp, unless the Doctor needs something of us?" he continued with a questioning glance at the doctor.
Doc Freiling quickly shook his head negatively.
"Thank you, Corporal," Helga interjected with a smile at the shy young Corporal. "Your help has been appreciated."
Langenscheidt returned her smile. "Feel better, Fraulein Helga. I will go and inform your Father."
Oskar Freiling waited until he was sure the young, good-hearted Corporal had left with his companion. He had met Corporal Langenscheidt just last month when he had stayed with them along with Sergeant Shultz when Colonel Hogan was 'recovering' from pneumonia. "Are you alright, Helga?" he asked the young woman. "Colonel Hogan's note only said you were being threatened?"
"The Gestapo had me so frightened. I have never felt so afraid in my entire life. But, I am all right now Oskar. Colonel Hogan has done all this, so that I had the excuse of not being alone. I do not trust the Gestapo," Helga said nervously and paused trying to phrase her next statement. "I never knew that you worked for Colonel Hogan?" Helga half-asked.
"Nor did I know that you did," Freiling countered. "Ursula and I have been helping him for most of the last six months. And his newest plans call for our involvement to grow. You are careful, Helga?" Freiling asked as an uncle would.
"Always. Colonel Hogan insists on it. If I could, I would do more. But the Colonel will not let me," Helga replied.
"Hogan is a wise man," Freiling commented. "He can keep you safe. Listen to him."
Helga laughed, "Ironic is it not that a POW can hold so much control?"
Freiling joined her in laughter. "So true, Helga. Colonel Hogan is an extraordinary man."
Doctor Freiling's Home,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 1830 Hours
Geoff Hirsch knocked hesitantly on the half-closed door of the
Freiling's back bedroom. He entered when he heard a soft come-in.
"Helga, dear, are you alright?" Geoff asked frowning with concern for his
daughter who lay in the bed, her right foot propped up on pillows.
"Oh, Papa!" Helga said very relieved to see him. She held out her hand to him.
Geoff pulled a chair up to her bedside and grasped her hand tightly. "Are you okay?" he asked gesturing to the white cast on her foot.
"It is merely broken, Papa," Helga replied. "I will be fine."
"Gutt," Geoff replied falling silent.
After a moment Helga broke the silence in the room. She could tell that something was bothering her father, beyond her apparent injury. "What is the matter, Papa?"
Geoff sighed. "You are much like your mother, Helga. Have I ever told you that? I could never keep anything from her either."
"Keep what from me, Papa?" Helga asked anxiously.
Geoff sighed again. After a moment he got up and looked down the deserted hall towards the Freiling's kitchen. He closed the door before he returned to his daughter's side. "Heinrich Berger's store was sabotaged last night. The Gestapo is blaming the underground."
Helga gasped, "Oh no. Was anyone hurt, Papa?"
"Nein. Both Heinrich and Olga are fine," Geoff said shaking his head negatively. "I'm afraid Helga. I'm not sure if I believe the sabotage to be the work of the underground. I fear that it may be the work of the Gestapo. I do not trust them. Colonel Vogel came to demand money today. To help fund our protection from this underground faction," her father replied bitterly.
Helga gasped her face turning white. "Oh, Papa, what will you do?!"
"Pay him of course," Geoff replied his shoulders slumped. "We really have no choice. I have discussed it with Heinrich carefully. He seems to be of the same mind as I. We will pay. But for how long? That is another matter."
Helga noticed that her father looked like he'd aged ten years since that morning. "How can they get away with such things, Papa?" Helga hissed. "I hate them. They were even at the camp today. Colonel Vogel and his men threatened everyone. The Kommandant. The prisoners. And even me."
"You!" Geoff repeated outraged. "What did they say?!"
Helga bowed her head embarrassed, not knowing how to tell her father what she needed to. "It's not what they said Papa, but how it was said. I fear them, Papa, for me and now for you. Please be careful."
Geoff held her close realizing immediately what his daughter meant. "Don't you worry for me, Helga. I will be fine. But you… you should quit your job at Stalag 13. I've always thought that you were in danger from those prisoners, but now we cannot even trust our own. You will quit. There is no other choice. You will work with me in the cobbler shop."
"Papa. I cannot. We will need the income. Now more than ever if we are to pay Vogel his protection money," Helga replied. "I will be careful." And hope that Colonel Hogan has a plan that will help get rid of Colonel Vogel and his men. He must as he and his men are certainly also being threatened by the Gestapo.
Geoff didn't reply. He just grasped his daughter's hand tightly. Why is this happening? This morning I thought that I would just lose my livelihood. Tonight I fear that I will lose all that is dear to me. All because of the Gestapo. I cannot let that happen. There must be something I can do.
Farmland outside of Hammelburg, Germany,
Werner Kemp's Farm,
Day One, April 2, 1943, 2250 Hours
Carter was terribly nervous, but he followed the shadowy form of
Colonel Hogan down the wooded slope that bordered the Kemp farm to their
destination. Since his arrival at Stalag 13, Carter had only been outside
of camp once, and that had been that very morning. And as much as that
experience had unnerved him, it had only amounted to quick dash from the road to
the tunnel entrance. But tonight was very different. Tonight was
deathly quiet. They weren't even on a mission to rescue downed
flyers. At least then with the bombs raining down around them and
anti-aircraft weapons being fired, they could always use the excuse that Colonel
Hogan told everyone to use -- that they'd just been shot down. Tonight
though, Colonel Hogan and I are in real danger of running into a patrol.
Why would Colonel Hogan even think of taking me with him? I'll be of no help to
him. If captured, we could easily be shot as escaping prisoners or worse,
shot as spies. The operative word in both cases -- shot --
Carter crouched beside Colonel Hogan as they stopped just inside the tree line. The farm lay in stark relief in the moonlight. The many outbuildings cast deep shadows. The massive barn, exactly opposite them cast the biggest shadow. The farmhouse was on the other side of the barn from where they hid in the woods. Between them and the farm buildings were open fields, some were already plowed, others were planted with a winter crop. The one directly between them and the barn served as a pasture. It was fenced, leaving a gap between the barn and the fence of almost 15 yards.
"Now comes the fun part Carter," Hogan whispered very softly. Carter swallowed hard, even as his CO continued, "You need to head directly to the barn. Move slowly but steadily. Try to move with the contour of the land. I will cover you. Once you reach the barn, I'll start across the field. You'll need to cover me. Got it?"
"Yes, sir," Carter whispered back even though his mind screamed 'No, sir'.
"Good," Hogan replied drawing his gun and holding it ready. "Go."
Carter glanced at Hogan, and then over at the barn. Piece of pie Andrew. That barn is only about 100 yards away. There are a lot of shadows off to the right. Try to stay within their boundaries. Carter swallowed hard again trying to moisten a suddenly dry mouth. He nodded at Hogan and took his first step from cover.
By the time he had traveled half the distance to the barn, he was worried that any patrol within a four-mile radius would be able to hear the hammering of his heart. The sweat was beading on his face and his shirt was plastered to his back. Keep going. Don't look back. Don't hesitate. Don't run. Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into? Carter paused listening intently into the silence of the night. What was that noise? Finally he forced himself to take another step, then another. Soon he was walking steadily again. Suddenly a bird flew up from the grass clump directly in front of him. He clutched at his chest, stuffing his other hand almost into his mouth to stifle the involuntary cry he'd almost made. That bird almost gave me a heart attack! Stay quiet. Keep going. The barn. I am almost at the barn.
Carter's whole focus was the solid bulk of the barn, looming ever closer in the night. With an audible gasp he was unable to stifle, Carter pushed his back up against the solid wood barn. It was the most reassuring thing he'd ever touched. It meant safety and security. It was almost more comforting than his teddy bear when he'd been frightened as a child. Carter took several deep breaths to steady his nerves and then drew his own gun. He crouched watching Colonel Hogan's steady progress across the field.
Within a few minutes Hogan stood beside him. "You okay, Carter?" Hogan asked, knowing that the young Sergeant needed reassuring. Carter nodded and motioned for Hogan to lead off again. "Good work," Hogan said and clapped him on the shoulder in approval.
Hogan led the way around the barn and slipped inside through the first door they came to. Inside, the darkness was almost complete. They both paused to let their eyes adjust. After a moment, Hogan led the way to a faint glimmer of light. Soon they pushed aside the heavy canvas tarp that hung from the rafters and entered a small enclosure lit by a single lantern.
There they found Heinrich Berger, Oskar Schnitzer and Werner Kemp. Kemp was a solidly built man in his late forties and the owner of the farm. He was relatively new to their organization, but had joined willingly. Both Heinrich and Hermann Schlick had vouched for him. His addition to their little group had worked out splendidly so far, as his farm was situated so that meetings could take place in relative safety.
"How many more are coming?" Hogan asked Berger as soon as he entered the small room.
"It will be just us tonight, Colonel," Berger replied.
"Good. Carter look out," Hogan ordered.
"Yes, sir," Carter replied retreating back into the dark barn to find a good vantage point.
"Are you alright, Colonel Hogan? I've been worried all day," Schnitzer said anxiously. Ever since this morning, I've been imagining the horrible things had might have happened at the prison camp today. Watching Colonel Hogan be escorted from the compound had been a nightmare. When I told Werner and Heinrich that Hogan had been arrested, they were understandably horrified. Yet, here Colonel Hogan is, going through with a meeting that could blow his cover easily. All Vogel has to do is visit that camp while the Colonel is gone and Vogel would have his proof. I know we are all in danger here, but we as civilians have the opportunity to make up some excuse for being out late at night. Colonel Hogan and his men have no such opportunity. If caught, they are dead men.
"Thanks, Oskar, I'm fine. Vogel was more interested in harassment than anything. At least for today, that is," Hogan replied quickly.
"Ah. I see Colonel Vogel has become quite the thorn in all our sides. Eh, Heinrich?" Werner Kemp commented snidely, showing no love-lost for the Gestapo Colonel.
"What do you mean? What's going on, Heinrich?" asked Colonel Hogan glancing quickly from Kemp to Berger.
"Well, Colonel Hogan, it started a few weeks ago when a hotel on the south side of Hammelburg was sabotaged. And just last week, a butcher shop on the opposite side of town was destroyed. Sadly neither business owner has said or done much about either incident. Fear of the Gestapo being the most likely reason," Berger said sighing and shaking his head.
"Was anyone injured?" asked the American Colonel as the older German paused.
"Luckily so far no one had been injured in any of the sabotage. But you need to know, Colonel, that my own store was sabotaged last night. Rest assured," Heinrich continued. "That we have been able to recover quickly enough today to continue our part in the Traveler's Aide Society."
Hogan replied though his mind was racing. "I'm sorry about your store, Heinrich. I'm just glad that you and Olga were not injured. You must all realize that Vogel is the one most likely behind the sabotage."
Berger nodded. "Yes, Colonel, we know. Vogel also paid me a visit today," Heinrich said with anger welling from inside. "He has blamed all the sabotage on the underground and has generously offered to protect us from this nefarious group with a small donation towards his expenses. He expects 50 marks a week from the shop owners in Hammelburg. Already he has approached the cobbler Geoff Hirsch, who owns the shop next to mine." Heinrich shook his head sadly. "It will be hard for us, Colonel, but we don't really have a lot of choice here. We will have to pay him. But there are not many of us who can afford this extortion, Colonel," Berger said in despair. "He will break us."
"I agree that you should pay him, for now. But I promise that it will only be temporary," Hogan stated emphatically. "Vogel is much too dangerous to leave in charge of Hammelburg. Once he starts down this road he is only going to get greedier. He'll bleed you all dry. I don't need to remind you what will happen to any who would try to oppose him..."
The three men nodded their understanding, but Schnitzer asked, "Do you have a plan, Colonel? So we can rid ourselves of that monster."
"Yes, I do. It's actually part of the reason that I came here tonight. I'm going to need your help to pull it off. But if all goes well, Vogel will be gone within a month," Hogan said.
Berger took in the eyes of his fellow Germans quickly. When he turned his gaze to the American Colonel he said without a second thought, "What do you need us to do?"
Hogan smiled to himself. How lucky are you, Hogan, to find such committed people on your side? "Well, with Vogel breathing down all our necks, what we do, can not be anything that will lead directly back to us. The only thing we can do is to get him and his goons transferred out of Hammelburg, and into an out of the way posting. Hopefully somewhere they can't do too much harm." Hogan noticed that his three civilian companions didn't look convinced.
"Are you sure that is wise, Colonel? Just moving him? He could still cause problems," Berger said voicing the concern he read on his friend's faces.
"Heinrich. I'm sorry. As much as I would like to rid ourselves of this bastard permanently, he suspects too much. His untimely demise will send the Gestapo storming into Stalag 13. I can't take that chance. Having him transferred is at least something I think we can pull off and have it not point directly at us," Hogan explained.
Berger nodded, "As you wish, Colonel Hogan."
God, I hope I'm doing the right thing. "Okay. So I need you to help locate that out of the way posting for Vogel's transfer. You men all know the area better than any of my men or me. We are going to have to find out all we can about the man stationed at that out of the way location because he's going to be transferred to Hammelburg to replace Vogel. And lastly we are going to have to get a hold of Gestapo transfer papers to set the plan into motion," Hogan explained.
"Is that all, Colonel?" Werner Kemp asked incredulously, suddenly wondering if he had gotten himself in over his head by joining this underground.
Hogan saw the fear in Kemp's eyes and knew he couldn't resort to ordering these men to do his bidding, so he had to balance how much he asked of them. They are all new to this, Hogan. Go slowly. "Werner listen. I know that this sounds crazy. But by doing nothing, all our lives are forfeit. Vogel will find the truth if nothing is done. It's just a matter of time. I really can't promise you anything. But I know that we are better off going down fighting these Nazi bastards, than sitting on our asses waiting for the end to come."
Werner Kemp dropped his gaze from the American. "I'm sorry, Colonel Hogan. You are right, of course."
Hogan approached Kemp and put a hand on his shoulder, but he addressed all three men. "I just need you to gather information… about the location for the transfer, about the Gestapo man in charge, and about how we can get access to the Gestapo paperwork. My men and I will do anything else that's necessary," Hogan offered. "Can I count on you?"
"Yes, Colonel, you can," Berger replied.
"Good, thanks," Hogan said and glanced at his watch. "We have to be back in camp shortly. Shultz told LeBeau that Klink was on the war path and was going to have a bed check tonight about 0200." Hogan continued quickly, "I guess for now just send any information you have into camp with the Doc."
The three men nodded their agreement.
"Okay, great," Hogan said and then remembered that his civilians still have their own problems with Vogel. "Do any of you need money right now to pay off Vogel? I can provide you with some cash. We have several thousand marks from earnings made on the black market. We sell the furniture made by my men from a woodworking shop in the tunnels under Stalag 13. I would prefer not to provide you with counterfeit bills, though we have plenty. I just don't want any hint of a counterfeiting ring to be brought to Vogel's attention. He is greedy enough to go to any lengths to secure the plates for his own use."
Berger shook his head. "Not right now, Colonel. There is enough to pay Vogel for a few weeks."
"Good. Please be careful. All of you. Keep quiet and cave to Vogel's demands," Hogan told his contacts as he shook each man's hand. He exited through the tarps to collect Carter. Both he and Carter began their trek back toward Stalag 13.
It wasn't a long trip back, only two miles or so from Kemp's farm to the emergency tunnel entrance. Hogan had made Carter keep track of landmarks on the way to Kemp's farm and told him he'd be responsible for finding their way back. So far the kid has found each one. I really expected him to be too nervous to remember. We should make it back to camp in good time. He's done well. I can sense that he's still frightened, but he's holding it together. I only hope that with more experience he'll gain some confidence. It's a foregone conclusion that he's not ready to be alone yet. So maybe, I'll just have to be the kid's backup for a while. But that's okay. Everyone needs backup.
Hogan followed his companion in silence, letting Carter make the choices and spending his time watching their backs. Actually Kemp's farm is in a real secluded spot and is ideal for meetings. Getting to and from the barn has been very simple so far. No one has as yet reported seeing any patrols in the area. It's why I made Carter come with me. Small successes will give him the confidence he needs.
Carter stopped so quickly that Colonel Hogan almost ran into him. "What's the matter, Sergeant?" he asked coming to a stop just behind Carter.
"Umm. I'm sorry, sir," Carter began nervously. "I'm not sure which way from here. It doesn't look familiar to me." Carter began shaking his head negatively. "You should have never ordered me to come. Now I've got us lost. I'm so sorry, Colonel."
"Relax, Sergeant. Pull yourself together. Think hard, Carter. What was the first landmark?" asked Colonel Hogan patiently as a teacher to his student.
Hogan watched as Carter took a deep breath. "It was a rock, shaped like a horseshoe," Carter replied. "But I don't see it. I'm sorry."
"Take another look around, Carter. Slowly this time," Hogan instructed and watched as his companion slowly spun in a circle taking in the landscape.
Carter's eyes widened and he sprinted about 20 feet to the west of their position. "Here, sir. It's over here," he waved at his commanding officer. As Hogan approached, he saw a smile appear on Carter's face. "Wow, Colonel! It was almost completely camouflaged from the angle that we approached it."
"Good work, Carter. You've done great getting us back. Sorry for the Boy Scout lesson, but I wanted to make sure you could get yourself back in case of an emergency," Hogan praised. "And don't feel bad about that damn rock. I missed it the first time too." Hogan clapped Carter on the shoulder. "Lead on, McDuff. The tunnel entrance is just around that bend. Keep low though, we'll soon be in reach of the search lights."
"Yes, sir," Carter replied and headed off in the direction of the tunnel entrance.
Hogan kept back in order to time the search light patterns to their approach, and to keep an eye on Carter... just in case. He caught up to Carter as he got into the tree stump. Hogan followed his Sergeant down into the emergency tunnel, but before Hogan had even reached the tunnel floor he heard a thud, a gunshot, and a voice that sounded like Kinch's yell "Ahhh! Goddamn, Carter! You could have killed me."
Hogan's feet never even touched the last few rungs of the ladder. Jumping down, he spun quickly to face his men. "What the hell just happened?!" he bellowed.
No one heard him.
Carter was over with Kinch at his radio, apologizing profusely. "Kinch, I'm so sorry. Oh my God. Are you all right? Please say you are all right?"
Kinch was sitting at his radio, his teeth clenched tightly. "It's all right, Carter. You just scared me. Be more careful okay?" he said between heavy intakes of breath.
Hogan's temper nearly exploded. He quickly guessed what had happened, but he just couldn't believe it. So he bellowed once more, but this time from right in front of both men's faces. "What the hell just happened?!"
Carter threw himself backwards against the dirt wall, his eyes were as wide and round as saucers. He was shaking. "I'm... I'm... I'm sorry, sir. I... I... I tripped, sir. The... the... the gun just went off, sir," he stuttered panicked.
Hogan couldn't control his anger. "The gun just went off! That's your excuse. The gun just went off! I don't know about you, Sergeant, but the first thing I learned in boot camp was to put the safety on when you weren't using your gun!"
"But... but... but..." was all Carter could stammer.
"No buts, Sergeant. Go topside now. Make sure you haven't woken up the entire contingent of German soldiers over our heads," Hogan ordered, his face livid.
"Yes, sir," Carter replied quickly, wanting desperately to get away from his commanding officer.
Hogan watched as Carter gave him a wide birth and made his way to the ladder under barracks two. Hogan never took his eyes off Carter as he started up the rungs of the ladder, and with his anger still very apparent, he called out "expect a conversation about this tomorrow, Carter." Then he watched until Carter finished his climb into the barracks.
Hogan, still a little worried, turned back to Kinch. "Are you really okay?" Kinch usually recovers fairly quickly from something like this, but he is still breathing heavy.
"Yeah, Colonel," Kinch said trying to control his breathing. "It was an accident. Go easy on the kid. He means well. He's just a little clumsy."
"If clumsy kills, Kinch... I can't afford to have him on my team," Hogan said heatedly. "I thought I could build some confidence in the kid. There is just something about him. I'm not sure what, but I like him. I just felt he could be an asset or at least I did until now. I can't have my own guys shooting one another -- it's bad for business," Hogan said a little less angry.
"I feel the same way about him, Colonel. Please just give him a chance. I'm okay. Really," Kinch assured his commanding officer as his breathing finally came back under control.
"Let me think about it. I can't promise you anything," Hogan hedged. "I'm going topside. Coming?"
"I'll be up in a while, Colonel. I just want to check on the radio equipment," Kinch replied.
"Alright. You're sure you're okay?" Hogan asked again and only headed for the ladder under barracks two after getting an affirmative nod from Kinch.
Kinch watched his commanding officer make his way up the ladder, and then he let out an audible gasp. "Damn that hurts like a bastard," he said to himself as he pushed his stool back away from the radio equipment. Glancing down at his right leg, he could see the blood pooling under his foot, but couldn't really tell how serious the bullet wound was. Life threatening? No. But is it something I can keep from the others? I don't know. The Colonel will kill Carter if he ever finds out. Well he's not going to find out if I can help it.
Kinch got up and limped over to another alcove where the medical supplies were stored and quickly gathered the supplies that he needed. But as he was heading to the cot set up in that area, he heard Colonel Hogan's voice calling frantically to him from the radio room. Oh hell, he knows. He probably couldn't miss the pool of blood by the radio. The man is just everywhere.
Hogan hurried into the medical alcove, his heart beating wildly. He had only come back to tell Kinch to make sure he was back topside in enough time for the 0200 bed check and had seen the pool of blood near the radio. Goddamn it Kinch. Why did you try keeping this from me? I should have known. I'll kill Carter.
Hogan got to the alcove just in time to see his second-in-command seat himself onto the cot. "How badly are you hurt, Kinch? Let me see," Hogan said as he reached the cot, his anger turning to concern as soon as he saw the Sergeant's right leg. "Here. Lay back. I'll take a look." Hogan helped Kinch lay back onto the cot and then tore the right pant leg of Kinch's uniform to see the extent of the injury. "Come on, buddy. You're gonna have to lie on your stomach for me. It looks like the bullet went into your calf. Here. Go slowly." Hogan helped Kinch turn over and began to clean the wound.
Kinch couldn't get a word in edgewise as the Colonel continued talking almost non-stop while he cleaned the wound.
"Whew. It's not that bad. You had me scared, Kinch. It looks like the bullet just took a good chunk of skin with it as it grazed your calf. You should be okay. It probably hurts like a bastard though," Hogan said patting his second on the shoulder to comfort. "I'll bandage it up, but Wilson is going to have to take a better look in the morning. We just don't have much time before the bed check."
"Thanks, Colonel," Kinch said sheepishly. "I'm..."
"Actually, Kinch, you probably shouldn't talk to me right now," Hogan threatened. "You, me and Carter have a lot to talk about tomorrow. So let's leave any discussion until then." Hogan reached down and helped Kinch back up onto his feet. "We need to get topside. Can you make it? Or do you think we need more help?"
"I can make it, Colonel. If you're willing to back me up..." Kinch said.
"That's what I'm here for," Hogan replied as he helped his friend to the ladder. "Okay. Take it easy. One rung at a time. I'm right behind you."
This just hasn't been a good day.
To be continued…
Thanks for Reading
Patti and Marg
In a backwards sort of way, we took the Smartgroups Word of the Month's clamber challenge twice. Our story Game's Score at Love was written as a direct response to the clamber challenge. But what we found fairly humorous was that while we were editing this chapter of Confidence Game, which had been written before Game's Score at Love, we had already used the word clamber in it! So at this point we are working on three of Lauren's challenges in one story!
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.