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 taken up those two challenges and have attempted to combine them into
one story, as well as integrating them into our continuing 'Game 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. Enjoy!
Immense power is acquired by assuring yourself,
in your secret reveries,
that you were born to control affairs.
Luft Stalag 13, Barracks Two, Colonel Hogan's Quarters,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 0330 Hours
Colonel Hogan had spent the last hour and a half since Shultz's bed
check staring at the ceiling of his quarters. He had counted every ceiling
slat… way too many times. And still he couldn't sleep as his own fears and
insecurities were weighing heavy on his mind.
You know, Hogan. Commanding officers are not supposed to get close to the men under their command. It makes it impossible to do what is necessary… ordering those men into dangerous situations where death can come… in the blink of an eye. It's just not appropriate for a commanding officer to care that much. He needs to be ready to make the tough decisions.
I know. I know. So then explain to me… why the hell does it hurt so bad?
Yesterday was just not a good day. But I'm afraid it is only one bad day out of many more to come. There is no way that this operation can ever succeed. It's just not possible. I don't know why I even convinced these men to follow me. Not to mention all those innocent civilians trusting me to lead them as well. I know we are here to fight the good fight and we are all committed to ending Hitler's Third Reich. It's necessary. But hell… we almost didn't get past yesterday.
Vogel is now breathing down our necks. Even Klink has been acting strange since Vogel's accusations. And Vogel and his henchmen are now blackmailing and endangering the lives of the innocent civilians of Hammelburg. And those Nazi predators are even threatening poor Helga. How the hell am I supposed to keep all these people alive? And on top of that… how are we supposed to actually take on the German War Machine?
I guess anger can be a powerful motivator.
And admittedly, after seeing what I did at Dachau… these f'n Nazi bastards need to be wiped from this earth. I just fear that death is all that awaits the people who have committed themselves to me. But maybe, just maybe. If we can hold out long enough, we can put a monkey wrench into the plans of Hitler and his henchman. They can't be allowed to continue this madness. There has to be a way to stop them.
So, all I can do is make a promise, to all of you who have committed yourselves to me, that I will do everything that I can to hold this operation together, for as long as humanly possible. And when the time comes and that fat lady makes her appearance on stage…
I swear to you, we most assuredly will not go down without a fight.
It would help of course, if I could keep my own men from shooting one another. Goddamn it. What am I going to do about Kinch and Carter? Besides strangling both men.
You know what you have to do, Hogan. You have to be their commanding officer. You just can't afford to be that friend or mentor. Not in this situation anyway. You truly have no other choice.
Yeah. I know. But I ask you again… why does it have to hurt so bad?
Colonel Robert Hogan sighed deeply and continued counting ceiling slats.
Meanwhile in the main barracks…
Ivan Kinchloe just couldn't sleep. Besides the horrible throbbing from his right calf, he was feeling completely guilty for lying to his commanding officer, and friend. Not to mention that he was also feeling really bad for Andrew Carter. I tried to keep it to myself, Carter. I really did. Kinch had seen the horrified look on the kid's face as he and Colonel Hogan emerged from the tunnel after having treated the bullet wound in his right calf.
It wasn't like I could even hide it at that point. My pant leg was ripped and covered in blood. Poor Carter. He was sitting on his bunk in complete shock. He barely moved. Almost everyone else had gotten up to help. That is, until Colonel Hogan bellowed -- quietly -- for everyone to go back to bed. He helped me to sit on my bunk and then turned and walked over to Carter, grabbed him by the front of his long johns, pulled him to his feet, and in no uncertain terms ordered him to help me change clothes and get settled into bed before the bed check.
All Colonel Hogan had said after that was 'Kinch, you have a sprained ankle. That's the only way that we can cover for your injury.' At that point, he disappeared into his own quarters, never even coming out after the bed check. Boy, I'm so glad that the bed check was fairly routine… just a head count by Shultz. No one even had to get up out of bed. Good thing too, because my leg is killing me. I probably wouldn't have been able to stand.
I can't believe how quiet it's been since then. No one has even dared to speak. And I know Carter is still awake, but he's lying facing the barrack's wall. The poor kid. I tried to tell him it was okay and that I was fine. But he was shaking so badly when he helped me get changed that I thought he was just going to pass out.
I wonder what's going to happen tomorrow morning. The Colonel is so angry. I guess Carter and I are lucky in a way. Colonel Hogan can't truly kill or court martial us. It just wouldn't be something easily explained to the Germans.
Sure make jokes -- he could easily remove both of us from his first team. We probably both have a long road to travel, before the Colonel will trust either of us again.
I'm so sorry, Colonel. I never meant to lie to you. It's just that Carter is a good kid and really means well. You can throw the book at me, but I hope you take it easy on him. There's just something about him, you know?
And just a bunk away…
Andrew Carter felt so cold inside. He hadn't been able to stop shivering since he had seen Kinch and Colonel Hogan emerge from the tunnel. He had tried hard to not breakdown in front of the others after Colonel Hogan forced him to help Kinch get ready for bed, but it was a different story altogether after Kinch was settled into his bunk. Carter had returned quickly to his bunk, no longer able to hold back the tears. He had lain down and turned away to face the wall and hadn't moved since.
Carter's tears did recede after a time, but the constant chill felt like it would never go away. How could I have been that clumsy? Oh God. I almost killed someone and Kinch of all people. He's one of the only people here who has been a real friend to me. He always has a kind word to say and generally ignores when I do something stupid. And even after I almost killed him, he tried to tell me that everything was okay, and that he was fine. And he even tried to hide the wound from Colonel Hogan, to save my worthless hide from the Colonel's wrath.
Oh brother, Colonel Hogan had me so nervous all day. I know he was just trying to show me the ropes. But I tried to tell him that I couldn't handle it. He just didn't listen. I was so nervous during the whole mission to Kemp's farm. I was expecting a patrol to sneak up on us at any moment, so I never put the safety on the gun. And I got so excited when I found that silly rock that I just forgot to put the safety on. And look what happened -- I tripped -- I'm so sorry, Kinch. How can I ever make it up to you? I so need to do something -- But at least you sounded like you would actually forgive me.
Colonel Hogan on the other hand, is so angry and boy does he have the right to be. He has everyone's welfare to look out for. Everyone would be much safer if I had no further part in this operation. Colonel Hogan has worked so hard at masterminding this whole scenario. He just doesn't need a useless extra wheel to worry about. I really to want to help, though. But all I seem to ever do is screw up. And last night someone almost died because of that -- I know I won't be able to do anything to make it up to the Colonel. He should just get me transferred out or something. That is, if he doesn't kill me first.
Boy, oh boy. I wonder what's gonna happen tomorrow morning? I think the Colonel is even angry with Kinch. I'm so sorry, Colonel. Please don't take it out on Kinch. He's the most important person here. Second only to you. Do whatever you want to me, Colonel, but leave Kinch out of it. He was just trying to be a friend, even after the horrible thing I did.
Luft Stalag 13, Barracks Two,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 0530 Hours
Raus. Raus. Roll Call. Roll Call," Sergeant
Shultz bellowed as he opened the door to barracks ttwo. "Let's go.
Everyone raus...." Shultz's voice trailed off as he saw Newkirk, LeBeau, and
Carter helping Kinch to his feet. "Was ist los?" he continued
Before anyone could answer him, Colonel Hogan appeared in the doorway of his quarters. "That's Kinch just being clumsy, Shultz," he said. "I never would have figured him for clumsy, but he sprained his ankle last night when he tripped over Carter's outstretched foot on the way to the latrine. Took an awful tumble," Hogan continued shaking his head in embarrassment at his second in command.
"Yeah. Just me being clumsy, Shultz," Kinch agreed smiling and patting the German Sergeant on the stomach as his three companions helped him out of the barracks.
Kinch clumsy? Impossible. Shultz just shook his head and followed the last man out of barracks two. As he began his head count, he heard Colonel Hogan tell Carter to help Kinch back inside after roll call and then find Sergeant Wilson to take a look at Kinch's ankle. It has to be more monkey business? But Shultz again just shook his head and decided to dismiss that thought entirely. It's probably better that I know nothing.
"Report!" bellowed Kommandant Klink as he exited his office, barely waiting until he had made it down the stairs and into the compound. His angry mood was quite apparent to the entire assembly.
Shultz had barely finished his own head count for barracks two before he had to quickly bustle to the front of the assembly and make his report. "All prisoners present and accounted for, Herr Kommandant!" he said nervously. The Kommandant has not been the same since yesterday's visit from Colonel Vogel. He was holed up in his office all day yesterday and the only thing he ordered me to do was to conduct that surprise bed check last night. I had hoped he'd be in a better mood this morning. But I guess that is not to be.
"Very good, Sergeant. You can dismiss the prisoners, but Colonel Hogan is to be brought to my office immediately," Klink ordered evenly. And then never even looking at Colonel Hogan, he turned and retreated into his office.
Shultz turned, dismissed the assembly, approached Colonel Hogan, and said sheepishly, "I'm sorry, Colonel Hogan. It seems that Kommandant Klink wants to see you in his office. Come with me."
Hogan smirked at the German guard, "That's the impression I got too, Shultz. Lead the way." Damn. This doesn't look good. Since yesterday's theatrics from Vogel, Klink's been a basket case. Adding to that the surprise bed check last night. And now, this rather official summons to his office. Boy, I need to work even harder at keeping him on our side of the fence until we get rid of Vogel. I really hope I can keep that promise I made last night -- for more than just today.
Well here goes nothing -- or everything.
Colonel Hogan followed Sergeant Shultz into the Kommandant's office, thinking it better that he held back just a bit, and not barge in as had been his new custom for the past couple of weeks. Klink is bound to take offense in the mood he is in.
"Colonel Hogan to see you, Herr Kommandant," Shultz said quickly after opening the office door and noticing that the American Colonel was not going to walk right past him into the office. He had gotten used to the new routine of not having to escort the Senior Officer to see the Kommandant.
Kommandant Klink never raised his eyes from the paperwork on his desk and said, "Show him in, Sergeant. And you're dismissed."
"Jawohl," Shultz replied and closed the door behind Colonel Hogan.
Hogan put on his best cooperative face. "You wanted to see me, sir?" he asked and went to sit in the chair in front of Klink's desk, but never made it to the seat.
"I have not given you permission to sit, Colonel Hogan," Klink said commandingly as he stood to face his American counterpart. "You will remain standing. This is not a social visit. And I also expect you to salute me as your commanding officer when you enter my office. Have I made myself clear, Colonel?"
"Perfectly, sir," Hogan said coming to attention and saluting. This is not good. We are back at square one. Just play it cool. Don't push. The American Colonel just stood at attention holding the salute.
The Kommandant returned it -- after a fashion -- and moved methodically from behind his desk and walked to a position directly behind his Senior POW Officer, where he stood quietly as if inspecting a junior officer. "Well now. That's much better, Colonel. The way it should be. I have been too lenient recently. I have now set new standards of conduct for you. I will expect nothing less than this..." Klink waved his hand indicating Hogan's stature. "… in our future dealings. Have I made myself clear, Colonel?"
"Perfectly, sir," Hogan said again looking straightforward, never even glancing back at the German Colonel. Hogan could feel the Kommandant's eyes boring into his back. I have to say something. I can't leave here with Klink having the upper hand. "Excuse me, Colonel. May I speak freely, sir?" he asked politely.
The Kommandant said nothing. So Hogan waited quietly until Klink made his way around to the front of his desk. Finally Klink gave a nod to indicate that Hogan could continue.
"May I ask what brought about this change, sir? I had thought things were going well. My men haven't even attempted an escape in weeks. The beautify Stalag 13 campaign is well under way. LeBeau has even been excited about cooking for you and your guests, sir. And all the vehicles in the motor pool have had a good going over," Hogan offered politely. "And the men have even worked up a list of the parts needed to keep those vehicles in tiptop shape," he continued innocently pulling the list from his pocket and placing it on the Kommandant's desk.
Klink just gave Hogan a look of sheer pity. He retrieved the proffered note, crumbled it, and tossed it back at his Senior POW Officer, who had to fumble to catch it. "After yesterday…" Klink began disbelieving. "You can stand there and say to me that you do not understand the reason for this change. I don't understand you, Hogan, and that is the problem. Yesterday I was accused of treason and plotting with the enemy -- you specifically -- against the Third Reich. I don't know how or why Vogel has you in his sights. But I will not be implicated in his threats -- not for any reason what so ever."
"But, Colonel..." Hogan started to say after he finally managed to put the list back in his pocket.
"Enough, Colonel Hogan," Klink interrupted. "I do not want to hear it. I summoned you here this morning to tell you that I will not have Vogel here again accusing me of treason. Therefore things are going to change. The guards inside camp will be doubled. More patrols will be assigned to the areas outside the camp. I plan on talking to Oskar Schnitzer this morning and will be doubling the number of dogs on patrol as well, inside and outside of camp. And until further notice -- all work details outside camp have been cancelled. There will also be a system setup for random roll calls, as well as random bed checks. And only I will make the decision as to what that system will be. That should prove to the Gestapo, once and for all that no one can escape from Stalag 13," Klink said seriously, and then took a quick breath. He couldn't help but enjoy the devastated look on his Senior POW Officer's face. "That's all, Hogan. You're dismissed."
Hogan saluted and turned to leave the Kommandant's office, but his mind was racing. He had to one-up Klink before he left. As he went to close the door behind him, an idea struck and he turned back to face Colonel Klink. Here goes nothing. "Oh excuse me, Kommandant," he began exuberantly as he sauntered back toward the desk. "I meant to ask…" he continued quickly trying to head of Klink's certain reaction to his insubordination. "How's Helga? The guys were really worried about her yesterday. I hope she's okay. Will she be in work today? She took an awful fall. The guys would like to get her flowers or something, as she is the only bright spot in our otherwise dreary lives. Do you think you could order some flowers from the guys and send them to her, sir?" Hogan proposed innocently while taking money out of his jacket pocket and handing it to the Kommandant. "We took up a collection. I hope that's enough, sir. The men would really appreciate it, sir."
How does this man do it? One minute I think I have the upper hand and the next minute he's doing something that I wouldn't discipline him for. There must be a way to maintain the status quo here without me being executed for treason. Klink sighed and just acquiesced, "Helga has broken her ankle. She will be out of work for a few days. I will see what I can do about the flowers. Dismissed, Hogan."
Whew. "Thank you, sir," Hogan said trying to appear grateful. "And don't worry, sir. My men and I won't do anything that would subject you to Colonel Vogel's wrath." Hogan came to attention, saluted and quickly left the office. Damn it to Hell. Vogel's got to go. Soon.
Geoff and Helga Hirsch's Apartment,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 0545 Hours
Geoff Hirsch had stood most of the night peering out from behind
the blackout curtains of his apartment. When he had arrived home last
night, after wishing his daughter a good night, he had just wanted to collapse
onto the couch and forget everything. But he couldn't, as thoughts of his
daughter -- his baby -- being threatened by those Gestapo monsters, enveloped
him. It is one thing to prey upon the businessmen of the town. It
is another to threaten an innocent young woman. I cannot even be sure that
she will be safe going back to work in that prison camp, surrounded by hundreds
of enemy soldiers. How can I stand by and let my own daughter be
victimized? I cannot. I have to do something.
Geoff continued to watch as the street below began to stir with life again. Dawn had come with the sunrise painting a cheery spring glow over the small town. Such a cleansing sight…too bad it is all an illusion. He'd watched that same sunrise for years, never acknowledging the filth that it hid. Now for the first time, he realized how oblivious he'd been to the awful changes that had gripped his country. For years he had watched passively as those who wore the red armbands became more and more powerful and watched equally as passively as his friends and neighbors all adopted the dogma being preached at the civilian populace of Austria, Germany, and the other conquered Axis city-states. I hated what it was doing to my country… my home. But it wasn't real. Not personal. It didn't touch my life. So I was able to ignore its insidious grasp. I can't ignore it anymore. The heart of the Fatherland is rotten, decaying from within by the power hungry politics of the Fuhrer. And now, that rotten, decaying filth has even more of a toehold in my own hometown, threatening my livelihood, my daughter, and my life.
Geoff sighed in heartfelt regret. But, what can I do? There is nothing that I can do. I am not powerful enough. I'm alone. I dare not look for allies among my own countrymen, for that way lay only death as I cannot afford to trust anyone, not my neighbors or even my closest friends.
Geoff stood at the window for several more minutes before he turned away to get ready for another day. A day in which Gestapo Colonel Vogel would come demanding his donation. A day in which Geoff knew that he would pay that donation. It will, at least, buy Helga and me one more day of freedom in this increasingly totalitarian society.
Luft Stalag 13, Barracks Two,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 0630 Hours
As Colonel Hogan reached barracks two from the Kommandant's office,
his mood had deteriorated, quickly going from bad to worse. Besides
Klink's goddamn new agenda -- which is bad enough. I now have to go throw
the book at Kinch and Carter for that stupid and dangerous mishap last
night. And I made a promise to what? Keep this operation going as long as
humanly possible. What? Am I nuts?
Hogan burst through the door to barracks two, and scanned the room quickly. No Kinch or Carter. He caught site of LeBeau. "LeBeau find Kinch and Carter. I want to see them both in my office A.S.A.P. Understood?" Hogan demanded as he disappeared into his office without waiting for a response from diminutive Frenchmen. He heard a knock on his door just as he closed it. Turning quickly, he opened the door to find LeBeau standing there. "What is it, Corporal? Didn't you understand my order?"
LeBeau began evenly never breaking eye contact with his commanding officer, "I'm sorry, Colonel. I understood you perfectly. It's just that Kinch and Carter are down in the tunnel with Wilson. The wound in Kinch's leg was serious enough to require stitches. Wilson is in the middle of doing that now. I just thought you should know, sir."
The Colonel sighed and his demeanor softened. "I'm sorry, LeBeau. Kommandant Klink has me on edge. I didn't mean to take it out on you. I'll go check on the two of them myself then. Thanks for telling me." Hogan started to walk out of his office and remembered Klink's new agenda. "LeBeau, pass the word. Everything is on hold for now. Klink is on the warpath, doubling guards, adding more dogs and patrols, not to mention random roll calls and bed checks. Tell everyone to lay low until I can think of something."
"Oui, mon Colonel," LeBeau replied and headed out quickly to pass the word.
Hogan headed for the tunnel entrance in barracks two. As he made it down the ladder and into the tunnel, he saw Wilson approaching from the medical alcove. "Sergeant Wilson, how is Sergeant Kinchloe?" he asked very seriously as Wilson made eye contact with him.
"Kinch will be okay, sir. He's resting now. I would prefer him to hold off climbing the ladder into the barracks for a little bit, if it can be helped. The wound was fairly deep and I thought it more prudent to stitch it closed. As you know, we don't live in the most sterile environment. The wound will be better off cleansed and closed," Wilson reported. "And it's definitely going to be sore for a while. So, the sprained ankle excuse should work out well."
"Thank you, Sergeant," Hogan said evenly. "Are both men still together? In the medical alcove?"
"Yes, sir. I think they are both actually waiting on you," Wilson said sheepishly, but also very glad that he was not on Colonel Hogan's shit list this morning.
"All right, Sergeant," Hogan said as he headed down the tunnel extension. As he approached the medical alcove, he paused and took a deep breath. I have to stay calm. I can't blow my top. I want to blow my top, but that won't get us anywhere. It's not like I can actually discipline either man. There just isn't any excuse that would work here. Plus I would never want the Germans to think that I have problems with my men. But admittedly… of all the things, that I had ever thought, that I would need to hide from the Germans… one of my men shooting another one was not one of them. Still I can't let this incident just slip by. Something has to be done. I only hope my solution to this problem doesn't backfire on me.
Colonel Hogan walked purposely around the corner into the medical alcove. Neither man was looking in his direction. "Gentlemen. We have to talk," he began fervently.
Both men were startled, as they never heard the Colonel coming. Carter almost fell backwards off the stool he was sitting on and Kinch just took a sharp intake of breath from his position lying on the cot. Carter tried to quickly regain his balance and come to attention and Kinch was trying to get up off the cot and do the same. Both men were apologizing profusely for their inability to do so quickly.
"All right. That's enough," Colonel Hogan began curtly. "Sergeant Carter! Sit. Sergeant Kinchloe! Lay down," he ordered and watched as his two men quickly plunked themselves back down on his command. They were both staring at him wide-eyed, but neither said another word. Wow, was I that angry last night? To cause the near panic in their eyes? Yeah, I guess I was. Well sorry, guys, there will be no apology forthcoming from me this time.
"How's the leg, Sergeant?" Hogan asked of Kinch. "Sergeant Wilson said that you needed stitches."
"Yes, sir, Colonel. It's feeling much better now, sir. I'll be back to normal in no time at all, sir," Kinch spouted quickly even though his leg was killing him, especially now after Wilson's recent procedure.
"Good. I'm glad to hear that," Hogan sighed glancing at the floor and taking a deep breath before he could begin again. He glanced back up at his men and was just about to say something when both men began spouting apologies – for a second time. "Enough," Hogan bellowed.
Both men clammed up immediately.
"Okay. Now. Let me talk," Hogan ordered and waited a beat to see if they would interrupt again. They didn't. Good. "Gentleman. I can't tell you how angry I am. I know that you both realize the seriousness of last night's incident. Sergeant Kinchloe could be dead now. And besides that -- we could have blown our whole operation here had the Germans heard that shot or if I had to somehow explain the untimely death of my second-in-command. I'm sure I don't have to tell you the number of lives that are at stake here if our operation is ever found out."
Both men lowered their gazes from their commanding officer.
Hogan saw the dejected look on both men's faces but continued never the less. "If we weren't in this situation -- I probably would have you both sent packing. Maybe not by court martial, but there would be no reason for me to keep either of you on my team. It is not encouraging to me as your commanding officer to know that one of you is a threat to the safety of the other team members and that the other one would lie to cover-up for that threat." Hogan paused.
Neither man would even look up at their commanding officer.
Hogan began again, "But we are in this situation -- And I have no way to send either of you packing. And up until last night, both of you had given me your complete loyalty. And both of you had worked hard to support this crazy operation of mine. I need both loyalty and hard work to make this operation a success. So I won't disregard those qualities in either of you. But, I can't let last night's incident go undisciplined." Hogan paused, again becoming aware of the men's down turned gazes. "Look at me," he ordered.
Both men looked up to meet their commanding officer's gaze.
"Sergeant Kinchloe. You will retain all duties as second in command of this operation. But you have also now become Sergeant Carter's mentor and guardian. You will assign him any and all duties that you feel he's capable of. If there are any further mishaps -- you are solely responsible. Sergeant Carter. You have now been relieved of all present duties. Your only duty from this point on is to be Sergeant Kinchloe's shadow. You will do anything that he needs you to do. And I do mean anything. Both of you have now become inseparable. You both will continue with this duty until such a time that I feel this situation warrants a change. And you shouldn't expect that change anytime soon. Good day, Gentlemen," Colonel Hogan finished, turning on his heel, and leaving both men staring wide-eyed at his retreating back. Boy, I hope I'm doing the right thing.
As Colonel Hogan left the medical alcove and headed back to barracks two, his mind turned quickly to the more pressing matter of Klink's new agenda. He glanced at his watch, 7:15am. I only have 45 minutes until Schnitzer gets here. I need to get word out that we will be incommunicado here for the time being. The only communication with our contacts will have go through Doc Schnitzer, at least until Klink backs off or I come up with a plan. I now even have to assign another man to the dog-truck team -- Who? -- Baker? -- Yeah, he can handle himself. -- Oh hell -- Today's delivery is going to require some additional distractions, especially if Klink follows through with his decision to talk to Schnitzer about more dogs. We'll just have to be ready.
Shit. That means I've also need to stop Tiger's evening POW deliveries. Not to mention still get the auto parts that Marlow and his crew need. It's all going to have to go through Doc Schnitzer. I hope this doesn't put too much pressure on my civilians, what with last night and now this. What was it I said? -- No holds barred -- They did agree to follow my lead -- Oof -- I guess it's time to let everyone spread their wings. But why is it then -- when I think that -- does my stomach end up in knots?
The Colonel tried to ignore his stomach as he made his way back up into barracks two. He found Newkirk before heading into his office and gave the Corporal a quick rundown of today's dog-truck duty. The Colonel also told Newkirk that Baker was the new third wheelman for their operation. Newkirk had quickly gone and rounded up LeBeau and Baker. All three had returned to Colonel Hogan's office to hash out the specifics for today's visit from the local veterinarian.
Doctor Freiling's Clinic,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 0700 Hours
Geoff Hirsch stopped at Doctor Freiling's clinic on his way to
work, as he hadn't been able to stand not seeing his daughter at home that
morning. The apartment felt so empty. "How are you feeling
this morning, Helga?" Geoff asked her as he pushed open the half closed door of
the Freiling's back bedroom.
"Oh, Papa. I am fine. It is merely achy this morning. Oskar is taking very good care of me," Helga replied with a bright smile for her father. She couldn't help but notice that her father looked tired and drawn this morning. Like he hasn't slept. He probably hasn't. I know him. He would have spent the night worrying about our livelihood, our home, and me. This must be tearing him apart. I'm so sorry that I cannot tell him that Colonel Hogan probably already has a plan to rid us of Colonel Vogel. It's just that I don't know how he would react to knowing that the enemy is not the enemy.
"Good. Do what Oskar tells you and soon you will be coming home," Geoff told his daughter, as he sat resting briefly on her bed.
Helga reached out and held her father's hand. "I will, Papa. I could go home now, but I would need someone to stay with me. It will be too hard for me to manage all day in the Cobbler shop. Oskar tells me that in a few days it will not be so bad, and I will be able to manage better."
"Good, good. I will close the shop and come and have lunch with you," Geoff said planning on stealing as many moments as possible with his daughter. Life is too precious to waste. Smiling and kissing his daughter lightly on the cheek, he left the bedroom without another word.
Luft Stalag 13, Medical Alcove,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 0715 Hours
Kinch was the first to recover after Colonel Hogan left him and
Carter in the medical alcove. He glanced at his companion. "Breathe,
Carter. Breathe," he said quickly giving Carter a quick slap on the
Carter was startled by Kinch's touch and gasped for breath, but the breath he took was too deep and he began coughing. It took what seemed like an eternity, but he was finally able to catch his breath. "Oh, brother. I'm so sorry, Kinch. I would have preferred it if Colonel Hogan sent me packing. Now you are responsible for me. That's not fair. All I do is screw up. Colonel Hogan has you taking all the blame for me. I'm so sorry," Carter babbled non-stop. "I don't know what to do. Maybe I should talk to him again. Get him to find a way to have me transferred out or something. I really have no business being here."
"Whoa, Carter," Kinch began as he reached out to take the younger man by the arm. "If I thought that was true -- do you think I would have tried covering for you last night? Huh? I like you, Carter. I really do. I feel you have a lot to contribute to this operation. And Colonel Hogan feels the same way, he told me so himself just last night," Kinch tried to explain. "But, you got to realize that the Colonel has way too much on his plate to give you the extra time to get your act together. He did try, but at this point he seems to have just left it up to me. He was more lenient than I would have ever thought. What we did, deserved a court-martial." Kinch paused shaking his head and removed his hand from Carter's arm.
"Oh, Kinch. This operation is the most important thing that I've ever been involved in. I owe you all for helping to get my cousin Philip out of Germany. And I so want to help, but I'm a menace," Carter sighed and looked away from his companion.
"Well that's going to have to change, Carter, because I don't plan on facing Colonel Hogan with another mishap," Kinch said evenly. "Have I made myself clear?" Kinch asked with authority but quickly a smile appeared on his face.
As Carter looked up into the face of his new commanding officer he said, "Yes, sir, perfectly, sir." But as his eyes met Kinch's, he saw the smile. Sighing Carter said, "I promise to do the best I can, Kinch. I'll do anything I can to make this up to you and Colonel Hogan."
"Good. That's all I will ever ask of you, Carter. Really," Kinch said to ease the tension. "So... are you ready to start this new duty assignment?" Kinch asked with a glimmer in his eye.
"Of course, Kinch," Carter responded nervously unsure of how to read Kinch's expression.
"Good. You can start by helping me up. I'm stuck. I'm just glad that the Colonel didn't actually call us on coming to attention. I don't think I would have been able to get up," Kinch admitted. "I need to get topside. I have to get the Colonel and myself ready for the German language classes that begin today. I guess I should really say that we need to get ready." Kinch paused and grinned sheepishly at Carter. "Help?"
Carter jumped off the stool that he'd been sitting on. "Oh damn. Of course. Here take it easy," Carter began as he helped Kinch get into a sitting position first and then up on his feet. "Are you okay, Kinch? Should I get some one else to help? The ladder is going to be a tough climb."
"No, Carter. I can make it. As long as you are willing to back me up..." Kinch said raising his voice in a question.
"Always, Kinch," Carter said smiling. "That's what I'm here for."
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 0755 Hours
Colonel Hogan was leaning against barracks two, surveying the
compound, and worrying that today's delivery from Doc Schnitzer wasn't going to
go well. There were extra guards on patrol outside the wire, extra guards
in the towers and extra guards with dogs inside the camp perimeter. And
it just figures that Bearhardt is on patrol. We now have to get word to
Schnitzer that Wolfgang has the messages in his collar and not
Bearhardt. Hogan saw that his dog-truck team was already in
place. Everyone else in the compound had also been made aware that the
Colonel wanted them to be ready with a more substantial distraction, if
Hogan glanced at his watch and gave Corporal Corey Loggins the signal to start a game of American football. Loggins was the referee, but it was his job to keep an eye out for any signal coming from Colonel Hogan. It would then be time to dip into the new playbook that the Colonel had devised -- just this morning. Hogan was again glad that he had started the interview process. He was proud of the fact the he had two young men here, who had been quarterbacks for their respective colleges. Sergeant Kenny Miller was from Minnesota State and Corporal Shawn Fitzpatrick was from the University of Notre Dame. Both men had been starting quarterbacks during their tenures. Hogan hoped they were as good as they said they were.
Hogan also took in the rather mild soccer game being played on the other side of the compound in front of the guard's barracks. Sergeant Willard Smythe was the referee of that game. He too was to keep an eye out for the Colonel's signal. No one was sure what was going to be needed today. The soccer players, one and all, while none of them professionals had convinced Colonel Hogan of their expertise in the game and promised that they could easily adapt to Colonel Hogan's new rules, if need be.
I hope this works. If we're lucky -- nothing will happen. If not? Well… let's not think like that, Hogan. Have confidence man. Things will work out. Hogan turned just in time to see Doc Schnitzer's truck pull up at the front gates. Game time.
Good, they're letting him pass without checking. At least that has stayed the same. Hogan hoped that maybe now they'd be lucky, as the guards were ignoring the dog truck. Shultz was the only guard heading over to keep an eye on Schnitzer. Hogan watched as the vet parked his truck, got out, blew his nose, and as usual started talking to distract Shultz. He continued to watch the action at the dog kennel until LeBeau headed for the rear of the truck.
Okay great. Things are going as planned. Hogan turned to keep an eye on the Kommandant's office and noticed Klink exit -- just at that moment. Or not. There was no doubt where Klink was heading. Colonel Hogan signaled Loggins and the new play was quickly set into motion by Fitzpatrick. The offense went deep for a long bomb. Fitzpatrick was as good as he said. The pass hit Klink right in the numbers. Before anything could be stopped -- Klink, after a rather impressive catch of the football, went down under a mountain of men. Oof. That must have hurt. Good job, guys.
As Hogan had that thought though, all hell broke loose. Klink began hollering. Guards came charging. The POWs went into a frenzied attempt to break up the pig pile. Hogan glanced at the dog kennel. Shultz was even running -- or what he could manage as a run -- over to the commotion. Good. That leaves Schnitzer alone with my guys. LeBeau just better remember the phrase about Wolfgang that I taught him.
Hogan made his way over to where the Kommandant was finally being helped to his feet. He was still holding the football. "Are you all right, Kommandant?" he asked as he began to brush off the German Colonel's disheveled uniform. "That was a great catch, sir! I didn't know you played American football." Hogan continued innocently, "I'm sure the guys would love to have you play with them, sir. Isn't that right, guys?" Hogan asked the POWs now milling about, who almost as one, began a good-natured affirmation of the Colonel's idea.
"Silence!" Kommandant Klink bellowed as he pitched the football at Hogan. "Your men tried to kill me, Hogan. They should be shot! Guards! Round up all the prinsoners involved in that game. Bring them here to me," he finished livid.
Colonel Hogan, after having fumbled and finally dropped the football, went into panic mode. "Kommandant. You can't be serious. My men were just a little overzealous in their enthusiasm for the football game. They didn't mean you any harm, sir. Really," he said his heart pounding. Klink wouldn't do this. Or did we push too far? His mind was racing to come up with a way to stop what could be a disaster. None of my men will stand for this. It could turn into a massacre -- on both sides.
Klink turned his gaze to the American Colonel, wanting to savor the near panic in the man's eyes, but he couldn't. I'm not a killer, Colonel Hogan. And in this war -- I'm sure that will eventually be the reason for my ultimate demise. But as long as it is humanly possible -- I will never order the death of prisoners in my charge. It is when you finally realize that, Hogan -- that I fear -- it will be to you, that I will fall victim. But maybe that's as it should be. "Enough, Colonel Hogan," Klink began as the POWs were assembled in front of him. "Sergeant Shultz. These men will all be confined to the cooler for ten days without privileges. Their punishment begins now."
Klink quickly turned away, avoiding any additional eye contact with the American Colonel and headed toward his office having actually forgotten the original reason for coming out in the first place. But his memory returned as he approached his office door. Turning he called to Sergeant Shultz, "Shultz, before the tierarzt leaves -- have him come see me in my office."
"Jawohl, Herr Kommandant," Shultz answered to the Kommandant's back.
Colonel Hogan had breathed a sigh of relief at the Kommandant's announcement. I was right. Klink wouldn't do that. But whew, that was too damned close for comfort -- You should ease off a little, Hogan. Don't push everyone so hard -- Yeah, easy for you to say -- You're not responsible for thousands of people's lives. Just to make this whole thing even begin to work -- I have to push and push hard.
Hogan watched as Shultz returned to the dog kennel after assigning an escort to the POWs being brought to the cooler. As his gaze followed Shultz, he saw that Doc Schnitzer was getting back into his truck. The Colonel had to look around for his dog-truck team. When he finally located them, they signaled to him that the mission was accomplished.
Hogan just sighed… this is going to be one long war.
Office of the Inspector General,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 0900 Hours
A knock on his door, which sounded like a rifle shot in the silence
of his office, jolted Colonel Preffrieger out of his thoughts. "Come!" he
called out, as he removed his feet from his desk and let his chair fall back
onto all four legs.
"Herr, Colonel, I've several things here requiring your attention," Frau Lissa Oster announced entering his office, bearing a thick stack of papers. She was an austere woman, her grey streaked black hair pulled back into a severe bun at the back of her neck, her face lined and drawn with advancing age, her steel grey eyes were outlined in stark black frame glasses. She was unfailingly polite and proper. She was very good at her job, and he highly valued competence above looks. Let the other men argue over the fluff in the clerical pool, he knew that he had the best secretary in Berlin.
"Come," Preffrieger repeated gesturing her to put the pile in front of him.
Frau Oster placed the stack in front of her superior and stood to the side. "The first piece is a request for…" Oster began taking Colonel Preffrieger through the pile item by item, from memory. She knew what each item was and where it was going. She even knew which ones that Colonel Preffrieger would refuse to authorize and ask for more detail on. She was able to answer all of her superior's questions, though she was careful to keep any personal opinion of any item to herself.
A half-hour later she gathered the correspondence up and prepared to leave his office.
"A moment, Frau Oster," Preffrieger said with one hand upraised, stopping his secretary from leaving.
"Herr, Colonel?" Frau Oster asked turning back, raising her eyes to his in question.
"Has there been any other correspondence from the Munich Office?" Preffrieger asked.
"Over the deaths of the senior members of the Headquarters?" Oster asked.
"Yes. Any follow-up at all?" Preffrieger clarified.
"Nein. The weekly report from the Munich office has not arrived as of yet," Frau Oster replied.
"Alright. I assume you have made arrangements for me to visit Munich?" Preffrieger asked knowing that the efficient Frau Oster would have done so.
"Yes, sir. You will be picked up tomorrow from your flat by your driver." Oster replied. "I have made reservations at the hotel for you and your driver. I did not inform the Munich office you were coming."
"Very good, Frau Oster," Preffrieger replied with a satisfied smile. It is very nice to have such an efficient secretary. She knows I don't like to advertise my actions.
"Will that be all, sir?" Oster asked.
"Ja. Thank you," Preffrieger told her.
Frau Oster gave him a wintry smile and closed his office door as she exited.
Gestapo Headquarters, Office of Colonel Frederick Vogel,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 1000 Hours
Colonel Frederick Vogel sat staring out his office window on the
third-floor of Gestapo Headquarters. His office faced east, so that he
could easily see the pigeons roosting on the roof of the building just across
the square. He sat quietly contemplating the ease at which collecting the
donations from the businessmen of Hammelburg had been so far this morning.
He so enjoyed the power he held over these people. Grinning evilly, his
attention was drawn back from the window to the money spread out on his
desk. He ran his fingers greedily through the pile until he heard a knock
on his door. "Come," he called.
"Everything ist in ordnen, Herr Colonel," Captain Peter Schotz reported taking in the expression on his commander's face as he entered the office. "The men have their new assignments," Schotz continued -- wondering, not for the first time -- what Colonel Vogel's real motivations were in ordering all this recent activity. Was it loyalty to the Fatherland? -- or was it greed? Schotz realized that it was probably both, but he knew better than to ever voice that question aloud, so he just continued with the question all Vogel's men wanted answered, "Excuse me, Colonel. Do you believe that all this extra work will cause the underground to betray themselves?"
"What better way to snare our prey, than to pose as a band of saboteurs ourselves?" Vogel stated confidently. "Too many people have disappeared without a trace in this area. Too many hunted people have escaped. There has to be an underground in the area."
"If that is the case, sir, what will sabotaging civilian targets accomplish?" Schotz asked.
"It may make the underground careless. It should certainly put them on edge. We shall see. In the meantime, until we unearth this underground, we can at least turn a profit for ourselves," Vogel assured.
"Of course, sir," Schotz replied with his own greedy smile, very quickly coming to terms with the reason that he had followed this man willingly. "But can you explain to me sir… what part will Stalag 13 and that American Colonel play in your plans? We found out nothing useful from them yesterday."
"Ah, Captain," Vogel began. "You don't understand the complexities involved here. There is more going on in that camp than meets the eye. I just wanted to make my own judgment about the goings-on there," Vogel told his adjunct. "You see, that imbecile Wilhelm Klink is Kommandant there. And I do not see how he manages to maintain his perfect no-escape record -- not with that American Officer Colonel Hogan there. That man I have no doubt, now more than ever, is so much more than a mere POW. It's just that up until now, he has been able to hide behind the barbwire of that camp. And no one in Berlin, as of yet, will believe me when I tell them that a POW can be a danger to the Fatherland."
"You almost sound as if you admire this American," Schotz asked in disbelief.
"He is truly nothing, Schotz, less than dirt. As are all enemies of the Fatherland. Yet, he is an intriguing subject," Vogel said as he ran his hands over the American Colonel's Gestapo dossier that lay on his desk. What an interesting read Hogan's dossier was when I first read it. And now after having truly conversed with the man it describes face to face… well there is definitely more going on there than meets the eye. I know it. I can feel it. "I'm not yet sure what part they'll play but I will prove to Berlin, once and for all, that there is a fox in our hen house. As for yesterday, I just wanted it made clear to both men that I plan to beat that American at his own game, whatever that game might be. I shall so enjoy toying with him, until I have the proof that I need to eliminate him and that fool Klink," Vogel said with an evil laugh.
Home & Office of Veterinarian, Doctor Oskar Schnitzer,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 1030 Hours
It had been a long trip to and from Rengersbrunn for Oskar this
morning, especially after having seen the changes that had happened almost
overnight at Stalag 13 and knowing that there was a note waiting for him
attached to Wolfgang's collar that probably explained those changes. But also
knowing that he would not dare open that note until he got home from his morning
deliveries, where he could then open it in relative safety.
After finally pulling into his driveway, removing, and then pocketing the note from Wolfgang's collar, Oskar released the dogs that had returned with him into the extra large enclosure situated behind his modest home and office. With a final check of the dogs' water and a tug on the lock for the enclosure, Oskar started to head to the back door of his home that led into his kitchen, hoping to have a few minutes peace to read Colonel Hogan's note before a crisis arose. Although, he knew that mornings at his home were hardly ever quiet any more, what with his wife Frieda being so ill. There always seemed to be something that needed his immediate attention. I'm just glad now that I did give up my daily office hours after Frieda had a stroke… I could not do that, deliver the military's dogs, take care of her, and be involved in the madness that all this underground activity is becoming…
Sighing, Oskar opened his back door and was immediately assaulted by a very anxious Heidi. "Oh, Uncle, I'm sorry. Aunt Frieda would not let me get her out of bed this morning. I was hoping to change her sheets and give her a bath before you got home. Only she's been calling out for you, and will not let me touch her. I'm sorry, Uncle, she's gotten herself into a such a state, that she has made a mess of the sheets, and of herself."
Oskar just put a hand to his niece's shoulder, "It is I who should be sorry Heidi. Frieda's mind seems to be wandering of late. We may need to readjust our morning schedule, so we are both here to get her settled for the day." He gave his niece a kiss on the forehead. "And just in case I haven't said it enough, Heidi… thank you for all you have done for your Aunt Frieda."
Stepping back from his niece, and even though Colonel Hogan's note now felt as if it was burning a hole in his pocket, he sighed, "Come. Let's see if together we can get Frieda to cooperate." I guess for now, this is one sacrifice our cause will have to make for me. My wife's care will have to take precedence. My heart will let me do nothing else. For how long I have left with Frieda in this world, I am not sure. But I will make her last days with me, comfortable. It is a promise I made to her… and to the Lord.
Slowly opening the door to his wife's bedroom, he tried hard to hold back the tears as he was assaulted by the smell of urine and feces. "Frieda love, it's me Oskar. Let's see if we can get you cleaned up." He leaned over his wife and gave her a kiss, "I'm sorry you've had a bad morning." Taking hold of her under her arms, he gently began to pull Frieda into a sitting position. And was just glad that his sudden appearance had not upset her.
But that was not to last long, for when Frieda finally caught a glimpse of Heidi standing in the doorway, she grabbed her husband tightly around the neck, saying in a panic, "That's her Oskar! She beats me! Please make her go away! Please!"
Trying hard to hold his emotions in check, Oskar endeavored to assuage his wife's fears. "Oh no, Love. That's only Heidi, your niece Heidi. She would never hurt you." Trying to break the hold his wife had on him, he gestured for Heidi to approach the bed. "See, it's only Heidi. It's all right. She just wants to help."
"No!!!!," Frieda screamed, and squeezed her husband's even more neck tightly. "Make her go away!"
"All right, Love," Oskar agreed and waved Heidi out of the room. When he heard the door close behind her, he continued quietly. "It's only me now, Frieda. Everything will be fine. Here, let's see if we can't get you comfortable…"
Close to an hour later…
Oskar emerged from his wife's bedroom, only to be greeted by Heidi's questioning eyes as she stood in the kitchen's doorway. "Frieda is quiet now. She should be settled for a few hours, Heidi. She's sitting up in her chair. I've given her a bath. I've changed the sheets, and I've opened the windows to air out the room so the mattress will dry. She will need something to eat though."
"I'm so sorry that I couldn't be more help this morning, Uncle," Heidi offered sadly. "I've not seen Aunt Frieda this confused before." As she saw tears appear in her uncle's eyes, she apologized, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean any disrespect…"
Oskar held up his hand to stop her apology, "You have nothing to be sorry for Heidi. It's just that Frieda and I have been together so long. It's hard for me to see her this way. And now to know… that I can no longer avoid admitting that she has been failing even more rapidly of late." Oskar sat with a heavy sigh at the kitchen table, but glanced back up at his niece. "Only your being here with me, Heidi, has made it bearable. You will continue to stay, yes? I know it will only get harder before the end. And even then…"
"I would never leave, Uncle," Heidi assured. "We will work out a way to do all that we need to do, together."
"Ach, Heidi," Oskar spouted anxiously. "Speaking of things to do…" he pulled, from his pocket, the note from Colonel Hogan. After silently reading the note, and feeling his blood pressure shoot skyward, all he said to Heidi was… "You will be okay for a couple hours, yes? I need to talk to Hermann immediately."
"Yes, Uncle," Heidi assured. "Go, do what you need to."
"Please try and give your Aunt something to eat," Oskar said as he practically ran from the house. I should have read this sooner. I only hope Hermann can help. It would make more sense for him to deal with this Louise/Tiger person than me. Though, if he cannot, I guess I will have to find another way…only I have no reason to stop by the Stohr Winery…
Ach, what a mess…
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 1215 Hours
The noon roll call was just routine, except that both Kommandant
Klink and Colonel Hogan appeared preoccupied. Both men disappeared as soon
as roll call was over, the Kommandant to his office and Colonel Hogan to his
Kinch watched warily as his commanding officer left the line-up without a word. He hadn't yet gotten a chance to talk to Colonel Hogan about the Colonel's first German language class or even give Colonel Hogan a report on his own class, which had just ended with the beginning of the noon roll call. But he decided that maybe he would hold off. The Colonel doesn't look like he's in the mood to talk.
Kinch stayed in his position in line and watched until the Colonel entered barracks two. The Colonel seems really uptight today. Like he doesn't have the right to be. I don't know how he does it. He manages to juggle so many things. I know it eats at his gut. But he always acts cavalierly and with a full-blown confidence born out of what? Necessity? He thinks that he has continued to fool everyone. He doesn't think anyone else sees the man behind the commanding cfficer. He doesn't think that anyone else sees the man that cares too much. I know that he's afraid that his cover will be blown if he lets his guard down. But what he doesn't know is that every man in this camp has committed himself to that man who cares too much, and not to some illusion of the perfect commanding officer. They've committed themselves to follow that man to hell and back, knowing full well that they may not get back.
"Kinch," Carter interrupted as he came up behind the other Sergeant and noticed that the man was lost in thought. "Is everything alright? Do you need me to help you? Are you stuck again?"
"No, Carter. I'm fine," Kinch answered pulling his attention back to his new charge. "Did you get the stuff put away? We are going to have to keep a better watch on the door during classes. That was too close for comfort when Shultz barged in early for roll call," Kinch said sighing as he remembered how all their learning materials went quickly flying under the bunks. He had asked Carter to go back after roll call and re-organize everything.
"Yeah, Kinch. Everything's back in the tunnel," Carter assured. "Boy, that was close though. We should just be glad it was Shultz and not one of the other guards."
"Yeah. I guess you're right," Kinch agreed, but decided to change the subject. Or make that, his stomach did. It was lunchtime. "Hey. Join me for lunch, Carter? It appears that we might as well get used to being joined at the hip," he laughed.
"Sure," Carter agreed as both men began their walk to the mess hall. "Hey, Kinch. I meant to tell you after class, but since we were so rudely interrupted by Shultz -- I didn't get the chance," he smirked. "You know, you make a great teacher. Your lesson was very easy to follow. I'm sure the guys got a lot out of that first class. I know I did," Carter admitted.
"Yeah? You think so?" Kinch asked. "I was really nervous. I was worried the whole class wouldn't make any sense." He paused and looked intently at Carter. "You really think you got a lot from the class?" he asked thinking that Carter was just trying to butter him up.
"Oh yeah. As a matter of fact... I think I can remember the whole vocabulary list you went over," Carter admitted and then began to rattle off the entire list of vocabulary words. "Private was der Gefreite, Corporal - der Unteroffizier, Sergeant - der Stabsunteroffizier, Staff Sergeant - der Oberfeldwebel, Lieutenant - der Oberleutnant, Captain - der Hauptmann, Lieutenant Colonel - der Oberstleutnant, and Colonel was der Oberst." Carter paused and took a deep breath. "I think that was all of them," he said innocently.
"Wow, Carter. I'm impressed. You picked that up quickly," Kinch said not really believing what he had heard. Carter had actually gotten them all right and had even repeated them with a decent accent. Carter hadn't even looked like he was paying that much attention to me during class. I was actually going to call him on it before our second class today. It just doesn't look good for the students if the teacher's assistant isn't paying much attention. But I guess I just won't say anything yet.
"Really. You think so?" Carter asked surprised. As a kid in school… I never had trouble memorizing stuff. But I would always forget everything when it was time for the test. I could never get the teachers to believe that I actually did know the material. "Wow. I'm glad I could do something right, for a change."
"You know, Carter. You could become a big help to Colonel Hogan and me," Kinch explained, thinking about the prospect of giving his young friend something useful -- and not dangerous -- to do. "We are going to eventually need another person to give German lessons to the men. You interested?"
"Oh no, Kinch. I couldn't. I only know those few vocabulary words," Carter hedged. "It would take me forever to learn the language like you. I think I'll just stick with helping you out with class."
"Okay. It was just a thought. If you'd ever be interested in a crash course -- let me know," Kinch coaxed. "The two of us could make a game out of it, since we are going to be spending a lot of time together," Kinch laughed. "I bet you'd pick it up quickly. And I'm sure Colonel Hogan would be very impressed," he added hoping that getting back in the Colonel's good graces would persuade Carter.
"Really. You think so?" Carter asked quickly pondering that maybe he could somehow redeem himself to Colonel Hogan that way, but he also realized that if he learned German he might be sent out of camp on more missions. I just can't do that. "No, Kinch. I think I'll stick with just helping," Carter said nervously as he entered the mess hall.
"Okay, Carter," was all Kinch said as he followed Carter into the mess hall, not wanting to push the issue as he could see that Carter had gotten a little unnerved the more they talked about it. I really do have to find him something useful to do. But I guess I'll just have to keep digging.
Both men entered the chow line quietly. Carter was the first one to break the silence after finding a place for him and Kinch to sit. He had desperately wanted to change the subject from German language lessons, but he had a question that he wanted to ask Kinch all morning and his curiosity was getting the better of him. "Hey, Kinch. I have a question. I know that you are fluent in German. But I didn't think the German language was something that..."
"Wasn't something what, Carter?!" Kinch said dangerously slow as anger just welled up from down deep. He didn't know where the anger was coming from, but he couldn't stop himself from jumping down the younger man's throat. "That it wasn't something a Negro should know? Huh? Was that what you were going to say, Carter?" Kinch's eyes were blazing with anger.
"Whoa, Kinch," Carter began again slowly. "I'm sorry. No. That wasn't what I was going to say. I was going to say that German wasn't a language that was taught in school, at least not in North Dakota. I was just going to ask where you learned it. That's all," Carter continued. "I would never make any racist remarks, Kinch. I'm sorry that you thought I would. I can understand how you feel, though. Oh brother -- I know that doesn't sound right -- I've heard it too many times myself. But I really do understand. My own family has had to deal with its share of racism," Carter admitted.
Kinch knew that he had done the wrong thing by jumping down Carter's throat. The kid has never said anything negative to me. Actually, almost no one here has. Why did that simple 'almost' statement just send me over the edge? And how the hell can Carter understand racism? He's too much of an innocent. And he's from a small backwater town in North Dakota, where I'm sure nothing ever happens… But I guess I'll have to bite. "Okay, Carter. So tell me your story," Kinch said still skeptical as he waited on, what he expected would be, one of Carter's more unique stories.
Carter just shook his head and began very seriously, "I've never told anyone here this, Kinch. I guess I was afraid of getting the same reaction that I always got after someone new met my family," Carter admitted. "You see, Kinch… my mother is an American Indian, Sioux actually. And my father is an Irish American. Not quite a match that is readily accepted. You know?"
"Damn, Carter. Really?" Kinch paused and shook his head. "I never would have guessed it. I'm sure that you have had to deal with your share of bigotry then. I'm so sorry that I jumped down your throat," Kinch apologized. "You'll have to tell me about your family sometime. I'd really enjoy hearing about them. And I promise not to pass judgment. Okay?"
"Okay. But first… I get to find out how you learned German," Carter proposed. "Since I have a feeling there is quite an interesting story there. At least interesting enough for you to have chewed my head off for just asking."
"Yeah. Well. I'm really sorry about that too," Kinch began only to be interrupted by LeBeau's voice.
"Kinch. Colonel Hogan wants to see you in his office. He said A.S.A.P," LeBeau explained as he approached them from the other side of the mess hall.
"We're on our way, LeBeau," Kinch replied turning to Carter. "I guess my story will have to wait for another day. Duty calls," Kinch said and patted the younger man on the shoulder. "Shall we go?"
Luft Stalag 13, Colonel Hogan's Quarters,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 1245 Hours
"Come," Colonel Hogan said after hearing a knock at his door,
expecting his visitor to be Kinch, since he had just sent LeBeau on a wild goose
chase to find him. The Colonel needed someone to talk to, as there was so
much happening, that he really needed a sounding board for his thoughts. Only
when the Colonel's door opened, both Kinch and Carter entered.
Both men came to attention after Kinch closed the door behind him and said smartly in unison, "Reporting as ordered sir!"
Hogan sighed inwardly. Maybe this wasn't a good idea. "At ease, gentlemen," Hogan began and almost flinched when both men snapped into a parade rest stance. "I believe I asked Corporal LeBeau to have Sergeant Kinchloe report to my office. Is there a reason why you're here, Sergeant Carter?"
Carter stepped forward smartly and said, "Sorry, sir. Just following orders, sir. Being Sergeant Kinchloe's shadow, sir."
Before Hogan could speak, Kinch stepped up next to Carter and echoed his sentiment, "Yes, sir. Inseparable as ordered, sir."
Okay. I guess I deserve this. Now what am I going to do? I need to talk to Kinch. I guess I can just kick Carter out of the office, but that would be giving in already. Besides it might do Carter some good to sit in on our meetings. Okay. So. Here goes nothing. "Of course, gentlemen, my mistake," Hogan began formally. "Please relax. Have a seat. We have some business to take care of."
Both Kinch and Carter exchanged confused glances. They had come into the office together almost as a joke, with neither man expecting Colonel Hogan to let Carter stay. Everyone in camp knew that the Colonel was very anxious today. And rightfully so. And everyone was very well aware that, when things got tough, the Colonel always took private time with Kinch to work through everything before announcing his plans to the rest of the POWs. Neither man knew what to do now. Carter just wanted to faint and Kinch was just dumbfounded. Neither man moved.
"Sit, gentlemen," Hogan ordered quietly. "I don't have all day." Hogan smirked inwardly when both men plunked themselves down on the lower bunk simultaneously. Ha. Got em! "Well let us get down to business, shall we. The first things on the agenda are the German language classes. My class went well this morning. No stellar pupil just yet, but they are all very enthusiastic. At this point I don't foresee any problems. The guards hardly noticed our little gathering. How did your class go, Kinch?"
"Well, Colonel. We did have a slight snafu," Kinch admitted. "Shultz barged in early for roll call. We really weren't watching the door like we should have been. He never noticed anything though, but I would like to suggest running the class a half hour earlier. Just to forestall that possibility from happening again."
"You're sure Shultz didn't see anything?" Hogan asked anxious. "We gotta be more careful, Kinch."
"Colonel, I'm sure that Shultz never saw a thing," Kinch assured. "I'm really sorry, sir. It was my fault. I had distracted the man at the door with a question. Really bad timing on my part, sir. It won't happen again."
Carter who had been sitting quietly watching the interplay between Colonel Hogan and Kinch, felt so uncomfortable. He knew he shouldn't be in the middle of this, so he tried to make himself as small as possible, hoping to disappear into the woodwork. Oh gosh. Kinch is taking the blame for the mishap with Shultz at the door. It wasn't his fault. It was an accident really. Sergeant Kelso had come into the barracks looking for something. Poor Kenny, who was at the door, just stepped away for a split second… and Shultz burst in. Why would Kinch take the blame for that? I hope the Colonel isn't too hard on him. Maybe I should say something?
"Okay, Kinch. Okay. Move the class. That's probably the safest bet," Hogan agreed pausing. "How did it go otherwise? Any stellar pupils in your group?"
"It's only the first day, Colonel," Kinch admonished. "We can't expect miracles."
Carter had almost frozen in place, terrified that Kinch was going to tell Colonel Hogan about their little talk about him learning German after he had picked it up so quickly. But Kinch is covering for me again. The Colonel is going to be so angry if he finds out. What should I do?
"I know, Kinch. I know," Hogan said accepting his second-in-command's rebuke. "It just that we could really get so much more accomplished with the men understanding the language. Right now, it's me and you. We have to do all the eavesdropping. We have to write all the notes going out of camp. We have to read all in the incoming correspondence from outside. This operation is expanding too fast for us to be the only ones speaking German. It could get very hairy. We each can't be in two or three places at once. You know?"
"Yes, sir. I agree. But we can't rush it. Having people make mistakes with the language won't help us either," Kinch replied. "I'm sure that it will all work out, Colonel…"
Hogan interrupted shaking his head. "Or we are all dead men," he said softly gazing at the floor. After taking a deep breath, he looked up into Kinch's face saying, "Yeah. I'm sure you're right, Kinch. Thanks for the vote of confidence." Hogan then caught sight of Carter's face, after almost forgetting he was in the room with them. Oh Hell. The kid looks terrified. Shit. You're a great role model, huh Hogan. Better pull yourself together. "We'll just have to work harder that's all," Hogan said the command bluster back in his voice. "Everything will be fine."
Carter jumped on Hogan's last words. He had become completely staggered by Hogan's demeanor. It was the second time in two days that he had seen the man behind the commanding officer. He still saw a man unsure that what they were doing would work, but also saw that same man still taking on all the responsibility to make it work. Against all the odds. No matter the consequences. Because it was the right thing to do. How can I be so selfish? Worrying about me, me, me. The Colonel is laying it all on the line. And that 'all' includes the lives of everyone here. How does he get up everyday knowing that this could all come to an end at any moment? And still, come up with all those crazy schemes to keep this operation going? And now, it's just getting harder and harder. I need to do something more to help.
I know what I'll do. I'll be able to make it up to both these men.
"Yes, sir," Kinch had responded loudly after catching the same look on Carter's face that Hogan had. "Everything will be fine."
Then as if a light bulb turned on, Kinch and Hogan watched Carter's face change. His boyish exuberance had returned. "Yes, sir. I'm sure everything will be just fine," Carter reiterated with what seemed was a newfound confidence.
"Thank you, gentlemen," Hogan said and then paused to take a deep breath and then started to pace. "Alright, next on the agenda. Kinch you need to make sure the men in the cooler get extra rations. I know the tunnel isn't complete, so bribe Shultz if you have too, to get in. I'll work on getting them released early. But with Klink on the warpath, I don't know how successful I'll be. I'll try and get in to see them as soon as possible."
"Yes, sir," Kinch began. "LeBeau already has their menu planned. We shouldn't have any problems."
"Good. We also have to make sure our guests are going to be comfortable," Hogan continued. "They may be stranded with us for a bit. At least until Klink calms down."
"That's under control too, sir," Kinch assured "Baker, Smithers, Rice, and Olsen are on dedicated guest services."
"Okay. Thanks, fellas," Hogan said. "I think that's all for now. Kinch. Just make sure that the men know I'm still working on a plan to get Klink off everyone's back. Tell everyone to stay low and make no waves. Okay? It's important that Klink has nothing that he can catch us doing. At least for now."
"Yes, Colonel. I'll pass the word." Kinch got up and followed a still excited Carter from the Colonel's quarters. What's got into him?
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 1300 Hours
Geoff Hirsch had just left Doc Freiling's clinic after spending his
lunch with Helga. Having seen her bright smile had been the only highlight
of Geoff's day so far. It had buoyed his spirits somewhat. Enough so
that he noticed, as he took the short walk back to his shop, that the day had
turned into the glorious early spring day that the sunrise had promised.
It was a little chilly, but the sun was shining brightly, and there wasn't a
cloud in the sky. He pondered how spring had always been his favorite
season. The world waking from its winter slumber, the air always
smelling fresher, and the colors always just a little brighter. All of it
promising the glorious summer ahead.
But Geoff realized that this spring no longer held any allure or mystery for him. He had nothing to look forward to, as he felt that everything that meant anything to him would be lost long before summer came. He hadn't told Helga that Colonel Vogel had already come to the shop that morning or that he had willingly handed the Gestapo officer an envelope containing the demanded 50 marks for their protection. He would never admit to Helga how blackly depressing his morning had been ever since Vogel left with their hard earned money. He had been so full of anger, hate and fear. His only outlet had come when he had taken his frustrations out on a piece of scrap leather, slashing it into unrecognizable pieces with the pocketknife he always kept on hand.
Geoff sighed as he continued on his way, kicking at a stone in his path. He watched it skitter along and ricochet off the brick tenement building that he was walking past. He felt like that stone, bumping haphazardly along. As he looked up from where that stone had finally come to rest, he saw a parked car. It was a black car, as most automobiles in Hammelburg were, but its identifying flag on the front proclaimed it to be a Gestapo staff car.
Almost immediately, an idea came to Geoff that both horrified and excited him. He stood for a moment in shock for even having had such a thought. Should I? Geoff ran his fingers over that same pocketknife that he always carried with him. Memories of his frenzied attack on that piece of scrap leather came rushing back to him. Can I really do this? He carefully scanned the street. No one is in sight!
The car was parked in an alley, with the brick tenement buildings screening it from three sides. Hastily Geoff ducked into the alley, and skillfully used the knife to slash the back two tires of the Gestapo staff car. He was back on the street an instant later, casually walking towards his shop whistling softly to himself.
Already I feel so much better!
The Stohr Family Winery
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 1545 Hours
"Thank you, Jean Luc," Louise said to her brother as he deposited a
case of their family's 1938 Weisser Burgunder wine on the floor in front of her
desk. "Herr Schlick was very anxious today. I've never heard him that way,"
Louise said shaking her head, remembering the rather harried call from the owner
of the Haus Brau, who demanded a case of that specific wine for tonight. "He's
always been fairly reserved, although he did say that the Gestapo Area Commander
had planned a get together tonight at the Haus Brau."
"You're welcome," her brother replied. "And you are surprised that that would make one anxious?" He smirked and dropped a new inventory list on his sister's desk. "That leaves us with only 5 cases of the 1938 Weisser Burgunder. I suggest we hoard a few cases, as it was Grosspapa's favorite." Jean Luc laughed out loud. "It is the least we can do, you know, Grosspapa Stohr would turn over in his grave if he knew what we were really using his winery for. So what do you say?"
"Ah, Jean Luc," Louise admonished. "Mind your tongue. We make wine at the winery, that's all."
"No one can hear us, Louise, with us practically all alone here. You know none of our workers ever come into the office." Jean Luc said snidely. "Sometimes it just makes me want to yell, at the top of my lungs, Viva le France!"
"Shush! Your mouth will be the death of both of us," Louise accused. "It is bad enough that as Frenchmen, we inherited a German winery." Louise shook her head and sighed at her brother. "The Gestapo already look at us askance. We don't need anyone to hear you spouting French accolades. We would be shot on sight."
"Ah, Louise," Jean Luc admonished in return. "Grosspapa was well respected in this community. It was not his fault, nor ours, that our father, his son, chose a different path entirely." Jean Luc waved his hand dismissively at his older sister. "No one will ever be the wiser. As there's one thing for sure in all this… the Nazis love their wine. And thanks to Grosspapa, we make the best in the county. The Nazis would never suspect what we do here."
"That's enough of your talking out of turn, Jean Luc," Louise sighed. "Go now, do what you do to make our wine so special. I fear that one day, that it will indeed be our only saving grace." As her brother smiled a wicked smile at her and began to retreat to his duties, Louise yelled, "Take three of those cases, Jean Luc. Put them in the house. Maybe someday we will toast a victory toast… and Grosspapa will turn over in his grave."
"Oui. There is the sister I know so well," Jean Luc whispered just loud enough for Louise to hear. "I dreaded that she had been swallowed up by her own fears." He then disappeared into the long hallway just off the office that lead to the cellar where they kept the best of the best from the Stohr Winery, happily on his quest for the 1938 Weisser Burgunder.
Louise, for her part, went back to work, taking three more cases of the 1938 Weisser Burgunder off her inventory list.
Only a short time later…
Hermann Schlick pulled his small truck to a stop in front of the office of the Stohr Winery. It was something he'd done many many times before, as he'd been a customer of the Winery's ever since he opened the Haus Brau, and that was even long before the elder Georg Stohr passed on, leaving the winery in the hands of his grandchildren.
But today was different.
His heart was beating hard, and his pulse was racing. This was the first time he'd be making contact with the unknown. Although, Hermann knew that Colonel Hogan, make that Papa Bear, would not send him purposely into the lion's den. Unless he was sure of his contact, right? It's just that always before, Hermann had been the one contacted, never had he'd done the contacting. But I guess that I will need to be more ready, as it is most certainly going to change from this point on.
Hermann took a deep breath, and made his way into the Winery's office. "Good afternoon, Fraulein Stohr," Hermann began and paused. But just as Louise began to return the greeting, Hermann continued a little anxiously, cutting her off before she could say anything. "Please forgive my haste and manners on the phone, Louise." He bowed his head in apology. "Gestapo Colonel Vogel had me unnerved today. I did not mean to offend you in any way."
"You are forgiven, Herr Schlick," Louise replied. "I had assumed as much."
"Danke, Louise," was all Hermann said, although he did glance about the room and out into the hall, looking for anyone else in the vicinity.
Louise noticed his unease, and thought it best to get Hermann to leave as soon as possible, as his demeanor was nothing like she had seen it before. "Well, the case of 1938 Weisser Burgunder is right there on the floor," she said pointing to a spot in front of her desk. "Will you be paying now? Or should we bill the Haus Brau?"
"Billing would work the best," Hermann returned. "If that is all right with you?"
"Of course," Louise offered trying to remain businesslike. "I just need you to sign on the bottom line, here." She turned the bill to face Hermann, handed him a pen, and pointed to the spot where he should sign.
Hermann took the proffered pen, but instead of signing his name, he wrote… A tiger's stripes make her unique. He then glanced around and quickly turned the paper to face Louise, who he hoped, was not a Gestapo tiger waiting to pounce on her unsuspecting prey.
Louise's eyes registered her surprise, and she too glanced around the room. Finally she looked up into the eyes of her long-time customer and whispered, "And a tiger's claws make her very dangerous."
Hermann let out a huge sigh and said only, "Papa Bear sends a message." When Louise just nodded, Hermann continued in a whisper, "There are problems in Papa Bear's Den. He asks that for the time being you hold off on any deliveries. It's too dangerous, but he wanted me to assure you he is working on a plan to rectify the situation."
Louise just crumpled the bill in front of her, and with a resigned sigh accepted Hermann's pronouncement. "I guess there is not much more one can do until Papa Bear makes his revised plans known. You can assure him that I will do my best to maintain a tight hold on his deliveries. But also tell him that I can hold no more than five at any one time, and I'm close to full capacity."
Hermann nodded, and offered, "I will pass your dilemma onto Papa Bear, but I will also speak of this with my other contacts. There still may be another way in to Papa Bear's Den for your deliveries. If we can be of help, I will be in touch." Hermann then practically spun on his heels, leaving Louse Stohr, the spy also known as Tiger, staring at the door as it closed behind him.
With a sigh, Louise could do only one thing… she went back to work… by adding one more case of their 1938 Weisser Burgunder back onto her inventory list.
Luft Stalag 13, Carter's private alcove in the tunnel under Barracks Two,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 2000 Hours
Andrew Carter sat absorbed in reading material. He knew he
had time this evening as the surprise roll call for today had already
happened. He had told Kinch that he wanted to spend time organizing the
paperwork for the next day's German language classes. That way at least
someone would know where he was in case a wandering German noticed him
missing. But he really had other plans. Carter had made his decision
earlier in the day. That decision… to learn the German language, even if
it could kill him. He had been so energized when he saw how committed
Colonel Hogan and Kinch were to this operation and the men here in camp that he
decided that at the very least, learning a language he could do without getting
someone killed in the process. I just have to have some time alone to
absorb all this stuff. I won't be able to if I feel either Colonel Hogan
or Kinch are watching over me. I'll just have to find a way to keep it all
a secret until I'm sure I've got it mastered.
Farmland outside of Hammelburg, Germany,
Werner Kemp's Farm,
Day Two, April 3, 1943, 2300 Hours
"And how does Colonel Hogan expect us to do all this?" asked Werner
Kemp fearfully after listening to Oskar Schnitzer explain all that had happened
since last night. His frightened gaze searched for the answer in the eyes
of the other four men who had gathered in his barn this night. "If he
can't control what is happening at that camp, how can we expect him to lead us
down this dangerous path?"
"Werner. Calm down," Oskar Freiling began before any of the others could reply. "Colonel Hogan is very capable of leading us. You just have to remember that he has close to one thousand men in that camp with him who are vulnerable to anything the German military might do."
"They are as lambs awaiting the slaughterhouse," Oskar Schnitzer interjected sadly.
"We. The four of us," continued Doc Freiling, "have shared first hand knowledge with you Werner, as to what the German military is capable of. We did not lie to you about those things. We realize that even we, as German citizens, are vulnerable as well -- from our own people. That is why this madness has to stop. And I can see no one else willing or more capable of leading us than Colonel Hogan."
"Oskar is right, Werner," interrupted Heinrich Berger fervently. "Colonel Hogan has the right to protect his men first, but you can be assured that he will never forsake us. All those men in that camp have chosen to stay, of their own free will, to follow him. And you need to remember, Werner, that it is for us that they are fighting. So if that means we have to do more when those men are at their most vulnerable. Then that is what we will do. Understood?" Heinrich finished forcefully. The eyes of the other four men snapped up to look at Heinrich Berger. Never had the man sounded so resolute. He had always expressed his opinion openly, but never had he been able to catch his friends so off-guard with such bold determination.
There was surprised silence until the most pragmatic member of the small group, Hermann Schlick, came forward and laid the cards on the table. "Werner. We've all known each other a long time. We asked you to join us, because we thought that you felt the same way as we. We need to know, Werner… Are you with us? Or are you against us?"
Hermann's unspoken threat was very apparent to Werner. He knew that he might not survive the evening if he even gave the appearance of not being fully behind these men. What am I to do? This crazy American has my friends held tightly in his grasp. How can I be sure that following him is the right thing to do? But I can't possibly forsake friendships with men that I have known and trusted all my life. And even though I have not personally seen the horrors that they have described to me, I have certainly seen enough to know that some things have to change for Germany to regain it's proud heritage. "I will follow you in this madness," Werner answered as his eyes traveled the small room and connected with each of the other four men. "But I will not give up my God-given right to offer up good common sense to those of you who sometimes forget."
There was audible sigh from the other four men. Hermann approached Werner with a relieved smile. He patted Werner on the shoulder and said, "And that is a right that we fully expect you to exercise often, though through our experiences with Colonel Hogan so far -- it has become quite apparent that common sense doesn't always apply," Hermann laughed. The other four men joined Hermann in quiet laughter, even though they knew that that laughter could only last a fleeting second. They now had too much to do.
"So, we are in agreement," Heinrich began earnestly. "Oskar. You will take a note to Colonel Hogan tomorrow. Tell him that he can count on us. Tell him that he now has the time he needs to solve the problems in that camp. We will find a way to get the information he needs for Vogel's transfer and we will get the Gestapo transfer paperwork to him. Make sure he knows that Louise, sorry Tiger, has agreed to hold on to her deliveries, but also make sure the Colonel knows of her overcrowding problem. Don't mention Hermann's suggestion of us finding a way to help her, just yet. I see no easy way that we can move those men… not one of us has reason to make a daily trip to the winery. And only I have regular business with Oskar in the morning. But we just can't say no to Tiger yet either, as she hopefully will become an ally to us. She and her contacts could prove extremely helpful to us."
Heinrich paused and glanced at his companions. "So are we all agreed, that we will keep thinking of a way to help Louise? And just maybe, if we are lucky, our dilemma will be solved by Colonel Hogan, and we will not had to come up with a plan on our own." Heinrich watched as all four men just nodded in agreement. "Well I guess that leaves us with what to do about the auto parts the Colonel needs. I guess Oskar, tell him we will do the best that we can to get everything he needs." He looked around waiting for the other men to express their opinions, as they had always shared equally in the decision-making process. But when no one spoke, Heinrich somehow got the impression that he had just taken charge of this small group. So he continued trying to conceal his feelings of inadequacy, "We just have to work out how we can do all this. Any ideas?"
When no one answered, Heinrich continued with his own thoughts. "Well then. I had tried today to come up with a plan to get a diagram of Gestapo Headquarters, so that Colonel Hogan's men could get in and get that paperwork. I really don't feel that any of us are capable of breaking in there ourselves," Berger said with a nervous laugh. "I'm sorry. I foresee quite the comedy of errors, if we tried. And sadly, it could never remain a comedy. So I'm not sure how to go about getting that paperwork."
"Heinrich," Oskar Schnitzer began. "Ludwig Bieber is the custodian at Gestapo Headquarters. Do you think we could approach him to help?"
"We have to be careful who we approach, Oskar," Hermann Schlick stated. "I don't know about Ludwig."
"We have to take some chances, Hermann," Oskar Freiling interrupted. "We have only, so far, made contact with proven members of the underground to see if they would follow us and Colonel Hogan in this endeavor. Werner here is the only person outside that chain that we've asked for help, so far."
"I realize that, Oskar. We need to gain more help from the people in this area. Colonel Hogan will need many things from us," Hermann admitted. "But Ludwig?" he asked unsure with an involuntary grimace.
"I have to agree with Hermann about Ludwig," Heinrich said displaying a sudden nervous twitch. "Let's find another way."
Both Oskars looked at each other and laughed out loud at their younger friends. Werner said nothing, but looked as if he wanted to hide under the bench that he was sitting on.
Both Heinrich and Herman had looks of pure indignation written across their faces. "What's so funny?" both men asked in unison, which only caused more laughter from the older German doctors.
"Aha. The memory goes first," Oskar Freiling said smirking as he patted his medical associate on the back.
"That certainly seems to be the case," Oskar Schnitzer said as if leveling his own medical judgment.
This time Werner joined in with the laughter of the older German doctors and got the dirtiest looks from the other two men, which made him laugh all the more. He was so very glad that he wasn't with Heinrich, Hermann and Hans Freiling that night, so many years ago when life was simpler, when old man Bieber caught them all naked in his barn with three young ladies, one of whom was Bieber's daughter, Karlise. Bieber had taken a switch to each of the boys. They hadn't been able to sit for a week afterwards, what with Bieber and their own parent's switchings.
"Alright. That's enough," Heinrich interrupted loudly, trying to again gain control of the proceedings. "Ludwig is out. We'll find another way."
"I agree," said Hermann just as loudly.
The laughter stopped. Oskar Freiling stood from his seat and looked both men squarely in the eyes. "Listen to you both. Just because of that long ago incident, you are going to turn your back on Ludwig. I've known Ludwig a long time. He has always been a very fair and just man. I'm as worried as you are about approaching new people to join us. But you can not let your embarrassment stand in our way."
"Oskar is right," Doc Schnitzer offered. "Ludwig is of our schooling. Let us approach him. We are careful. You know that. But think of the benefit, to have someone inside Gestapo Headquarters. That would serve our purpose well."
Both Heinrich's and Herman's look of indignant anger faded slowly.
"I'm sorry," Heinrich finally replied glancing at Herman, who nodded his agreement. "We're sorry. You are both right, of course. Please be careful in this, there is so much at stake."
"We are always careful," was all that Doc Freiling said after glancing at Oskar Schnitzer.
Heinrich only nodded. He began again with another subject, "Does anyone know of a way to get the auto parts that are needed?"
There was quiet contemplation until Hermann said, "Heinrich. I can think of only one way. And that's to get into the supply depot just outside of town."
"And you suggest what? That we break in there and steal what we need?" asked Werner incredulously. "We would have no more success than if we tried to break into Gestapo Headquarters."
"I didn't say I had a plan, Werner. But there is no other place that has what we need," Hermann replied adamantly.
"Okay. That's enough. Hermann is right. Only I know of no one who works at the depot," Heinrich stated glancing around at the each other four men, asking the question silently. No one answered. "We will just have to find out all we can about that depot. And hope that Colonel Hogan and his men don't need these supplies desperately."
"All I can offer Heinrich," Hermann began. "Is that many times the officer in charge of the Depot, a Captain Dingle, comes into the Haus Brau for lunch. I can ask subtle questions of him. Or maybe, I can have Erika ask the questions for me. The good Captain has shown considerable attention to her on his visits."
"That is what we'll do then. Thank you, Hermann," Heinrich said grateful, but began to really feel the weight of his new position in charge of this little group. He sighed, "The only task left to us, is to find the locations of the smallest towns with a Gestapo detachment. I know of only a few small towns in the area, but that will not help us find out about the Gestapo commanders stationed there." Heinrich made subtle eye contact with Doc Freiling, who glanced at Werner Kemp, but neither man said a word. Both Oskar Schnitzer and Hermann Schlick caught the look between their two friends, not completely sure what it meant. They chose to keep silent as well, waiting on Werner who now was sitting with his eyes glued to the floor.
After what seemed like forever, Werner Kemp got up and walked away from the other four men. He stood facing the horse stall on the other side of the small-enclosed room, biting on the thumbnail of his right hand. He knew that he had committed himself to these men, but he had almost backed out earlier for the same reason that now had him biting his fingernails. I knew last night of a way to get the information these men need. But I couldn't bring myself to say so, for it will involve asking my daughter for help. I panicked today thinking about the danger I would be putting her in. I just don't know what to do?
"Werner, what's wrong?" asked Doc Freiling after he approached and put a hand on the Werner's shoulder.
Werner turned back to the four men. "I'm sorry. I have committed myself to your cause, but I can not bring myself to help with the first thing that I could be of assistance with." He shook his head as he lowered his gaze to the ground. "I'm sorry."
"What do you mean!?" Hermann Schlick said angrily as he crossed the room quickly toward Werner.
Werner looked up in utter despondency, willing to accept whatever Hermann was going to do to him. He just couldn't bring himself to involve his daughter in this madness. Werner was surprised when Doc Freiling stepped in front of Hermann and prevented his approach.
"Stop," Doc Freiling said forcefully to Hermann, who did nothing but stop in his tracks. Oskar had seen the look in Werner's eyes and understood that look without having to ask. He saw the eyes of a despondent father, for Oskar knew what Werner's daughter, Zilli, did for a living. He had even discussed it privately with Heinrich before coming here this evening, hoping to persuade Werner to ask for her help. Hermann just doesn't understand, having never had children.
Heinrich quickly came up behind Hermann and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Wait," was all he said as they watched Oskar Freiling turn back to Werner.
Oskar put both his hands on Werner's shoulders saying, "Werner. I do know what's wrong. It's about Zilli, isn't it? She could be such big help to us. Her position as a telephone operator could get us all kinds of information. She has access to so much." Oskar paused as Werner met his gaze. "I really understand how much we are asking of you, Werner," he continued calmly. "But this is important, maybe more important than any one or all of our lives."
"She is all I have, Oskar. She is everything to me," Werner almost sobbed. "How can I willingly put her in danger of her life? Tell me how? I thought you of all people would understand. At least you still had Ursula after Hans died. I will have no one, if something ever happens to Zilli." Werner dropped to the ground and sat with his face in his hands, no longer able to confront his companions.
No one spoke until Heinrich Berger broke the silence. "Maybe it is that we have asked too much of Werner. We will have to find another way." Heinrich glanced at his watch. "It is late. We will be dead if caught outside now. We should go. We will meet here tomorrow and work out a new plan," he said quickly gathering the other men and almost pushing them out of the barn. After watching the others begin to leave, Heinrich put a hand on Werner's shoulder. "We will find another way." And then he followed his companions outside.
An angry Hermann stopped Heinrich when he got far enough away from the barn. "You of all people. Why didn't you let us try and convince him?"
"Hermann," Heinrich said. "You have known Werner as long as I. He has never been as strong or daring as we were in our youth. Or as foolhardy. But he always came through for us in the end. He was always there when we faltered, picking up the pieces. Let us give him time. I think that again he will be there for us."
"But we can't give him too much time," Hermann stated.
"Agreed," Heinrich said and then he bid a good night to his companion.
Geoff and Helga Hirsch's Apartment
Day Three, April 4, 1943, 0100 Hours
The euphoria gained earlier in the day by the slashing of the Gestapo tires had lasted Geoff well into the evening. So much so that he had felt empowered to fight back again. He had spent the rest of the day in rapt concentration planning his next little bit of vandalism. Every moment had been planned out and his every action thought through. But now, as the time he had told himself he would leave the safety of his apartment building had come, he could find no trace of the exhilaration that had gotten him through the day.
With his heart heavy, Geoff rolled over with a groan, and buried his head under his pillow. The blackout curtains hanging over the windows only enhanced the utter blackness of his heart. How can I go through with this? If I am caught outside after curfew -- I will be shot. I have no excuse to be outside after night falls. But to feel that exhilaration again? The feeling that I and I alone, have actually done something to fight the madness that has overtaken my country, and threatens my daughter and our livelihood. Is that feeling worth the risk? For I will risk everything to walk outside. Am I ready to do that?
Geoff sighed and rolled into a sitting position on his bed and turned on the small bedside lamp. His gaze fell on his favorite picture of Helga sitting under the tree, in the park, near the duck pond, and of his wife, Urs, eight-months pregnant, sitting beside her. Each of them had smiled happily for the camera. It was the last picture ever to be taken of his beloved Urs, only a month before she and the new baby were to die during childbirth. Geoff clutched the picture in his hands. Absentmindedly, he used the thumb of his right hand to clean a smudge from Urs's face. His heart sank and he wished for a world where families could know the simple joy of going to the park in the summertime. A world where people could trust again. A world without hatred. A world where his daughter could be safe once again. But that world will only exist if people -- no, if individuals -- stand up and fight for what is right. My country is in shambles. Hitler has betrayed all of us. I can no longer sit back and ignore what is going on around me. It is time that I stand up and fight. I must.
Geoff got up and dressed to go outside. His determination had now evaporated the fear that had begun to grip him earlier in the night. He snuck out of his apartment building after slinking to the cellar via a back stairway. No one ever watched the back of the building, as the stairs from the cellar were old and rickety. No one in his right mind would traverse them under normal lighting conditions, never mind in the blackness of night.
Geoff had his whole trip mapped out in his head. It would take him 25 minutes to get into town. He could easily traverse the woods on the edge of town until the last 100 yards or so to his objective … Gestapo Headquarters. It was then just an open field to the parking lot. But he knew that the lighting from the building was not good in that area, so he felt certain that he could manage to get to his destination safely.
As he neared the open field his heart began to pound, the excitement sent a shiver down his spine. There was no one in sight, so he crossed the field quickly, and crept carefully in between the first two parked cars. He pulled his knife from his pants pocket and felt the exhilaration again as he slashed each tire. One. Two. Three. But as he was about to slash the fourth tire, the gleam of headlights pulling into the lot, stopped him. Geoff threw himself to the ground. Even as his breath caught in his throat, he rolled quickly under the car that he was nearest to, praying that he wasn't discovered.
The approaching car pulled into the empty spot next to the vehicle that Geoff was hiding beneath. He was afraid that they would be able to hear his heart pounding, or even the rasping of his breath. He watched as boot clad feet exited the car and heard the car doors slam shut. But what stunned him most were the laughter and the words that he overheard.
"That explosion was our best one yet!" Corporal Franz said excitedly. "The debris was scattered all over the street."
"Ja," Sergeant Horst replied. "I imagine that our friend the baker, Herr Mueller and his wife, will be much more eager to pay for our protection now!"
Both men laughed haughtily as they continued into Gestapo Headquarters.
So! The Gestapo are responsible for this sudden rash of underground sabotage! And here I still wasn't sure whether Colonel Vogel was only taking advantage of the perils of war for himself. Instead, it is he that has created this whole sickening scheme. Only to bring more terror into the lives of his own people, who he was sworn to protect. And to line his own pockets with our hard-earned money. Damn the whole Nazi party for letting it get like this. Geoff rolled out from his hiding spot and took great pleasure in slashing each and every tire of the six cars parked in the lot. He returned to his apartment in high spirits. Any of his fears were eclipsed by a new sense of purpose; any uncertainties were dwarfed by a new found determination. Now I am sure that what I am doing is the right thing. Vogel and all others like him must be stopped. I will never doubt myself again.
Farmland outside of Hammelburg, Germany,
Werner Kemp's Farm,
Day Three, April 4, 1943, 0645 Hours
Werner Kemp was startled awake by the barking of his two
Rottweilers, Suesslich and Sauer, both of whom had been relegated to the house
during last night's meeting. He realized that he had fallen asleep on the
barn floor after hours of fighting his own anguish and fears. Sleep had
come only when his whole body ached and he could no longer keep his eyes
open. He woke this morning, with his heart still aching, but knowing that
he had come to a decision. Werner would ask his daughter to help. He
realized that what his friends were doing was the right thing to do.
Hitler needs to be stopped, at all cost. There is no denying that
now. But I will not force Zilli to help. She can make her own
decision. The others will just have to understand that.
Werner glanced at his watch after hearing what seemed like a more insistent bark from Suesslich. Ha. 6:45am. Suesslich and Sauer keep better time than I do. Or make that their stomachs do. Zilli is due home from work very soon. I only hope I can make her understand. I know she feels as I do about things as they are. And I trust her with my life, but I wonder how far she will go.
Another bark from Suesslich was enough to get Werner to his feet. They will wake the dead if they don't get their breakfast on time. He made his way into the house, set out the dogs breakfast and began making Zilli her breakfast as well. With Zilli working the night shift at the Hammelburg Telephone Company, breakfast had become the one meal they could enjoy together.
So, with breakfast started, Werner could only sit quietly at the kitchen table and wait for his daughter to come home. Why has life become so complicated? What I would give for the simpler times of my youth, when all I had to do was follow after Heinrich, Hans and Hermann. But I guess, that is all I'm doing now as well. Only they have chosen a path that, this time, can only lead to our ultimate demise. As has already happened to poor Hans. God help us all.
To be continued…
Thanks for Reading
Patti and Marg
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