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
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!
Somehow I can’t believe there are any heights that can’t be achieved by men who know the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C’s. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy, and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe in it all the way.
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
Day Three, April 4, 1943, 0830 Hours
Andrew Carter was in the midst of running some errands for Kinch, camp business and all, but his mind was also racing about all the different ways he might be able to pick up more of the German language. He had skimmed through most of the books they had last night, and would certainly have to go over them a number of times until they were committed to memory, but he knew he also needed to hear the German accent, to get it right.
Carter was so preoccupied that he almost ran into Sergeant Shultz as he exited barracks twenty. “Whoa, sorry Shultz,” he said apologetically.
“Was ist los, Carter?” Shultz said as he grabbed Carter to steady him. “What are you doing way over here in barracks twenty?”
“Oh nothing important, Shultz,” Carter began innocently. “Just helping Kinch with some errands, is all. He hurt his foot, you know?”
“Ja. Ja, Carter. I know,” Shultz agreed almost dismissing Carter because he didn’t really want to discuss Kinch’s broken ankle. He began to quickly walk away thinking about his next stop.
“Hey, Shultzie,” Carter said following after the big German. “Where you off to now?”
“Breakfast,” Shultz said with an enamored sigh. “Potato pancakes this morning.”
“Oh sounds great!” Carter said excitedly. “Can I tag along for a minute? I wanted to ask you something.”
“Me. What do you want from me, Carter? No monkey business this morning!” Shultz said anxiously.
“No, Shultz. No monkey business. I just wanted to ask you if you could teach me to count from one to a hundred in German. Could you?” Carter asked as innocently as possible.
“Ach, Carter! You are making jokes. Go back to your barracks,” Shultz admonished.
“No really, Shultz,” Carter begged with puppy dog eyes. “I hear you every morning as you count the prisoners. I keep getting the first few numbers stuck in my head. Eins, Zwei, Drei. But that’s all I can ever remember. It makes me crazy. Come on, Shultz. It can’t hurt.”
Shultz looked around anxiously. “Alright, Carter, but only as long as Kommandant Klink does not see us. I will be in big trouble if he catches me.”
“Thanks, Shultzie. You’re a nice guy. For a German,” Carter said matter of factly.
“Ja. Ja. Danke,” Shultz answered and immediately began his lesson as he continued to the guards’ mess hall. “Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier, Funf, Sechs, Sieben, Acht, Neun, Zehn… Hundert.” Shultz had to pause and take deep breath after getting to one hundred.
“Wow, Shultz! Thanks,” Carter said enthusiastically. “Do you mind if we go over it again sometime?”
“Ja. Ja, Carter. Some other time,” Shultz agreed. “Now go back to your barracks before someone sees us.”
“Okay. See ya,” Carter said and headed off in the direction of barracks two.
Shultz just shook his head in wonderment. I don’t think I will ever understand these Americans.
Luft Stalag 13, Radio Room,
Day Three, April 4, 1943, 0915 Hours
Kinch was sitting quietly in the radio room organizing some paperwork, after having sent Carter to get the weekly status reports, from the barracks commanders, Sergeant Wilson and any of the team leaders. The reports were so Kinch could keep tabs on all aspects of the operation, as well as, keeping tabs on the health and well-being of the POWs. If there had been an actual emergency, the Colonel and he would have already been notified by the appropriate person. But any of the ‘stubbed toes’, ‘runny noses’, or POW morale issues and/or team reports could wait until Kinch organized everything for Colonel Hogan.
Kinch was expecting Carter to return soon from that errand. He wanted to start Carter off this morning by having him help clean the radio equipment. One of the biggest problem they had, was the rust buildup on the equipment. The dark damp tunnel was not the ideal place for radio equipment. Kinch had tried grease as a way of keeping the rust off, but it just proved to be more of a pain, as everything he touched, ended up getting grease on it. So instead, he de-rusted the radio on a regular schedule. And today... is cleaning day.
Kinch was completely caught off-guard when Carter came rushing into the radio room, all excited. “Hey, Kinch,” Carter began as his headlong rush sent him perilously close to the table containing the radio equipment. He stopped in just barely enough time, so that he didn’t take out that and everything else on the table. Not to mention taking out the man sitting behind it as well. “I got all the reports,” he said as he finally straightened up. “Overall everything is going well.
It had taken a beat for Kinch to recover from Carter’s sudden appearance, as he hadn’t seen or heard Carter coming until he was almost on top of him. His first thought was that
“You’re welcome, Kinch,” Carter replied smiling. “What’s next?” he continued enthusiastically. I feel so much better today. I feel that I’m actually contributing. I haven’t even screwed up once yet. And things between Kinch and me have changed since yesterday’s little misunderstanding. Kinch has always seemed a little distant, even though he is always friendly. He’s never talked much about himself or made judgments on anyone else… Sort of like me? Huh? Well I try anyway... And he has always been easy to get along with, but something feels different today, between him and I. Not that he’s actually opened up to me yet or anything. It’s just different…but in a nice way.
“I would like you to help me clean the radio equipment,” Kinch began. “I’ve needed to de-rust the radio regularly. It’s just too damp in the tunnels. I use Hydrogen Peroxide to remove the rust.” Kinch continued by demonstrating his technique. “Do you think you can handle that, Carter?” Kinch asked.
“Oh sure. No problem, Kinch,” Carter agreed enthusiastically and was quickly lost in the task. And although quiet for some time, his mind was racing. Andrew knew that there were easier and more permanent ways to keep the rust from building up on the equipment and he actually knew of a number of anti-corrosive agents. The only problem was getting a hold of one. There has to be something here in camp or at least something Colonel Hogan can get a hold of that we can use on the equipment. Hmmm… Hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol and…That’s it! “Kinch,” Carter yelled excitedly. “I got it!”
Kinch almost fell off his seat. “Whoa, Carter. Got what?” he asked after taking a few deep breaths.
“Oh sorry,” Carter said realizing that he had startled his companion. “I know of a way to keep the rust from building up on the radio. It will be so much easier. All we have to do is…” Carter continued on with a lecture featuring anti-corrosives agents -- for quite some time.
Kinch had stopped listening early on as Carter’s little lesson left his head spinning. He just let Carter rant. He’s so excited. I’ve never seen him like this. And he actually sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. Go figure. You are just full of surprises, aren’t you Andrew? Between yesterday’s quick grasp of German vocabulary and today’s anti-corrosive lecture… Heh. What else do you have up your sleeve?
Well. I’m certainly not going to push that question yet, not after finding out you were avoiding Sergeant Matthew’s interview for some reason. I guess I’ll just have to play it by ear. You may yet prove Colonel Hogan and I right, Carter. You may have more to contribute than even you might suspect.
“So, you see, Kinch. Easy. Piece of pie,” Carter finally finished excitedly. “Do you think the Colonel can get the stuff we need? It’s all fairly common household stuff. A lot of it I think we might even have in camp. So what do you think Kinch? Huh? Huh?” Carter just stood there, looking at Kinch with wide-eyed anticipation.
“I’m sure the Colonel would be willing to try. The radio is the most important piece of equipment we have,” Kinch assured the excited young man. “It’s certainly worth a shot. And it might prove quite helpful, especially if
“Oh it will, Kinch. It will,” Carter responded with a confidence that took Kinch by surprise.
At that point, Kinch could only watch quietly as Carter studiously went back to cleaning the radio equipment.
Luft Stalag 13, Outside Guards’ Mess Hall,
Day Three, April 4, 1943, 1300 Hours
Andrew Carter had drawn compound cleanup duty this afternoon and was actually excited about it. He decided to lounge about cleaning the area outside the guards’ mess hall, wanting to overhear as many conversations in German as he could. Everything was going well with no one paying him any mind, until that was, he heard a quarrel between two of the guards start just inside the hall. It was when those two men brought their argument outside, followed by – almost – the entire contingent of guards already in the mess hall, who themselves had spilled out to watch, and cheer on, what was to happen, that Carter was almost run over by the massing group of German soldiers… not to mention a similar number of curious POWs gathering in the area as well.
Carter decided that his best course of action would to be to retreat. And he just barely got out of everyone’s way, but decided to take a place within the crowd of POWs to watch the ensuing melee. Only disappointingly, before it got too far out of hand, Shultz barreled over… and stopped the argument.
“Was ist los!?” Shultz yelled. “Ach, what do you two think your doing?” He grabbed both soldiers by the neck of their overcoats and separated them by pulling one man off and pushing the other aside. If Shultz enjoyed one thing about being a big man, it was that he could bully people if he needed to. Not that he enjoyed it, but as a Sergeant of the Guard, it was sometimes necessary to keep order.
After looking around the compound, hoping not to have to jump into another argument before settling the present one, Shultz was glad that some of the other German soldiers in the area were doing their best to now hold the combatants apart. But he was even more glad that the prisoners in the area hadn’t gotten involved, and were now just observing, although quite clearly enjoying the situation.
“What started this?” Shultz began, his gaze traveling between the two soldiers. When neither man made an admission, nor an accusation, Shultz continued, “Well, let’s see if the Kommandant can’t get you to answer. Achtung! Follow me! Everyone else, return to your own business. NOW!”
As Shultz headed for the Kommandant’s office with his charges in tow, he pretty much had to admit that he knew what probably started this fight. With the men all working double shift and doubling up on duty positions, tensions were bound to flare eventually. And with these two…I’m surprised it only took two days. They have never liked each other. More than likely, this whole thing started because one of the two bumped into the other one in the chow line. Any excuse for a fight would have sufficed.
But, ach, I’m afraid this is just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe I should say something to Kommandant Klink. I just don’t want to be breaking up fights all day long.
Before the three men had made it across the compound, Colonel Klink, who had glanced out his window, only to catch a glimpse of Shultz separating the two combatants, barged angrily out his office and onto the front porch, yelling, “What was that all about?” Pointing in the direction of the German guards’ mess hall, he continued yelling, “I can’t have my own men fighting! There’s a war on you know! We are all supposed to be on the same side.”
“Herr Kommandant,” Shultz interrupted saluting. And was happy to see that his charges did the same. “I’ve have not been able to find out what started the fight, sir. But…”
“No buts, Sergeant,” Klink continued angrily not waiting for Shultz to finish. “I will not have this happen again. Is that understood?”
“Jawohl, Herr Kommandant,” the three me replied in unison.
“And I most certainly, will not let this go undisciplined.” Colonel Klink came to stand directly in front of his men to stare them directly in the eye. “Private Bauer. Corporal Kuefer. It is quite apparent that you both need to learn to work together. You both have, as of this moment, become inseparable. You will work double duty shifts together until I determine otherwise.” Klink took a deep breath. “Is that clear, Gentlemen?”
“Jawohl, Herr Kommandant,” the three me replied again in unison.
“Good. Sergeant Shultz,” Klink ordered. “Make sure that they carry out my orders to the letter.” Klink then began to head back into his office without another word.
Shultz only replied, “Jawohl, Her Kommandant. But, sir, can I talk…”
“No buts, Sergeant,” was all that the Kommandant answered, and quickly escaped into his office.
“You heard the Kommandant,” Shultz replied turning back to his charges. “Back to work. Take over for Jung and Kappel in guard tower five. We will work out the rest of your schedule later today.” He shooed the two men away, saying, “You are lucky that is all the punishment you got!” Although I don’t think having them working this close together is the right thing to do. But the Kommandant hasn’t been that accepting of suggestions lately. I’ll just have to keep and eye on them, I guess.
Outside the Haus Brau Restaurant,
Day Three, April 4, 1943, 2045 Hours
Geoff Hirsch was in the midst of his second night of vandalism. But tonight he had to be more careful as he knew the Gestapo were now on edge after yesterday’s slashed tires. Geoff knew that he needed a distraction before heading to Gestapo Headquarters tonight, as he had noticed more patrols wandering the grounds of Gestapo Headquarters during the day. But he would not be intimidated. His plan for tonight was to cut the break lines of as many of the same vehicles as possible.
But for now, he sat quietly hiding behind a dumpster near the back door of the Haus Brau restaurant. He knew from Hermann Schlick and his stories -- that every night -- the same three Gestapo officers came into the Haus Brau for a late dinner. He was now just waiting for them to arrive. His plan was to cut the brake lines on their vehicle, knowing full well that there would be an accident.
The Haus Brau was situated up on a hill and there was no way to leave without facing a downhill slope. By the time the Gestapo were ready to leave, the brake lines would be bled dry. His only concern was if they saw the brake fluid. But he was counting on the fact that the parking lot was fairly dark, and made mostly of dirt so the fluid would seep into the ground, long before they left the restaurant. He expected that the Gestapo would not notice anything out of the ordinary as they returned to their car, especially this late at night.
And after I’m finished here, I will go to Gestapo Headquarters and wait until the call comes in about their fellow comrades being injured in a car accident. I expect, that in the confusion, I will be able to get close enough to the vehicles that remain in the parking lot and quickly cut the brake lines.
Within 45 minutes…
Geoff had successfully completed the first part of his plan. So with his confidence and determination now soaring ever higher, he quickly started on his way to Gestapo Headquarters to complete tonight’s vandalism.
Farmland outside of Hammelburg, Germany,
Werner Kemp’s Farm,
Day Three, April 4, 1943, 2300 Hours
Werner Kemp could stand tall tonight as he waited on his fellow conspirators. Until just a short time ago, he had feared tonight’s meeting. He was ashamed that he might have to let his friends down. But he knew that he would have stood his ground, and abided by Zilli’s decision, at whatever cost to those friendships. Or to my life, if it came to that. But as Zilli left for work, she came up from behind her father, hugged him, and told him that she would try to do as he had asked. He couldn’t have been more proud, or more worried. But his heart told him, that this was the right path to follow. Now Werner was just waiting for his friends to arrive for tonight’s meeting, so he could tell them that he and Zilli would take care of their piece of the puzzle.
Werner gulped hard when Hermann Schlick was the first to arrive. He knew he had nothing to worry about, but he knew that Hermann was always the one to fly off the handle first. Werner could easily see in Hermann’s eyes that their friendship would be over this night, if Werner faltered again. Werner just nodded at Hermann and did not say anything. He was just glad that Heinrich and Oskar Freiling arrived almost on Hermann’s tail.
“How are things tonight, Werner?” asked Heinrich as he placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Things are well tonight, my friend,” Werner replied with a glimmer of determination in his eye.
“Good. Good,” Heinrich said seeing something in his friend that he had hoped to see. “We’ll wait on our tardy Tierarzt before we begin.”
“Ja. Ja,” Werner began. “I have something to share with all of you.” He glanced at the three men in the room, his look of confidence almost immediately eased the tension in the small room, but no one responded.
As the four men sat quietly, the tension began to grow once again. But this time, it was worry over Oskar Schnitzer’s tardiness that was the cause.
“I saw Oskar just this morning,” Heinrich began. “All was fine then. Did anyone hear from him today?”
“I also saw him early this morning,” Doc Freiling offered. “We talked briefly of our plans to approach Ludwig Bieber. But I haven’t heard from him since then.”
“Maybe I should go check,” Hermann stated. “I can be back quickly.” He started for the door of the barn, but was stopped as he saw the Tierarzt approaching. “Oskar. We were worried. Is everything all right?”
Oskar said nothing, but patted Hermann on the shoulder as he walked past into the barn. “I’m sorry that I’m late. Frieda had a very bad day today. It was all Heidi and I could do today, to help her.” He shook his head and sat heavily on one of the benches set out in the barn. “She is sleeping now. I gave her something. Heidi should be okay for a while with her.”
“Oskar, why didn’t you call me?” Doc Freiling reprimanded.
“Oskar, my old friend,” Schnitzer began sadly. “There was nothing more you could do. Frieda’s frustrations and confusion get the best of her sometimes. It was only this morning, after you left, that she fought both Heidi and I fiercely, as she no longer recognized either of us. Thought we were both the devil incarnate.” His eyes filled with tears, but he quickly wiped them and stood to move away from Oskar Freiling who had approached to offer comfort, for he knew that he couldn’t deal with that. Not now. “So what did I miss?” he began accusingly. “Or were you all so staggered with worry, that you let the business at hand wane? Huh?”
“Of course not,” Heinrich began quickly realizing that no more would be said tonight about Frieda. “Werner was just going to tell us something. Isn’t that right?”
“Yes. I have good news,” Werner began. “But first, I want to apologize to you all. I let my fears govern my actions yesterday. Be assured that that will not happen again. Zilli has agreed to find out anything she can for us. I had left it to be her own decision. And I will never force her into more than she can handle, but fortunately she has always taken after her mother, and not her father.”
Gentle laughter was heard as the men in the room remembered Werner’s wife Lorna. No more beautiful, loving woman could Werner have ever found, but Lorna had also been a very formidable woman, not to be ignored, or pacified.
“That is good news, Werner,” Oskar Freiling said excitedly. “You know we will do all that we can to protect her, but this work we have agreed to do is very important.”
Werner just nodded.
“So. Before we get down to business, have you all heard of the sabotage at Mueller’s Bakery?” Heinrich asked. “It seems again that thankfully no one was hurt.”
“Ja,” Doc Freiling replied. “But poor Kristoff and Aida will have a hard time of it. Ursula went to see them today. They are afraid that they will need to close down the shop. Aida says they are too old to begin again.”
“I will ask Olga to stop by tomorrow,” Heinrich offered. “Maybe she can speak to them. I know of many who will miss that bakery. We can always try and get some people to help them rebuild.”
“Ja. We should,” Hermann replied. “But did you also hear that seven of the Gestapo staff cars were vandalized last night? Most or all of the tires had been slashed. And more strangely, just this evening, an accident involving a Gestapo staff car after it left the Haus Brau.”
“Do you think both incidents are related? Do we know who might be responsible?” Heinrich asked. “It was certainly not sanctioned by anyone in the underground or we would have heard.” Heinrich shook his head negatively. “Or not heard as the case may be, for it certainly now seems that Colonel Hogan has contacts that we know nothing about, first Helga, now Tiger? So maybe there are others?”
“My guess though, Heinrich, is that the tire slashings were just some young vandals,” Hermann supposed. “It just doesn’t appear to be the act of an organization. Only, I’m sure they don’t know the danger they could be facing. And maybe the rest of us as well, if Vogel decides to retaliate in some way. As to the accident, I have heard nothing specific yet.”
“Well. Let’s all keep our ears to the ground, shall we? Although, Oskar maybe you can ask Colonel Hogan to identify any other contacts he may have. It might be best if we could all band together. It could certainly help us find new answers to new problems, what with more brainpower available to us. What do you all think?” Heinrich asked and got only affirmative nods from the other men. “Okay good, Oskar please pass that request along. Now… as to our own business... Anything new?”
“I’m sorry, Heinrich,” Hermann started. “I have nothing to offer. Our good Captain Dingle from the supply depot didn’t come into the Haus Brau today.”
“Any progress with contacting Ludwig?” Heinrich asked of both Oskars.
“I asked around today,” Doc Freiling replied. “In as much as I’ve known Ludwig most of my life, I had let that friendship wane, as sometimes friendships do. After Ludwig lost his job here as curator of the Brinksmeyer Museum, he and his family moved to Berlin so he could find work. I had no contact with him during the time he spent in Berlin. And no one knows why Ludwig returned to Hammelburg, alone, without his wife and daughter. Ludwig has never given any explanation for their absence… to anyone. And now he works as the custodian of Gestapo Headquarters. All I found out today is that he talks to no one, does his job, and leaves each night – going home to an empty house.”
“Putting aside my embarrassment, Oskar,” Heinrich replied seriously. “He sounds like he has become a bitter old man. I’m not sure it’s wise to continue with this.”
“But maybe, Heinrich,” Oskar Freiling retorted. “He is an old man who is disillusioned with the way the world has treated him. And would be happy to find a way to fight back.”
“You are too much of an optimist sometimes, Oskar,” Herman admonished.
“But none of you are old men yet,” Oskar Schnitzer said loudly and accusingly. At the surprised look on the three younger men’s faces, he continued, “Let Oskar and I continue. We will be careful. But I still think the benefits here could outweigh the risks.”
“Alright,” Heinrich agreed, still not happy, but he decided to move on instead. “Was there any word from Colonel Hogan today, Oskar? How were things in that camp?”
“As you know, Heinrich, we had no visitors today.” Oskar sighed. “Which was good as today I had to move many more dogs into the camp on the request of the Kommandant. I passed our progress on to Colonel Hogan as I always do, in one of the dogs’ collars. Neither Hogan nor his men had anything for me.” Oskar shook his head sadly.
“What’s the matter Oskar?” Heinrich asked getting worried.
“Oh, Heinrich,” Oskar sighed. “Today that camp was like a ghost town. Ever since Colonel Hogan’s arrival, that camp had become a haven of busy men. It is still the dreariest and most awful place that I have ever seen. But until today, the men were always busy. God. I’m not even sure if that’s the right word to describe it. But today, nothing moved. As I glanced around, all I saw were more guards and more guns. It was so sad.” He paused. “Although Colonel Hogan was able to signal his thanks to me, just as I was getting ready to leave as he had gotten the note by that time.”
“I’ve only ever been to that camp once,” Heinrich said sadly. “But that was only in the tunnels underground.”
“And I have only ever been as close as that silly rock,” Hermann added. “I’ve never been close enough to see inside.”
“And I have only been in the tunnels myself a few times. To treat the injured,” Doc Freiling offered unhappily.
“Well to see inside -- is no picnic,” Doc Schnitzer chided. “We are all just lucky those men have the courage to stay and help us.”
“You are right, Oskar,” Heinrich replied. “And that is why we will do what we can to help them. Do we have any other business?”
“We have not come to a decision on how to aid Tiger,” Hermann offered. “If we are to band together, here is our first opportunity to offer aid to another faction.”
When no one offered a differing opinion, Heinrich finally interjected, “You’re right Hermann. Only I still can think of no good excuse for any of us to be at the winery on any kind of a regular basis. Let’s just hope Colonel Hogan will have a plan. We’ll wait until tomorrow night to see how he responds. For now, we will just continue with our plan to meet nightly. Our only communication from Colonel Hogan will still have to come through Oskar. We will just need to be ready to act quickly on any more request he makes of us.”
There was silent agreement from everyone in the room. The meeting broke up quickly with each man going his own separate way.
Geoff and Helga Hirsch’s Apartment,
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 0115 Hours
Geoff fell exhausted onto his bed with his heart pounding hard and his breath still gone, after running almost all the way from Gestapo Headquarters to his apartment.
He had succeeded in cutting the brake lines of only two more Gestapo vehicles before a small contingent of officers had returned to Gestapo Headquarters, not more than five minutes after they had left to answer the call of the accident scene. Their return surprised and frightened him and he spent his second night hiding pinned under a Gestapo vehicle. But what was worse, was that tonight, the officers stood around and talked about the accident that had just taken place.
Geoff’s only relief was that none of those men seemed aware of the reason for the accident. He had expected that it would take a little time to confirm. So he lay quietly beneath the third vehicle that he had hoped to vandalize for some time. He was relieved that the men did not give a second thought to the vehicles still in the parking lot. He supposed that having only been gone five minutes, they felt nothing could have happened.
It wasn’t until a spine-tingling hour later that Geoff felt that he could make his escape. Now, Geoff just laid quietly in his bed, his confidence and determination shaken, but not spent, knowing that he would just have to be more careful in the future.
Luft Stalag 13, Radio Room,
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 0800 Hours
Colonel Hogan had been impressed by Carter’s idea for keeping the rust off the radio and ordered Kinch to give up space in the radio room for Carter’s little chemistry project. Carter had spent the morning since roll call, cleaning space for himself. He had been wandering in and out of the radio room, talking to himself excitedly, gathering everything he was going to need. Most everything was indeed available inside the camp and in sufficient quantities to be useful. Carter had even recruited ‘thrifty fingers’ Newkirk to help liberate all the ingredients.
Kinch was having fun watching the rather exuberant young chemist. The Colonel told Carter that he might earn a space of his own, in the future, if this endeavor proved successful. But right now with all the tunnels just being dug, there wasn’t any extra space. So Carter gets to share my space for a while. Actually that’s fine. I can keep an eye on him, as we are still supposed to be inseparable.
Kinch heard the chinking of glass getting closer and closer. He finally saw Carter approaching the radio room carrying, very carefully, a number of glass bottles. He decided not to say anything to Carter until he had put the bottles down, as he just didn’t want to have to deal with shattered glass all over the radio room. I’d probably end up with another injury for
“Hey, Carter. Whatchya got there?” Kinch asked. “You’ve been running ragged since we got down here this morning.”
“Oh. I’m sorry, Kinch. Was there something you needed me to do?” Carter asked sheepishly. “I got so excited about this project. I forgot I’m supposed to be helping you.”
“Don’t worry, Carter. You are helping me. I was just wondering why you have all those glass bottles,” Kinch asked.
“Oh these. I got them from the guys in woodworking. I thought about what you said. About maybe making enough of my cleaner to ship out with the radios -- if we ever get them, that is -- I had remembered seeing all the empty furniture polish bottles taking up space in the woodworking shop. I just asked the guys if I could have them,” Carter explained. “They should work great as a place to store and ship the cleaner.”
“Great idea, Carter,” Kinch assured. “But wouldn’t you have found carrying them easier without your gloves on? It’s not all that cold down here today. Damp as always, but fairly warm.”
“Oh!” Carter fumbled quickly, not wanting to explain to the other man why he was always wearing gloves, and especially why now, in the spring. The memory of being tattooed to differentiate himself from his cousin Philip while at Stalag 5 was still fresh in his mind. Although, at this point, his hand itself was no longer painful, only an ugly reminder of his stay at Stalag 5. So to conceal the tattoo, and possibly the memory of it, he’d taken to wearing gloves all the time. He actually felt lucky up until now, as no one at Stalag 13 had yet thought much about them, as he’d arrived during the winter, and only now was spring beginning. “I forget I have them on, sometimes. I’ve always worn my gloves. My hands get cold.”
“Well, okay. Let me know if there is anything I can help you with,” Kinch replied.
“No. I think I have it under control. Thanks, Kinch,” Carter said.
Kinch watched Carter for a long while. The kid had lost himself in his little project. So much so that Kinch had to actually go tap him on the back to get his attention when they were needed topside for mail call. It just wouldn’t look right if they weren’t there. Mail call was one of the only bright spots in the long endless days at Stalag 13. And they wouldn’t have wanted to miss being there, even if they didn’t get anything. Just seeing any of the others happy was usually worth it.
Luft Stalag 13, Barrack Two,
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 0900 Hours
“Here he comes,” LeBeau announced as he peeked through a crack in the barrack’s door and out onto the compound. The men of barracks two were lying-in-wait for Sergeant Shultz. They always gave him grief at mail call. They hardly ever let him walk in the door without smothering him as they each tried to get hold of their own letters. It had become such a ritual that Shultz now tried to use the door as a shield against the crush of POWs.
“Mail call,” Shultz yelled peeking into the barracks as a noisy rush of POWs made their way to the door. Shultz closed the door and in a pitiful wail yelled, “Colonel Hoooogan!”
As if on cue, Colonel Hogan made his appearance and cleared the door of POWs. “Coast is clear, Shultz. Come on in,” the Colonel said trying to keep a straight face as he addressed the German Sergeant. “You know that the men are just excited, Shultz. They don’t mean anything by it,” he continued after the big affable German made it through the door.
“Ja. Ja, Colonel. I know,” Shultz agreed with a sigh as he began to read the names on the letters.
Colonel Hogan had returned to the doorway of his quarters and watched as some of his men got to tear into letters from home. There was nothing for him this time, but having just gotten a couple letters recently from his family had eased the hurt that had been with him for his first six months here, when nothing had come in at all. He actually found himself enjoying the happy faces of his men now, instead of just pretending.
Hogan smiled as he scanned the room. Young Kenny Drury now had most everyone’s attention. For weeks the men in Hogan’s barracks had been discussing, of all things, Batman comics. He laughed to himself remembering all the silly references that had inundated the barracks, since Kenny told everyone that he had every issue of the Batman comics published so far. Whomp! Bang! Slam! Holly Cow Batman! Hogan shook his head in amusement. Kenny had asked his parents to send him all of the back issues, and now most of the barracks was staring at the package he’d just gotten from home, hoping for those issues to appear. At least it’s been good for morale.
Hogan’s mood changed though as he continued his scan of the room and came to look upon one particular face. Kinch? The Colonel watched as his friend pocketed the letter he had gotten and left the barracks quietly. Something has to be wrong. Kinch is usually quiet about his letters, but he doesn’t normally walk out on mail call. He tends to hang around and watch the men like I do.
Hogan decided to follow his second to make sure everything was all right and quietly made his way across the barracks and out the door.
Unbeknownst to the Colonel or Kinch, Andrew Carter had also seen the look that had come across Kinch’s face. He had intended to follow Kinch, to make sure everything was okay because he also wanted to keep his mind off the conflicting emotions that his letter from home had raised. That was, until he saw that Colonel Hogan had beaten him to it, so Carter just made his way back down into the tunnel to finish organizing his new area. Maybe I can get Kinch to talk later. I do hope everything is all right.
Meanwhile jus outside the Barracks…
“Kinch. Wait up,” Hogan called to his friend who had started to wander the compound. “You should take it easy on that leg, you know...” Hogan continued as he caught up to Kinch and patted him on the back. “Why don’t you take a load off?” He pointed to a bench just outside barracks four. “And talk to me.”
“No, Colonel. I’m fine, sir. I have nothing I need to talk to you about, sir,” Kinch began formally his voice completely devoid of any emotion. “Was there something else you needed, Colonel?” he asked showing no recognition of the friendship the two men shared.
“Whoa, Kinch,” Hogan responded after getting that dead stare from his companion. “Okay. I know that I’ve been rough on you the last couple of days…” Hogan paused not really wanting to go down that path, so he shook his head and began again, “Listen, buddy. I just wanted to make sure everything was all right. You looked upset when you left the barracks. Is there something wrong at home? Is it your Dad?” Hogan asked genuinely concerned. “I’m still your friend, you know. Really. You can tell me what’s wrong.”
Kinch turned from Hogan without a word and sat heavily on the bench outside barracks four. He put his hands up to his face to quickly rub his eyes. When he removed his hands, he realized the Colonel had taken a seat next to him on the bench. His first thought was... How the hell did you and I ever become friends? With the world as it is -- it should have been a complete impossibility. But as Kinch glanced at his companion, he read the compassion in the eyes of the man he had called friend for over a year now. And hell. Why can’t I ever stay mad at you? Kinch just began his explanation. “I know I told you about the family that I lived with growing up. The people my Dad works for? The Carlyle’s?” Kinch asked waiting for Hogan to give some sign that he remembered. He watched as Hogan just nodded. “Well. My Dad wrote to tell me that their son Josh is missing in action. Last I knew Josh was an infantryman, serving in
“Oh. I’m real sorry, Kinch,” Hogan said not knowing how to continue. Kinch had told him that he and his Dad lived on the Carlyle estate because his father was the family’s chauffeur and his mother, when she was alive, had been the family’s cook. And as much as Kinch said he grew up with that family -- a very wealthy white family -- Hogan was never sure how the relationship worked, as he knew that race relations back home were not good. He had to assume that Kinch would have always been treated as the son of a servant. Not something that I can see Kinch ever standing for. Though admittedly, anytime Kinch mentions the Carlyle’s to me -- he talks about them as if they had never treated him, in any way, but kind. I really hope that’s been the case.
“It’s okay. I’m fine. It’s just that I got to thinking about Josh’s sister Amanda,” Kinch answered shaking his head sadly. “She’s gonna have such a hard time dealing with this. Did I ever tell you that Josh and Amanda were twins? Actually Josh, Amanda and I are all about the same age. I just know this whole thing is going to be rough on her. And especially on her parents as Josh and Amanda are all the Carlyle’s have,” Kinch said sadly looking down at the ground.
Hogan took his hand and placed it on Kinch’s shoulder. “You know, Kinch... I’m afraid this bloody war is going to tear too many families apart before it’s over. I’m really sorry it had to affect people you obviously care about. I don’t know what to say to make it feel any better. I’m sure nothing I would say, could. But maybe, just maybe -- here in our little corner of Germany -- if we can pull off what we have planned -- maybe we can save some one family that heartache,” Hogan said trying to comfort. “Huh? What do you say?”
Kinch just glanced up and shook his head negatively. “You do know that what we are doing here is a complete impossibility, right?” asked Kinch openly sarcastic and challenging, but as he finished that question, he found the answer to his previously unvoiced question... How the hell did you and I ever become friends? It’s probably because you just won’t be dictated too. And because you’ll push hard for what you think is right. All in all, neither are bad ideals to latch onto. Let’s hope we get to live long enough to see a world where our friendship won’t be frowned upon.
“Of course I do,” Hogan had answered with a painful sigh. “But, I can’t just sit on my ass and watch this war pass me by. We both know the world isn’t a perfect place, Kinch, but can you imagine what the world would be like under Hitler’s tyranny? If I can do anything to stop that from becoming a reality... I will,” Hogan continued emphatically, having watched Kinch’s eyes throughout their exchange. He was relieved when he saw Kinch’s eyes soften from challenging to accepting.
Kinch could only sigh. “I’m sorry. I think that I just needed to be reminded what we were fighting for. It still doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the hurt. But you are right, we can’t let these Nazi bastards win this war.” Kinch couldn’t help himself as he smirked at his friend and commanding officer. “Even if it takes following in the footsteps of the most stubborn, pigheaded person that I have ever met. Sir.”
Hogan smiled. “Good. I see that we now completely understand one another.” His smile dimmed slightly though, as he stood from the bench. Putting his hand again on his friend’s shoulder, he asked quietly, “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. Really. Thanks for being a friend,” Kinch said as he too got up from the bench. “I should get back and keep an eye on Carter, he’s been a whirlwind this morning with his new chemistry project.”
“Good idea. It’s still a little worrisome to me that the kid will be playing chemist,” Hogan said a little anxiously, but with a small grin. “Kinch. Please don’t let him blow anything up. Okay?”
“Don’t worry, Colonel. Carter actually sounded like he knows what he’s doing,” Kinch assured. I hope.
Luft Stalag 13, Radio Room,
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 0930 Hours
Andrew Carter was trying to concentrate on organizing his new area, but his mind kept drifting to the news he had gotten from home today. His letter, from his older sister Donna, had contained some rather disturbing news about his little brother Kevin. But Carter couldn’t help but feel that the news about his brother doubled as good news as well. Donna had written to say Kevin was refused enlistment into the Army because of his health, despite the fact that his little brother had tried to use Andrew’s childhood medical records in place of his own.
Why, Kevin? You are so much better off where you are. I don’t have to worry about you. I know you have always wanted to follow me into the service, ever since that day I told
Carter sat quietly staring at the letter in front of him, knowing that the news he got today was really ‘good’ news. He couldn’t be happier that his little brother wouldn’t have to see the things that he’d already seen. Even still he was worried about what his brother might try next.
Carter’s meanderings were interrupted by what he knew were Kinch’s footsteps heading toward the radio room. He sighed. Well make that -- footsteps with a slight shuffle. Carter didn’t know what he was going to say to Kinch when he saw him. All he could remember was the closed look on Kinch’s face as he had left the barracks. He wanted desperately to help Kinch, but he just had no idea where to start. So instead, he busied himself with moving things around the radio room, so it would at least look like he had done something.
“Hey, Carter. How’s it going?” Kinch asked upbeat, as he entered the radio room. He saw that Carter was frantically moving stuff from one shelf to another. “Whoa, Carter. What’s the rush about?” Kinch inquired, pausing. “Ahhh. So you were slacking while I was away, huh?” Kinch accused with a smirk and then noticed the open letter laying on the table that Carter had moved into the radio room for himself. “Relax, Carter,” he sighed. “I’m not going to jump down your throat. I know how important mail call is to everyone. I’d be the last person to call you on ‘getting lost’ in a letter from home. Okay?”
Carter stopped his frantic activity and sighed, “Yeah, okay.” Barely looking at Kinch, he went over to the table, folded his letter, put it in his pocket, and went back to his organizing without saying another word.
“Is everything okay, Carter?” Kinch asked concerned. “I hope that letter wasn’t bad news.” Please say no, Carter. I don’t think I could handle your bad news today too.
“No, Kinch,” Carter admitted. “Sort of good news, really. My little brother Kevin got turned down for enlistment in the service for health reasons. He’s not very happy. He even tried to use my medical records to get past the enlistment board. I couldn’t be happier that he failed,” Carter said evenly. “Now. I don’t have to worry about him.”
“Nothing too bad, I hope?” Kinch asked quietly and for the first time in his life was glad he didn’t have siblings to worry about in this war.
“No. He’ll be okay,” Carter said quickly. “Thanks for asking.” Carter abruptly turned away from Kinch, still not sure what else to say. Don’t walk away, stupid. You won’t get a better opportunity to break the ice. Ask him if everything is all right. As Carter turned back he noticed that Kinch had quickly gone to sit at his radio equipment. Now he probably thinks you’re mad at him. “Kinch?” Carter began sheepishly as he approached Kinch.
“Yeah?” Kinch asked not able to read Carter’s face.
“Kinch. Listen. I’m sorry. I know you are a very private person,” Carter began. “I wanted to let you know that I appreciate your concern about my little brother.” Carter paused. Spit it out. “But I also wanted you to know that I’m willing to listen, if there’s something you want to talk about. I’m really sorry. But, I saw how you reacted to that letter you got today. I hope everything is all right.” Carter paused, but then began spouting apologies before Kinch could get a word in edgewise. “I’m sorry. You don’t have to tell me. I don’t want you to feel like you have to tell me anything...”
“Hey, Carter,” Kinch interrupted. “It’s okay. Really. I just heard from my Dad that someone I grew up with was missing in action, in
“Okay. As long as you’re really sure?” Carter asked quietly, willing to let the subject drop, although he really didn’t believe the man sitting in front of him.
“Yeah. I’m sure. Thanks.” Kinch continued trying to carefully change the subject, “So, Carter. Are we ready to get back to business here?”
“Sure, Kinch. Anything you say,” Carter agreed wholeheartedly.
“Good,” Kinch replied. “Oh. By the way, Carter... Colonel Hogan just asked me to make sure of something before I came down here. He wanted me to make sure that you wouldn’t blow anything up while you are playing with your chemistry set. You aren’t going to, right?” Kinch asked somewhat jokingly, but with a distinct measure of angst, as Carter had already surprised him twice and he was now a little afraid to get the answer to this particular question.
“Oh, don’t worry, Kinch. I haven’t done anything like that since my sophomore year in High School,” Carter admitted exuberantly. “It was great! You should have been there! But boy, did I get in so much trouble. I blew up the Science Lab by mixing...”
Kinch tuned out his companion. Oh no. I think I’ve discovered a monster. Chemistry? Explosives? When he began listening again, Carter was still expounding on the destruction of the Science Lab.
“... nobody got hurt or anything. But kabloooee! The place went up like you wouldn’t believe. Almost nothing left of it,” Carter finished excitedly but found himself staring at Kinch’s shocked face. “Oh, don’t worry, Kinch. Nothing I have here now will explode if I mix them, but of course if I had...”
Kinch had to let Carter rant. I guess I just might need to have a serious talk with Colonel Hogan about our chemistry expert. His knowledge might come in handy. But I wonder why he’s telling me all this? This has to be what he was hiding from Matthews. Or is there more? Maybe he thinks he’s safe telling me. Maybe he thinks that I would never assign him to something where he’d be in charge of a dangerous weapon. He certainly has good reason to believe that. But I can’t let this information die. Colonel Hogan needs to know this.
Kinch began to listen to Carter again, who by this time was basically talking to himself excitedly, and making ‘exploding’ noises. He had even begun reorganizing all the things he had moved earlier, completely ignoring Kinch. Kinch, for his part, just kept quiet and watched Carter in amazed trepidation. Who’da thunk that a shy kid from Bull Frog
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 1130 Hours
Colonel Hogan was a little preoccupied as he left the Kommandant’s office. Klink had just given him another dressing down over the conduct of his men. And he was angry, as Klink had no real gripes. His men had even been behaving themselves. Hell, Klink should be watching his own men, not mine! He just needs to feel that he has the upper hand. And it was just eating at Hogan’s gut that he had to let Klink get away with it. I’ll figure something out. I have too. This can’t go on. The whole operation is going to go to hell in a hand basket if I don’t. With Klink acting like a tyrant, who knows what might happen. As it is, his own men are extremely tense, attested to by that fight yesterday afternoon. Which in and of itself, and everything else, has my own men on edge. I’ve really got to figure something out… and soon.
As Hogan stepped off the Kommandant’s porch, and headed back to his barracks he heard the sound of a vehicle approaching rapidly. He barely had a chance to glance in the direction of the noise before that vehicle struck him. He was thrown onto the hood of the car and then rolled off to one side, as the car came to a sudden stop.
Hogan lay on the ground not moving.
Corporal Kenny Drury who was acting as a lookout for barracks two while Kinch gave his German language class witnessed the accident. “Holly car wrecks!” Kenny yelled shocked in his best Boy Wonder imitation. “Um, I mean. Oh my God! Colonel Hogan was just hit by a car! A Gestapo staff car! He’s not moving!” he hollered and ran out into the compound followed quickly by most of barracks two.
By the time Kinch made it through the door, a couple hundred POWs were converging on the Gestapo staff car. They were all stopped dead in their tracks as the Gestapo exited the vehicle and fired their machine guns at the ground between Colonel Hogan’s prone body and the massing group of POWs. Kinch forced his way to the forefront of the group just as Kommandant Klink came out of his office in a panic.
“What’s the meaning of this?!” Klink actually hollered. “What did you do to my Senior POW Officer?!” he again hollered after seeing Colonel Hogan lying on the ground. No one was sure if he was more angry or frightened. But whatever his reason, he actually got almost everyone’s attention, including Gestapo Colonel Frederick Vogel.
Kinch was the only one not to react to Klink’s bellowing, as he had his eyes glued on Colonel Hogan. He was somewhat relieved to see his commanding officer start to moan and begin to move around, but Kinch was having a real hard time keeping still. He wanted to be beside his friend checking for injuries.
“Your POWs need to be more careful where they walk, Colonel Klink,” Vogel said nonchalantly. “Colonel Hogan stepped out right in front of my vehicle. It was an accident.”
“No it wasn’t!” yelled Kenny. “You deliberately ran hi
Gunfire again rang out to forestall any more comments. LeBeau had quickly grabbed Kenny covering his mouth and shoved him back into the arms of Newkirk, who forced him to the ground, hoping to hide him from the Gestapo.
“What are you doing here, Colonel?” Kommandant Klink said quickly and loudly, hoping to distract Vogel from the comments of the young POW.
Thankfully, Colonel Vogel didn’t seem very impressed with the accusation, leaving his comments to the machine guns. “You and your Senior POW Officer have some explaining to do,” Colonel Vogel accused walking past Colonel Klink and into the Kommandant’s office without another word to the German Colonel, expecting him to follow. And quickly, he indicated to his men that he wanted the American Officer to be brought into the office, as well.
After watching a semi-conscious Hogan be dragged into his office, Klink turned quickly to the POWs. “You men. Return to your barracks, now!” he bellowed. “There is no more to see here.” He stood staring Sergeant Kinchloe in the eye until Sergeant Shultz burst into his field of vision with a number of the camp guards who began to herd the POWs back toward the barracks and away from the few Gestapo still remaining in the compound. Klink watched until Kinch retreated towards the barracks and the others followed, then he quickly entered his office worried about what this visit from Vogel was all about and whether he or Colonel Hogan would survive this day.
As Klink entered his office, he couldn’t help but notice that Colonel Hogan had been unceremoniously dumped on the floor. He was at least relieved to see that the man was now attempting to stand up on his own two feet. Needless to say, Klink couldn’t -- or make that, wouldn’t -- offer any assistance to Hogan at this point. So he just continued into his office and came to stand behind his desk.
“So, once again, Colonel. What is it that you want of me and my Senior POW Officer?” Klink asked showing much more backbone than during Vogel’s first visit. He also had hoped to give Hogan sometime to regain his composure. I honestly can’t imagine what Vogel wants. He can’t have any accusations left to make.
“Yeah. I’d like to know the answer to that too,” Hogan interjected as he finally got himself upright. He stood stretching his back and neck muscles and rubbing his left shoulder with his right arm. “And why I was just used as a hood ornament for your car!” he said loudly into the Gestapo Colonel’s face, his anger getting the best of him.
“Colonel Hogan!” hollered Kommandant Klink, trying to forestall the American’s death, at least for a while. “Sit down, Colonel. Now! Let’s hear what Colonel Vogel has to say.”
Hogan turned quickly to face the Kommandant, his anger flaring. It was only when his eyes registered the fear and anger in Klink’s eyes, that he realized that he had better cal
“So, Gentleman,” Colonel Vogel began snidely. “This, as you can tell, is not a social visit. Three of my men were seriously injured late last evening when their vehicle crashed. It was discovered that the brake lines in that vehicle were cut. And subsequently, two other staff cars were found to have had their brake lines cut as well. I want to know how you did it, Colonel Hogan. How did you manage that? And tell me, as well, how you went about slashing many of the tires on the same vehicles the night before.”
“Well, Colonel, you seem to have had yourself a run of bad luck,” Hogan said just as snidely. Wow, I had heard about the slashed tires. Today’s note from Oskar Schnitzer described the whole incident to me. But they didn’t know who was responsible. And nothing was ever mentioned about the brake lines being cut. “But I’m sorry again, Colonel. This camp has been locked down tighter than an oil drum. There’s no way I could have had anything to do with that.”
“You expect me to believe that, Colonel Hogan?” Vogel asked skeptically. “I find it hard to fathom that you can’t just walk out of this camp, right from under this imbecile’s nose,” he said waving his ar
“I resent that, Colonel Vogel,” Klink said heatedly. “I’m a loyal German officer. The record of this camp should stand on its own. There has never been a successful escape from this camp while I’ve been Kommandant. And if you think that Colonel Hogan had anything to do with your vehicles being vandalized in the past few days, you are sorely mistaken.” He took a deep breath and his heart was pounding, but he continued still angry. “This camp has been under a complete lock down since your first accusation. The guards have been doubled. The dogs have been doubled. Roll calls have been tripled and conducted randomly. And bed checks have become commonplace at night. No one has gotten out of this camp and the prisoners have had no outside contact at all. So why don’t you just leave and take care of your business in town. This camp is not your concern.”
“Ahh, finally some backbone from our spineless Colonel. It is good to see,” Vogel said. “But it is of no matter. You will be judged just as guilty as your American counterpart when I gain the evidence I need to prove your complicity in this.”
“So it is now, that you admit to having no proof,” Klink came back. “So it is again, that I tell you to leave and take your accusations with you. I will be making a complete report to
“You can not threaten me, Colonel Klink,” Vogel said haughtily. “I will prove that you and your Senior POW Officer are enemies of the Fatherland. One way or another you will both be mine. And I will take great pleasure in conducting your executions personally.” Vogel turned quickly signaling his men to leave. He followed them out the door of the office, but not without an evil laugh before closing the door behind him.
“Wow, Kommandant,” Hogan began, actually impressed. “You were great, standing up to him like that. How could he even think my men were involved in sabotaging his vehicles?”
Klink sighed, turning a sideways glance toward Hogan. “Leave my office, Colonel Hogan. I have no desire to discuss this with you any further. Just remember that this camp is still in a complete lockdown.”
“Of course, sir,” Hogan said dejected and got up unsteadily to leave the office. As he stood, his head began to spin. He had to grab onto the chair, until his head cleared. He then stretched, and began rubbing his left shoulder as he slowly limped toward the office door.
“Hogan,” Klink said quietly after trying to ignore his Senior POW Officer’s moment of weakness. And couldn’t.
“Yes, sir?” Hogan asked stopping, but not turning back toward the German Colonel.
“You are ordered to stop by the infirmary and have your injuries treated,” Klink said quickly. “That is a direct order, Colonel. Or I can have Shultz escort you, if necessary.”
“Yes, sir. On my way,” Hogan said quietly in response and left the office without another word.
Office of the late General Stefan Geist,
Day Four, April 5, 1943 1300 Hours
Niklas Preffrieger was in the office that he’d commandeered from the officer left in charge of the Munich SS detachment, a Captain Mirko Schunck. When he’d arrived unexpectedly yesterday, Schunck had fallen all over himself to provide Preffrieger with anything and everything that he required. Preffrieger now sat contemplating the reports spread before him. They appeared to be complete, and very detailed, but there was that certain something that was amiss. The reports seemed to have too much detail in some places, while being too vague in others.
Hmm. Schunck seemed unnerved by my visit here. Which at first is what I would have expected of a junior officer being visited by a member of the Inspector General’s Office. But after reading these reports I think that there is indeed more to it than that. Does Schunck, or any of his men, know more about this than what the reports detail?
We shall see. After all, answers are what I came for, and answers are what I will leave with.
Preffrieger sighed rising from the desk’s chair to stand looking out the office window. He was struck again at the beauty before him. The rushing river in the valley below. The Alps rising in the distance. Ahh, the Alps. It has been too long since my last skiing holiday on those slopes. Such a majestic range of mountains. Snow capped year round. Beautiful, breathtaking. Preffrieger stretched his back muscles, twisting his neck from side to side to relieve the strain of the long hours spent hunched over the reports. He turned back towards the desk and sighed at the files spread haphazardly across its polished surface. Finally he began to pace the office, thinking. Where do I go from here? Hoztein. Eckold. Klein. There is just something not right.
Preffrieger picked up one of the files from the desk, that of the prisoner Klein. I am certain that Klein was guilty of being a member of the resistance. At this point I have no reason to question Eckold’s accusations against Klein, as the Major seemed to be an officer above reproach. And besides, too many things pointed to Klein’s guilt: his relatives in Munich; the fact that he’d not been home once since his cousin, a proven member of the resistance, was killed by Eckold and his men; the papers found in the attic of his apartment building. What I found most surprising was that the last piece of paper in Klein’s file was an autopsy report, ordered by Major Eckold. And what an interesting report it was! Klein had been poisoned. Not executed. Someone had silenced the man BEFORE he could talk. But why would Eckold ask for an autopsy report when Klein was reportedly executed for killing his interrogator?
Eckold could not have been responsible for poisoning Klein, as he had apparently suspected something in ordering the autopsy in the first place. And there appears to be no reason to believe that the poison was self-inflicted either. One also has to assume that Hoztein was probably above reproach holding the position he’d held, a member of the feared Truppe von Gebruder. And even I am not stupid enough to point a finger there. Besides Hoztein would have no reason to resort to poison. Klein was already dead once he’d been given to Hoztein -- it had just been a matter of time.
According to Private Detlef Tieg, who had stood guard outside the interrogation room, the only other person having any access to Klein after his arrest was Major Karl Bruer, General Geist’s aide. So that leaves only Bruer, or perhaps Tieg, as the likely suspect for Klein’s poisoning. But what had made Klein so important? How would Tieg or Bruer have benefited from Klein’s death?
And what’s even more interesting is that Bruer, along with General Geist, are also dead. The victims of an apparent automobile accident only two days later. Very strange. How does Geist figure into all of this? Was he just an innocent in the way? Or something more?
And how does that all tie in with Eckold and Hoztein’s deaths? Eckold was killed the same night as Hoztein, during an apparent robbery. That doesn’t make sense. Who would be stupid enough to rob and murder an SS Major? For that matter, who would be stupid enough to kill a member of the Truppe von Gebruder? Who damn it?
I guess it is now time to look beyond the reports. They can tell me no more. Klein. Hoztein. Eckold. Bruer. Geist. What did these five men have in common? I wonder if Schunck and Tieg know… as both men figured prominently in the submission of the reports. Both of them have to know more than they’ve said. But what? And why?
A chat with Captain Schunck and Private Tieg is definitely in order. Too many things do NOT add up.
A short time later …
“You wanted to speak with me, sir,” Private Tieg asked as he entered the room where Colonel Preffrieger had set up shop. He and Schunck, two of the few remaining personnel of the Munich office had been horrified when Preffrieger had shown up. A Colonel from the Inspector Generals office, come unannounced to investigate the Munich Office. Schunck had done some discrete digging and found Preffrieger was a rising star in the Inspector Generals Office. He was a man of high intelligence and had a reputation for sifting through the particulars and coming up with the absolute heart of the matter at hand.
“I did,” Preffrieger agreed glancing up from his desk to see the young private standing before him. Preffrieger leaned back in his chair, and steepled his hands in contemplation. “What can you tell me of Dirk Klein’s capture and interrogation? Your name is in both reports.”
Tieg licked his lips nervously and began to talk, “Dirk Klein was a suspected underground agent, working for a cell locally. Major Eckold had tracked Klein to Ismaning. Klein was taken in the street and brought back to Munich for questioning. Major Eckold arranged for Lieutenant Hoztein to interrogate the prisoner. Major Eckold then ordered me to remain on guard outside the interrogation room, in case Lieutenant Hoztein required assistance, and went to make his report to Major Bruer. The Lieutenant had been working for nearly an hour when Major Eckold returned, along with Major Bruer.”
“Why was Major Bruer still at the office?” Preffrieger asked. “The report said it was late when you and Eckold returned with Klein.”
“I do not know, Herr Oberst,” Tieg replied. “Major Bruer had been accompanying General Geist on the bi-annual inspection tour of military encampments. According to Captain Schunck, General Geist had returned to the office earlier in the day to sort out any major problems on his desk that couldn’t wait till his official return in two more weeks. He had left for the day long before Major Eckold and myself returned with the prisoner. I assumed that Major Bruer was just doing paperwork. In any case he was at the office when we returned.”
“Very good. Continue please,” Preffrieger ordered.
“Yes, sir,” Tieg replied with a nervous swallow. “Major Bruer stayed a only short time in the interrogation room, merely complementing Lieutenant Hoztein’s work. He ordered Major Eckold to keep him apprised of any results of the interrogation, and then he left. Major Bruer was gone by the time of Lieutenant Hoztein & Dirk Klein’s deaths.”
“How did Lieutenant Hoztein die?” Preffrieger asked.
“I do not know,” Tieg replied desperately hoping his face would not betray him.
“By your own admission you were there. How… did… Hoztein… die?” Preffrieger demanded enunciating every word.
“I do not know. I was outside the room,” Tieg repeated, his forehead drenched in terrified sweat.
“All right let’s try a different question then. Why did Eckold order an autopsy on the prisoner when the report states he was executed by Hoztein?” Preffrieger asked.
“I do not know, Herr Oberst,” Tieg replied.
“What do you know?” Preffrieger demanded. “How did Hoztein die?”
“Private Tieg, I do not need to remind you that I will have my answers. Whomever you are protecting I will uncover…” Preffrieger threatened.
“Sir! I protect no one,” Tieg protested, his heart constricting in his chest.
“How did Hoztein die?” Preffrieger demanded in an icy calm voice. His patience was nearly exhausted. Soon he would be resorting to more distasteful methods.
“Um…I was out of the room, but there was a gun shot,” Tieg whispered. “After entering the room, I overheard Major Eckold accusing Hoztein of being a traitor. According to the Major, Hoztein killed the prisoner before a confession was accomplished.”
“Are you saying… that Major Eckold shot Lieutenant Hoztein!” Preffrieger repeated absolutely amazed. What? Did Eckold have a death wish? Damn it. No wonder the man had turned up dead in his apartment that night. You just don’t kill a member of the Truppe von Gebruder. Everyone knows that.
“Yes, sir,” Tieg replied shaking.
Preffrieger now knew that Tieg and Sckunck had falsified the report to Berlin. And clearly also knew why. Preffrieger was silent for many moments, after having risen to stare out of his office window. “Alright, Private. I understand the reports as they have been written. But tell me, why did Eckold order an autopsy of the prisoner’s body if it was clearly Hoztein that executed the prisoner?”
“Major Eckold appeared to have second thoughts about Hoztein’s reasons for killing Klein,” Tieg pointed out, feeling calmer now that it appeared that Colonel Preffrieger wasn’t going to go ballistic over the falsified reports. “Herr Klein died early into his interrogation, sir. That was most unusual.”
“Hm, yes I see. So you are saying that Major Eckold then suspected foul play?” Preffrieger asked quietly thinking through the new information he’d just heard. “Perhaps of Major Bruer?”
“Yes sir, that is what appeared to be the case,” Private Tieg confirmed anxiously. “Although, he made no such accusation out loud, sir.”
“That is most interesting. Further investigation into this is necessary. You’re dismissed,” Preffrieger said.
“Yes sir, thank you, sir.”
Amused at Tieg’s anxiety, Preffrieger ordered, “Have Captain Schunk come see me now, Private.” I want to see if I get the same story from the good Captain.
“Immediately, Herr Oberst,” Tieg replied nearly running from the room.
Geoff Hirsch’s Cobbler Shop, Dalbergstrasse,
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 1315 Hours
The sound of a vehicle’s screeching brakes startled Geoff Hirsch from his work. As he glanced out his store window he saw that a Gestapo staff car had come to a halt between his and Heinrich’s stores. They can’t know! I left no evidence behind! His heart began pounding hard in his chest until he saw that Colonel Vogel and his men had gone into Heinrich’s grocery store. What do those animals want now?
He walked to the front of his store to eavesdrop. He didn’t hear anything clearly, but it didn’t take much to know that Vogel was again threatening his neighbor. Am I next on his list? I will not be threatened anymore. This just can’t continue. Geoff walked back to his worktable and sat down to his job once again. He was determined not to be taken advantage of when Vogel entered his shop.
He didn’t have long to wait. Within just a few minutes the Gestapo Colonel and his henchman rushed into the cobbler’s shop. “Good day, Herr Colonel,” Geoff said politely. “What can I do for you this fine morning?”
“Ah, Herr Hirsch,” Vogel purred. “It is good that you are feeling generous this morning. It is time again to discuss the fund that was begun just the other day. It has been depleted due to some unforeseen cost overruns. So I’m here today to ask for another donation to help keep that fund solvent. 50 marks would again be a very generous gift. I’m sure I can count on you again today, Herr Hirsch.”
Geoff’s anger flared in his eyes. “You will get nothing from me,” Geoff said as he stood to come around and face the Gestapo Colonel. “You are nothing but a blackmailer. I will not support your kind, ever again!” Geoff spat down at Colonel Vogel’s boots, but he looked back up only to see an evil smile on the Colonel’s face.
Before Geoff could even blink, two of the three other officers had grabbed hold of him and had thrown him backwards onto his worktable. They then quickly forced him forward onto his knees at Vogel’s feet. The third man grabbed hold of his head by the hair and yanked it back so that Geoff could only stare up into the Gestapo Colonel’s eyes.
“You must learn to be more cooperative, Herr Hirsch,” Vogel said quietly as he removed a nightstick from his belt with his right hand and began slapping it hard against his left. “It is such a shame that lessons need to be learned the hard way. Wouldn’t you agree?” Vogel asked of Geoff.
When Geoff didn’t respond, Vogel’s face turned enraged. “I asked you a question, Herr Hirsch. I expect an answer.” The nightstick was swung hard against Geoff’s chest.
Geoff gasped hard as the breath was knocked out of him. He couldn’t respond now even if he wanted too.
“Nothing to say, Herr Hirsch?” Vogel grinned evilly. Vogel put his nightstick away and signaled to his men. They each took their own turn beating on the cobbler while Colonel Vogel walked slowly to the cash register and removed the requested 50 marks. When he turned back to his men, the cobbler was lying face down on the floor moaning and writhing in pain. “I hope that the next time we have this discussion, Herr Hirsch, that we come to a better understanding.”
Vogel and his men just stepped over the body of the cobbler and left the shop without another word.
Geoff lay on the floor of his shop trying desperately to catch his breath. He tried unsuccessfully to grab hold of his worktable to help himself up. He just really wanted to stay curled up on the floor, but he knew that he couldn’t. He wasn’t sure how badly he was injured. It wouldn’t bode well for him to pass out with a serious injury. He tried calling out for help, hoping that Heinrich might hear. He also hoped that his neighbor had not had the same discussion with the Gestapo that he just had.
“Geoff! What did they do to you?” Heinrich yelled as he entered the cobbler shop. He had heard most of the commotion, but knew it wasn’t safe to interfere until Vogel and his men were gone. “Olga! Get the car. Geoff needs to be taken to the doctor!” he yelled back into his store.
As he approached his friend, he tried to comfort. “Geoff. Take it easy. Let me help you up. Oskar will be able to take care of you.” Geoff leaned heavily on his neighbor as Heinrich helped him to his feet. Both men walked slowly out the back door of the shop and into the alley where Olga had brought the car. Heinrich helped Geoff lay down in the back seat of his car.
“Olga, please lock up for Geoff. I will be back as soon as I can,” Heinrich told his wife through the car window as he started to drive out of the alleyway.
Office of Luftwaffe General Albert Burkhaulter, Commanding General of all Luft Stalags,
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 1415 Hours
General Albert Burkhaulter had just hung up the phone, seething. Normally when he got calls from Colonel Wilhelm Klink at Luft Stalag 13, he could usually dismiss the complaints of the POW Kommandant. And that was because Wilhelm Klink had never fooled General Burkhaulter. The General was well aware that Klink had always been a bumbling and completely ineffectual Luftwaffe Officer. But somehow that bumbler had found his niche at Luft Stalag 13. There had not been one escape from that Luft Stalag since Klink’s transfer there. Quite an accomplishment for sure.
And if there was one outstanding accomplishment that others in
Klink had just told him on the phone of two recent run-ins with the local Gestapo Commander in Hammelburg. From the General’s perspective there was no reason for the accusations being laid upon Colonel Klink and the American Senior POW Officer, Colonel Robert Hogan. That American has never seemed more than just a patsy and a coward to me. He does have the makings of a con man, but I seriously doubt that he is capable of the deceit being blamed on him. Besides, as a POW, there is just no way for him to be a threat.
The General’s first course of action was going to be contacting that Gestapo officer’s superiors here in
Doctor Oskar Freiling’s Clinic
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 1430 Hours
“Ach, Helga,” Oskar Freiling sighed frustrated as he exited his newest patient’s room and saw Helga sitting next to, and being comforted by, Heinrich Berger. “Your father is a most stubborn man,” he continued loud enough so Geoff Hirsch could overhear, and then finally closed the door on his patient. Seeing Helga’s worried expression though, he softened his tone. “He will be all right, Helga. Your father’s injuries are not life threatening, only painful. But you need to talk to him, Helga. Try to get through to him. He can’t continue defying Colonel Vogel and his henchmen.” Heaving a heavy sigh, he said, “And he will just not listen to me!”
“Ja. I also tried to make him listen on the way here,” Heinrich interjected anxiously. “This path he’s taken will just get him killed.” As he saw panic appear in Helga’s eyes, he too softened his tone. “Oskar is right Helga. Talk to him. Let him know how afraid, for him, you are.”
“Can we not just tell him the truth now?” Helga asked. “Tell him that Colonel Hogan is working on a plan to remove Colonel Vogel? Tell him of the work we are doing?”
“I afraid, Helga,” Oskar Freiling said. “I’m not sure how Geoff will deal with knowing that his friends and even his own daughter have been keeping this secret from him.” Oskar sighed. “It is part of the reason we never offered him the truth before. I’m sorry, Helga. But your father has always been too self-absorbed in his work, not to mention, intensely passionate when it came to raising you alone, that he never seemed to see the changes that we all saw happening to our country.” Oskar approached Helga and put his hand on her shoulder. “And maybe this incident has opened his eyes somewhat, but I’m still afraid it will only open his eyes to fear, hatred and mistrust… of us, and of our countrymen.”
“Oskar is right, Helga,” Heinrich offered. “For now, see if you can get him to understand. If your cajoling does not seem to work, maybe it is that we will tell him. But we can not tell him everything until we all, as a group, come to a consensus.” Heinrich released Helga’s hand. “Go on now, see your father. Try and make him understand.”
Helga stood to enter her father’s room, walking fairly steadily on the faux broken ankle.
Before she got too far, Oskar stepped in front of her to stop her progress. Handing her the set of the crutches nearby, he said only, “You need to continue with our rouse… until a decision is made.”
Helga nodded, took hold of the crutches, and as Doctor Freiling opened the door to her father’s room said, “Oh, Papa. I’m so glad your going to be all right. But you can’t…”
Gestapo Headquarters, Office of Colonel Frederick Vogel
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 1615 Hours
“Phone call for you, Herr Colonel,” Captain Schotz voice reported to his commanding officer, Colonel Frederick Vogel, over the office intercom. “Major General Breitenback, Gestapo Headquarters, Berlin.”
“Thank you, Schotz,” Vogel replied through the intercom, and then picking up his office telephone, offered, “Colonel Frederick Vogel, what can I do for you, General?”
“Well, Colonel,” the General began. “I have just had a most unpleasant conversation with Luftwaffe General Albert Burkhaulter, the Commanding General of all Luftwaffe POW camps. He informs me that you are conducting an investigation into the happenings at Luft Stalag 13. Actually, more to the point, he has told me that you’ve been harassing the Kommandant and prisoners of that camp, for no reason.”
“Sir,” Vogel replied. “I have my suspicions that the Kommandant and the Senior POW officer are a danger to the Fatherland. I’m endeavoring…”
“Listen to me, Colonel. I do not care what you are doing. Whatever it is… I expect that you will wrap it up quickly. I know you, Frederick Vogel. I know your family. Your father, Detlev, and I are old friends. So, I know I am not wasting my breath here. I expect that whatever you discover will again bring honor to you and your family, and remove that which is a danger to the Fatherland.” Breitenback sighed, “But… I will not tolerate another call from the Luftwaffe telling me how Gestapo business is to be conducted. Have I made myself clear, Colonel?”
“Yes, sir,” Vogel agreed again, his temper beginning to rise.
“So, finish it soon,” the General ordered.
“Yes, sir. I will take care of the matter,” Vogel assured the General.
“Excellent. I am sure we will not have to have this conversation again in the future,” Breitenback replied and hung up the phone before Vogel could reply.
Vogel leaned back in his chair. That imbecile, Klink, not only is he incompetent and a fool, but, somehow apparently has enough clout that his own Commanding General believes him. Incredible. Well, I will not back down. Together those men are a menace to the Fatherland and I will prove it. But, I must be more careful. But also I need to move more quickly and decisively, as to not get on Breitenback’s bad side. Soon though, Klink will regret smearing my good name in Berlin!
Luft Stalag 13, Radio Room,
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 1800 Hours
Andrew Carter sat quietly in his little corner of the radio room. He again found himself in the middle of a discussion being held by Colonel Hogan and Sergeant Kinchloe, but this time he was rather excited about being involved. The Colonel had gotten word, from eavesdropping on Klink, of an important speech being given by Adolph Hitler tonight. Both he and Kinch wanted to listen in. It was due on in a few minutes. I just hope that means I get to listen in too. What better way to learn German, huh? Than from the head Nazi? I’ll just pretend I’m playing with my chemistry set.
The speech went on for almost 30 minutes. And if Colonel Hogan and Kinch’s reactions were any indication, they still thought the man was a lunatic. Now, I understand why. I only got some of the speech but the man’s inflections and attitudes were way over the top. Carter stayed in the tunnel after Colonel Hogan and Kinch left. He found himself trying to copy the inflections and attitude he heard in Adolph Hitler’s voice and lost himself in his imitation.
It wasn’t until he heard Kinch’s voice calling for him some minutes later, that he realized how lost he’d been. Hey, that was kinda fun!
Geoff and Helga Hirsch’s Apartment,
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 2200 Hours
Geoff lay in bed wide-awake, his body aching all over from the myriad bruises that he had received earlier in the day from the Gestapo. Geoff sighed loudly, pulling the blankets firmer over his chest. The doctor had told him that he’d only be sore, not that there was anything really seriously wrong. Oskar, Ursula, Heinrich and Helga had then spent most of the afternoon urging him not to again defy the Gestapo. Just pay them.
After much of Geoff’s continued angry defiance, the small group made a surprising revelation to him. What a shock it was to find out your long time friends are members of the underground resistance. And that your own daughter works for the underground! And that there is already a plan in place to bring down Gestapo Colonel Vogel!
Geoff had been equal parts proud, annoyed, and frightened for Helga and his friends. But also relieved that someone else was working towards the removal of Colonel Vogel. As the night wore on though, his relief turned to anger. Why hadn’t they ever asked me if I wanted to join the resistance? Am I really that unapproachable? Or is it merely that a cobbler would have nothing to offer? And what of Helga? She works as a secretary in a POW camp. Definitely not a high profile job. Or even one where secrets are accessible. At least one wouldn’t think so.
Not one of his friends had been forthcoming with any of the details. They had just sent him home with Helga and orders to rest. They assured him that they had everything under control. I wonder what they have planned? I know I can help, but they are hell bent on not telling me their plans. So, that’s why I never told them of my recent extracurricular activities.
But, I can’t just sit here. I have to do something.
Hmm. Vogel, the pompous ass that he is, probably doesn’t suspect a thing. I wonder. Wouldn’t it be better to keep Vogel off balance while the resistance’s plan is executed? Wouldn’t it make sense to try and keep him and his men occupied with a more pressing matter. Say… teetering in barely suppressed rage at a shadowy, annoying vandal.
Ja. The more I think of that, the better it sounds. And I know just the man for that job! But, I will have to be even more careful tonight, as Helga is now home. It had been so much easier without her here. But she is still laid up with her ankle, so she shouldn’t be wandering the house at night. I can probably leave easily without her knowing.
So with a groan of discomfort Geoff rolled out of bed and pulled on his clothing from the day before. It was time to do the next little job that he had had planned for the Gestapo before their visit to his shop earlier in the day. He quickly gathered the tools he needed to execute his next piece of vandalism, just some rags and some matches. Tonight’s job would make the biggest splash and hopefully the Gestapo would be thrown for a loop.
Geoff left his apartment and retraced his original steps through the woods on the edge of town, heading for Gestapo Headquarters. He knew that he had no distraction planned for this evening, but he would easily bide his time. He needed only to get near one of the vehicles and his plans could be quickly executed.
So now he sat, concealed on the edge of the open field bordering the parking lot to Gestapo Headquarters. He watched for a long while, timing the comings and goings of the patrols in the area surrounding the building. While he was waiting though, it began to drizzle. All day it had been threatening rain, great black storm clouds had come in from the east and had settled directly over the town, but it had held off until now. Geoff had to stuff the rags he carried under his jacket to keep the
But his determination eclipsed even that, and at the first opportunity he made his dash across the field toward the parking lot, in just enough time to once again roll under the nearest vehicle. Breathing heavily, he counted the footsteps of a passing patrol until it was that he could no longer hear them. Quickly he glanced around from his hiding place and saw no one. He rolled out from under the car, glad that the location of the gas tank was concealed from the building.
With his heart pounding, Geoff quickly opened the gas tank and stuffed a rag in as far as it would go. Nervously he pulled matches from his pocket and fumbled trying to light the rag. Only the first few matches didn’t do anything. The rag only smoldered in the dampness. Terrified, he continued with almost the whole pack before the rag caught fire. Anxious, frightened, and not really thinking he stood quickly to make his escape back into the woods, only to be seen by a returning patrol.
“Halt,” yelled a Gestapo Corporal that was fast approaching from the building. He and his companions sent machine gun fire into the air, trying to get the vandal to stop.
Geoff just ran, but hadn’t gotten very far before bullets tore through his body and sent him spinning to the ground only to land flat on his back. He couldn’t move as the shock and pain reverberated through him. He expected his life was over and waited for death, but as if the Almighty was on his side, he heard an explosion followed closely by a second one. And then the heavens opened up, and the rain pelted down.
In a haze of pain, Geoff forced himself to look back in the direction of Gestapo Headquarters. He saw through the curtain of water and smoke, that two of the vehicles were engulfed in flames. The explosion of the gas tank of the car he’d vandalized had ignited a second car. There was utter pandemonium as the officers worked to put out the fires, as well as treat a few of their own that were caught in the explosions.
Geoff realized that they were paying him no mind, probably assuming that he was already dead or dying. It gave him a perverse sense of pleasure to know that if he was going to die, that he was able to take some of those animals with him. But before Geoff gave himself to death, a strong desire to continue his fight had him rolling onto his stomach and pushing his way to his feet. Agonizing pain shot through him as his left leg buckled beneath him causing him to fall back to the ground, and splash into the now soaked grasses around him. His left hand clutched at a wound in his side and again he thought of just letting death take him, but he also thought of his daughter being left alone in this world, and he just couldn’t let that happen.
Geoff struggled back to his feet, putting as much of his weight on his right leg as possible, trying only to use his left leg for balance. He really wasn’t sure that he could make it very far. Terror caused a shiver to run down his spine when he realized that he actually had no place to go. I could head home, but that would only frighten Helga. I could go to Heinrich’s, but he lives too far out of town. I guess I could head to Oskar Freilings, but that would be the first place anyone would look for me. What should I do?
Slowly coming to a decision, he struggled toward the Freiling’s, hoping beyond hope that maybe Oskar would know of a place to hide him.
Outside Doctor Freiling’s Clinic,
Day Five, April 6, 1943, 0030 Hours
Miserable, Oskar Freiling trudged home through the woods on the edge of town. Rain was dripping down the collar of his coat, and off the brim of his hat. But even as he tried to huddle further into his overcoat, his mind was racing from their nightly meeting at Werner’s. Nothing much had been decided tonight. They discussed the tire slashings and the brake line cutting. They still did not know who the vandal was. They talked of Zilli and Ludwig, but neither situation had improved. Zilli was doing her best to quietly gain the needed information and neither Oskar had had opportunity to initiate contact with Ludwig. Their thought was to ask Ludwig to get together for old times sake, but no specifics had been worked out yet.
Only two actions items had been decided upon. First, they all agreed to ask Geoff Hirsch to join them, knowing that he would be much better off knowing the truth than speculating. And knowing that that way they could keep him safe, with Geoff working with them and not against them.
And the second, was a request from Colonel Hogan. He wanted more information from Tiger before he could determine what to do about her deliveries. So Hermann was to contact Louise in the morning and ask her why she couldn’t keep more than five escaping prisoners. If supplies to feed and house the POWs were the problem, that could be easily solved with a delivery from either Hermann’s restaurant or Heinrich’s store. If space was the issue, well that became trickier, for no one had a contingency plan set up for that, yet. So Colonel Hogan needed to know exactly what the problem was before he tried to solve it, because he truly believed that the winery was the safest place for escapees to wait, being that it was privately owned and run.
As Oskar approached his own property, he came up short, and quickly hid behind a large oak tree when he heard rustling from up ahead in his path. The rustling turned to moaning. Oskar slowly made his way down the path toward the noise. If someone was hurt, he at least had an excuse to be outside this late at night. As he reached his own yard, he saw a body lying on the muddy ground. He saw no movement, but the moaning was still audible.
Oskar rushed to the prone figure, only to have his heart almost stop as he rolled the figure onto his back. Geoff! Oh my God! What happened? He quickly made an assessment of his patient. Geoff had been shot multiple times and had lost much blood. He was soaked to the skin, unconscious and in shock. Oskar knew that however this had happened to Geoff, he was in serious trouble, for even if he survived his injuries, he would probably not be long for this world. This has to be the work of the Gestapo! I’ll have to hide him. But where? Where? The storm cellar? Ja. Hardly anyone knows that still exists.
Oskar started to drag Geoff across his yard to the old storm cellar built into the ground some distance from his house. After struggling with the weight of his injured friend, he noticed that Geoff’s dragging feet were leaving behind a muddy trench. He couldn’t leave such a recognizable trail. He would need help, so he laid Geoff down and made his way as quickly as possible to his house. He would need Ursula’s help to save Geoff’s life and perhaps their own. As he hurried away he hoped that the rain had obscured Geoff’s trail from wherever he’d been tonight, or the Gestapo would soon be at his door.
To be continued…
‘Batman’ first appeared in the ‘Detective Series’ published by DC Comics in 1937. Soon thereafter, ‘Batman’ starred in his own DC Comic Book Series. The first issue of which originally sold for 10 cents, now sells for around $11,000.00. Everyone look in your basements!
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