Be It Ever So Humble
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character - Colonel Robert Hogan
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Overall Story
The Next Level
RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk’s head appeared from the tunnel below Barracks Two at Stalag Luft 13, sweat-streaked and covered with dirt. Still, the grime couldn’t hide the broad smile lighting up his face. “We’ve broken through, sir,” he panted.
US Army Air Corps Colonel Robert Hogan reached out his arm to help Newkirk back into the room. “Good job,” he praised, as Newkirk brushed himself off. “What’s happened to the dirt?”
“Mostly spread around outside the wire, gov’nor. Carter and Kinch are putting a bit more of it around the garden beds outside the huts. Le Beau is distracting Schultzie with strudel.”
Hogan smiled at the thought of the tiny French Corporal trying to force-feed the large German Sergeant of the Guard. In his few months at this Prisoner of War camp in Nazi Germany, Hogan had learned that not all Germans were as tough as they appeared to be. In fact, Hans Schultz, a middle-aged bulk of a man, seemed to be trying to do his best to avoid taking any partisan part in World War Two whatsoever. Something that made life as a prisoner a bit easier for Hogan and the other thousand men at the camp. And something that Hogan took full advantage of as senior POW when it came to getting privileges for the men under his command. “Sounds like Le Beau got off with light duties.”
“You’re not wrong. Though I worry about poor Louis getting swept up when Schultz inhales the food.”
Hogan offered a small smirk as he headed for the stove. “Yeah, well, he always was a man willing to sacrifice everything for a cause.” He poured a cup of coffee and handed it to Newkirk. “So tell me our status now,” he said.
“We’ve broken through to Klink’s quarters. It was a bit rough going at first because when we were about to move the stove, the old blighter came into the room, didn’t ’e? Leave it to Klink to take unscheduled breaks during the day.”
“Privilege of being the Kommandant,” Hogan shrugged. “Any problems?”
“No, sir. We just waited until we heard him start bellowing at Schultz again and then moved in.”
Hogan shook his head. “Too bad Schultz has to be the fall guy all the time. Well, at least this way we always know where he and Klink are.”
“What’s next, Colonel?” Newkirk asked.
Hogan considered, then headed to his quarters. Newkirk followed, and watched as Hogan started pulling a large, rolled-up sheet of paper from a tiny hole underneath his bottom bunk. He gingerly coaxed it out, being careful not to tear it, then unrolled it on his desk, putting the old tin can that held his writing utensils on one side to hold it down. “This is the map that Olsen drew up for us,” Hogan said. Newkirk nodded respectfully; this map had on it what appeared to be every building, every guard tower, and every road just outside of camp drawn to scale, including fences, guards, and even trees. In red, Hogan had marked in the changes that the prisoners had made: a tunnel under Barracks Two leading to a hollowed-out tree stump outside the camp, now dubbed “the emergency tunnel”; a radio antenna, on the flagpole on top of Kommandant Wilhelm Klink’s office; a listening device planted in Klink’s office, attached to an old coffee pot in the barracks; an additional tunnel to Barracks Five, where the camp’s medical man, Sergeant Joseph Wilson, was housed; a radio transmitter, right underneath their feet, at the start of the emergency tunnel; several other just-begun endeavours. Now, Hogan pointed to the map. “Show me where we are now.”
Newkirk ran his finger along the diagram, starting at the beginning of the emergency tunnel, then branching off till it got to Klink’s quarters. He tapped the section of the drawing that separated Klink’s building into rooms. “There. Right in his living room. Under the stove near the wall.”
“That’s great,” Hogan said. He pulled a red marking pen out of the can and carefully traced where Newkirk’s finger had travelled. “The cooler’s next,” he said, straightening. He started rolling the map back up to put back in its hiding place. “And another exit out of here, in case we can’t use the emergency tunnel. Maybe under the dogs.”
Newkirk nodded, and momentarily felt overwhelmed at the undertaking. Here they had been, everyday, ordinary prisoners of war in a Luftwaffe camp, living life from day to day—with a few aberrations, like trying to start digging a tunnel, and trying to get a radio working to help them get out—when along came Colonel Hogan a few months ago and everything changed. Hogan had been extensively questioned by the Nazis, abused and held for an inordinate amount of time before being sent to Stalag 13. And then, lo and behold, he had actually agreed to accept a command from London, operating a sabotage and intelligence unit right out of the camp. “Can’t be done,” was Hogan’s first thought. But he had seen possibilities, and had instituted a “No Escape” policy at the camp to help keep Klink firmly in place as camp Kommandant. Then he and his new recruits arranged it so escaped prisoners from other Stalags, as well as downed Allied flyers, could move through the camp and back out of Germany in what was becoming a standard, smooth transition. The next step, Hogan knew, was to be able to sabotage German war efforts. And that involved a lot more supplies, some of which were being dropped regularly by the Allies outside the camp. It also involved a more elaborate tunnel system, which the men of Stalag 13 were working on every day. How any of this was even possible was beyond Newkirk’s imagination. And yet it was happening, and he was heavily involved in it.
“Herr Schnitzer has said he’d be happy to use the dog truck to help,” Newkirk said now.
Hogan thought of the elderly veterinarian in charge of the guard dogs used at the camp. With an appreciative smile, he remembered being in the dog truck himself when Oskar Schnitzer had once brought him back to Stalag 13, secretly carrying the final piece needed to complete the prisoners’ radio transmitter. A fine man, Hogan thought, then and now. We sure could use more like him. “Then that’s definitely the place. It helps that the fine Herr Schnitzer is training his dogs to recognize—and like—Allied uniforms,” Hogan grinned.
“They sure don’t care for German ones!” Newkirk grinned. “Old Schultz has nearly lost a few fingers trying to wrestle away the leftover bones from them!”
Hogan smiled briefly, then rubbed his eyes. I was never trained to plan underground networks, he thought fleetingly. “There’s another drop tonight,” he said. “Nitro this time, and some charges. It’s my turn to go; I’ll take Carter.”
“Right, gov’nor,” Newkirk nodded.
“London must be getting anxious to do some real damage to the Germans. That’s the third lot of explosives they’ve sent in less than two weeks.”
“Have they given us a job yet?” Newkirk asked.
“No,” Hogan answered grimly. “That’s what worries me. They’ve been unusually quiet. Aside from the heads-ups about the drops, and acknowledging the fellas that have made it back to London…nothing.” Since they had started aiding escaped Allied prisoners to get back to their units, Hogan had counted up to twenty-seven before he decided keeping track was going to be a nightmare. He couldn’t think of the men in terms of numbers: he remembered their faces. Scared. Exhausted. Bewildered. All too young to be caught in the middle of a world war, and all too young to tempt death. But these last two, who had come through just four days ago, took the cake—they were mere children, Hogan decided. He suspected they had lied about their ages to join the RAF; their voices had barely cracked, and they clung to each other like lost puppies, turning their big eyes to Hogan like he was some sort of saviour. He didn’t want the worship, and still wondered why he had agreed to the responsibility. But he hadn’t slept a wink until London had confirmed the pair had made it back to England safely; and then he slept all day. “So much for their directive to harass the enemy in all ways possible.”
“Don’t worry, gov’nor,” Newkirk assured easily; “when they’re ready, they’ll go full steam ahead, guaranteed. We’ll probably look back on this time with longing.”
Hogan offered a rueful smile and nodded. Shaking himself out of his melancholy, he said, “You’re probably right. Let’s see what’s going on outside.”
Hogan walked out of Barracks Two and into the compound. Looking out on the flat, barren expanse, he couldn’t help but be reminded that even though he was in Stalag 13 on assignment—with routes available to get outside the fence when he needed to—he was also, truly, a prisoner. Guard towers loomed over the camp, casting long shadows over the men who walked by, heads still sometimes bowed, hands dug into pockets, the uniforms of their various military units faded and sometimes torn. In those towers stood men with rifles at the ready, scouring the camp, watching the fence line for any sign of attempted escape. The barbed wire atop the twelve-foot fences glinted in the bleak sun, and the dogs were pacing restlessly in their cage. Well, at least there’s one thing on our side, Hogan thought, looking at the biggest of the German shepherds, whom Schnitzer had told him was named Fritz. That big baby couldn’t harm a fly… unless it was a German fly! Hogan shook his head. I’m going stir crazy…. I’ve got to step things up a bit or I’ll go insane before this war is over. Time to make London keep their promise of letting us injure the enemy.
Hogan redirected his thoughts as he saw Sergeant James Kinchloe approach. The sturdily built, black American had turned out to be one of Hogan’s staunchest supporters, and Hogan found it surprisingly easy to talk to this soft-spoken radio man. Kinch always seemed to know when something was on his commanding officer’s mind, and somehow always seemed to be able to get Hogan to work through his self-doubts to get the job done. How many times had Hogan nearly screamed in frustration when escapes from other Stalags hadn’t gone to plan? when avoidance of German searchlights was too close for comfort? when delays in the digging of tunnels meant a bigger chance of the escapees being caught? But Kinch would simply smile and stand by, punctuating Hogan’s – fearful, if he wanted to admit it – raving with an occasional “Yes, sir,” or, which seemed to have a more calming effect, “You’re doing the best you can, Colonel. They still all have a better chance than they would have without us.”
“Last load of dirt is gone, Colonel,” Kinch said now.
“Good,” Hogan said, wishing he could shake his mood. “Any trouble?”
“Heck, no,” Kinch grinned. “Corporal Langenscheidt even helped when he thought we were going to plant marigolds. His mother’s favourite, he said. Forgot he was supposed to be guarding us and nearly handed me his rifle.”
Hogan let a smile squint his eyes. “Ah, a boy who loves his mother. So they’re not all bad after all, eh?”
Kinch laughed. “If he picks through the flowers, Carter will kill him. He’s really proud of his little garden.”
Hogan nodded. “Then we’ll have to make sure the flowers stays intact. This is war, Kinch; we can’t have any strained relations between us and the Krauts.” Hogan paused. “Are we due for any contact today?”
“No, Colonel; nothing other than the drop tonight.” Kinch studied his commander for a moment. “What’s wrong, Colonel?”
Hogan shook his head. “Nothing. I think I’m going strange, that’s all. Been here too long. We’ve gotta do something before I lose my mind.”
Kinch nodded. “I understand,” he said. You want to go home, but you’re not going to say it. Too many people are taking their lead from you. If you’re despairing, they will be, too. “Maybe London will fill us in soon on why they’re sending all this stuff.”
“It won’t be too soon for me, Kinch. It won’t be too soon.” Sticking his thumbs in the pockets of his brown bomber jacket, Hogan wandered slowly away.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“There is not enough strudel in all of Europe to satisfy that man,” Corporal Le Beau complained that evening. “How am I supposed to keep up with the meagre rations we get here?”
Sergeant Andrew Carter looked up from his bunk, where he was darning his socks—again. Sighing, he realised his feet were now being covered more by the thread used to sew the socks back together than by the material they were made with. “Maybe Schultz would go into town to get the stuff for you. I mean, if he wants it so bad, wouldn’t he do that?” he asked.
Newkirk shook his head wearily from his bunk above the young American. “Blimey, Carter, that’s rich. Send the fat Kraut on an errand to the market? ‘What shall we get today, Hans?’ ‘Oh, how about three pounds of strudel? That ought to get me through the rest of the afternoon, anyway, dear.’” He tossed an errant sock down onto Carter’s head.
“Well it was just an idea,” Carter defended himself.
The bunk above the tunnel rose up and Hogan and Kinch climbed out. Hogan looked grim. “What was an idea?” he asked.
“Carter ’ere thought the Krauts might do us a favour and get Le Beau what he needs to make Schultz more strudel to keep him distracted the next time we go digging,” Newkirk said.
Kinch shook his head. “I’m sure he would if he could,” he said with a small smile. He stopped smiling when Hogan pulled his jacket straight and sighed, heading to the stove.
“Let’s hope he doesn’t get any ideas to do that Tuesday night,” Hogan said. “I’d hate to run into him in Hammelburg.”
The others gave Hogan startled looks. Le Beau started by rambling in French, then finally switched to English when he realised no one was answering him. “Colonel, what are you talking about?”
“London finally got in touch,” he said, swirling the coffee in his cup and turning reluctantly toward his men. “They’ve been going heavy on the ammo lately because they want us to blow a couple of bridges and an ammunitions dump nearby.”
Newkirk let out a low whistle.
“What’s that got to do with Hammelburg?” Carter asked.
“An Underground agent is holding the information on guard postings, planned troop movements, that type of thing,” Hogan explained. “And we can only get it by going into town.”
The others all began talking at once. Hogan stopped trying to make out the words as a headache started behind his eyes. But he knew the men were angry, and he couldn’t say he blamed them.
“Going into town?” Le Beau burst. “Have they forgotten we are prisoners? How are we supposed to go into town? We get spotted by one German and it’s curtains!”
Hogan nodded thoughtfully. “Exactly. That’s why I’ll be going. I’m not taking a chance on any of you fellas being caught. If anything goes wrong, it’s on my head alone; you know nothing. Got it?”
“I don’t like it, Colonel,” Newkirk said. “London’s gone barmy. Tell them we can’t do it.”
“So what’s the point of this operation then?” Hogan shot back. “I agreed to do whatever it took. And if I can’t get out of here myself, then I can make damned sure the Krauts are uncomfortable for as long as possible.” He stopped to regain the composure he was sure he was losing. “I have to follow orders. I’ll get in there somehow.”
The others fell into an uneasy silence. Helping escaped prisoners was one thing; when they brought a man up through the tunnel or handed him over to the Underground for transport back to England they felt triumphant, like they had won a small victory over their captors. But this was something different. London was asking them to walk straight into enemy territory, unprotected, and completely exposed.
“But you will be in uniform, Colonel—you’ll be captured immediately,” Le Beau said quietly.
“London’s thought of that,” Kinch said, unhappy himself with the whole idea. He empathized with the protests of the others, but he could see how hard it was for Hogan already, and chose to support him not by declaring the injustice of it all, but rather by keeping silent. “They’re sending down a civilian suit with tonight’s drop. We’ll just have to tailor it to look right.”
“Even worse,” Le Beau muttered. “Being caught out of uniform.”
Hogan’s continued silence stopped Le Beau from saying more.
“Why so many hits at once, Colonel?” Carter asked. “I mean, we’re only starting out. Shouldn’t we start small?”
“It’s simple, Carter: there’s a lot of work to be done. If we pull it off without a hitch, great. If we don’t, and we face the firing squad, at least they’ll have accomplished something before we’re blindfolded and put up against the wall.”
Just One Drop Tonight, Thanks
“I’m not so sure I like the idea of something like nitroglycerin being dropped out of an airplane,” Hogan said under his breath, as he and Carter waited in the damp underbrush for the Allied plane to deliver their parcel.
“Don’t worry, Colonel,” Carter answered. “If they packed it wrong, we’ll never know.”
Hogan did a double take before pointing out the lights approaching in the distance overhead. “That’s it,” he said. He held up one of the large, powerful flashlights that had been sent by airdrop soon after Hogan had first agreed to the command at Stalag 13. Flicking the light on and off in the agreed code, he squinted in the weak moonlight, trying to see the delivery being expelled from the aircraft. He was surprised to see not one, but two parcels, and he motioned for Carter to take cover as the parachutes opened to slow the descent of the articles.
A soft thud indicated the boxes had made contact with the ground. Carter tried to spring up from his crouched position, but Hogan held him back, anxious that someone might have seen the drop and was coming. After about five minutes of silence, Hogan cautiously straightened and motioned for Carter to follow. Pulling the parachute out of the way, Hogan ran his hand along the top of the first parcel. It was cold to the touch. He furrowed his brow and looked at Carter.
“You have to keep nitro cold to transport it, or it could explode,” Carter explained.
Hogan stared at the enthusiastic Sergeant. “The fact that you know this stuff, Carter, both fascinates and terrifies me,” Hogan replied. He shook his head. “We’d better get a move on, then. I’m nervous enough as it is without worrying about keeping explosives nicely chilled.” He turned and looked at the other, larger parcel. “So these must be the civilian clothes.”
Hogan detached the parcels from the parachutes while Carter folded the cumbersome material to make it easier to carry. When they finished, Hogan tested the weight of the bigger container and found it to be fairly light. Carter eagerly volunteered to carry the parachutes and the cold parcel, and it was with some reluctance that Hogan consented. Not only was he concerned about Carter’s natural clumsiness, but he was also worried that if something did go wrong, that it would be one of his men who was seriously injured. But Carter was so pleading that Hogan sighed and settled on giving him stern lectures about safety, then made sure he watched every step the non-com made.
The sound of footsteps moving in the underbrush as they headed for the hollowed-out tree stump pulled them up. Hogan and Carter tried to make themselves small and thin behind a couple of trees nearby, Carter doing his best to keep the parachute material from peeking out, Hogan holding his larger box as close in front of him as possible. Holding their breath, they waited, and out of the corner of his eye, Hogan saw the barrel of a German rifle, followed quickly by a uniformed patrol officer, and three more just like him. He glanced over and saw Carter squeeze his eyes shut, as though not being able to see the enemy would make him invisible to them as well. Hogan took another deep breath himself and closed his eyes, only to open them quickly when scenes of Connecticut unexpectedly flashed through his mind.
The footsteps faded, and Hogan allowed himself to breathe out. Ever so slowly poking his head around the tree, he looked for any sign that the patrol was still in the area. Hearing nothing but still not satisfied, he decided to wait for another minute before coming out and nudging Carter, who was still standing, eyes closed tight. The Sergeant nearly jumped when he felt Hogan’s touch; Hogan brought a hand up to Carter’s mouth as the young man regained his equilibrium. When Carter’s wildly widened eyes recognized his commanding officer, Hogan released his hold and Carter relaxed.
Hogan gestured with his eyes toward the trail they had been following. Carter nodded and pulled away from the tree. As he reached the clearing, Hogan scanned the immediate area once, then twice, then turned as he heard an “Oomph” from behind, and reached out just in time to stop Carter from falling into him. Hogan frantically put his hand up against the now less-than-freezing box that was slipping from Carter’s grasp. Carter dropped the parachutes and grappled for a good hold. Hogan continued steadying the parcel for a moment, the sweat of quiet panic cooling on his face, calming his breathing and watching to make sure Carter didn’t lose his footing again.
“Sorry, Colonel—tree root sticking up,” Carter whispered sheepishly.
Hogan exhaled heavily and briefly closed his eyes. Then, feeling more in control, he picked up the parcel he had abandoned in his rush to stop the nitroglycerin from crashing to the ground, and motioned for Carter to retrieve the parachutes, all the while looking around for German patrols. He nodded and then they headed back to the camp, hoping there would be no more tree roots—or anything else—to impede their progress.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Careful—careful!” Hogan ordered, as Carter started unwrapping the small package about half an hour later in the tunnel under Barracks Two. Le Beau, Kinch, and Newkirk had been anxious to join them there, pelting them with questions about their tardiness. Hogan simply told them they had seen a patrol and needed to be cautious on their return, then turned his attention to the parcels.
“No problem, Colonel, I’m used to dealing with this stuff,” Carter tried to assure Hogan. He continued to almost offhandedly pull apart the outer wrapping.
Le Beau covered his eyes and turned away. “I cannot watch,” he muttered.
“I’m telling you, it’s okay!” Carter insisted. Suddenly he slowed down and his face got serious. “All right, here’s where it gets tricky.”
Hogan looked at the others, the tension in the closed area almost physical. “Okay, fellas, back off,” he said. “Leave this to Carter.”
Newkirk, Le Beau, and Kinch backed up a bit, around a curve in the tunnel that led further out toward the exit. “It’s like mother’s milk to you, mate,” Newkirk said as he passed Carter. “You’ll be all right.”
“I know,” Carter said, concentrating. “Thanks, Newkirk.”
Hogan stood near Carter, watching. “You can back off, too, if you want, Andrew,” he said. “I can open it.”
Carter looked up, surprised. “Gee, Colonel, I don’t mind,” he said. “But if you’re uncomfortable, you can join the others.”
Hogan fought the urge to do just that. Carter might be clumsy, but he’s no idiot when it comes to this stuff. You’ll be okay…stay where you are. “I’ll stay right here.”
Carter shrugged and slowly removed the tissue-like paper covering the goods inside the parcel. Inside was a very flattened, very wrinkled, pale brown trench coat. Hogan let out a breath when he realised he had been holding it, then glanced at the others, who were still peering from around the corner, flinching back out of sight any time Carter’s hand seemed to move more quickly than they liked. Carter just looked up at Hogan, very gingerly unrolled the jacket, and revealed the vials inside that they had been waiting for. He held one up for Hogan to see, stopper in place and still cool to the touch. Hogan nodded and took the vial with extreme care, waiting as Carter pulled out three others. He handed one to Hogan and took the other two himself. Looking for a place to put them, Hogan’s eyes finally lighted on a smaller, empty box that had once held their Red Cross rations. Trying desperately to keep his hands steady, Hogan placed one, then the other of his vials in it. Carter followed suit, and audible sighs of relief could be heard from the trio in hiding.
Carter then picked up the coat and shook it out, Hogan still half turning away in case Carter had missed anything explosive before he started agitating the material. But all was well and Carter handed the garment to Hogan. Anxiety still playing on them, the others emerged from their exile but were silent as Hogan then headed for the second container. He carefully opened the lid, then looked up. “Kinch, give me a hand, will you?” he asked.
Kinch approached and looked into the box. “That looks like an—”
“—ice-cream maker,” Hogan finished, hauling out the wooden, barrel-like contraption. “Why on earth—?” He put it on the floor of the tunnel, then opened the top. “A note,” he said. “‘Use this and the enclosed rock salt to keep the nitro cool and stable. Silica and paper will be available to you via the Underground.’” Hogan glanced inside the container. “Guess they figured we didn’t have an ice box,” he said. Standing, he looked back in the box that had held the appliance. “There’s the rest of the suit. No cocoa to make chocolate ice-cream, though. Looks like we’re stuck with vanilla.”
“When we get electricity under here maybe we can make ice-cream for real,” Carter said hopefully.
“Foster says he can start extending the wiring down here day after tomorrow,” Kinch added.
“Good; I think we can all use a treat. Maybe in the next drop we’ll get some fresh milk.” Hogan sighed and considered his bunk. “Come on; we’ve done enough for tonight. Carter, let’s get the nitro into this thing and then turn in. We’ve got an awful lot to do tomorrow.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Was haben Sie hier zu suchen?” asked Corporal Thomas Baumgartner the next morning.
“Ich bin wegen eines Verkaufstreffens hier,” Hogan answered.
“Woher kommen Sie?” Baumgartner asked accusingly.
“Düsseldorf.” Hogan shrugged.
“Zeigen Sie mir Ihre Reisepapiere.”
“Travel papers?” Hogan asked. Baumgartner nodded. “Sehr gern, mein Herr.”
“Sie sind also ein Suesswarenerzeuger?”
“Ich finde, belgische Schokolade ist die Suesse.”
“No, Colonel,” corrected Baumgartner. “You have just called Belgian chocolate your sweetheart. Try again—the word for German word for ‘sweetest’ is suesseste, not Suesse.”
Hogan shook his head, frustrated. He was tired after over three hours of intensive German lessons, and was finding this part—learning the transmitted recognition code—maddening. “Ich finde, belgische Schokolade ist die suesseste,” he said.
“Much better,” Baumgartner said. “Ich ziehe Schweizer Schokolade vor.”
“Ich finde, Schweizer Schokolade ist zu sues.”
“Perhaps you would prefer American.”
Hogan sighed and ran his hand down his face. “Belgian chocolate, Swiss chocolate—what’s this all got to do with it anyway?” he asked.
“Plenty if you end up facing a Kraut, Colonel,” Baumgartner said. “You already know some of this, sir. But you’re going to have to talk like a native if you get stopped by someone.”
“I know, I know,” Hogan said resignedly. “That’s why I called for you in the first place—I need someone who knows the language that can teach me all the finer points.” He stretched and looked at the young Army Air Corps prisoner. “What’s next?”
“We’ll need to work on your accent. And you need to learn the proper greetings and military courtesies. But let’s go on to something simple for awhile: ‘Good evening,’ and ‘To your health.’”
Hogan yawned and rubbed his eyes. “Isn’t there anything more pleasant—like, ‘Would you care to join me in this dance?’ and ‘Let me take you back to Connecticut, fraulein’?”
“Guten abend, Colonel Hogan.”
“Guten abend, Corporal,” Hogan sighed. “Guten abend.”
Angels and Saints
“Dynamite was first invented in 1866,” Carter was saying later that day. “Alfred Nobel invented it, along with blasting caps. His brother, Emil, was killed in one of the blasts, but that didn’t put him off, no, sir, boy, he just kept trying until he got it right.”
“How many fingers did ’e lose in the process?” Newkirk asked, still getting used to Carter’s happy rambling about his explosives and other dangerous materials.
“Gee, Newkirk, I don’t know,” Carter mused. “He must have still had some, or he wouldn’t have been able to do the experiments. Of course, he might have had someone else follow his instructions. I mean, I’m sure there were plenty of people in Sweden who would have been happy to do what he said to do… but you know, I’m not sure I’d keep working if something I did had killed my little brother—”
“Carter!” Hogan interrupted, turning from the stove where he had poured a strong cup of coffee. “I’m sure whatever he did was done with all his fingers attached.” He sighed and headed for his office. “I’ll be in my office, learning German. Let me know if anything comes up.”
Hogan closed the door to his office behind him and sat down on the bottom bunk. He reached underneath his thin woodchip mattress for the German lesson notes, then changed his mind and pulled out a letter. He let his eyes run over the handwriting. Hi, Mom. He sat down heavily and opened the envelope, releasing the light scent of perfumed stationery covered with a frilly flower pattern that his mother was known for. He smiled briefly, then let the façade drop when he saw the black marks obliterating his mother’s writing on the page.
Dearest Rob, the letter began, Every time I sit down to write I realize that you are far from home during this terrible time of war, and every day I pray to God that you are safe and well. ~~I’m safe, Mom. At the moment.~~ I worry about you, flying all those missions over Germany. But I know you are doing what you must, and I support and love you. ~~I know you hated my leaving, Mom. But I had to follow orders. And I had to help the Allies…somehow.~~
Hogan looked at the next section of the letter, blacked out and unreadable. He knew that his mother had sent this letter expecting him to receive it in England. He had not yet received any mail from people already knowing he was in a Luftwaffe Prisoner of War camp, and he dreaded the day that happened—the fear and pain in the letters would be almost unbearable to accept. He had kept his own letters home since his capture short. He didn’t want to lie to his family, but he knew everything he wrote was being studied, so he couldn’t explain that he was really still working for the Allies, that he had accepted the command of a sabotage and intelligence unit in the middle of enemy territory, that he got out of camp often. That he was coming back to this living hell by choice, to continue his work, and that Tuesday night he was going to raise the stakes even higher, by appearing in the middle of Hammelburg, surrounded by Germans, pretending to be one of them.
You know you remain close to my heart, my dear son. I light a candle in front of Our Lady every Sunday for your safe return, and pray to St Joseph of Cupertino, St George, Our Lady of Loretto, and St Michael. ~~Pulling out all the stops, eh, Mom? No wonder I’ve made it so far. I’ve got a whole legion of saints watching over me.~~
Hogan sighed and stopped reading. He didn’t want to hear about his older brother’s exploits, his home town fair. He didn’t want to see anything that reminded him of Connecticut; he just wanted to be there. Lately his dreams had been taking him home, making him feel warm and comforted. It only made it all the harder when he woke up and faced his reality. Not only wasn’t he in Connecticut; he wasn’t even in England, where he had been assigned as an American flying ace to help the RAF. Technically, he was free—he was still on assignment, under cover and in control. But when it came down to it, he was as much a prisoner as the next man. If he took a chance, if he did the wrong thing, he could be shot on sight, without a trial, without anyone to mourn him. The thought was sobering, and he didn’t want to mix it with his family.
Hogan shoved the letter back under his mattress and stood up. “Ich finde, belgische Schokolade ist die Suesse…die suesseste.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Helga Vibbard sat at her desk in the antechamber of Kommandant Klink’s office, wrinkling her nose as she tried to translate the officer’s handwriting for a letter he wanted her to type. It was always like this: if Klink was in the middle of a train of thought, he rarely called her in to take notes. The problem was, his train often ran off the tracks, and she was no good at search and rescue, and this letter, as far as she could see, was being written to General Bernstein. The dilemma here, though, was that there was no General Bernstein on the Fuhrer’s staff. Indeed, there was hardly likely to be a Bernstein anywhere free in Nazi Germany.
Helga sighed, playing with her braids, and tried to bring her mind back to the work at hand. She was grateful when the door to the building opened and the senior POW and one of his men walked in, leaving her free to forget the puzzle in front of her. “Guten morgen, Colonel Hogan,” she greeted, flashing one of her most winning smiles. There weren’t a lot of perks to working in a POW camp, surrounded by uptight German brass, people barging in and out of the building at all hours of the day, raising their voices, threatening transfers to the Eastern Front. But Helga’s parents had always taught her to look on the up-side. And in this case, that meant getting to occasionally encounter a good-looking enemy prisoner. Colonel Hogan definitely qualified.
“It’s a morgen, all right, Helga,” Hogan answered, approaching the desk. He made a slight movement with his head to coax Le Beau over toward the filing cabinets. “I’m not so sure about the guten part, though.” He came and sat on her desk, blocking some of her paperwork from sight.
“Now, Colonel Hogan, you are supposed to say that seeing a pretty girl makes any morning a good one,” she chided him gently.
Hogan smiled. True, he was here to do a job, and that was uppermost in his mind. But he couldn’t help but be enticed by the pretty, petite blonde looking up at him from under those long eyelashes. Her blouse was just tight enough to remind Hogan of some of the nicer differences between men and women, and the smell of her perfume nearly made him dizzy with sudden desire. And she had to smile with those beautiful, full lips, he thought. If she were willing, and there wasn’t a man with a gun standing right outside this door…
“My apologies,” he conceded gallantly. “Been surrounded by goons—uh, Germans—too long. So, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” he asked, watching Le Beau carefully easing open the top drawer of a cabinet behind Helga’s head.
“Making a living,” she said, deftly moving some papers across the desk and away from the American, just as Hogan lowered his head to bring his face close to her cheek.
“Mmm,” Hogan said, still searching for contact, “you call working for Klink making a living?”
“Well, when jobs are few and far between, a girl has to take what she can get,” Helga answered, trying to sound serious but failing miserably. She allowed herself to look at the handsome officer. “And I speak English, so I was one of the first in line for this one.”
Hogan took advantage of the peek and leaned in close, holding her hands in place on the desk. She looked into his eyes, taken in, and, after seeing that Le Beau was still safe from discovery during his exploration of the office, he looked back into hers. “I’m sure there are better things you could be doing. How about defecting?” He planted a very gentle kiss on her cheek. “I could take you to a lovely little house in Connecticut when the war is over, sehr gern, Suess,” Hogan said.
“I’m afraid that’s a little far away from Hammelburg,” Helga replied, turning toward her typewriter. Her sudden movement plunged Hogan to reality—he had just revealed knowledge of the German language. Hogan shot a warning look at Le Beau. The Frenchman nodded and pointed to another cabinet that had been in Helga’s sight before, but which was now behind her. Hogan nodded and then turned his nervous attention back to Klink’s secretary.
“Uh—is Klink in?” he asked, waiting silently for her to catch him out.
Helga rolled a piece of paper into her typewriter. “Ja, Colonel Hogan,” she said. “He is expecting you.”
“Mm-hmm. I heard him saying just this morning that it had been suspiciously long since you were in here trying to get more privileges for your men.” She smiled at him as he leaned over her keys. “He was wondering how long it would be before you were back.”
Hogan smiled, relaxing a bit. “Well, I’m a big fan of all things Swiss… including Geneva and its conventions.” He looked at her more intently.
Le Beau tried waving some papers above his head for Hogan to see, but he could not get his commander’s attention. Finally, he hid the documents under his heavy jacket, and silently snuck out of the office.
She smiled back at him. “Would you care to go in?” she asked.
“Uh-huh,” Hogan answered vaguely, finding himself getting lost in her eyes.
“I’ll announce you,” she said, standing. Hogan’s eyes followed her flawless face. “If you’re sure your Corporal Le Beau is finished with his business,” she added, her eyes twinkling.
Hogan’s face fell and he felt a chill go through him. “Finished with his—”
“Don’t worry, Suess,” Helga said. “I’ll never tell.” Hogan swallowed, hard. “A girl has to get nylons somehow.”
Hogan shook his head, trying to get a handle on what was happening. “What?—Uh, I don’t think I can get you—”
Helga put her fingers over his lips. “You’ll have time,” she said. “I don’t think you’re going anywhere. Are you?”
Hogan tried to smile confidently, but he was still too disconcerted. Helga, however, maintained her secretive smile, and knocked on the door to Klink’s office. Klink’s voice called from inside and Helga opened the door. “Colonel Hogan to see you, Kommandant,” she said.
Klink called for Hogan to come in, and Helga turned back to the American. “The Kommandant will see you now,” she said. In a low voice, she added, “And I will see you whenever you are carrying what you have promised me.”
Hogan started to answer, then thought the better of it. As he passed her to go into the office, he asked, “Why are you—?”
“Let’s just say I and my Dutch grandparents are not sure who the master race is, Colonel Hogan. But I have a feeling it’s not those who are so willing to believe in the inferiority of everyone else.”
Hogan looked at her, in a much different light than he had dozens of times before. Sincerely, he said, “I wish I did have something to give you.”
Helga smiled. “You will, Colonel Hogan. Somehow I know you will, one day. I can wait.”
He squeezed her arm. “How did I ever come across an angel like you?” he asked.
“You must have someone watching over you,” Helga answered, returning to her desk.
Hogan thought fleetingly of the letter from home nestled under his mattress and didn’t doubt her statement for a second.
“Colonel Hogan, I am tired of hearing about the Geneva Convention!” Klink said, waving his arm in a gesture of dismissal, and turning back to the sea of paperwork on his desk.
“I’m sorry, Kommandant, but it’s one of the things we prisoners depend on to get us through this miserable war. It’s not my fault there’s a document in the camp library for everyone to read—we don’t have anything else to do, so we glance at it every now and then.”
“Glance at it?” Klink snorted. “You quote me exact entries—Paragraph Five, Section Three A; Clause Two, Section Four.... Hogan, I have enough to do today.”
“Well, then, all you have to do is agree to my request and I’ll be out of your—hair,” Hogan finished, thinking as he looked at Klink’s bald pate that perhaps that wasn’t the best choice of words.
“Hogan, I am not going to allow the prisoners to use the Recreation Hall as a home for wayward animals!”
“Oh, but sir—just last week, the fellas watched a poor lost lamb wander outside past the barbed wire. We could have taken that creature in with no trouble at all!” Hogan crossed his arms, seemingly lost in thought. “Though, I admit, it probably wouldn’t have made it past Le Beau’s kitchen. If he could pry it away from Carter.”
“Hogan, I don’t have time for this. What else did you come here for?”
Done with the regular business of keeping Klink off balance, Hogan got down to his duties as senior POW officer. “There’s a hole in the roof of Barracks Three. Last rain that came through washed out two of the bunks, and the mattresses haven’t been replaced yet.”
“Take Sergeant Schultz to go get them now, then, Hogan.”
“What about the roof?”
“I’ll get someone to work on that soon.”
“We’re going to have another storm soon; you can see it in the skies. And if one of my men catches pneumonia, I’m gonna make sure he comes in here and coughs all over you.”
“I wouldn’t be so smug if I were you, Colonel Hogan,” Klink said, standing. “General Burkhalter called this morning…and he says Berlin still has a very active interest in you. You could be coughing out of the other side of your mouth before long.”
For the second time since walking into this building, Hogan felt like he’d been punched in the gut. His transfer to Stalag Luft 13 had been preceded by a lengthy and more than slightly unpleasant stay at the Durschgangslager der Luftwaffe and the hospital at Hohemark, followed by internment at the Wetzlar transition camp. And when he was finally sent to his new wartime home, he was not forgotten, interrogated daily by Klink, and revisited by the Gestapo, all searching for information that he may have had as a much-wanted target of the Third Reich. In the last few weeks, Hogan had finally started to relax. The Gestapo had left him alone after a final dawn visit that included some roughing up in the cooler, and even Klink had stopped asking him questions; he seemed to sense that he wasn’t going to get any information out of Hogan that wasn’t now several months old. Now, Klink was telling him the peace that had allowed Hogan to physically and mentally begin to recover was only an interlude.
Now, it was about to start all over again.
“You mean another ‘unannounced’ visit from the Gestapo?” Hogan managed, breathless.
“Now, Hogan, I told you I did not know they were going to show up that morning; I had nothing to do with it.”
“And you did nothing to stop it.” Hogan straightened, still reeling at the unexpected blow. “I’ll, uh, get Schultz to get those mattresses.”
“Colonel Hogan—” called Klink, as the American offered a weak salute and turned to go. Hogan stopped. “I trust you won’t try to escape this time; you know how useless that turned out to be the last time.”
Hogan thought back Yeah. We managed to get the final piece of the radio transmitter from the Underground. A few more useless escape attempts like that and we could win the war. “I wouldn’t dream of it, Kommandant.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Here is the stationery you wanted, Colonel,” Le Beau offered. He spread out several sheets of paper on Hogan’s desk. “I took a little of everything—and managed to get some travel orders for some of the guards as well.”
Hogan nodded approval as he studied the papers. “Good work. We’ll need to make sure those get put back in case someone comes looking for them. We’ll get these to Newkirk, and he can start forging me some candy-maker’s travel documents right away.”
“I still don’t understand the candy-maker business, Colonel,” Le Beau admitted.
“Easy; I need a cover when I’m out there, just in case,” Hogan explained. “And it had to be outlandish enough that only the real contact would know what to say. Less chance of being caught in a trap.”
Le Beau shrugged. “I suppose.”
“He is on the radio with the Underground. They are organising getting the rest of what we need for the dynamite. And telling us how to recognize your contact on Tuesday night.”
“Good. Let’s get down there.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“That’s good, that’s good,” Carter was saying when Hogan and Le Beau made their way down the ladder. The two of them approached the small table where the Sergeant was obviously trying to instruct Newkirk in some delicate procedure involving the materials he had in front of him. Newkirk didn’t look at all at ease.
“What’s going on?” Hogan asked.
“Carter’s trying to make a demolition man out of me,” Newkirk declared, clearly not happy with the idea.
“Carter?” queried Hogan.
“Well, gee, sir, I thought we might as well put this stuff to good use,” Carter said. “We can make some lovely bombs out of this.” He pointed to the ice-cream maker that was still holding the nitroglycerin. Someone had replenished the rock salt around the outside of it.
“That’s supposed to be for dynamite,” Hogan reminded him.
“Oh, it will be, Colonel. There’s just so much of it, I thought it would be worth making some other types of explosives. I mean, London wants us to do a lot of work; sometimes dynamite isn’t the best stuff to use.”
Hogan shrugged. “I’ll leave that to your expertise, Carter. Just make sure I have the same number of saboteurs I started with by the time your lessons are completed.”
Newkirk shot Hogan a pleading look. Hogan only offered a resigned smile.
“Here’s the low-down from London, Colonel,” Kinch said, appearing from behind his radio. Hogan turned to him as Le Beau decided to study the progress of Carter and Newkirk. “The Underground can have a contact ready with silica and blasting caps tomorrow night, waiting at area B14 at twenty-one hundred thirty hours. They’ve given us a recognition code and details to follow. And your contact will be at a place in Hammelburg called the Hauserhoff at twenty-two hundred hours tomorrow, wearing a pink carnation. London says the contact will know the code you’ve been taught.”
“In German uniform?” Hogan asked.
“They didn’t say, Colonel; they just said you’d know when you saw the contact.”
Hogan nodded. “All right. Sounds like they want the lot of us out of here at once. That’ll be interesting. Kinch, you’re going to need to be the eyes and ears tomorrow night—if there’s trouble here you’re going to need to be able to contact me at the Hauserhoff. Make sure know how to contact me there so you can call me if something hits here. Carter and Le Beau will head out to get the silica and the caps, and Newkirk’s going to run diversion if we need it. I’m not looking forward to this,” he sighed.
“It’s quite a step, Colonel. We’ve never gone out into the open before,” Kinch acknowledged.
“No, and I’d like to think they won’t ask us to do it again.” Hogan rubbed the back of his neck tiredly. “I think they’re trying to keep me to my part of the bargain now: do whatever it takes to injure the enemy, even though that means being scared out of your wits.”
Kinch smiled understandingly and hopped back upstairs. Hogan was about to follow when his attention was caught by a ruckus nearby.
“Well, what do I do with it now?” Newkirk was asking impatiently, obviously exasperated, and, Hogan thought, a little bit panicked.
“What’s going on?” Hogan asked, approaching the trio.
“Carter is teaching Newkirk how to assemble a bomb,” Le Beau explained. “But he is having some trouble explaining it.”
“What am I supposed to do now?” Newkirk sputtered. “I can’t let it go!”
“Well, I told you not to let the wires touch!” Carter defended himself.
“What you actually said, Carter my mate, was ‘Now push all that together—excellent work, Newkirk—oh, but first I should have told you to make sure those two wires aren’t touching!’” Newkirk declared.
“All right, all right,” Hogan said, trying to make peace. “Carter, what can he do now? What happens when the wires touch?”
“Gee, Colonel, it primes the bomb,” Carter answered.
“So it’s live? Now?” Hogan asked, quickly growing alarmed.
“Well, sure,” Carter answered. “If Newkirk puts it down, it’ll go off in ten seconds.”
“Swell!” Hogan said. “Carter, I don’t happen to have any target in mind at the moment. Do you expect Newkirk to stand here holding this for the next two days while we get our information from the Underground?”
“Oh, no, sir, Colonel,” Carter answered. “All I have to do is this—” Carter very gently reached over to Newkirk’s quivering hands and pulled the wires apart. “There.”
Everyone suddenly breathed out. Still cautious, Hogan said, “And that’s it?”
“That diffuses the bomb? It’s safe for Newkirk to put down now?”
Carter relaxed and grinned. “Oh that—yeah, sure it is. It’s okay now. All I had to do was separate the wires. I like to keep my creations simple.”
Newkirk breathed a heavy sigh of relief and promptly dumped the contraption back in Carter’s hands. “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” he demanded.
“Well, no one asked,” Carter answered. “I was just saying it was primed; I didn’t say it couldn’t be diffused again.”
Hogan raised his eyes and, shaking his head, turned to go back up into the barracks. Lucky for him he’s a genius at this stuff… otherwise, I’d have to kill him.
“So you fellas are clear, absolutely clear, on what you have to do tonight?” Hogan asked again, as Newkirk fussed around him, fixing up the lapels of the dark suit London had sent and Hogan had now put on.
“Oui, Colonel,” Le Beau answered. “We will go and come as quickly as possible.”
“What’s the name of your contact?”
“Peter Pan!” Hogan echoed, shaking his head. “I’d better brush up on all my fairy tales for this command; mine is Mother Goose.” Newkirk continued fussing with Hogan’s tie. Hogan pushed the Corporal’s hand away when it got too much, went to the small mirror in his office, and straightened it himself. “Don’t forget your recognition code,” he said over his shoulder.
The others followed him into his office. “Of course, Colonel,” Le Beau replied. “‘It’s a long way to Never Land.’”
“‘But if you believe, you can fly!’” Carter finished, pleased.
Hogan, finished with his preening, picked up the trench coat from his bunk and turned to his men. Whistles and gentle catcalls greeted him. “Very nice, Colonel,” Newkirk said. “If I do say so myself.”
Hogan smiled mildly and inclined his head. “You did a good job with the alterations, Newkirk. They must think prisoners of war can actually gain weight—I’ll have to talk with whoever it was that thought I’d take a 44. I didn’t even take that size when I was eating well back in London.” Hogan pulled on the new coat, suddenly caught in his own thoughts.
“You’ve got your papers?” Kinch asked, kindly breaking into his memories.
Hogan patted his coat where his breast pocket was hidden underneath. “Right here. Those documents from Klink’s office were just the ticket. My travel papers look perfect. Thanks again, Newkirk.”
Newkirk nodded, nervous. Never had so much ridden on his handiwork. “You be careful tonight, Colonel,” Newkirk said quietly.
“Yeah, we’ve trained you too well to have you go off and leave us for something better,” Kinch said, trying to bring some lightness into the suddenly darkening atmosphere.
Hogan nodded, pulling the sash tight on his coat. “I have every intention of making it back here in one piece. Let’s just hope the Germans see it the same way.” Purposefully changing his mood, he added, “They may not believe I’m a local, in a debonair suit like this,” he grinned.
“I can always rough it up a bit, gov’nor. Put some Nazi insignias on the sleeves,” Newkirk offered.
“Thanks anyway,” Hogan said. “It’s bad enough having to be out there; I don’t want people throwing ‘Heil, Hitlers’ at me.”
Le Beau smiled encouragingly. “By the time you come back, Colonel, we should already have what we need to finish the dynamite.”
Hogan nodded. “Good.” He took in the looks of the four men around him, then looked inside himself. “You guys go on; I’ll be out in a minute.”
Hesitantly, Hogan’s men filed out, Kinch closing the door behind him. Hogan stood for a moment, unmoving, then reached for the Bible on his desk and sat down. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Hogan took a deep breath to steel his nerves. Well, now’s as good a time as any for You to be looking over my shoulder, he thought. Please look after my men. Please protect them.
Please protect me.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan parted company with Carter and Le Beau just outside the hollowed-out tree stump at the end of the emergency tunnel. He knew that it would take him quite some time to walk to Hammelburg, and in the cold he was grateful for the slim warmth of a suit and coat that were not threadbare and worn like most of his clothing was; the Red Cross had promised him new clothes—and a dress uniform, as well—but so far that just hadn’t been possible, and the wash-and-wear routine was starting to tell on his existing garments. A stiff, bitter wind gusted suddenly, and, shivering, Hogan pulled his collar up around his neck and shoved his hands deeper into his pockets. Gloves would have been a nice touch.
Hogan knew he wouldn’t be able to keep his hands protected for long; the flashlight he carried under his clothes was going to be needed soon. The moonlight was some help, but it wouldn’t be enough if he had to come off the main road and into the brush. Unwillingly and unbidden, memories of his first foray out of the camp came to the fore. He had been a relatively new prisoner, trying to escape from Stalag 13 when it became known that the Gestapo was coming back to question him the following day. He had resisted initially—so many others had been ahead of him. But the men had insisted that he go first, and so he did. Wounded, exhausted, and scared out of his mind, Hogan had nonetheless tried to go along with the initial plan: meet up with Oskar Schnitzer, the elderly man who changed the dogs, and get out of Germany with the help of the Underground, of which Schnitzer was a part. But it hadn’t worked quite to plan, and with Schnitzer’s help, Hogan had actually voluntarily returned to camp, carrying with him the final piece of a radio transmitter that the prisoners needed in order to start planning their own escapes.
How ironic that turned out to be, Hogan thought, as he put those incidents next to the fact that Stalag 13 was now effectively, voluntarily, escape-free, at least in the eyes of their German captors. He pushed the thoughts out of his mind, and bowed his head against the now biting cold, forcing himself to walk more quickly, as images of the big fireplace in his family home burning brightly consumed him, until he could almost feel the tingling of the warmth on his cheeks.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“But if you believe, you can fly,” Carter said.
The man crouched nearby straightened and offered his hand. “I was not sure you would come; there have been many patrols out tonight.”
“We did not have many choices,” Le Beau replied, shuddering at the thought. Though he and Carter had done their best to remain completely silent, they had seen one such patrol, and stayed in hiding until they were certain of their safety. It had not occurred to either of them that there might have been yet another patrol so close by.
“We have what you need. Do you know how to use it?”
“Oh, sure,” Carter said. “That’s easy.” He opened his mouth to start explaining what he knew about the construction of dynamite, but was stopped by Le Beau, who interrupted.
“Oui, we do know what needs to be done,” the Frenchman cut in.
Peter Pan nodded as he handed over the boxes. “Something else you need to know. The Germans are converting the old factory a few miles from here into a munitions plant. If they can get it fully operational, it will mean they can replenish the troops at the front twice as quickly as they can now.”
Le Beau nodded grimly. “We will tell Papa Bear,” he said. “Thank you for everything, mon ami.”
“I wish we could do more.”
“You will,” Le Beau assured him. “Now go, while you can. Bonne chance.”
They watched as their contact disappeared into the woods. Le Beau nudged Carter, who seemed rooted in place after Peter Pan had told them about another plant in the area. “Let’s get back. The Colonel has enough to worry about without us freezing to death out here.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan stood on the landing just inside the front door of the Hauserhoff, letting the blood start to recirculate through his fingers and toes. He had had to take cover in the woods more than once on his trek from the camp, thanks to German patrols tramping noisily past. Though when home in New England Hogan actually quite enjoyed the winter weather, he had not spent an extended amount of time out in it since he was a teenager sledding down the hill in the nearby park, and now he remembered why. He winced as a slightly painful prickling sensation in his fingers told him his internal temperature was returning to normal, and, not wishing to draw undue attention to himself, he stepped down amongst the tables of the crowded establishment.
Despite his both mental and physical discomfort, Hogan was on full alert, his eyes scanning the room meticulously for any indication that he was being observed. A well-dressed woman, laughing too loudly at corner table, wedged in between two men in uniform; a group of civilians, toasting some private triumph; a few men noisily singing an old German folk song around a smoke-encased table; here and there, German officers and other soldiers, quietly enjoying a drink and a smoke; other, scattered, loners and couples, all looking for a brief respite from the cold and the war outside. No one sporting a pink carnation that would bring Hogan some sense of belonging.
Hogan moved slowly over to a small table toward the back of the room that was being cleaned by a young, pretty waitress. She glanced up at him as he approached and smiled. “Guten abend, mein Herr,” she greeted him.
“Abend, fraulein,” Hogan said, nodding. The girl smiled again, and Hogan wondered whether she was just being friendly, or whether she detected something unusual about him being there. You’re being paranoid, he scolded himself, and he sat down. She looked at him expectantly. “Ein Bier, bitte,” Hogan requested, not at all in the mood for any drink but coffee, or, better yet, a hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows melting together on the top, its steam snaking up to warm the tip of his nose and his cheeks.
The waitress nodded and moved away. Hogan unbuttoned his overcoat and continued to look around. Still no one, but at least no one appeared to be studying him. He wondered, briefly, how Le Beau and Carter were making out meeting their contact, and glanced at his watch. They should be headed back by now. I hope they’re safe.
Hogan was finally beginning to absorb the warmth of the room when the waitress returned. She placed the drink in front of him, and a napkin beside it. Hogan looked up to thank her and discovered that she had added a pink carnation to her attire. She smiled at him again. “Woher kommen Sie?” she asked casually.
Hogan faltered briefly, thrown off by this young, innocent woman before him. Surely she wasn’t his contact? She began to look slightly uneasy, and Hogan realized that he had to answer, even if her question had simply been asked out of politeness, and not as part of the code. “Düsseldorf.”
The girl nodded, as though praising a student for a correct answer.
“Ich bin ein Suesswarenerzeuger,” Hogan added. The girl, of course, had not asked for his travel papers; that had only been a contingency in case he was stopped by the German authorities. Still, he hoped he was doing the right thing by continuing the sequence. Hogan was nervous, and found himself sweating beneath his coat, and fleetingly wishing for some of the cold of the outside to flow across his hot brow. “Aber ich finde, belgische Schokolade ist die Suesse.”
The girl’s eyes seemed to take on a light that had not been there before. “Ich ziehe Schweizer Schokolade vor, ” she replied.
Hogan paused, his nerves fighting to get the better of him. “Ich finde, Schweizer Schokolade ist zu sues.”
A broad smile crossed the girl’s lips. “Perhaps you would prefer American,” she said almost inaudibly. Hogan nodded. “Papa Bear?” she asked.
Hogan relaxed only slightly, and nodded. “Mother Goose?”
The girl giggled. “Silly, isn’t it?” she said chidingly. Hogan smiled at her charm. She moved in closer. “Here, mein Herr,” she said. “You have soiled your coat; allow me.” She pulled a cloth out of her apron and started dabbing at Hogan’s coat. Hogan was wondering if she suspected they were being watched, when he felt something fall into his lap below the table. Glancing down, he saw a small, fat envelope. He looked at the girl, easing it nonchalantly into his pocket, and nodded. “That is fine, fraulein. Danke,” he said.
The girl straightened and smiled again. “Sophia!” came a call from the bar.
The girl gave a slight start. “That is me. I have to go,” she said.
“Danke,” Hogan said again. “Oh, look, do me a favour?” he asked.
Sophia paused. “Ja?”
Hogan smiled like a child about to ask for a sweet. “Have you got any hot chocolate?”
Hogan stayed at the table, taking a drink so he wouldn’t attract any attention by departing abruptly. Without a hot chocolate available, he settled for a strong cup of coffee, to prepare him for a long, cold walk back. The envelope Sophia had passed on to Hogan seemed to be burning a hole in his pocket, but he was clever enough to know it would be death to take it out for a look in public; that would have to wait till he was back at Stalag 13.
Hogan left some money at the table to pay for the drinks and stood up, buttoning his coat and tightening the sash in anticipation of the blast of freezing air that would hit him as he opened the door. But he was pulled up short when someone standing right in his path caught his eye.
The Cold, Cold War
Newkirk burst back into Barracks Two from the tunnel under the building and went straight into Hogan’s office, where Kinch was listening by the coffee pot that had been converted into a listening device to eavesdrop on discussions in Klink’s office. “We’ve got trouble,” Newkirk said to Kinch’s questioning look. “Big trouble.” Kinch steadied himself and waited for it. “Schultz has gone out.”
Kinch tried to think clearly, but it was difficult since Newkirk’s words had acted like a punch in the head, and he was still reeling from the blow. He nodded, frowned, and then said, “That doesn’t mean he’s going out for a night on the town. He’s supposed to be on duty tonight.” Even if he was just on duty outside the fence, Kinch thought, neither option was good news.
“I just heard from our friends in Barracks Seven, who have friends near the gate…” Newkirk sighed. He didn’t want to believe it, either. “Schultz swapped guard duty with Langenscheidt. Said he had a date with a ‘hot tomato’ and was heading to the Hauserhoff to meet her tonight.”
Kinch shook his head, stressed. “I don’t believe it.”
“Neither do I. Can you see Schultz with some hot tomato?” Newkirk shivered. “With his stomach around, he’d probably want to eat it instead of date it.”
Kinch wanted to smile but found he couldn’t. “When did he leave?”
“About ten minutes ago.”
Kinch calculated. “Colonel Hogan might be headed back by now. He might miss him totally.”
Newkirk appreciated what Kinch was trying to do—calm them both down before they panicked. But it was too late for that as far as he was concerned. “And he might not.” Kinch nodded. “We’ve gotta warn him, Kinch.”
“How?” Kinch countered. “Schultz had a car; he’ll be there by the time we manage to get through, and then what?” He slammed his fist down on Hogan’s desk, frustrated. Collecting himself, Kinch took a deep breath and then said, “Okay. We have to assume that Schultz is going to run into the Colonel. We have to find a way to get him back here, and fast.”
Newkirk nodded. “What about—?” He stopped himself. “No, it’d be too crazy to even think about.”
“No, it’s—well, I guess it’s our only chance. What if we got a car from here?”
“From here?” Kinch repeated.
“What if I got dressed up in one of those German uniforms we’ve been gathering downstairs, I take a car from the motor pool, and head into town? Then, if the gov’nor’s about to walk into trouble, I can pull him out, say I’m arresting him myself.”
“You forget one really important part—Schultz knows who you are, too.”
Newkirk grimaced. A perfectly bad plan, shot down in flames. He looked up when Kinch continued. “Still, it’s the only plan we’ve got.”
Newkirk raised his eyebrows. “What?”
“Maybe the Colonel would manage to sneak out—but he’ll need a fast way back, just in case he’s been spotted. Let’s do it.”
“Okay.” Newkirk thought unwillingly of Hogan on the run, and fretted. “We’ve got everything to lose…”
“And everything to gain. We’ve gotta make sure the Colonel gets back. He’d do the same for us.”
Newkirk nodded. “You bet he would, mate. I’ll get dressed.”
“I’ll make sure your car is ready. Let’s go.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Schultz was standing not twenty feet away from Hogan, smiling and laughing in that ringing voice that the American could not fail to recognize. I got too comfortable, Hogan panicked. I can’t believe I didn’t see him come in.
Hogan immediately lowered his head and turned away. He ran his index finger back and forth once under his nose, a nervous gesture that bought him time when his mind hadn’t caught up with circumstances yet. He realized, dismayed, that his palms were sweating and his breathing had become quick and shallow. He had thought that he might come across Germans who wanted to confirm his business in Hammelburg, but he had only been kidding when he told the men to be sure Schultz wasn’t coming into town. Klink had given no indication that he would be sending the guard out, and Schultz himself was usually quite forthcoming about his plans when he was off duty. So what had happened?
Hogan shook himself back to the present and searched the room for Sophia. He saw her a few feet away, heading back to the bar with an empty tray. He took her arm when she was alone and whispered urgently, “Is there a back way out of here? There’s an acquaintance near the door I’d rather not run into.”
Sophia stole a fast glance toward the entrance. “That large soldier?” she asked.
“Sergeant of the Guard at Stalag 13.”
“Hans?” Sophia asked.
“Hans?” Hogan repeated. “You know him?”
“He comes in once in awhile. Likes to spend time with me when he’s here. We think it is a wise idea to keep the soldiers happy. He never told me he was a prison camp guard.”
“Didn’t want to brag,” Hogan said sarcastically. “If he’s here looking for you, then standing next to you probably isn’t the best place to be. How do I get out of here?” he asked again, more insistently.
“There is a back way out, but you have to—”
“Sophia, my little tomato!” came a voice, singing from the other end of the room.
Hogan froze momentarily, then remembered how to breathe and hissed, “Get me out. Now.” He heard Schultz’s lumbering footsteps over the noisy patrons—or was that just his imagination? In either case, he knew that the waiting time was over, and if he didn’t get out in the next thirty seconds, he would be recognized, arrested, and brought back to camp—or shot.
“Come with me.” Sophia took Hogan by the arm and pulled him into a small room behind the bar—the kitchen, Hogan discovered. It was nearly deserted, with just one apparently overworked man trying to keep up with the demands of the people in the well-lit, loud room just beyond him. Sophia pointed to a door. “There. Now go. And God go with you.” She pushed Hogan toward the exit, dropped the pink carnation from her dress onto the floor, and went back into the other room.
“Ah, was that you, Hans!” Hogan heard her calling lightly.
“You keep me waiting, liebchen.” Schultz’s honey-dipped voice floated toward Hogan, making the American’s stomach tighten. “Who was that man you were with? He looked familiar…”
“Oh… a man who was too drunk to be inside, if you understand,” Sophia laughed.
Hogan didn’t wait to hear any more. If Schultz had positively identified Hogan, he wasn’t doing anything about it now. Hogan wasn’t going to tempt fate; he pushed open the door, briefly resisted the piercing wind that assaulted his face and hands, and then moved out into the night.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Geez, if I didn’t know better, Newkirk, I’d say you were born to be a Kraut.”
“What a terrible thing to say to a friend,” Newkirk retorted, trying to keep a good humor while adjusting this uncomfortable German uniform. He pulled the strap of the helmet tighter under his neck, then checked his pocket for the pistol he had hidden in there. “Car ready?”
“At your disposal, sir,” Kinch said with a slight bow. “Keys are waiting inside.”
“How did you do it?” Newkirk asked.
Kinch shrugged. “A little creative mechanics,” he replied. “Your ‘orders’ are ready, too.” He handed Newkirk a folded paper, which Newkirk glanced at before shoving into his pocket. “You’re out on special patrol tonight, by order of the Kommandant. Don’t forget it.”
“Oh, I won’t,” Newkirk vowed. He stopped fiddling suddenly and took a deep breath. “I don’t mind telling you, I’m bloody nervous,” he said, as he felt an uncomfortable bead of sweat trickle down his back. “I don’t want to think about what might be happening to Colonel Hogan.”
“Don’t,” ordered Kinch. “Concentrate on getting in and out of there safely. The Colonel’s smart enough to look after himself.” I hope.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Where the hell are you, gov’nor?
Newkirk drove as slowly as possible along the road toward Hammelburg, his only map being the one inside his head that said, “One straight road. Keep going till you hit it.” But his eyes were anywhere but on the road ahead of him. He was studying every tree, every rock, every shadow, hoping to find Colonel Hogan making his way back to camp. Well, most of him was hoping that. Some part of him was hoping he didn’t find Hogan, because if he did it would mean that anyone else could have found him, too. Cor, what a bloody mixed up war this is.
Newkirk was still marvelling at how easy it had been to get out of camp. Once he had snuck over to the motor pool and into the car that Kinch had prepared for him, he had simply waved at the guard who was stationed at the gate—and who had run from the shelter of the small hut that protected him from the elements—and driven straight out. The power of a German uniform…and a cold night.
His mind drifted back to Hogan. They had always thought of Schultz as a big teddy bear, a pussy cat, a pushover. But they had never tested him. In the end, he was just another German, a guard watching over them in a prison. An enemy. If he caught Colonel Hogan in town, that could be the end of the American. Newkirk was certain that Hogan would never betray anything the prisoners had accomplished, but being caught outside the camp—in civilian clothes, possibly with sensitive information—would sign his own death warrant.
The thought made Newkirk shiver involuntarily, and he was trembling so much that he pulled the car over to the side for a moment to collect himself. It could happen to me, too. Sitting here in German uniform. Heading into Hammelburg. What the hell am I doing? He thought of how he had reached this point. Of the trio that Hogan had become close to when first transferred to Stalag 13, Newkirk had been the last to accept the idea of willingly remaining in a prison camp. He had been reluctant to acknowledge that the crazy idea of London’s to run a sabotage and intelligence unit from a LuftStalag could work. He had watched with some incredulity as Colonel Hogan, a man treated so shockingly by the Germans upon his capture, slowly made the transition from unwilling, weary prisoner, to confident, determined leader. And then he had started to understand Hogan’s position. And he had agreed with it. And even more than that, he had come to trust the American, and so far Hogan had never let them down. ‘What the hell am I doing?’ he asked himself. I’m doing just what Colonel Hogan would be doing for me.
Thus calming himself, he pulled away from the side of the road, and continued his search.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan had passed “cold” about twenty minutes ago; then he had progressed to freezing, and now he was almost numb. Heavy pedestrian traffic had kept him hidden in the breezy, dark alley behind the Hauserhoff for quite some time, and now that he was actually heading back to Stalag 13, the wind had picked up, its bitterness ripping across his face and making it hard to draw a deep breath. He had avoided using the flashlight for as long as possible, so he could keep his hands in his pockets. But several tumbles and a couple of curses later, he had surrendered to the inevitable and had pulled out the light, swapping hands every few minutes to try to get some feeling back in his fingers.
His head bowed against the wind, Hogan’s ears nonetheless picked up the sound of an approaching vehicle, and he switched off his flashlight. Dropping it silently into his pocket, he drew himself up against the nearest tree and watched from the shadows, the freezing wind forcing his eyes to tear and making it hard to see clearly. Reluctantly, he drew his hand out of his pocket and quickly wiped at them, only to have new tears form almost instantly. This time he left them, unwilling to make a movement that could give himself away, as the approaching car seemed to come to a halt.
A car door opened and shut. Hogan pressed himself tighter to the trunk of the tree, its rough bark pushing against his back through his coat and suit. He bowed his head, this time as much to hide the light color of his face as much as to get some protection from the cold. Had he not shut off the flashlight in time?
Hogan heard as much as saw a figure moving nearby, and held his breath to keep himself as still and silent as possible. A light whistle met his ears, and Hogan frowned, thinking. Another whistle, then: “It’s a long way to Tipperary.”
Hogan sagged in relief. “It’s a long way to go,” he whispered.
The beam of a flashlight flicked on and swung over toward Hogan. “It’s a long way back to prison.”
“To the sweetest Kraut I know,” Hogan said. He pulled away from the tree. “Newkirk?”
“Colonel?” A rustling in the woods found the men face to face. “Thank God; we’ve been worried to death about you.”
“What are you doing here?” Hogan asked.
“I’ll explain on the way back to camp. Come on; I’ve got dad’s car.”
Hogan nodded and followed the Corporal back out to the road. “You’re going to get a hiding when he finds out you’ve taken it without telling Mom.”
“Thawing out a bit, gov’nor?” asked Newkirk.
Hogan sat silently next to Newkirk in the car, shivering as his body temperature struggled to come back up to normal. Blowing into his cupped hands with a shaky, hollow breath, Hogan nodded briefly then tucked his hands back under his arms, wrapping himself up as tightly as possible. A tingling sensation in his cheeks and on the tips of his ears and nose told him progress was being made, but he was in no mood to concentrate on anything right now except the prospect of something warm to drink and a blanket to wrap around him, even one of the thin, scratchy blankets they got back at Stalag 13.
“You st-still haven’t told me how you d-did this,” Hogan stammered.
“Long story,” Newkirk said. “We’re nearly there.” He pointed up ahead. “You were almost all the way back when I caught up with you.”
Hogan looked where Newkirk was pointing. There was the camp in the distance. “You’re g-going to have to leave me here,” he said. “I’ll come in th-through the tunnel. They won’t be expecting you to have a passenger, and I don’t want you to d-disappoint them.”
Newkirk nodded. “Right.” He pulled over. “I’ll just bring this baby back and then head home,” he said.
“How confident are you about being able to get in as easily as you were apparently able to get out?” Newkirk paused a beat longer than Hogan liked, so the Colonel decided, “You’d b-better leave the car outside the fence—make it look like one of Klink’s guards was a naughty boy. Come back down through the tunnel with me. I’d hate to see all your ingenuity wasted.”
Newkirk grinned. “Pop’s going to be cranky!”
“Oh,” Hogan added, “and let’s make sure it’s a bit harder to start in the morning, eh?”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Give the Colonel some coffee; the man’s an ice block,” Newkirk declared as he followed Hogan up the ladder and into Barracks Two.
Hogan moved towards the stove in the middle of the room, as Le Beau came up behind him, tugging at the sash on his coat. “Here, Colonel,” he said, “you need to let the warm air in.”
Hogan didn’t feel like being fussed over but let Le Beau go through his paces, relieved just to see he and Carter had made it back safely. He reached for a cup and felt its warmth seep into his still-cold hand, and shakingly let Kinch fill it. He brought it up to his mouth and sighed as the steam from the brew tickled his face. He turned to make sure Newkirk was also getting warmed up, and offered him a cup to be filled as well. “Nice to be home,” he said simply. The others nodded. “Now what’s been going on?”
“Schultz headed out to the Hauserhoff tonight, Colonel, so we wanted to warn you,” Kinch said. “The only way we could think of doing it was to get there.”
“He was there, all right,” Hogan said, taking another swallow of the thawing liquid. “And he was coming to meet my contact.”
“What—the ‘hot tomato’ was a member of the Underground?” Newkirk asked.
“‘Hot tomato?’” Hogan echoed. “Sophia, the waitress—she was the contact.” Hogan suddenly remembered what he was carrying and pulled the envelope out of his pocket. “We’ll have to make sure we get a good look at this.” He looked back at Newkirk. “Why didn’t you just call the place? Standing orders are no one takes a risk like that for one man without my say-so.”
“By the time we found out, a call would have been too late. I figured if you were on the run we could try to find you. Or if you were caught in the place, I could pretend I was a Kraut and arrest you myself,” Newkirk said, suddenly deflated. “It was a bad plan,” he admitted. “Schultz could have recognized me, too.”
“Then we’d have both been shot,” Hogan said, almost severely. Newkirk looked at the floor uncomfortably, unhappy but knowing Hogan was right. Hogan relaxed and put his hand on Newkirk’s shoulder. The Corporal looked at him. “But it was loyal and damned brave of you to do it,” he added quietly. “You probably saved my life tonight. Thanks.”
Hogan held out his hand; Newkirk, whose expression had slowly changed as Hogan’s thanks poured out, took it. “It was an honor, gov’nor,” he said quietly.
Hogan turned away, breaking the awkwardness. “But if you ever do that kind of thing again without good reason, I’ll have you court-martialled. Now get out of that awful outfit before someone mistakes you for a real Kraut and makes you stand watch tonight.”
Newkirk grinned and relaxed, and started pulling off the German uniform. “What else happened tonight? Le Beau, Carter?”
“We got everything we need, Colonel,” Le Beau began.
“We sure have, boy—uh, Colonel,” Carter added. “We’ve got silica and blasting caps and special paper for wrapping. We’ve got plenty of stuff we can use for blowing up ammo dumps and bridges and—”
“Okay, Carter, okay,” Hogan said, trying to slow the enthusiastic Sergeant down. He sat down at the table and held his coffee cup with two hands, still trying to take in the warmth of his surroundings. “Sounds good.”
“There was more, mon Colonel,” Le Beau said.
Hogan paused at the seriousness in the Frenchman’s tone. “What is it?” he asked, frowning.
“The Germans are turning an old factory nearby into a munitions plant,” Le Beau said. “The contact says that means they will be able to replenish supplies to the Bosche soldiers in double time.”
Hogan shook his head in disgust. “It means more dead men. Not to mention the number of patrols around the area will go through the roof. Did he say exactly where the plant was?”
“There’s only one factory in the immediate area, Colonel—the old confectionary plant,” Kinch put in. “I checked it out when Louis told me what the contact said.”
Hogan pursed his lips and tapped his cup with his thumbs, deep in thought. Suddenly he looked up at his ammunitions expert. “Carter, have we got enough stuff to blow up two bridges, an ammo dump, and a munitions plant?”
Carter’s eyes widened. “Gee, Colonel, the plant, too?” He scratched his head, thinking. “Well, I’m sure I have enough for the bridges. I mean that will take about… and then if I use the right mixture of silica for the stuff going for the ammo dump, and it’s placed just the right way…I suppose if we take some of the nitro and silica, and we put it together with some of the gunpowder I’ve been syphoning out of Schultz’s packet…and we get to the plant early enough to—”
“I take it that’s a yes?” Hogan managed to get in.
Carter stopped, shifted feet, nodded his head with a lopsided grin still spread over his face. “Oh—yeah, sure, Colonel.”
Hogan nodded approvingly. “Good. Kinch, radio London and pass on the details from Sophia. And when we talk to London about our sabotage targets, make sure they know we have to add one to the list, okay? Might as well make our debut a big one.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“We’ve made it to the cooler, Colonel.”
Hogan looked up from his desk at Kinch’s words the next day. “Already?”
“We’re still working on loosening one of the concrete blocks so we can get in. Some of the fellas have been working all night, Colonel. They were so close they didn’t want to stop.” Kinch grinned.
Hogan nodded. “Dirt all distributed?”
“No one will ever know.”
Hogan smiled in approval. “Tell the fellas we’ll have some kind of celebration soon.” Hogan tried to picture the network of tunnels being built beneath their feet. A large part of him still wanted to use it to get out of Germany himself, to get away from the bad food, and the constant vigil of enemy soldiers with guns, and the lice. To go back to the 504th which he commanded. To get back in the sky. And to try and forget the events that had brought him to Stalag 13 in the first place.
But it was not to be. He had accepted this unorthodox assignment, and for better or for worse, now he had to follow through. At least he had some good men under his command; he knew if he had hand-picked them, he couldn’t have asked for better. “Dog pen is next, I guess.” Kinch nodded. “Tell the fellas to take a couple of days off, then talk to Olsen about the route they’re going to need to take to get there.”
“What did London have to say?”
“They’re really happy with the information you got from Sophia last night, Colonel. And they’re happy to add the munitions plant to the list of targets; they said if you hadn’t, they would have.”
“I thought they might.” We might as well go down with a blaze of glory. “Anything else?”
“No, sir. No time frame. Just ASAP.”
“I can’t tell you what we used to say that stood for, Kinch.” Hogan shook his head. In his wry little group, very few abbreviations from Command had kept their original meanings. Except, possibly, SNAFU. He smiled to himself.
Kinch grinned widely. “Don’t worry, sir; I know.”
Hogan’s smile expanded, then disappeared as shouting from outside the barracks caught his attention. “Raus, raus, raus, raus! Roll call! Everyone, roll call!”
“That’s Schultz!” Hogan mused, coming out of his office. Kinch followed. The others were already heading outside. “What’s going on?” he asked.
“Special formation, Colonel,” Le Beau said, as he pulled his long scarf around his neck and headed out.
Hogan grabbed his crush cap, zipped up his jacket, and headed outside, turning up his collar as the continuing wind swirled past his neck. Lining up outside the hut with his men, Hogan watched silently as Schultz counted the men, reporting to Kommandant Klink, who approached suddenly from his office, riding crop firmly planted under his arm, that all were present and accounted for.
“Very good, Schultz,” Klink responded curtly. He stood for a moment and seemed to study the prisoners.
Cold and, moreover, concerned, Hogan decided to speak up. “What’s the problem, Kommandant? Your guards need practice adding? We’re all here. We were all here this morning. We’ll all be here for late afternoon roll call. Why the special?”
“Despite what you may think, Colonel Hogan, as Kommandant of this camp I can call for a roll call any time I like,” Klink said. “There’s nothing in your precious Geneva Convention that says I can’t.”
Hogan made a face. “Touchy!” he observed.
“And I can be touchy any time I want to as well,” Klink added.
Hogan exchanged glances with Newkirk standing beside him. Newkirk shrugged. “Touchy about anything in particular today, Kommandant?” Hogan asked.
“As a matter of fact, Colonel Hogan, I am.” Klink started pacing in front of the line. “Today one of the cars from the motor pool was found to be missing.”
Hogan rocked on his feet and turned to his men. “Okay, fellas, everyone search your lockers, okay? We’re looking for a car for the Kommandant. Nothing too flashy, just your basic black.”
The men laughed and started to relax. “Silence!” Klink bellowed. The laughter slowly subsided.
“Oh, come on, Kommandant, you can’t think any of us has it,” Hogan said. “Our driving privileges have been revoked till the end of the war.” Again quiet laughter. Klink’s face started to turn red. Well at least one of us will be warm in this weather. Get to the point, Kommandant!
“For your information, Colonel Hogan, the car has been recovered. It was found about one hundred yards outside of camp. The keys were gone, it was out of fuel—” Hogan stole a quick glance at Newkirk, who tried to look innocent—“and some of the plugs were missing. It had to be pushed back to the motor pool this morning.”
“Oh, well—good way to get warm in cold weather like this, sir.” Hogan waited for Klink’s quaking to stop before continuing. He turned serious. “So what does this have to do with the men, sir?”
“Hogan, only one of my guards had permission to be outside the camp last night. Only one of my guards had a car last night. His car came back. This one didn’t. Someone knows something about this and is keeping it to himself. I want to know what happened.”
Hogan shrugged. “Well we didn’t take it. Have you asked your own men?”
Klink made a fist and started shaking it. Hogan knew he was close to winning. “Of course I asked them!” Klink answered through gritted teeth. “No one had it.” He straightened. “But the guard at the gate did say he saw someone drive out of the camp with it last night.”
“Well, who was it?” Hogan asked.
“He doesn’t know,” Klink said, deflated.
Hogan nodded and rocked back and forth on his heels. “There you go, fellas—the Escape Committee has a new plan. Hop in a car and head to the gate; the guard’ll let you right through.”
“Don’t worry, Kommandant; when we abandon it we’ll make sure we leave it gassed up. Wouldn’t be neighbourly to leave it empty like that.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“What’s this all about, Colonel?” Hogan started to ask as he entered Klink’s office by command late that night. He came to an abrupt halt when he saw another man in the room with Klink, wearing a black uniform with swastika bands on the arms and a skull-and-crossbones insignia on his cap. Gestapo. “Sorry. Didn’t realize you had company.” Hogan felt a chill go through his body that had nothing to do with the weather.
“Colonel Hogan, this is Colonel Feldkamp from the Hammelburg Gestapo.” Klink nodded toward the smaller man almost reluctantly. From the half-done up buttons on Klink’s uniform, Hogan could tell that the Kommandant had been shaken out of bed as well. “He has been sent to…”
“To discuss some issues with you, Colonel Hogan,” Feldkamp broke in, turning to Hogan. His demeanour was almost pleasant, something that did nothing to put Hogan at ease. “I believe we have some unfinished business.”
Hogan tried to look relaxed. “Really, Colonel? I can’t recall anything that didn’t get said or done the last time I met with the Gestapo.”
“That’s not quite the way I understand it,” Feldkamp replied. “Of course, it has been quite some time.” Feldkamp was kneading his knuckles almost subconsciously. Hogan swallowed. “I believe my colleagues asked you some questions that you were unwilling to answer.”
“Maybe they didn’t ask nicely,” Hogan answered, suddenly feeling hot even on this coldest of nights.
“Perhaps you will find their manners better this time, Colonel Hogan. They have come back with me and are waiting for us to have another… conversation… in the cooler. Would you care to join me?”
Feldkamp gestured toward the door, pulled on his gloves, nodded to a stunned Klink, and led the way out.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Kinch stood huddled near the wall of the cooler, listening, cursing that they didn’t yet have a secret entrance into the cells. After hearing the conversation between Hogan and Feldkamp on the coffee pot listening device, he had decided to take a run down the newly-dug tunnel to see what he could find out. So far just mumbling. A little bit of cheek from Hogan. Noises like clothing being pulled off—maybe Hogan’s jacket, Kinch thought. A bit of mild roughing up. Then finally some real dialog.
“Any information that I might have had is several months old now; surely you don’t want to hear that.”
“Actually, Colonel Hogan, what we really want to know about now is the increased escape activity in the surrounding prison camps. The reports all seem to indicate that the prisoners were last seen heading toward this camp…before they disappeared without a trace.”
“Maybe there’s quicksand somewhere nearby.”
“Maybe. But I think perhaps they are being helped, somehow.”
“You can’t think I have anything to do with that.”
“That is what I intend to find out, Colonel Hogan.”
“It’ll be a cold day in Hell—no, wait—we’ve already got that. Maybe that’s why you’re still here, Feldkamp. You’re already in Hell; you don’t have to go anywhere else to fit right in.”
Then over the next forty-five minutes, Kinch learned that it’s even harder to listen helplessly to someone hopelessly outnumbered being badly beaten, than it is to watch. He could only hope the images his mind concocted with each sound of fist striking flesh, or each moan, were exaggerated. But he had the distinct feeling that they weren’t.
Been There, Done That
Hogan let out a low moan as he reluctantly moved back into consciousness. Without opening his eyes, he moved his arms across a cold surface and somehow concluded that he must still be where he had fallen during the ceaseless onslaught of Feldkamp’s two sidekicks. Despite a distinct ringing in his ears, he tried to listen, but could hear nothing—no footsteps, no sounds of the outside, no taunting, insistent voices that would follow up answer-less questions with kicks, or punches, or vice-like grips.
He considered allowing himself to simply slip back into the blackness, until mere thinking didn’t hurt so much. But as usual, an insistent, nagging voice somewhere inside demanded that he remain awake. Unwillingly, Hogan started to open his eyes, only to find that his left one was unable to complete its task. Painfully shifting position on the floor, he hauled himself up onto his elbows and stopped, gasping at the shooting, burning sensations the movement triggered throughout his body. He brought one aching arm up to his face and tenderly felt around his eye; what felt like dried blood was layered over a swollen cheek, squeezing his left eye almost shut. Allowing himself to cry out softly with the effort, he dragged himself to his knees.
Hogan’s mind wasn’t trying to calculate how long he had been unaware; it was too busy trying to assimilate exactly what had happened. Almost every part of his body was weeping with pain. A strong, crippling throb in his groinal area was almost enough to send him back to oblivion. With a groan, he brought a hand to his stiff and aching back, while snatches of the Gestapo “interrogation” flooded back into his mind. Prison camps with many escapes… last sightings of men heading in the direction of Stalag 13… Hogan knew Feldkamp had nothing concrete to go on; he was hoping Hogan would simply cave in under the threat of physical violence and confess anything and everything to stop it.
It hadn’t worked. Becoming aware of an increasing throbbing around his ribcage and a pounding headache, Hogan wryly wished it could have.
With blurry vision in the one eye that he could open fully, Hogan briefly surveyed his surroundings. He was, indeed, still in the cooler. There was some dried blood on the floor, which Hogan was sure he didn’t want to remember spilling, and his jacket and crush cap were carelessly tossed in a corner. The door to the cooler was open; obviously, it was of little importance to Feldkamp if Hogan left once he woke up.
Breathing laboriously, Hogan moved one leg, then the other, until he was standing. His groin objected with fresh stabs of pain, and he stifled a cry, in defense of his dignity. Swaying unsteadily, he staggered to the corner and reached down for his jacket. The movement felt like it sloshed his brain inside his skull, and he stumbled, the nearby cot catching him as he slid into it, his head exploding and his sore abdomen screaming. Not willing to give up, Hogan reached blindly for the jacket and his cap, then lurched out of the cell.
Once upstairs, Hogan blinked in the pre-dawn light. He shivered immediately in the cold, and through a fog of pain-induced exhaustion he pulled the jacket on, trying vainly to ignore his body’s protests. A glance toward Klink’s office. The light was still on. Feldkamp’s car was still parked outside. He must have been ranting and raving at Klink all night, Hogan concluded. That explains why no one came and got me out of there. Then he immediately forgot the thought as he concentrated on being able to walk without falling over. He considered, fleetingly, barging in on the meeting, but decided in the end to head straight for Barracks Two. Barracks Five, where Wilson, was holed up, was too far away. Hogan knew his men would track the medic down as soon as their commanding officer stumbled into the hut.
That would be great, he thought sincerely, uncharacteristically, as the door gave in to his weak push, and as though from a distance he heard the outcry that accompanied his return.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“If they can’t pin one thing on me, they’ll try another,” Hogan said to his men. Le Beau handed him a cold, wet towel, which he very gingerly put over his swollen cheek. He winced as it made contact with the bruise, drawing in a breath that pressed against the bandages Wilson had wrapped around his torso a few hours earlier. Hogan closed his eyes. Several hours of sleep, interspersed with periods of simple unconsciousness, had done nothing to rid him of the powerful headache taunting him. But Wilson had told him that wouldn’t likely subside until the bump on the back of his head started shrinking. Hogan didn’t want to remember how he had acquired it.
“I thought the Gestapo had given up on you, gov’nor,” Newkirk said.
“So did I,” Hogan answered, opening his eyes. “But now they’re getting worried about the escapes from the other prison camps. Seems there have been quite a few lately.” He gave up on the towel and handed it back to Le Beau. “And the men all seem to have last been seen heading in this direction.”
“Must look pretty good for Klink,” Kinch pondered. “His record is still perfect.”
“Thanks to us. But Feldkamp obviously thinks there’s more to it than meets the eye.”
“Do you think he’ll be back, Colonel?” Carter asked. Feldkamp’s car had roared out of camp a couple of hours after dawn.
“He didn’t mention it,” Hogan answered shortly.
Kinch remained silent. Feldkamp had actually told Hogan that he would continue his investigation and return if he considered it necessary. But the Sergeant suspected Hogan had probably already been beaten senseless by the time Feldkamp delivered that little speech, and had not heard it at all.
“So what happens now, Colonel?” Le Beau asked.
“Business as usual,” Hogan answered. “We have some sabotage to plan, and the Underground is expecting me to meet them for a rendezvous tonight.”
“I’ll be happy to go in your place, Colonel,” Carter piped up. Hogan looked at him questioningly. Carter shifted feet. “I mean if, if you’re not up to it, I’m sure they’ll understand if—”
Hogan tried to smile benignly, but it hurt, so he stopped. “I appreciate that, Carter,” he said. “But I’m sure I’ll be able to make it.” Hogan noticed Carter’s embarrassment; obviously, Carter thought he had said the wrong thing. So Hogan spoke again, reassuringly. “I can’t have you go out tonight anyway—I need you to be organizing that dynamite for all those marvellous explosions we’re going to create as soon as London gives the okay.”
Carter relaxed and smiled. “It’ll be good stuff, too, Colonel, I promise you that. Y’know, I’ve had a good look at the stuff Peter Pan gave us, and it’s some real quality material. And once I get it all organized—”
“I’m sure it’ll be top quality,” Hogan assured him. Still a bit woozy, Hogan suddenly felt a surge of tiredness. “I’ve got some planning to do,” he said. “Lemme have some time to sort things out, okay?”
“Sure, Colonel,” Kinch said. He shuffled the others out as Hogan told them he was going to work out some details for the coming sabotage mission. Without a single document in his office to do that with, Kinch didn’t believe a word he said. So it was no surprise to him, when he checked in ten minutes later, to find Hogan sound asleep on the bottom bunk.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Things are getting too dangerous for Ludwig, Colonel Hogan.” Standing in a dark barn a couple of miles from camp, the Underground contact known as the White Rabbit was making Hogan nervous. He wouldn’t stop looking around him, and nearly bolted at every sound from the outside.
“Who’s Ludwig?” Hogan asked. He wasn’t used to talking about contacts using their real names.
“He is an Underground agent who has been helping to transmit information to London. But he fears the Gestapo is getting suspicious of him now. His wife is sure that she has been followed. He wants to get her out of Germany.”
Hogan frowned. The movements of the Gestapo were all too well-known. They didn’t just go after the one they suspected; to make him vulnerable, they went after his loved ones as well. “What about him?”
“He wants to stay and fight. But naturally, he also feels the need to be with his family.”
“Can I meet with him?”
“He has asked for a meeting tomorrow night, at his home. It is only a few minutes’ walk from here.”
“How will I know it’s safe?”
“I will take you there myself. Ludwig knows me, and he will trust you, if I tell him so.”
“Then we’ll do this again tomorrow. Twenty-two hundred hours. Be on time; this is no time to live up to your name.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Still no word from London on the sabotage assignment, Colonel,” Kinch reported. Hogan had sent the radio man downstairs about an hour earlier, hoping that there would be some news from Allied Headquarters, giving them instructions to begin their round of destruction. But so far, HQ remained silent on that.
Hogan started pacing. “This is ridiculous; why are they holding out on us?” He stopped walking back and forth as his still-sore muscles protested. He had to give them time to rest before he headed back out to see Ludwig tonight. “Don’t they trust us to do the job?”
Kinch shrugged. “Maybe they’re just giving us time to prepare, Colonel. After all, we’ve never done this before. And even though Carter’s spending every free minute downstairs, he says the stuff’s not ready yet anyway.”
Hogan nodded, carefully, in deference to his aching head. Damn the Gestapo. He hadn’t let his encounter with Feldkamp stop him for long, but he couldn’t pretend that he wasn’t still feeling the effects of their meeting either. He sighed. “You’re probably right, Kinch. I suppose we have enough to do anyway.”
“When are you heading out, Colonel?”
“Just after lights-out,” Hogan answered, rubbing the back of his neck. “We owe it to the people helping us to make sure they can be safe. If we can’t, we’ll have to get Ludwig and his family out.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan’s mind refused to let go of two thoughts: one, that by the time the war was over, he would know the inside of every barn in this part of Germany intimately; and two, that if he had any fingers left at all, they would all be mere stubs, the remainder of them being amputated because of frostbite. Stamping his feet and jamming his bare hands under his armpits to try and keep warm, Hogan looked over at the horse in its corner of the barn. The large, brown animal was looking at him with apparent disinterest, little puffs of wispy white streaming from its nose as it exhaled. A little whinny and a toss of its head brought Hogan closer. “You think you’ve got troubles,” Hogan murmured to the animal, stroking its head gently. “At least you’re wearing a fur coat.” The horse nudged Hogan benignly, and he smiled, laughing to himself. No point in complaining about the conditions, he decided. Germany’s not about to move to the tropics just for you.
Hogan tried to blow warm air into his cupped hands, then stuck them back under his arms. How long would it take for White Rabbit to give him the all-clear?
The door to the barn suddenly creaked, and Hogan instinctively drew himself up against a wall behind it, to be hidden from whoever was entering. “Papa Bear?” a voice called. Hogan relaxed and came out; it was just the contact. “He is ready for you.” Hogan nodded and, taking a last look at his equine company, he followed White Rabbit out, bowing his head against the sudden blast of cold.
Stepping through the doorway of the simple home nearby, Hogan was ushered through the kitchen and into a small sitting room. He felt the warmth of the crackling fire in the hearth engulf him, and let his shoulders drop, raising his head to let the heat caress his face and neck. He nearly sighed with the pleasure of this luxury. White Rabbit motioned for him to sit down; Hogan chose the chair closest to the fire, and extended his hands, to bring some life back into them. Concentrating on the sensation of the embracing heat, he was startled when a soft voice seemed to pierce the room.
“You are the one they call Papa Bear?”
Hogan looked away from the mesmerizing fire to see a woman standing before him. He got up quickly. “I am,” he answered. “And you are…?”
“Alida.” Hogan looked at the small, middle-aged woman before him. She smiled prettily as she added, “You must be half-frozen; let me bring you something warm to drink.”
Hogan smiled back. “Completely frozen. And thank you, that would be wonderful.”
“Ludwig will be here shortly. He is just getting the rest of the firewood.”
Hogan nodded. Alida turned and left the room. A few seconds later, a man, his arms heavily laden with small logs, came in. Hogan watched as without a word of greeting the man put the wood on the floor beside the fireplace, then pushed one of the smaller pieces into the fire, causing it to momentarily flare as it began consuming the newest offering. In Hogan’s mind, he could see himself doing the same chore for his mother, when his father was out working late on a winter’s evening. He could see her smiling, sitting in the big, overstuffed rocking chair in the corner of the living room, the ever-present throw rug draped over her legs, her sewing box sitting faithfully on the floor beside her, and the radio turned up loudly enough for her not to miss a single second of Orson Welles’ The Shadow. What will you be listening to tonight, Mom? He closed his eyes, his head and body still sore. I wish I could listen to it with you.
The man straightened and stood up. “I am Ludwig,” he said, extending his hand.
“Colonel Hogan.” Hogan accepted the offered hand. Warm. “I hear you’re having some trouble.”
Ludwig glanced over at White Rabbit, who nodded. “Please, warm yourself by the fire,” Ludwig said gruffly, his attempts at being a gracious host marred by his anxiety. Hogan nodded but didn’t move. He needed to concentrate. “I have always been more than willing to do my part for the war effort,” the man began.
Hogan studied Ludwig as he spoke. Probably in his mid-forties, Hogan guessed, the strain of working in secret made him seem much older. Grey was touching the hair on his temples, and his eyes held what appeared to be a permanently tired look. Still, the strength of the man before him was apparent, and Hogan had to admire him: to Hogan, the war was an assignment, a job—a very personal one, granted, but he was a soldier following orders nonetheless. To Ludwig, the war was entirely personal. As a civilian, he did not have to take any part in this struggle, any risk other than to follow the directives of the party in power. But what he saw happening in the Fatherland obviously went against all his principles, and he was not willing to passively accept whatever outcome eventuated, even if it meant putting himself in danger. To Hogan, this was the definition of a real hero, and he always felt humbled when meeting with members of the Underground, for whom the war was more than soldiers fighting soldiers.
“I cannot tell you how horrified both Alida and myself have been at the things we have seen and heard. Whatever we can do to help, we feel we must do.” Hogan nodded. Ludwig, who had been pacing, stopped and looked Hogan in the eye. “But now I feel there is danger. Alida is being followed. I know you may think it is just a man’s paranoia about his wife, but I tell you it is not.”
Hogan shook his head. No, not paranoia. Love. “I don’t think you’re paranoid at all,” he said gravely. “The Third Reich isn’t known for its tolerance of subversives. If you think there’s too much risk, you need to stop. No one will think the lesser of you. We’re grateful for the immense risk you’ve already taken.”
Ludwig’s troubled eyes seemed to relax slightly. “We have argued, Colonel. We have debated time and again whether we can stop helping the Allies with a clear conscience.”
“Your first duty is to your family,” Hogan countered. “If you’re in danger, you could be risking not just yourselves, but everyone you come into contact with.”
Ludwig stopped. He had not expected the already renowned Papa Bear to be so easily accepting of the idea of losing an Underground agent. Hogan sensed some hesitancy in the man and added, “You’ve done more than anyone could ask of you already. Please, your conscience should be clear.”
Alida came back into the room holding two cups. “Tea for you, Papa Bear?” she offered, extending the cup. Hogan smiled as she entered and thanked her. “Ludwig,” she scolded suddenly, turning to her husband. “Why are you making this poor man stand in our home? Has he not travelled far enough?” Ludwig looked appropriately chastised. “Please, please sit,” she urged.
Hogan nodded and sat back near the fire with his tea. “You’ve been being followed?” Hogan asked her.
Alida looked at Ludwig, uncomfortable. “I cannot be sure,” she started, timidly. “But it seems lately that whenever I go to town I keep seeing this same man, whom I have never seen before. And he seems to go to all the same places I do, no matter how I vary my route.” She smiled weakly. “You see, I have tried that. I feel like I am such a spy.”
Hogan smiled warmly at her. Her attempts to bring lightness into what was obviously a frightening situation touched him. “You’re certainly learning,” he said kindly. Then he turned serious. “I’m sorry to say your story is a bad sign. You need to get out, and if you’re being followed, you won’t be able to simply pack up and go. Do you have any family outside of Germany?”
“We have a daughter, she moved to England about four years ago. We thought it was safer there with the way things were changing in Germany. She lives with Alida’s aunt,” Ludwig said.
“Does she have room for two more?” Hogan asked, his tea all but forgotten.
“I am sure she would make room,” Alida offered quietly.
“Then that’s the way to go.” Hogan looked from one, to the other. “I’m sorry. I know it will be hard for you. You’ll be leaving your home, and your family.” Their eyes drifted over to where White Rabbit had sat silently through the whole conversation, his eyes downcast. “And your friends.” Once more Hogan felt touched by the sacrifice that these people, and people like them, made on a regular basis. “I’m afraid I have nothing to offer you but thanks.”
Alida smiled. “You do not need to offer us anything, Papa Bear. We will go. Germany is not the country that we grew up to know and love. I only wish we could do more.”
Hogan felt warm inside. And he was grateful when he realised it was because of the people he was with, not just because of the nearby fireplace. He stood up. “We’ll start making plans. Give us a few days. You’re going to need to lie low for awhile. Don’t transmit anything to anyone for us. Go about your business and—”
Hogan cut off as he heard a rattling on the door in the other room. “What’s that?” he asked.
Ludwig listened, then frowned. “My brother, Hans. He often stops here on his way back from an evening out. He must be on his way back to Stalag 13.”
All the warmth that Hogan had felt moment ago drained away, along with the color from his face. “Stalag 13?” he whispered.
“Ludwig, Alida, where are you?” came the familiar voice from the other room.
“Ja, Colonel,” Ludwig said. “Hans is a guard there.”
“Hans Schultz?” Hogan asked, alarm bells ringing loudly in his head. Ludwig nodded, at sea. “I’ve gotta get outta here.”
“But, Colonel, you are not in uniform, we will simply introduce you as a friend,” Alida said.
“That would be lovely—if he didn’t know me as the senior POW officer at the camp!” Hogan said, apprehensively looking for a way out of the room that didn’t involve going out past Schultz.
“What?” Ludwig said, stunned.
“I’ll explain another time. Right now, I need to get out of here, without him seeing me!”
“Ludwig! I can smell Alida’s cooking; you must be awake somewhere in here! Come and greet your älterer Bruder as you should, ja?”
“This way,” Alida whispered, and, taking Hogan by the arm, she swiftly led him down another corridor and into a small bedroom. “Out that window,” she said.
From the other room, Hogan could hear Ludwig heartily greeting the Sergeant. “You keep me waiting, my favourite brother!” Schultz declared.
Déjà vu, Hogan thought wryly. He heard Ludwig offer him a warm drink and immediately sound as though there was never any Papa Bear inside his home. Brothers, sharing camaraderie. Hogan felt another pang of homesickness. Alida looked at him, anxious about his sudden stillness after his rush to leave. “I’ll be in touch,” he said abruptly, shaking himself back to the present. Alida smiled fleetingly and nodded. “I meant what I said—don’t change your routine. When we’re ready, I’ll let you know.”
“We are grateful, Papa Bear,” Alida said. Her eyes full of concern, she briefly, gently fingered one of the violent bruises on Hogan’s face. Hogan said nothing, but as their eyes met, he suspected she had sensed his ill-timed wistfulness. Then, with a light push, she urged, “Please. Please go. Now it is you who are at risk.”
Hogan nodded and forced his protesting body out the small window and into the clear, dark, frigid night. Here we go again. What I wouldn’t give to see Newkirk with that car right about now!
Enemies and Brothers
Schultz’s brother! Hogan thought, as he pushed his way through the underbrush and ducked out of sight of a spotlight from the guard tower at Stalag 13 as it swept past. And this is the second time you’ve nearly walked right into him. He’s going to have to start wearing a bell!
Dropping down into the tunnel that opened below the tree stump, Hogan latched the opening and then took another moment to collect himself. Things were moving so fast he’d hardly had time to keep up. First, London asks for sabotage; then, we need to get an Underground contact out of Germany—with a connection to a Stalag 13 prison guard thrown in just to make it more interesting! Hogan paused and leaned against the tunnel wall, rubbing his forehead as an unexpected wave of dizziness hit him. His whole face throbbed. Oh yeah, he thought acerbically, and don’t forget to add the Gestapo to the mix. Maybe if I keep my eyes closed for awhile, when I open them this week will have gone away.
He stayed there, motionless for a moment, tiredly focusing only on the soreness of his face and body, feeling the cold dampness around him, watching his thoughts chase each other around his brain. And in the midst of it all, somehow thinking of his family home, and his old room that his mother kept just so for his visits home, and how warm and inviting it all seemed right now. What he wouldn’t give to just sink into that mattress, worn to all the curves of his body, with those knitted afghans piled high, and those two big, soft pillows waiting to soothe his aching head and caress him into slumber and oblivion. Home…
A ripple in his side jerked Hogan back to a dark, dank reality. With a sigh, he pulled himself away from the wall, then made his way back down the tunnel, using the light from the oil lamps strung along the wall as a guide. When he reached the radio area, he paused and listened. Then, hearing nothing, he placed his cold, hurting hands on the ladder and hauled himself upwards, tapped twice, then paused and tapped once more. His signal answered, the rest of the ladder descended as the bunk rose up to accept him back into the barracks. Kinch’s hand was extended, waiting to help pull him in.
Kinch waited until Hogan was fully in the room before he asked, “So what’s happening, Colonel?”
Hogan turned and tapped the side of the bunk to reset the room. “Plenty,” he said, heading for the stove. He took the cup already full of coffee that Le Beau had waiting, and shivered. “We have to get one of our contacts out. His wife’s been being followed; they think the Gestapo’s on to them.”
Newkirk stepped forward. “That doesn’t seem too hard, sir. I mean we’ve done it dozens of time already.”
Hogan nodded, then said, “Yeah, now add this in to the equation: he happens to be the brother of none other than our friendly neighbourhood prison guard, Sergeant Hans Schultz.” Hogan waited until the exclamations of surprise died down, then said, “I nearly had another encounter with him tonight. With the amount of time he spends away from camp, the prisoners should be walking out the front gate!”
“You mean he showed up again?” Newkirk asked.
“Apparently, he often stops at his brother’s house on his way back here. And if the Gestapo is already following Ludwig and Alida, we’re going to have to proceed with even greater care.” Hogan turned to Kinch. “Anything from London, Kinch?”
Kinch paused, knowing the answer he had wasn’t the one Hogan wanted. “Not yet, Colonel.”
Hogan sighed and put down his cup. “Well, that does it for the night. I’m beat. I’ll see you fellas in the morning.” The men bade Hogan good night, and he disappeared into his room. But though he was tired, his mind refused to lay the problem to rest, and it was an hour before he left the present behind, and dreamed about his past.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“You’ve been avoiding me, Kommandant,” Hogan said to Klink the next day.
Klink snorted and sat down at his desk. “Why would I do that, Colonel Hogan?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but I get the distinct impression that mine is not the face you want to see. You’ve refused my requests to see you for the last two days. Now, you know that isn’t very nice. And there’s no other way for me to get the needs of my men met.”
“I’ll grant you that, Hogan; I would much rather be seeing fraulein Helga’s face than yours.” And hers doesn’t remind me of Feldkamp and my inability to stop him from turning you into a punching bag. Klink nearly winced visibly as he took in the cuts and bruises on Hogan’s face that he knew must still be causing him discomfort. And what about what I can’t see?
“So why graciously grant me an audience today?”
“Because I am curious, Hogan. I want to know why Colonel Feldkamp thinks you are involved in the escapes from the surrounding prison camps.”
Hogan shrugged. “You’ve got me, Kommandant. I mean, we can’t escape from Stalag 13; I don’t know what makes him think we can help anyone else escape from any other Stalags.”
Klink nodded. “It does seem ridiculous,” he admitted, with a touch of vanity. “After all, I have my prisoners cowed and willing to do whatever I ask. And if no one can get out of camp, then certainly no one can get in.” Klink paused. “And once they were in, they certainly wouldn’t be able to get back out.”
Hogan closed his eyes. This was going to be a long day. “Right,” he said. Then, changing tactics, he said, “Now, Kommandant, I’ve wanted to see you because the men are complaining about the cold, sir—”
“And you would like me to move the sun a little bit closer to Germany, Hogan?” Klink retorted, reminders of his fine record making him cocky and unwilling to listen.
Hogan grimaced. “I don’t think even Hitler could manage that one.” He sighed. “They need more firewood. The stoves just aren’t doing enough. And if you could manage some gloves or something for them to wrap their hands in, that would be greatly appreciated.” I know I’d appreciate it… every time I head out of camp!
“It is up to the prisoners’ families and the Red Cross to provide them with warm clothing. The little we have is distributed amongst the German soldiers, Hogan.”
“The Geneva Convention says otherwise.”
“We don’t have enough to give, Colonel Hogan! I assure you, if we did, you and your men would have it.”
“Then what about the firewood?”
“We only have so much.”
“This place is surrounded by woods—the men would be willing to go on a work detail to cut some trees down and make some logs for the stoves, Kommandant.”
Klink shook his head. “That would be like putting guns in your hands, Hogan—or opening up the front gate for you to walk out of here.”
“It’s your responsibility, Kommandant.” Hogan leaned in on Klink’s desk. “If the men get too cold, they get sick. If they get sick, they clog up the infirmary. If they clog up the infirmary, you have to ask for medical supplies. If you have to ask for medical supplies, Berlin will start to ask questions. If Berlin starts to ask questions, you’ll find yourself on a train heading to Stalingrad to answer them.”
Klink had followed Hogan’s train of thought, and he didn’t like the station it was stopping at. “Stalingrad?”
“Choo, choo,” Hogan said, deadpan. He paused. Klink cringed. Hogan whispered near his ear. “Don’t rock the boat, Kommandant. Firewood.”
Klink nodded. “Firewood.” Hogan stood up. Klink suddenly came back to life, and waved a finger at Hogan accusingly. “But you will be guarded, Colonel Hogan! And if you or your men put so much as a toe out of line, you will be punished severely!”
Hogan nodded. “You can count on us, sir.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Klink muttered, as he watched Hogan shut the door behind him.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“That ought to do for awhile, fellas; let’s head back to camp.” Hogan praised the men on the work detail cutting down trees just outside the fence line, carefully supervising the outing to make sure that no one cleared the area near the emergency tunnel exit or the road that they needed to use when going to and from the camp. He watched with some satisfaction as the dozen or so men now carrying the wood puffed along, happy being warm for awhile in the thin sun of the German winter day, and happy about getting more fuel for the meagre fires in the stoves of their barracks.
“Colonel Hogan,” muttered Schultz, walking along beside the American, his rifle perched carelessly over his shoulder, “I have a problem.”
Hogan raised an eyebrow. “Women trouble, Schultz? The boys told me you’ve been getting out a lot lately. Won’t your wife have anything to say about that?”
Schultz kept walking. “No, no, no! I wish it were that simple. My wife, she is cranky no matter what I do. She does not want me to come home unless I have a good reason. As long as I send my pay home for die Kinder, she is not worried.”
Hogan dropped his smile and looked at Schultz. “Sorry, Schultz, I didn’t realize.”
Schultz shrugged. “Ach, it suits us both, I think, in this time of war, Colonel Hogan. As a soldier, I never know if I’m going to make it home at all.”
Hogan nodded, understanding. He’d always thought he’d get home easily, too. At least he had convinced himself he would. Now, he was far from sure. “It’s not easy,” he agreed.
“You have a sweetheart back home?” Schultz asked.
“Used to, Schultz. Used to. When I joined the war, she decided she couldn’t wait. I tried to get her to hold on, but we argued, and in the end I lost.” Hogan shrugged, suddenly feeling awkward. “It wasn’t like I had any choice.”
Schultz nodded regretfully. “Krieg ist Hölle.” Schultz studied Hogan for a moment, causing the American to stop in his tracks. “You would make a fine husband, Colonel Hogan, to some woman out there.”
Hogan snorted, trying to ignore the anguish this conversation was stirring in him. “I’ll worry about that later; there are too many lovely things to concentrate on right here at Stalag 13.” Eager to steer the conversation away from himself, Hogan said, “So, what’s your problem, Schultz? The wife leaning on you?”
“No, Colonel Hogan. It is my brother.”
“Your brother?” Hogan asked, instantly putting aside his own troubled thoughts.
“Ja, Ludwig. I went to visit him last night, on the way home from Hammelburg.”
Don’t I know it! Hogan thought to himself. “What’s the trouble?”
“Colonel Hogan, I don’t know how to explain it, but I think he is keeping something from me.”
Schultz scrunched up his face, thinking. “He said all the same things he always does, but I think he is not the same man he was a few months ago. There is something going on that he does not want me to know.”
Hogan paused. It wouldn’t do to have Schultz snooping around. Not now! “What do you think it is, Schultz?”
“I don’t know. I wonder if it is maybe money. Or problems with his wife, Alida. She is a wonderful woman, Colonel Hogan, but she misses their daughter and keeps talking of her. They sent her to England a few years ago; they were worried about her being in Germany under Hitler.” Schultz sighed. “They were right.”
Hogan patted Schultz’s arm in a gesture of friendship. He had always liked Schultz; from the very day Hogan had arrived at Stalag 13, Schultz had looked after him in an almost paternal way. He had followed Hogan from building to building, forced him against his will to get needed medical attention, showed him the ropes about life inside a Luftwaffe prison camp, and even showed relief when Hogan showed up after his abortive escape attempt, relatively unscathed. Now, seeing the big man upset about something that could never be explained to him, Hogan felt compassion, and tried to find a way to return the gestures. “War changes people, Schultz,” Hogan said carefully. “Maybe Ludwig’s just trying to cope with everything. He’d be worried about you, seeing you go back and forth from town, knowing you’re on active duty. Sometimes it might just get too much for him, and he doesn’t want you to know.”
Schultz considered this. “You think so?”
“Sure,” Hogan replied. It was a truth of war, he thought. Along with a few other things about them that I can’t tell you about. “He wouldn’t want you thinking that he’s worried about you all the time. As a brother, you’d never let him live it down!”
Schultz chuckled. “Perhaps you are right, ja. You have a brother, Colonel Hogan?”
“Yeah. And a sister. And they’re even worse about sibling rivalry.”
Schultz laughed out loud. “Well, at least you don’t have to worry about that here.”
Hogan smiled as the front gate to the camp was closed and locked behind them. “No… just about the thousand other men who are competing with me for fraulein Helga’s attention. Somehow I think my sister would at least be able to give me a hand with that!”
“Ja, but then you would have to protect her from the thousand other men here!”
The pair laughed loudly together. Hogan felt lighter inside than he had in weeks, and, satisfied that he had both looked after Ludwig and reassured the kindly guard, he caught up with his men and helped carry the firewood to the huts.
“Excuse me, Colonel,” Kinch said, poking his head inside Hogan’s office.
Hogan quickly brought his hand down from his face and turned to the Sergeant at the door. Though the swelling had gone down quite a bit and his vision was clear, the tenderness remained. But having someone catch him trying to soothe the discomfort was not something Hogan was at ease with. He cleared his throat. “What is it, Kinch?”
“London’s on the horn, Colonel.”
“Thanks, Kinch.” Hogan quickly headed down to the tunnel. It had been two days since he had last asked Kinch about London. He knew better than to play on the poor man’s nerves that often. But Kinch was aware of his commanding officer’s anxiety, and had shaken his head in silent answer every time their eyes met when Kinch came up from the tunnel.
“What is it, Colonel?” asked Newkirk, following him.
“Don’t know yet.”
Carter and Le Beau were already downstairs. Hogan gave them a surprised look.
“We have been anxious, too, mon Colonel,” Le Beau explained, shrugging his shoulders.
Hogan nodded understanding and took the headsets from Kinch. “This is Papa Bear, this is Papa Bear, go ahead, Goldilocks, over.” He listened. “That’s a mighty big bowl of porridge you’ve got for us, Goldilocks,” Hogan said after awhile. “Acknowledged, the bears are only out for a short walk, but…” Hogan scowled. Newkirk and Le Beau exchanged nervous glances. It sounded like Hogan was losing whatever argument this was, and whenever that happened they worried.
“What about Cinderella and Prince Charming?” Hogan asked, his face darkening. The answer obviously did not please him, as his frown increased and he unconsciously turned away from the others. “But they’ve got a wicked stepmother hot on their tails.” Dark clouds gathered over Hogan’s brows. “Well, tell me when, then!” The storm broke. The others shifted uncomfortably. Hogan still hadn’t quite learned tact when he felt London was being unfair to his troupe. And when he was unhappy with London, that usually meant the men wouldn’t be so pleased with their superiors either. “Understood, Goldilocks. Affirmative, we will obey orders. Papa Bear over and out.”
Hogan tossed down the headsets, frustrated. Kinch gathered them quickly and put them back where they belonged. “That’s great,” Hogan muttered. “That’s just great.”
Le Beau dared to speak up. “What is it, Colonel?”
Hogan wrapped his arms around his body, looking at no one. “London wants us to start the sabotage mission in three days. They want us to split it up over two nights and report back as we go.”
Newkirk considered the amount of work they had been given and said, “That seems reasonable, sir.”
“It is. But they want us to leave Ludwig and Alida in the lurch until it’s over. While German Bridge is falling down, the Gestapo could be stringing them up by their thumbs.” Hogan grimaced, then looked at his men. “I tried explaining that, but London wouldn’t budge.”
“Why can’t we get them out ourselves, Colonel?” Carter asked.
“With the Gestapo watching them?” Hogan countered. He shook his head tiredly. “We need London on this one. We can get them out of camp in the dog truck, but we’re going to need transportation. It’s the least London can do for people who’ve done so much for us.” Hogan closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead wearily. This war was going to exhaust him. Heaving a sigh, he opened his eyes and got to work. “I suppose the least we can do is be ready. Newkirk, how’s that tunnel going to the dog pen?”
“Working day and night, sir. The men are volunteering because it’s hot work and they want to warm up a bit.”
“So maybe this God-forsaken weather’s good for something after all,” Hogan said. “How much longer till it’s done?”
“Hard to tell, gov’nor; they’ve been making good progress for the last week, but it’s a long way off. If you’re thinking about trying to use it to get Schultz’s brother out, I think you’ll be barking up the wrong tree, sir.”
Hogan scowled again, then shook his head. “I know; you’re right. The men are working as hard as they can. We’re just going to have to bite the bullet on this one and hope for the best.” Hogan rubbed a still-sore spot on his back. “Just pray that the Gestapo’s best is pretty incompetent, at least until we can get them out.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan crept into the barn, his pistol drawn and ready. Drawing himself into the shadows, he tried to see in the darkness. Nothing. No one. Just the loud breathing of the nearby mare. Satisfied that no one had seen him approach, and that no one was observing him now, Hogan lowered his gun and felt his way over to the horse, standing patiently in her stall. Raising a hand to her head, Hogan gave the animal a small stroke. “Hey, there, old girl,” he whispered gently. “Remember me?”
As if in answer, the horse gave a short snort and tossed her head up and down briefly, pushing her face into Hogan’s neck and giving him a nudge that was not entirely unpleasant. He smiled mildly. Thank God for the innocence of animals. Giving her a pat, Hogan leaned his head against her neck for a moment, savouring the warmth of the beast, and fleetingly wished he could crawl into the stall next to her and get some of the heat back that he had lost on the way over from camp.
A sudden creak drew him away from his impossible thoughts. Pistol at the ready, Hogan straightened and leaned his back up against the wall. His eyes scanning continually, he looked around for any signs of an intruder. A shaft of thin moonlight drew a line on the barn floor, and Hogan watched as the line grew wider, and a shadow broke it, getting larger as someone moved into the building. A kerosene lamp suddenly appeared, attached to a heavy-coat-covered arm. Hogan waited, unmoving, unbreathing, until he saw the man that followed.
Ludwig. Letting out a breath of relief, Hogan relaxed and lowered his gun. “Colonel Hogan?” came the voice.
“I’m here,” Hogan answered, emerging from the shadows. “Everything okay?”
“Yes; no one is watching. And even if they were, it would not be unusual for me to check on my animals, even at this hour of the night.” Ludwig came to Hogan and placed his lamp on a nearby block of hay. “Now. You have news about getting Alida and myself away?”
Hogan grimaced. He didn’t like what he had to say. “There’s been a delay—”
Hogan didn’t have a chance to get the rest of his well-rehearsed explanation out. “Donnerwetter!” Ludwig burst. “There cannot be a delay! We must get out now!”
Hogan had closed his eyes to the diatribe. He had no answer, knowing he would feel the same way. Still, he pressed on. “We’re still going to get you out. But we have to get transportation for you and Alida. We can’t send you out like everyone else; you’re already under suspicion. We need London for that, and they need us to handle a couple of minor things first—like blowing up a munitions plant and a couple of bridges. Then they’ll have the plane available to take you out of here.”
Ludwig looked at Hogan, amazed. “Blowing up bridges? Getting us out by plane? What sort of prison camp are you in?”
“A very busy one—for the Allies,” Hogan answered. He paused. “Look, I’m gonna come clean with you here. If we get you out first, the Gestapo may catch on to our operation, and we wouldn’t get to complete the sabotage missions. If we do it later, we’ll have a better chance of getting both goals accomplished. Once the Gestapo’s involved, everyone has to tread very carefully.”
Ludwig nodded. “You should know this,” he observed. “I understand you have already had your fair share of meetings with them.”
Hogan said nothing. He had never spoken to them of his encounters with the Gestapo. “Obviously, your brother is telling tales out of school,” he finally said quietly.
“He did not name the person at Stalag 13 whom they are targeting.” Ludwig pointed to a still-forceful bruise on Hogan’s face. “But it would seem obvious that it is you. Yet you still do this.”
Fighting to remain emotionless, Hogan said simply, “It’s my job. I follow orders.”
Ludwig nodded, now satisfied that he was dealing with a man with integrity. “It is more than a job when a man is willing to risk so much. It is a cause. A belief. You are strong, Colonel Hogan. So Alida and I shall be as well. We can wait for you to blow up your bridges. You get us out when you are done.” He stopped and gave an amused chuckle. “If only Hans knew what he is guarding!”
Hogan smiled, then, thinking about his conversation with the guard the previous day, he said, “He’s worried about you. Thinks there’s something you’re not telling him.”
“Ah, well there is, isn’t there? However, I am not about to tell him—he does not like to get involved in anything to do with the war. To him, it is a matter of self-preservation.” Ludwig stopped, reconsidering. “That does not make him a coward, Colonel Hogan,” Ludwig said, almost defensively. “He is a good man, a brave man. He would do anything for me, for his family, for my family. But he is so kind-hearted that I think the war hurts him, inside. He does not see sides; he sees people, and he cannot think of how to make it better.”
Hogan considered Schultz and all he had done since Hogan had arrived in camp. “He is making it better,” Hogan assured Ludwig. “One person at a time.” He looked out the small window above their heads. The moon had risen higher and had cast them in pale light. “I’d better get back to camp. Thanks for understanding. I promise you we won’t leave it too long.” Ludwig nodded. “When you hear a few well-connected explosions, you’ll know you’re that much closer to getting out.”
Ludwig smiled and extended his hand. “We cannot thank you enough. Godspeed.”
Hogan accepted the gesture. “We’ll talk soon.” With a last glance back at the man, and at the horse near him, Hogan slipped back out into the night.
“Still think I’m a nice guy?” Hogan asked, holding up a chocolate bar he had gotten in the latest Red Cross packages. He put the prized candy on the desk.
Hogan stood before Klink’s secretary the next day, displaying his most charming smile, a touch of roguishness lighting up his eyes. Helga played along with a smile of her own, obviously enjoying the encounter, but determined not to let Hogan know that she had long ago fallen under the spell of his personality. “You have your good points,” she said. She moved past Hogan to file some paperwork that had piled up on her desk.
“My good points?” Hogan said, playfully disappointed. “I thought you’d like it if I brought you a little offering.” He came up behind Helga and smelled her hair. “I plan to treat you with respect; I’m a gentleman, and you’re worth it!”
“Am I worth a pair of nylons?” she teased, brushing past Hogan and returning to her desk.
Hogan knew when he was beaten. “I’m working on that,” he said. “But they’re awfully hard to come by. Mom wants to keep the ones she’s got, you know.”
Helga smiled. “I doubt you are getting your mother involved in this.”
Hogan held up his hands in surrender. “You’re right; I’m not. She’s probably just now finding out I’m even here.” A twinge of regret at his mother’s pain raced through his mind, then disappeared as he focused on his goal. “But I haven’t given up on them yet. That has to count for something.”
Helga gave a smile that melted Hogan inside. “It does, Colonel.” She sat down. “So, what do you want today? You have not brought Corporal Le Beau with you.”
Hogan sat on the desk. “I was hoping this would be a solo flight.” He leaned in close. How long had it been since he had kissed a woman? The temptation raged within him, but he didn’t want to blow one of the best chances he had at getting an insider to help their operation by succumbing to a momentary weakness. Still, charm had its place, and he knew he had to bring all of it to bear here. Truthfully, but with a bit more force than he would have used when not so much was at stake, Hogan said, “There are some things a guy would rather do without his friends around. Like be with a beautiful woman.”
“Colonel Hogan, you are flattering me,” Helga said, knowing the game but pleased nonetheless. “You must want something very badly.”
“But I do want something, Helga, I do,” Hogan answered. Her lips are so close…. He straightened and steeled his resolve. “But, unfortunately, I need something more urgently.” Helga sensed that Hogan was getting down to business and straightened her blouse and the things on her desk ineffectively. Hogan abandoned the sport. “There’s a new munitions plant a few miles from here. When’s it going into operation, and how is it being accessed?”
Helga gave Hogan a sideways look. “That new plant is top secret, Colonel. What would a prisoner need to know about it?”
Hogan gave a start, then noticed the woman was smiling. She got me again. “Let’s just say I have a peculiar hobby.” She nodded. “It’s really important that I know what’s going on in there. For the sake of my curiosity, of course.”
“Of course,” Helga answered serenely. She stood up. “This may cost you more than a pair of stockings, Colonel Hogan.” Hogan’s eyes drank in the swaying hips of the young woman as she swished past him and over to a locked filing cabinet. Pulling a key on a chain out from around her neck, Helga opened up the top drawer, drew out a manila folder, and casually dropped it onto the desk, relocking the drawer. “I need to go into the Kommandant’s office for a moment, Colonel. Make sure you don’t look at anything on my desk. Especially any folders I may have put there.”
The desire Hogan was feeling for Helga was suddenly mixed with admiration, and hope. She floated past him and knocked briefly on Klink’s door. “Herr Kommandant, I need you to sign these requisitions,” she said, and she disappeared into the office, closing the door quite deliberately behind her.
Hogan wasted no time. He grabbed the file, marked “Straße Sicherheit: nur autorisiertes Personal,” and started quickly sorting the papers inside until he found what he wanted. “I’m going to owe you more than a couple of pairs of stockings,” Hogan muttered, as he smiled and set to work studying the contents of the priceless treasure chest Helga had opened before him.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“I know I’m going to regret asking this, Carter, but how are things going with the dynamite?”
Hogan stood beside the young demolitions enthusiast in the tunnel laboratory, looking at what was to him an impossible mixture of silica, caps, paper and other materials. The ice-cream maker was perched on the table nearby, still holding some precious nitroglycerin. With hands as gentle as those holding a newborn, Carter lifted a vial out of the makeshift cooler, and turned to his commanding officer. Hogan involuntarily took a step backwards. “This stuff is great,” Carter said in a whisper. “I’ve made so much dynamite we could probably blow up half the bridges in Germany.”
“Just two for the time being, Carter,” Hogan said, also feeling the need to keep his voice down.
“Well, half the bridges—or maybe these would be really shattered—you know, like blasted to smithereens. I mean there wouldn’t even be a piece big enough to hold in your hand. They wouldn’t even know what material had been used to construct the bridge. The way this stuff works—”
“That’s fine, Carter, fine,” Hogan cut in.
Carter shrugged, satisfied he had gotten his point across. “The stuff’s over there, Colonel,” Carter said, pointing to the wall behind him.
Hogan turned as Carter resumed his delicate work. Impressed, Hogan nodded and looked at the pile of dynamite Carter had stacked on the floor, as well as at a number of other small incendiaries that Hogan couldn’t instantly identify. “Good job, Sergeant,” he said.
“Thanks, Colonel,” Carter answered. “You know, I’ve been thinking about that munitions plant. The plans you drew don’t really give us a clear entrance.”
“No, they don’t.” Hogan frowned. He hadn’t like the look of the set up either. A front entrance always guarded, one road leading in. Woods behind, but an electrified fence to deter any unwanted visitors, and barbed wire. He was still working out possible ways to enter the plant, and had almost decided to leave it until last, or, possibly, leave it out of their list of targets altogether, at least for the present time. But London had other plans.
“I’m thinking maybe we could blast our way in.” Carter’s statement intruded on Hogan’s private musings.
Hogan raised his eyebrows. “And how long do you think it would take before someone came after us if we pulled a stunt like that?” he asked.
“Well I was thinking that if a few of us dressed up as German guards and took the places of the Germans outside the factory, then when the blast was set off, no one would notice.” Carter’s mouth twitched as he considered his plan. He was still thinking it out, and he knew that this was where his idea had finished. He wasn’t normally the ideas man; he didn’t like trying to figure out all the plans and was quite happy to leave the conniving to someone else. But the factory plans had intrigued him, and he couldn’t help but let his mind wander just the slightest bit as he worked solo in the tunnel.
“And all the Germans inside the building would come running out.” Hogan sighed. “Thanks for trying, Carter, but I think I’m going to have to burn some midnight oil mulling over this one.” He started heading back toward the ladder. “Nice work. Don’t worry… we’ll use up your dynamite. I promise.”
Face it, Hogan, this one’s beyond you. Hogan went back into his room and lay back on the lower bunk. You’re getting ideas above your station. Stick to the bridge…and Ludwig and Alida. Hmph—Schultz’s brother. What will he think when his brother disappears? Hogan closed his eyes and allowed himself to feel the emotions he had been avoiding since learning of the guard’s family ties. God, please let this be over soon. I want to go home.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“It may interest you to know, gentlemen,” Klink said at roll call the next morning, “that General Burkhalter has just informed me that the Third Reich is enjoying a brilliant victory after an Allied strike over Hamburg was crushed last night, and our interests were left undamaged.” He paraded back and forth in front of the prisoners, a self-satisfied smile on his face taunting Hogan and his men.
“I find that hard to believe, Kommandant,” Hogan said. The men around him started shifting in anticipation; a comment from a bristling Hogan was bound to mean some relief from humiliation for them.
Klink immediately stopped his pacing. “And why is that, Hogan?” he asked, coming almost nose to nose with the senior POW. “Are you still so unconvinced of Germany’s superior abilities?”
“To make a mess of things? No. To win a complete victory over the Allies in the sky? Yes. Even a damaged Allied plane can drop a bomb, Kommandant.” Hogan knew he had no leg to stand on; he didn’t know for sure what had happened in Hamburg, and he didn’t know if the Allies had been able to wipe out anything at all. But he was banking on Klink having trumped up the victory, if there was one, in a bid to keep the prisoners disheartened; the usual let’s-destroy-morale trick that he had tried to master, and which Hogan constantly tried to defeat. “Or organize to crash into an enemy target if it’s completely crippled.”
Klink’s face started reddening. “Colonel Hogan, what will it take to convince you? Perhaps a tour of the area?”
“No, thanks,” Hogan answered. “Bombsights are rarely interesting to me. There’s no ambience.” The men around him snickered. “Although, if you’d like me to go, I’d be happy to take a car and have a look—or has a guard wandered off with one again?”
Shorts bursts of laughter from the prisoners. “That’s enough, Hogan,” Klink said through gritted teeth. “Diiiiis-miiiiissed.”
Hogan nodded acknowledgement to the cheers of those around him, and went back into the barracks.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Sergeant Wilson is here, Colonel,” Le Beau said later that day. “He wants to speak with you.”
“I don’t have time,” Hogan answered, a bit too shortly. He looked up from his desk full of papers. “Sorry, Louis. There’s just a lot going on.”
“Oui, Colonel. I understand.” Le Beau considered leaving, but decided to speak his mind. “Colonel, may I speak with you a moment?”
Hogan nodded. “Sure; what’s on your mind?”
“It is about Schultz’s brother.” Hogan motioned for Louis to sit. “I want us to help Ludwig; he has been a good contact for us, and a good help.”
“But?” Hogan prompted gently.
“But we are taking a great risk trying to bring in someone known to one of the guards, even one that seems as harmless as Schultz.” Le Beau looked around the room as though looking for a place to hide.
“You’re worried it’ll expose the operation.” Le Beau nodded. Hogan sighed. “I’ve thought the same thing, Louis. Over and over again. But when it comes down to it, we owe it to him. And if we do this the same way we’ve done all the others, Schultz will never even know he’s been through here.”
Le Beau nodded again. “We are breaking up a family,” he said quietly. “Schultz will never know what happened to his brother.”
“We’re saving a family,” Hogan corrected him. “If the Gestapo gets to Ludwig and his wife, Schultz won’t even have a brother. And he can always contact Schultz when he’s in London.” Hogan was glad of the chance to work this all out with Le Beau; his own thoughts had been running along a similar vein, and it was hard to reconcile the need to do what they were doing with the idea that a family would no longer be together, that there would be no more late-night meetings in front of the fire after a night in town for these people, in the reassuring company of family. “This is what we do, Louis. It’s part of what we’re here for.”
Le Beau looked up. “Oui, you are right. Sometimes this whole operation gets me a bit… how do you say… confused. We are doing so many things I would never have dreamed of.” He stood up. “Thank you, Colonel.” Hogan nodded. “Can I please send Wilson in?”
“Sure,” Hogan said, thoughtfully.
Le Beau left and soon the camp medic walked in and shut the door. “Colonel, can I have a few minutes?”
Hogan let out what he was starting to believe was one of a large collection of sighs. “I’m fine, Sergeant,” he began.
“Yeah, I can see your cuts are healing. Now I want to know about the rest of you.”
“The rest of me is getting well, too.” Hogan stretched as if to prove a point. “See?” he said, biting his lip as a jab near his ribcage threatened to betray him.
“Wonderful,” Wilson said. Still, he approached the Colonel. “Now. What about your head?”
“Headache’s just about gone. A twinge from the bruises once in awhile. Nothing I can’t handle.”
“Glad to hear it,” Wilson said. “But I meant mentally.”
“Mentally?” Hogan echoed. Wilson nodded. “Since when did you become a psychiatrist?”
“Colonel, there’s a lot on your plate at the moment. I don’t know the half of it—I know you prefer it that way, and quite frankly, so do I. But mental stress can be just as debilitating as physical injury. And after your encounter with the Gestapo, it’s more important than ever to make sure your mind is cooperating with your body in its healing.”
Hogan didn’t answer. Wilson didn’t move. Hogan held out as long as he could, then gave in to his need to fill the silence. “I’m okay,” he said.
“Flashbacks?” Wilson asked. He remembered only too well the state of Hogan’s mind when the Colonel was first brought into the camp. Long periods of unaccounted-for time, injuries that he couldn’t remember sustaining. And the haunting fear that there was something he was hiding from himself, that he had broken under the torture inflicted by his captors. Wilson had told him then that it would take time for his memories to resurface, if they ever did. And when they finally came forward, he had no doubt they would be devastating to Hogan’s psyche. If that happened at the wrong time, Wilson feared the effect could be crippling.
“Not many,” Hogan said. “A couple of brief images here and there. Bits of conversation. Nothing concrete. Mainly… homesickness.” Despite his desire to keep his thoughts private, he couldn’t help but speak. He closed his eyes and shook his head, as though feeling the pain of it right then and there. “I can’t stand it,” he nearly whispered. “My mother, my brother, my bed—I didn’t think about home this much when I was in London!”
“You weren’t being held in a prison camp in London. It’s natural, Colonel.” Hogan nodded, then seemed to physically change his demeanor. Here comes the mask, thought Wilson. This is one of the strongest men I’ve ever met.
“Well, there are more important things to think about now than Mom’s home cooking,” Hogan said forcefully. “I’ve got a few things to blow up…and a couple of people to get out of here.”
Wilson shook his head. “Leave me out of it,” he said. “And I mean that—don’t go off and get hurt, would you? I’m running a bit low on supplies, and your people in London haven’t re-stocked me yet.”
Hogan smiled. “No problem,” he said. He stood up as Wilson turned to leave. “Sergeant—thanks for the pep talk. I’ll be fine.”
“You just do what you’re told. Look after yourself.”
Hogan saluted the man sharply. “Anything you say, sir.”
Wilson shook his head, and smiled, resigned. “If only it were that easy.”
The Hard Stuff
“Okay, I’ve made my decision. The ammo dump and the bridge near it are tonight’s targets.”
Hogan held a meeting in his office the next morning, his men forming a semi-circle around him as he pointed to the different locations on a small map on his desk. “Why those, Colonel?” asked Carter.
“Because we’ll have the greatest chance of success there. And if the Germans are investigating the sabotage there, they may be distracted from the munitions factory, over here,” Hogan answered, moving his finger along the map to the location of the plant, several miles in the opposite direction, “which may make it easier to get in. Once we’ve got that, we’ll go for the second bridge, down here, and then, all going well, we’ll get Ludwig and Alida out.”
Hogan paused, hating that he had to put the couple last, wishing he could do it differently, but knowing that he couldn’t, if he intended to follow London’s orders.
“Get in to the munitions factory?” Kinch asked. “How are you intending for us to do that?”
“I was hoping I could just slip that one in there unnoticed. Obviously, you fellas are just too sharp,” Hogan said. He pulled out another diagram. “I’ve been studying the layout of the plant. It’s heavily guarded and completely enclosed by an electrified fence. The Krauts have done too nice a job of protecting it for it to be an easy target. So,” he said, “that means we’re going to have to get to it another way.”
“I’m not sure I’m going to like this,” Newkirk commented, only half kidding.
“I’m sure you won’t,” Hogan retorted. “As a matter of fact I think you’re going to hate it. But we don’t really have many choices. Newkirk—you, Carter, and I are going to get inside that plant and place some bombs in and around the equipment. Kinch, you and Le Beau are going to be doing the same thing outside. We’ll get you inside the perimeter once we’re on site.”
“I was right; I don’t like it at all,” Newkirk concluded.
“How are we going to get in, Colonel?” Le Beau asked.
“The plant’s new, it needs workers. The Krauts have gotten plenty of local people involved. We’re going to conveniently replace three of them and go inside ourselves. One of us will slip away and de-electrify the fence for Kinch and Le Beau, while the others plant the bombs inside.”
“One other thing,” Hogan resumed. “Once we start this, we’re bound to have the Gestapo crawling all over the woods. So we’re going to have to get Ludwig and Alida out tomorrow night.”
“But Colonel, London ordered us to wait,” Kinch reminded him.
“We are waiting; I’d rather bring them out tonight,” Hogan retorted grimly. “After we blow the munitions plant, I’ll make a detour and bring them here, and we’ll keep them here until the heat’s off. I don’t want to lose the chance to get them out.” The others were quiet. “Understood?”
“Oui, Colonel.” Le Beau looked at the others. “Understood.”
“What about the locals inside the factory?” Carter asked.
Hogan grimaced. “I’m still working on that. Let’s just hope I can come up with something that will work.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“The Underground is passing on a message to our two parcels to be ready for pickup tomorrow night,” Kinch said. He emerged from the tunnel and came up to Hogan, who was sitting with his elbows on the table in the common room, hands crossed to support his chin, staring at something his mind’s eye was playing out before him.
Hogan didn’t answer. Kinch tried again. “Colonel?” Hogan blinked himself back to the present and looked at him. “Ludwig and Alida will be ready for us tomorrow night. White Rabbit is getting them the message.”
“Thanks, Kinch.” Hogan settled his chin back on his hands and turned back to his thoughts.
Kinch looked around the empty room, waited. After a minute he asked simply, “Where are the fellas?”
“Outside.” Hogan was still miles away.
Kinch was beginning to recognize the mood Hogan was slipping into. He tried to reassure him gently. “Colonel, you’ve got all the bases covered.” Nothing. Hogan’s stillness was disturbing. “We’re gonna be okay.”
The instant replay became visible in Hogan’s eyes. “That’s what I told the boys when Goldilocks was heading out on her last mission. No one came back… half of us didn’t get out at all.”
“That was different,” Kinch said. Hogan looked at him, with only the slightest questioning in his eyes. “They were gunning for you, wanted you bad. Colonel Hogan was quite a thorn in their side.” Hogan’s eyes fell to the table. “No one knows that you’re Papa Bear. They won’t know what hit ’em.”
Hogan thought of the men he was taking with him, the people they were trying to help, the civilians who worked in the factory they were pledged to destroy. “There are too many lives at risk,” Hogan said, angry, still not moving.
“We’re volunteers, Colonel,” Kinch reminded him. “We’re doing this because we want to. You couldn’t protect us from this if you tried.”
Hogan nodded. He couldn’t focus on anything but the overwhelming sounds and images in his mind. The piercing screams, the stifling heat, the searing pain, the adrenalin-soaked jump into a flak-peppered sky. And the sensation of breath-taking fear, accompanied by guilt—devastating, paralyzing guilt. “It can’t happen again,” he whispered. “Not because of me.”
Kinch looked at Hogan’s whitening face, his now less-than-steady hands. “It won’t,” he said firmly, drawing his commanding officer’s troubled gaze. Then, softer, “You didn’t start this war. You can’t end it yourself. You have to trust us to help, too.”
Hogan dropped his hands and straightened. “I do trust you; it’s the Germans I can’t trust. You’re following my orders. If something should happen—”
“Then as Louis says, ‘C’est la guerre.’ We signed on for the hard stuff, Colonel. We know the risks. And if we’re going to trust anyone’s judgment besides our own, it’s yours. You haven’t steered us wrong yet.”
“There’s always a first time.”
Kinch shook his head. “I know it’s no picnic in the park, Colonel. I wouldn’t want the burden of command, myself. But it’ll get easier. Ten or twelve of these missions and you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.”
Hogan looked at the man sitting before him, seeing reflected on Kinch’s face all the men he had left behind: the crew of his plane, Goldilocks, slapping each other on the back as they began their twentieth, fateful, mission, not knowing that it would be the last time some of them would ever see home. And the crew innocent: Bailey, whose unexpected appearance at Stalag 13 had rescued Hogan from hopelessness when he had been sure he would go mad, and whose escape from a nearby Stalag had convinced Hogan that he could make a real difference to the war by staying under the eyes of the Germans instead of following his navigator to safety. Oh, how tempting it had been to follow Bailey out! But in the end, it had made Hogan more determined to make something of the seemingly insane plan of Allied High Command to set up shop here, and to get boys home.
“It won’t get easier, Kinch,” Hogan said finally. “But I’ll be able to hide the panic a lot better.—Come on, let’s see what’s keeping the others occupied.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Lights out, everybody, time for lights out!”
Schultz’s voice echoed through the barracks, making it clear in everyone’s mind that it was the Germans who were ultimately in charge. Wake to their shouting in the morning; close the day to their shouting at night. No wonder the guys get nightmares, Hogan thought. He came out from his room, bathrobe wrapped around him, a scarf borrowed from another prisoner covering his neck and the opening at the top of the robe. “G’night, Schultz. Sleep tight,” Hogan said.
“No sleep tonight, Colonel Hogan,” Schultz bemoaned. “Just guard duty.”
“Awww,” Le Beau sympathized dramatically. “You don’t like being a big bad German, Schultzie?”
“You know I do not like to take sides,” Schultz replied. “And I definitely do not like being outside on a night like this.” He shivered in the cold that was seeping through the cracks between the planks that made up the walls of the hut.
“Would you like some warm apple cider, Schultz?” asked Newkirk.
Schultz’s eyes lit up, and a smile that was reserved only for culinary pleasures took over his face. “Ja, Newkirk, ja, very much!” he sang.
Newkirk shrugged. “So would I. But we’re stuck with old coffee and not enough sugar. A shame, isn’t it?”
Schultz’s face fell. Hogan smiled at his men’s rowdiness. It’ll get easier. “Okay, fellas, okay, let’s let Schultz get on with his long, lonely vigil.”
“Not lonely, Colonel Hogan. The Kommandant has six of us out on rounds tonight.”
“Six?” Hogan echoed.
“Ja. That Gestapo Colonel, Feldkamp, he told the Kommandant that he is suspecting trouble, and he wants to have extra patrols out to watch in case there is an escape from another camp tonight,” Schultz said confidentially.
Hogan had frowned at the mention of Feldkamp’s name. “Sounds like Klink’s letting this guy take over!” he protested.
“Please, Colonel Hogan, promise me—no monkey business tonight, ja? I am due to go on leave soon; I do not want the Kommandant to be angry with me.”
“Don’t worry, Schultz; we won’t do anything you can find out about.”
“Danke, Colonel Hogan, danke.” Schultz stopped and seemed to think about what Hogan had said. “And don’t do anything I can’t find out about!”
He opened the door to the barracks, prompting loud protests from the cold prisoners, and went back out into the night. Le Beau pushed the door shut quickly behind him.
“Extra patrols,” Kinch said, pulling on a black sweater.
Hogan ripped off the scarf to reveal a dark shirt, then took off the robe, which had been hiding clothes to travel in. “Mm, Feldkamp’s getting edgy. He’s still on Klink’s back, and Klink’s just enough of a pushover to let him stay there,” Hogan said. “We’ll just have to be even more cautious.”
“And what a night to go out,” Le Beau shivered, coming toward the center of the room. He pulled off his torn red sweater to reveal dark clothing beneath it.
“It’s a great night to do this!” Carter enthused.
Hogan paused and looked at his demolition expert, his curiosity getting the better of him. “How’s that, Carter?”
“Well, explosions cause fires. Fires are warm. That’s great on a night like tonight.”
Kinch shook his head. Newkirk gave Carter a deadpan stare. “You astound me,” Newkirk said.
“What makes you think we’re going to stay around to toast marshmallows?” Hogan asked.
“Aw, gee, Colonel—I wouldn’t mind getting to see what it looks like when the dynamite goes off. The bridge’ll break up like a pile of matchsticks; it’ll be a truly awesome sight!” Carter said.
“Oh, you’ll see it all right—over your shoulder as you run away,” Hogan answered. “Otherwise you could be reminiscing from a Gestapo jail—or in front of the firing squad.” He shook his head. Sending innocents like Carter out to do sabotage work—it’ll get easier? he thought doubtfully. Not likely. “The sooner we get out of here, the sooner we get back and into our cozy, not-so-warm beds,” Hogan said. He looked at the men assembled, changing their clothes and ready to do their part. “Let’s get on with it. Newkirk, where’s the shoe polish? We need to cover our faces. The less visible we are, the better I’ll like it.”
The Big Bang
Though the ventilation in the main tunnel out of Stalag 13 had been greatly improved, Hogan was still finding it hard to breathe as he and his group headed out for the night. Unfortunately, he knew it had nothing to do with the availability of fresh air in the tunnel, and everything to do with his anxiety. He was the first one out; with a cautious, tentative push of the hollowed-out tree stump that served as a tunnel exit outside the camp, Hogan waited for a brief moment, listening for any sounds of patrols, and for the sweep of a light from the guards’ tower. When the light curved past, Hogan hauled himself out of the tunnel and into the night, quickly reaching down to pull out Louis Le Beau. The two then waited, face down against the cold, hard earth, for the searchlights to pass again, and then Newkirk pulled himself up and out. Kinch followed, reaching down for two large offered sacks of explosives, and, after another sweep of the lights, Carter followed, closing the lid of the tunnel behind him. Then the group melted into the shadow of the nearby trees.
Hogan motioned for the group to separate enough to all find cover within the forest, two of them carrying the explosives carefully with them. He listened for patrols, or any indication from the camp that their escape had been discovered. Nothing. Just the whistle of an increasing wind that was biting their faces. The cold is an enemy, too. We’ll have to make short work of this or we could be dealing with more than the Germans!
Hogan had had his men memorize the directions to the targets before they left the camp, so he had no doubt that if any man got separated from the others, he would be able to find his way home. But they still all seemed content to wait for him to lead the way, so, drawing in a calming breath, he pulled away from the shadow of the tree and gestured in the direction they would be taking.
Hogan felt four pairs of eyes glued to his back as he moved cautiously through the woods. Pausing now and then to orient himself and to listen, he nodded briefly in relief that the only sound he heard was the sudden halting of the men behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw only eyes reflecting pale moonlight, anxiety, and hope. He turned back and kept walking, trying to think only of the work ahead, and not the past that kept licking like burning flames at the corners of his mind.
After what seemed like an eternity, Hogan came to an abrupt halt. The others encircled him. Hogan pointed ahead, squinting in the darkness. “That’s it,” he said in a low voice. The others turned to look where he had pointed. In the distance they could see a clearing, with at this stage barely distinguishable objects gathered together, and a few buildings, all surrounded by high fencing. The ammo dump. Hogan felt his stomach tighten.
“So the bridge is a mile east of here,” Le Beau whispered.
“Yep. Kinch, Carter—you know what to do.”
“Right, Colonel,” Kinch answered. “We’ll rendezvous in an hour.”
Hogan nodded. “Good luck.” He watched, fighting for detachment, as Kinch and Carter made sure they had the right explosives pack and headed off into the darkness. Then he deliberately turned back and faced the two men remaining. “We’ve got some work to do of our own.” Hogan noticed their eyes were still following their retreating comrades. “If we don’t get moving, they’re going to finish before we will, and we’ll never live it down,” he said.
Newkirk shrugged. “I bet Carter that I could make a bigger explosion than he could with his ruddy bombs.”
“And Kinch said he would cook for a week if he finishes first—and he cannot cook, Colonel,” Le Beau added. “So we had better hurry, or we will lose the war due to food poisoning.”
Hogan nodded. That his men were trying to overcome their anxieties made him all the more resolute about making sure everything went smoothly. “Then we’d better go,” Hogan replied. “I can barely take the taste of his coffee!”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“We’re gonna have to get to it at the base,” Carter said, pointing.
Kinch looked at the bridge before them, looming large in the night, and looking, quite suddenly, far too exposed for any man to be hanging around if he didn’t want to get shot. “You mean on those support beams?” he whispered.
“Yep. If we can wire up those beams, and then add a few timed explosions to the mix, we’ll be looking at a pile of twigs in no time.”
“It worries me how enthusiastic you are about these things, Carter.”
Carter looked up from rummaging in the big sack they had brought with them. “Well, gee, Kinch, if you’re going to do a good job, you’ve gotta like your work.”
“How did you get to like this work in the first place?” Kinch asked, thinking perhaps he didn’t really want to know the answer.
“Well, it was an accident, really. It started on my uncle’s farm. Y’see, he let me drive his tractor one day, and I drove it out so far I found a little broken down bridge. And I remember thinking, ‘Gee, it’s so rickety, it could be dangerous if anyone tries to go over it.’ But I wasn’t sure how to take it down in pieces, so I thought—”
Kinch waved his hand in surrender. “Okay, okay; let’s concentrate on taking this one down first. I’ll get the rest of that story later… otherwise I won’t get the chance to show off my culinary skills. Louis thinks he’s the only one who can cook around here…well I’ll show him a bit of Cajun that he’ll never forget!”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Le Beau’s eyes followed the German uniform that was treading a path back and forth not thirty feet away from where he crouched in the darkness. Back, forth. Back, forth. No change of pace. The exact same number of steps in each direction, with the same short, sharp swivel as the soldier in question carried out his duty to protect the goods behind him. This didn’t look like something Le Beau wanted to encounter tonight. Judging by the expression on Hogan’s face, it wasn’t something the senior officer was impressed with, either.
A muscle in Hogan’s jaw was twitching, making him look angry as well as stressed. His dark eyes were darting back and forth, looking for signs of anyone else in the area, summing up the situation and trying to take this turn of events on board. He had considered that there might be someone guarding the dump; it was a possibility he had wanted to put out of his mind. But the idea had continued to gnaw at him, and he had never really stopped working on a contingency plan if they didn’t have smooth sailing all the way through.
Unfortunately, the contingency plan included violence to the person in their way, which, no matter how necessary Hogan knew it was, niggled at him, since the man going through his paces directly in their path was probably some poor grunt who had been given this rotten shift because of his lowly rank or some minor infraction of the rules that he probably hadn’t even known about in the first place.
The guard seemed to be on his own. Hogan looked around the perimeter of the heavy chain link fencing and saw no one, and no other gate for entry other than the one the solitary soldier was guarding. Overconfident bastards, Hogan thought. Better take advantage of it while we can; once we get rolling, they’ll get wise to the idea of one poor soul doing the work all on his own!
Hogan looked past the guard to the setting behind him. Countless drums filled with what was probably fuel; bundles that were strapped together to look like bales of hay containing God-knows-what; a couple of large, barrack-like buildings that were in darkness; and other crates and containers scattered around the area. This was going to take more than one or two well-aimed explosives to set off a chain reaction.
There was nothing else to be done for it; Hogan nodded toward Newkirk, and the RAF Corporal dug into the pack and started pulling out some of the small, compact explosives that Carter had designed in the last couple of days. He handed a few to Le Beau, and some to Hogan, then put the bag down and turned back toward the living obstacle before them. Hogan quickly surveyed their surroundings and gestured pointedly toward some underbrush a few feet from where they were standing. Newkirk nodded, drew in a breath, and moved away from his companions.
Hogan waited until Newkirk had moved in closer to the German guard, then called out with a shout that seemed to indicate someone was in trouble, without actually saying any clear words. The soldier immediately stopped his pace, and brought his rifle to the ready. “Was ist los?” he called. The man moved away from his post and closer to the wooded area where Newkirk was hidden.
It was all over quickly; Newkirk’s gun came down heavily on the back of the guard’s neck, and with a strangled gasp the soldier slumped to the ground. Another blow to ensure a long-term headache, and Newkirk dragged him to the area where Hogan had pointed, then gave the thumbs-up.
Hogan nudged Le Beau, and the two of them hurried to Newkirk’s side. Hogan thrust the remaining explosives at him, then uttered quietly, “Toss the stuff, and then run for cover. When this baby blows, we’re in for a real shock, and I don’t want either of you to get hurled into a tree. As soon as it’s safe, we go; I’m sure company will be coming all too soon.”
“Oui, Colonel,” Le Beau answered.
“Right, gov’nor,” added Newkirk.
Hogan took a final look at the guard lying unconscious near his feet and moved quickly and quietly toward the fence. Working his way down to where he could more accurately direct his aim, he looked for a target that was close enough to other ammunition to start a domino effect. His eyes stopped on a cluster of barrels a few feet on the other side of the fence. The collection stopped at another group of crates, which backed into a small building further inside the wire.
Hogan looked back toward Newkirk and Le Beau, whose outlines he could barely make out in the darkness. Le Beau was crouched down near a small join in the fencing, already attaching some dynamite to it, with long fuses ready to be set. Newkirk was much further along, an arm poised and ready to toss the incendiaries he had taken for himself.
Hogan quickly pushed the dynamite he was carrying through the fence, holding fast to the long fuses, then wove the line around the links, leaving only an inch or so hanging out. Then he pulled out his matches, gave a final look toward the two Corporals, and lit the fuses. The others were doing the same. Then Hogan ran quickly along the fence line in the opposite direction and, pulling a pin on the small explosives he had taken, he hurled the devices over the barriers and as far as he could into the main compound of the dump.
He was just turning from the fence toward the cover of the trees as the first explosion ripped through the night. Hogan felt a rumbling under his feet, then as the blasts increased in ferocity, the force knocked him off his feet, and he crawled behind the closest cover he could find, covering his head and lying as low and small as he could manage. Adrenalin causing him to draw heavy breaths, Hogan took the quickest of glances towards where he had just seen Le Beau and Newkirk. He could see no one near the fence, or anywhere else, and the roar of the explosions was blotting out all other sounds, hurting his ears and making him wince with discomfort and fear. Somewhere in the midst of the booming, screaming death of the ammo dump, he heard an alarm siren starting to wail; he doubted anyone farther away than he was would be able to even hear it.
Then the heat washed forward with the force of a physical blow, and glancing up, Hogan could see flames reaching up to the sky, flinging debris and ammunition in the air like feathers, and sending overwhelming heat rolling forward. Hogan lowered his head to protect his face from the hot air and the twisted metal and splintered containers being thrown like old rag dolls hundreds of feet away. Hugging the trembling earth, Hogan inched further away from the thundering inferno. Small arms ammo was being set off, sounding like popping corn in the midst of the carnage, and hand flares were blazing into the sky, like a deranged fireworks display.
A large, burning shell fragment whistled overhead, slamming into the tree behind Hogan and immediately causing it to burn. Several more followed, and Hogan realized he wasn’t going to be able to stay where he was and expect to remain alive and well. One swift move brought him to his feet, and he raced, with no care for appearances, as far away as he could manage before another teeth-rattling explosion pushed him to his knees. A large, heaven-sent boulder was only a few feet away, and, trying to protect himself from the onslaught, he stumbled behind it, frantic for himself and for his comrades, whom he still could not see.
Suddenly something touched him, and he jerked his head up from the shelter of his arms to see Newkirk standing beside him. He screamed something that Hogan could barely hear as a whisper, and the two of them ducked as yet more explosions ripped through the night. “Where’s Le Beau?” yelled Hogan.
Newkirk squinted as though trying to make out the words. Then he pointed farther away to another patch of trees that had not yet been consumed by flame. Hogan looked carefully, starting to cough from the dirt and dust being whipped up by the firestorm, and eventually saw the prone form of the Frenchman under a tree. Alarmed, Hogan broke from the shelter of the boulder and, unsteadily on the still-shaking ground, raced for Le Beau. “Louis!” he shouted, feeling in the din that his voice was barely a whisper.
Hogan’s relief when Le Beau looked up from the ground was almost overwhelming. The Frenchman had only been protecting himself, and now, he tugged at Hogan’s shirt to pull him down as well. Newkirk appeared beside them, panting.
“Let’s get outta here!” Hogan called. The others nodded agreement. Newkirk helped Le Beau up, and, dodging shrapnel and other burning debris, they raced toward the rendezvous point, hoping upon hope that Kinch and Carter would be there, so they could all head home.
All Fall Down
“Are we far enough away?”
Kinch and Carter were hunched behind a tree on the hill just past the bridge, Stalag 13 to their backs, and a wired bridge before them.
Carter nodded. “Plenty. This is a big tree, Kinch,” Carter answered. “I give it about thirty seconds and it’ll be time to push the plunger.” Carter surveyed the pair’s handiwork from a distance. “You do good work. Ever thought of becoming a demolitions man?”
Kinch shook his head. “No, thanks. I’ll stick to electronics. Less chance of getting blown up that way.”
“Same chance of getting shot while you’re here,” Carter shrugged.
Kinch made a face. “Thanks, Carter. I feel a lot better now.”
Suddenly the sounds of the night were interrupted by a tremendous noise that shook the branches of the tree under which they were standing. Carter did a double-take to make sure the dynamite on the bridge hadn’t gone off early, then said, with a touch of awe in his voice, “That must be the others.”
“We’d better get moving.”
“Just a few seconds,” Carter said, counting under his breath. A bang from the bridge, and he pressed down on the plunger with all his force, then pulled himself and Kinch down closer to the ground.
The earth received its second shock of the night. Splintered wood burned and fell to the valley below, and metal screamed into new shapes as fire started to consume the disappearing bridge. Carter couldn’t stop a grin from washing over his face, only to be brought back to a different reality when Kinch nudged him. “Come on,” Kinch said, “let’s get out of here before someone shows up.”
Carter agreed reluctantly and started disentangling the plunger from the wiring he had used. “See?” he said as they turned away and started back. “I told you it’d be nice and warm.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Explosions still ringing in their ears, the two groups met up about a half mile away from the tree-stump entrance to the emergency tunnel. After the briefest of looks around, Hogan had waved the others below, following them hastily. They practically ran back to the ladder under Barracks Two, listening anxiously as the explosions rippled through the tunnel, causing the oil lamps perched on the tunnel walls to tremble. With no time for words, they listened to the world above them, hearing only the muted sounds of more blasts. Hogan paused, then tapped a cautious signal on the ceiling of the tunnel under the bunk that served as the entrance to the building. The upper ladder suddenly swung down to meet them, and the face of Olsen peered down in greeting.
“Thank God, you guys,” Olsen said, backing up to let them enter. “This place is a madhouse. Krauts running everywhere; the place is in a panic. You’d better get changed right away.”
Hogan listened to the work they had done that evening still reverberating in the distance. He shivered inside when he thought of how close they had been to the source of those terrifying noises. Nodding, he turned to his men and told them to get into their government-issue clothes. There was no time for small talk, and no time to dissect the mission; an untimely intrusion by a German could mean the end of their operation—and the end of them.
It wasn’t until Hogan started stripping down that he found that he hadn’t escaped unscathed. A large splinter sat embedded in his lower left arm, and he had to gingerly peel off his trousers, as dried blood had affixed them to his knees. He winced at the stinging, then ignored it and thought of the men outside his room.
Still feeling little pain, Hogan finished changing and peered out into the common room. “Everybody okay?” he asked. He looked at Le Beau and Newkirk who, like him, had been so close to the main blasts. Le Beau’s cheek was bleeding, and Carter was examining what looked like a cut on Newkirk’s neck. Both of their faces, like his own, were filthy with stirred up dirt, and their hair had been visibly lightened by the dust. Kinch and Carter seemed untouched, if a bit grimier than they had started out. “Kinch, go get Wilson, would you? We need to make sure the Krauts don’t get wise to any of this.”
Kinch nodded and scrambled back into the tunnel. Hogan hobbled over to the bench, the feeling far-too-soon coming back into his legs as the adrenalin quickly drained from his body. Carter approached, and Hogan turned his attention to the young Sergeant. “Nice stuff, Carter. That whole place was a powder keg. They won’t be using any of that ammo any time soon.”
Carter grinned. “We could hear it from the bridge, Colonel. It sounded fantastic!”
“Any trouble there?”
“Oh, no, sir, everything went great.” Carter paused. “And it was nice and warm, too!”
Hogan shook his head. “It was pretty warm where we were, too,” he said.
Kinch returned shortly with the medic, and Hogan asked Wilson to give his men the once-over and make sure their cuts were clean and their injuries minor—and hidden. Wilson nodded and went to work on one man at a time, as the others continued their clean up with another man on watch in case the Germans came to call. Hogan disappeared into his room during the proceedings, trying to come to grips with everything he had seen, and, for the first time since the action began, thinking about the soldier he had ordered Newkirk to get out of the way. He wondered if the man was still alive.
Some time later, a knock on Hogan’s open door drew him back to reality, and he sighed a weary, “Come,” without looking up.
“Your turn, Colonel,” came Wilson’s voice. Hogan watched with disinterest as the medic entered the room, medical bag in hand. “How’d you fare tonight?”
“Could have been a lot worse,” Hogan said, suddenly exhausted. “I don’t think I expected the blasts to come so hard and fast. But then, I’ve never been so close to an explosion I’ve caused,” he amended.
“Let’s take a look at you.” Wilson put his bag down on Hogan’s desk.
“How are the boys?” Hogan asked.
“They’re okay,” Wilson answered. “A few abrasions; I’ve dressed and hidden what I could. Newkirk’s going to have to pretend he cut himself shaving, though. Are your eyes irritated?”
Hogan considered for a moment. “A bit gritty,” he admitted. Until now he had just thought of that as tiredness.
“That’s from all the dirt blowing around. Newkirk and Le Beau said the same. Salt water eye washes, all right? For a couple of days, until they settle down. Ringing in your ears?”
Hogan nodded. “A little.”
“That should go away soon, too. Make sure you tell me if it doesn’t. What else?”
“What else, what?” Hogan dodged.
“Cuts, bruises…broken legs? What else did you do to yourself?”
“Just a splinter in my arm; I can get that out later.”
“I’ll save you the trouble,” Wilson said. He came toward Hogan. “Roll up your sleeve.”
“I told you, I’ll do it later.”
“And I told you, I’ll do it now.” Wilson stood stubbornly before Hogan. Trapped on his bottom bunk, Hogan knew in the end he wasn’t going to win, and rolled up his sleeve. Wilson flinched. Something about splinters always made his stomach do a tiny flip. Still, he had seen worse. He turned back to his bag and pulled out some antiseptic and instruments to remove the foreign object. “Nice plank you’ve got there; collecting to build the whole house piece by piece?”
Hogan made a fist and gritted his teeth as Wilson’s instruments probed his arm. “I figured the Germans owe me something for making me stay here.” He involuntarily tried to pull away when Wilson touched a tender spot; the medic paused before continuing, but firmly held Hogan’s arm in place. “Consider it a souvenir.”
“You’re lucky you didn’t do more to yourself,” Wilson said. Hogan hissed as the invading splinter reluctantly left its new home. Wilson reached for some gauze to wrap around the sore arm and continued. “Like break your legs.” Hogan raised an eyebrow. “They’re next—let’s see them.”
“I beg your pardon?” Hogan asked, rolling his sleeve back down.
“Your legs—let’s see ’em.”
“You’ve spent too much time away from girls,” Hogan said lightly. “My legs aren’t all that attractive.”
“Colonel, you limped your way in here before. Don’t think I didn’t notice. Now let’s see why.”
Hogan decided resistance was useless and allowed Wilson to examine him. When he was finished, Wilson shook his head, and Hogan lay back on his bunk. “Okay, so this time you’re right; that’s superficial stuff,” Wilson said grudgingly. “You must have landed pretty hard in the blasts. But don’t spend much more time on your knees in the next few days!” he ordered, with a mock pout.
“Only to give thanks,” Hogan replied.
Wilson shook his head, amazed. “I still can’t believe you pulled it off.”
“Are you kidding?” Hogan answered. “With Carter in charge of munitions? We’re lucky we didn’t blow up the whole country. More work to do tomorrow, though… and we’re not out of the woods yet. I won’t be happy until I know the Germans don’t suspect us of anything.”
Hogan’s words were starting to slur, something that wasn’t lost on Wilson. “Get some sleep, Colonel. I’ve already ordered the others to bed. You can talk about it all in the morning.” He waited for an answer from the officer, then realized Hogan was already asleep. He packed up his equipment, shut off the light, and silently slipped out of the room.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“What happened last night, Kommandant?” Hogan asked after roll call the next morning. Klink had been particularly tight-lipped at formation. Hogan had looked around with interest at the branches and other debris that were littering the camp, thinking again how far-reaching the damage from the explosions had spread. Dust still swirled through the air, and to the east, a heavy stream of smoke continued to billow steadily into the skies. There seemed to be a lot of guard activity this morning, and as the head count concluded, Klink announced that all prisoners were confined to barracks until further notice, refused to answer questions, and turned sharply on his heel to return to his office. Hogan had followed, Schultz trailing him with a string of pleas for Hogan to obey the Kommandant’s orders, and stood confidently, almost self-righteously, at Klink’s desk, looking down at the German, who seemed particularly harried and in no mood at all to deal with a man who more often than not could bamboozle him completely, and cause him to do things that never seemed to help the Third Reich.
“Nothing you need to concern yourself with, Hogan, now return to your barracks as ordered dismissed,” he said without taking a breath.
Hogan raised his eyebrows as though surprised. “Is that any way to treat a person who’s just looking after the men under his command, sir?” he asked.
Klink looked up from his paperwork, tired. “Your idea of looking after your men is to torture me, Hogan. I don’t have time or patience for that today.”
Hogan shifted his weight back and forth on his feet and did his best to look wounded. “Now that really hurts,” he said. “I was only asking because I was worried about you being understaffed if you’re sending all the guards to help fight that fire.”
Klink stiffened and immediately squinted as though to scrutinize Hogan more closely. “How do you know about that?” he asked, his voice quivering with frustration.
“Well it would seem obvious, sir, the way the sky is all smoky. And you wouldn’t really have any other reason to confine the men to barracks, unless it was because you wouldn’t have a full complement. Tell me, sir, were those explosions we heard last night connected to the fire at all?” Hogan asked innocently.
Klink frowned. “Explosions? I don’t know what you’re talking about, Hogan.” Klink’s voice was becoming more agitated.
“Gee, you must be a sound sleeper. One blast knocked Corporal Le Beau right out of bed! And the air’s all full of grit this morning, Kommandant.” Hogan moved in closer, and lowered his voice as though trying to keep his words secret from intruders. He grinned knowingly. “Now tell me what’s really going on.”
Klink waved his hand in front of Hogan’s face to force him away. It didn’t work. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
Hogan stood up and crossed his arms, sighing loudly. “Okay, Kommandant, have it your way. But I’d hate to be the one who tells General Burkhalter you’ve refused the prisoners’ help in fighting the fire!”
Klink stood up and rounded the desk. “Refused the prisoners’--? That shows just how much you don’t know, Hogan,” he said smugly. “The Gestapo doesn’t want anyone but authorized personnel near that fire, while it is being investigated.”
Hogan mentally raised his eyebrows. Now he was getting somewhere. “Why would the Gestapo need to investigate a forest fire, sir?”
Klink laughed. “It’s not a forest fire, Colonel Hogan; an ammunitions dump was sabotaged last night.” Klink stopped suddenly, wondering about what he had just revealed.
“Ohhh,” Hogan said, sounding awed. “I guess that explains all the boom booms.”
Klink waved his fist in frustration. “Hogan, I don’t need any of this today; Colonel Feldkamp is coming here this morning to discuss our strategy on dealing with this, and I would rather you weren’t here when he arrives!”
Hogan retreated toward the door. “I’d rather I wasn’t here, too,” he said, anxious to get out so he could start planning—and so he could stay as far as possible from anything connected with Feldkamp. With a hasty salute, he quickly left the office.
Kinch pulled out the converted coffee pot listening device as soon as Le Beau saw Feldkamp’s car drive into camp. Huddled around it in Hogan’s quarters, the group listened carefully as the Gestapo officer ranted and raved about the events of the night before, with Klink trying desperately to get a word in edgewise to find out how he was supposed to be involved in this.
“And where were your prisoners last night, Klink?” Feldkamp spluttered angrily. “I suppose you are going to tell me that they were all nestled all snug in their beds?”
“Of course, Colonel Feldkamp. Our guards do a bed check every night; everyone was here.”
“I suppose you think that means all your men are innocent?”
“Colonel Feldkamp, everyone was present at roll call this morning. I cannot understand why a prisoner who did escape last night would come back!”
Hogan nodded. “That would make sense—if he wasn’t talking about us,” he shrugged.
“Feldkamp’s pretty riled up,” Kinch said.
“Wouldn’t you be?” Newkirk answered.
Hogan shushed them and kept listening. “Someone went out last night and committed two acts of sabotage. We lost tons of ammunition and a very important bridge! So far we have no idea who is responsible. But we will not rest until we track down the perpetrators and give them the punishment they deserve. We need to know if this was a one-time event, or if it is part of something bigger. Where is your Colonel Hogan this morning?” Feldkamp was saying.
“He’s confined to barracks with the rest of the prisoners,” Klink replied. “I know you have your suspicions about Hogan, Colonel, but he is just a prisoner like all the others—cowed under my command. Oh, he can be quite a handful when he wants to be, but I rule this camp with an iron fist, and he succumbs just like the rest of them.”
Hogan raised his eyes to the ceiling. “Oh, brother.”
“I wish to speak with him, Klink,” Feldkamp said.
Kinch looked carefully at his commanding officer. Hogan didn’t react openly; only his eyes flashed with anxiety for the briefest of seconds.
“Of course you may speak with Hogan. But I assure you, he is completely innocent of any wrongdoing here, Colonel,” Klink was saying.
“Do you make it a habit of defending the enemy?” Feldkamp asked.
As Klink fumbled a reply, Hogan sighed and unplugged the coffee pot. He broke away from the others and headed for his bunk. “Well that settles that. Sounds like we pulled it off. No one knows what happened last night. We’re going to have to play tonight by ear.”
“Do you think we should wait awhile, sir? I mean the heat’s turned up pretty high, gov’nor,” said Newkirk.
“Yeah, if we go out tonight they might be waiting for us,” Carter added.
Hogan nodded grimly. “I don’t want to make Ludwig and Alida wait any longer than they have to. But if we try to bring them in now, they might get caught—we might get caught. I’m gonna have to think about it. And it sounds like I’ll have plenty of time.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Colonel Klink, I protest!” Hogan exclaimed. “How can Colonel Feldkamp think I’m involved in sabotage—you counted me last night, and you saw me this morning. Does he think I have my own private tunnel or something?”
“In this case, I tend to agree, Hogan,” Klink said, turning pleading eyes toward Feldkamp. “But if you would just talk to the Colonel—”
“Talking was the last thing he wanted to do the last time he was here,” Hogan said, flaring.
“You were not terribly cooperative the last time I was here, Hogan,” Feldkamp said.
“Hard to be when you’ve got goons beating you up,” Hogan sneered. “And I told you already, I don’t know anything.”
“I think perhaps you just need some help jogging your memory.”
“Kommandant, help me out; I’m fighting for my life here!” Hogan said, playing it up to keep the others off balance. True, he wasn’t interested in having another “discussion” with Feldkamp and his thugs, but he also figured that an innocent man would be putting up a bigger protest than one who had something to hide. The balance was precarious—methinks thou dost protest too much, Hogan quoted to himself—and he knew he had to be careful. “You’re the Kommandant of the camp; it’s your duty under the Geneva Convention to protect prisoners from undue hardship and unjust punishment.”
Klink raised his arms in a gesture of frustration and defeat. “The Geneva Convention!” he despaired, his head already spinning at the clauses and phrases that the senior POW was likely to throw at him.
“Bah! The Geneva Convention does not apply to spies and saboteurs,” Feldkamp declared. “Klink, I want to talk with Hogan privately. You may leave and come back when I am through.”
Hogan silently steeled himself as Klink bowed to what was apparently the inevitable and left the room. He took in Feldkamp’s determined expression, and prayed this would be a short visit.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Le Beau tried not to notice when Hogan turned away from him to splint the muscles of his abdomen with his arm and choke out an agonized cough. He bit his lip when Hogan drew in a jagged breath and winced painfully. But he had to speak up when Hogan started swaying and grabbed for his bunk to steady himself.
“Colonel, let me get Sergeant Wilson,” Le Beau said, helping Hogan to sit.
Hogan shook his head but accepted the aid. “I’ll be all right in a minute,” he managed, still panting.
Le Beau straightened angrily. “Filthy Bosche. Cochon. Serpent.”
Hogan reached a hand up to Le Beau’s arm to stop the stream of invectives. “Enough, Louis; it’s all right,” he said breathlessly, still holding his abdomen. “Feldkamp was just letting off some steam. He’s had his kicks; now he’ll leave me alone.”
“That’s a fine thing—to have a human punching bag,” Le Beau said indignantly.
“He suspects something’s going on. He has nothing to go on, but he’s read my record from the Dulag Luft and he doesn’t trust me. But he won’t get anywhere, Louis. He hasn’t got a leg to stand on. It’ll be okay.”
Le Beau shook his head. “And in the meantime, whenever he wants to have a workout, he comes to Stalag 13.”
Hogan sat quietly for a moment, continuing to compose himself. Then he looked up and said, “I have a feeling the Gestapo is going to stay with us all the way through the war. The more we do, Louis, the more irritated they’re going to get. We can only hope to throw them off the trail and make sure we stay one step ahead of them. They can’t all be as aggressive as Feldkamp.” Le Beau looked askance at his superior officer. “But I’m not counting on it.”
“Feldkamp told Klink he will call him tomorrow to make sure he has been having the guards patrol the woods near the camp.” Le Beau took in Hogan’s questioning look and added, reluctantly, “We were listening when you left Klink’s office, Colonel.”
Hogan looked away, nodding. He hadn’t wanted his men to hear his encounter with Feldkamp. It wasn’t vanity; it was the feeling of helplessness that bothered him, and he didn’t want to share that with anyone. Hogan looked regretful as he made his next decision. “Tell Kinch to get a message to the Underground. The woods are crawling with Gestapo patrols. Ludwig and Alida will have to wait until the heat’s off. We can’t go out there tonight; it’d be suicide.” He closed his eyes and rubbed his sore jaw. “For everyone.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Colonel Hogan, it’s my brother,” Schultz said to Hogan when he came into the barracks for bed check that night.
“What is it, Schultz?” Hogan asked, immediately on the alert. He had been ready to turn in, grateful for the rest after a long day of reflection and self-berating for under-anticipating the Gestapo’s reaction to their sabotage activities, but the mention of Ludwig brought him to attention.
“You know how I said Ludwig seems to be hiding something,” he reminded Hogan.
Hogan shifted uncomfortably. “Yes?”
“I visited him tonight when I got off duty. I had asked Kommandant Klink for special permission to go, after the explosions. I wanted to make sure he and Alida were all right.” Hogan nodded. That thought had crossed his mind momentarily as well, until he had heard back from the Underground that the parcels had been pulled from the post as he had ordered, with a very angry “Return to Sender” note that made it quite clear to Hogan that the couple was not pleased. “He seemed very agitated, Colonel Hogan. He would not talk to me. He always tells me what is happening, but this time he would say nothing!”
Hogan nodded. He knew all too well why the man was agitated. “He was probably just on edge because of the explosions, Schultz. It would have frightened his wife, and his animals, and kept them all awake.”
Schultz considered this, then nodded his head in agreement. “You think so?”
“Sure,” Hogan reassured him.
“Well, then, why did he not tell me?”
“Do you think he wants his big brother to know he’s been worried? Worried about his wife, worried about you? You’re a soldier, Schultz; he probably thought you had been caught in the blasts, and when you showed up, he was relieved—and what man wants his brother to know that?”
Schultz nodded his head in agreement, then chuckled lightly. “You are right, Colonel Hogan. Ludwig would not want to admit that he worries about Hans.” He chuckled again. “He even told me that the explosions were enough to make him want to run away! Jolly joker.” He turned to the door, still smiling. “A fine brother, Colonel Hogan. I hope you are so lucky with yours, when you are older.”
Hogan smiled thoughtfully. “I hope so, too, Schultz.”
“Perhaps we will all get together after the war, and trade stories.”
“There’ll certainly be a lot to talk about.”
A New Plan
Newkirk very gradually eased open the top of the tree stump exit to the emergency tunnel, making sure it moved only the slightest bit, and looked out. So far nothing. No sounds, no footsteps. He was about to widen the opening when he heard a whistle, and instinctively crouched lower, making the opening even smaller. Soon, he saw boots crossing in front of his eyes, and a German shepherd on a lead, sniffing the ground. He closed the lid and zipped back up to the barracks.
“No good, Colonel, the Krauts are still hovering around the exit.”
Hogan crossed his arms and grimaced. “Swell.” He started pacing the room. “We’ve got to get them away from there so we can get moving again. We’ve got to get to that factory.” And Schultz’s family can’t wait forever. More Gestapo means more chance of them getting caught before we can get them out.
“How about a diversion?” Carter piped up.
Hogan stopped pacing. “What do you mean?”
“You know, something to get them away from the tunnel. When they move out, we can move, too.”
“We know what the word ‘diversion’ means, Carter,” Kinch said. “What the Colonel wants to know is, what kind of diversion?”
Carter grinned sheepishly. “Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I’m not usually the idea man.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t think the Germans would just drive away from here.”
Hogan started pacing again. “What if they did?” he wondered out loud. The others looked at him questioningly. “What if they did just drive out of here, and we went with ’em?”
“What do you mean, Colonel?” asked Le Beau.
Hogan stopped and faced the men. “A diversion just big enough to send them running far, far from here, maybe for good—or at least long enough for us to complete the rest of our mission. Newkirk, could you mimic Feldkamp’s voice?”
“Ja, ze madman has quite an easy voice to imitate, Herr Colonel,” Newkirk said almost perfectly.
Hogan smiled briefly. “Carter, what have you got that’s small, powerful, and can be set on, say, a twenty minute timer?”
“I’ve got some charges I’ve been working on with gunpowder, Colonel. It packs quite a punch, boy—I mean, sir—and if you place it just right—”
“Perfect.” Hogan stopped Carter’s flow. “Here’s what we’re going to do.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan bid good night to the men of Barracks Three and started crossing the compound back to his quarters just as “lights out” was being called. Schultz came running up behind him as he drew his jacket collar up closer around his neck.
“Colonel Hogan, what are you doing out of the barracks? You know you should have been in your quarters by now,” he said imploringly.
Hogan smiled and kept walking. “Just keeping good relations with the men, Schultz. You know how it is—the fellas want to play a little poker, they want their commanding officer to join in—” He stopped and let out a chuckle. “They seem to think officers have more money to lose. I hate to break it to them, but in a POW camp, we’re all just as broke as each other!”
Schultz let out a groan. “Colonel Hogan, gambling by the prisoners is verboten!” he said through clenched teeth.
“Is it? Corporal Langenscheidt didn’t seem to worry about it.” Hogan watched, amused, as Schultz tried to erase any memory of this conversation, even as it happened. “As a matter of fact, I took him for fifty marks. He was on quite a losing streak tonight.” Hogan gestured toward a car parked near Klink’s office. “What’s going on there?” he asked casually. Good; that’s the signal. Thanks to Newkirk’s mechanical trickery, this will be the car that goes out tonight!
Schultz looked. “That I do not know,” he said solemnly. “But the Kommandant does not always take me into his confidence.”
“That’s a shame, Schultz—the German army could use more men like you.” Hogan reached for the door to the barracks and turned to the guard. “Strong.” He opened the door. “Brave.” He went inside and faced Schultz, blocking him from coming inside. “Trusting.” He straightened suddenly and dropped the sweetness from his voice. “We’re all here, Schultz. G’night.” And he shut the door.
Hogan turned around to his men, who were watching with interest, and made a face like a cheeky kid listening to a grownup’s uproar about some naughtiness as Schultz started pleading loudly from the other side of the door. He checked to make sure everything was in place, then turned back and opened the door, smiling benignly. “Just kidding, Schultz, you can come in.”
Schultz ambled in, trailing his rifle. “Jolly joker,” he said. “You know the Kommandant makes me count you every night. And now that Colonel Feldkamp is around, he is even more anxious.”
“I can understand that,” Hogan said, crossing his arms uncomfortably.
Schultz started the count, and from behind him, Hogan nodded to his men. “Ein, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs…” As Schultz continued his rounds, Newkirk hopped from his spot once he was counted and quietly slipped to another spot in the room. “Dreizehn, vierzehn…” Schultz paused in front of Newkirk, thinking. “Vierzehn…” He looked behind him, where Newkirk had been earlier. “Englander, haven’t I counted you already?”
Newkirk shook his head, standing stiffly as though at attention. “Of course not, Schultz.”
Schultz screwed up his face as he thought. He looked around again. Hogan shrugged innocently. Schultz turned back to Newkirk. “Are you sure you weren’t over there?” he asked, pointing to the spot where Newkirk had previously been standing.
“Now, really, Schultz; why would I be standing over here, if you’d already counted me over there? It’s just that we British all look alike to you.” Newkirk blinked a couple of times, long, staring blinks that made Schultz doubt himself.
Schultz shrugged his shoulders as if in defeat and finished the count. “All present, Colonel Hogan; now it is time for lights out.”
“Told you, Schultz,” Hogan said, smiling and pushing the guard out the door. “Nightie-night now. See you in the morning.”
Schultz mumbled his good evenings and shuffled, still slightly bewildered, out the door. Hogan waited until he was sure the guard was not going to return, then prompted the group into action. “Newkirk, Kinch—down in the tunnel. Le Beau—you guard the door. Is Carter in place?”
“Oui, Colonel,” Le Beau answered.
“Good. I’ll sneak off to the motor pool to make sure no one fixes what we just broke!”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Colonel Klink came flying out of his bedroom, pulling on a robe and still carrying the book he had been reading when the telephone had interrupted his leisure time. “Yes, yes, Colonel Klink speaking. Heil Hitler….”
“Klink, this is Colonel Feldkamp, where are you, you fool?” Down in the tunnel under Barracks Two, Kinch was trying hard not to laugh as Newkirk took on the poses and demeanor of Feldkamp in his attempts to get the voice just right. “I have been waiting for you!”
Klink fumbled with his monocle. For some reason, even though he was on the phone, he felt more comfortable hiding behind his eyepiece. “Waiting, Colonel Feldkamp? I don’t understand.”
Newkirk stiffened and started gesturing wildly. “I am expecting you to meet me, Klink—three miles east of Stalag 13. We are expanding our search for the saboteurs. Do you expect me to do this all by myself, Klink?” Newkirk lay a stiff finger under his nose and quivered it as Klink fumbled an answer. Kinch stifled a laugh.
“Ja, Klink, you get your car and you come out to meet me, schnell!”
Klink sighed. “Yes, Colonel. Whatever you say.” He looked longingly at his book, and thought of the cup of cocoa going cold on his nightstand. “Where will you be?”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“There goes Klink,” Le Beau announced about ten minutes later. He turned back to the others from the door, where he had been keeping a lookout. “Schultz is driving him.”
“Good,” Hogan said. “Now all we have to do is wait for Carter to come back and we’ve got it made.”
“Will he be safe, Colonel?” Le Beau asked, always worried for the man he saw as an innocent genius.
Hogan paused. The thought was always uppermost in his mind, too. But Carter had so willingly crawled into the trunk of the car when it was moved to the front of Klink’s quarters, and so easily avoided any detection, that Hogan believed the young man had to have some kind of guardian angel working overtime looking after him. Hogan worked on convincing himself that if anyone could manage a miracle escape, it would be Carter, and answered, “With Schultz as a chauffeur? The most he’ll have to worry about is carsickness.”
Carter listened carefully as the muffled voice of Klink filtered through the metal of the car to his ears. “Schultz, you dummkopf, there is no one here; you must be in the wrong place!”
“Oh, no, Herr Kommandant,” Schultz responded. “I followed the directions you gave me, sir!”
“Get out of the car and look around,” Klink commanded wearily. Carter heard the door to the car open and shut, then footsteps moving away from the vehicle. Very slowly, he worked the trunk open and stopped, listening again, before he snuck out and silently closed the hatch, creeping unnoticed into the nearby woods, and toward the secondary bridge that was his target.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Kinch’s eyes followed the brown jacket back and forth across the common room, but he said nothing. He had gotten used to the idea that pacing was his commanding officer’s way of working things out. Carter was late coming back, and Hogan was worrying.
“Colonel, Schultz and Klink are not back either; he would be coming with them!” Le Beau insisted, for the third time in fifteen minutes.
Hogan merely shook his head and kept walking, crossing and uncrossing his arms, stopping suddenly and then starting again. Newkirk pulled a drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke out high into the air; Hogan’s nerves were starting to affect him, too. Le Beau madly stirred something in a pot on the small stove, and even Kinch started tapping the back of the book he was holding, unable to concentrate.
“Newkirk, take another look,” Hogan said.
Shaking his head, the Corporal peered carefully through a crack in the door. “Nothing, gov’nor.”
Hogan grimaced. “No Klink, no explosion, and no Carter. I thought we sent them out on a wild goose chase; where are they?”
“Probably still chasing the goose,” Le Beau replied. Hogan shot him a warning look. Le Beau explained, “Klink may go all over the countryside looking for Feldkamp if he thinks it will help get him on his good side.”
“Yeah, and if he stops on the bridge, and it’s already wired, then we lose Carter!” Hogan snapped back, then wished he hadn’t as the realization of what he said dawned on the others.
Newkirk looked around the room uncomfortably. The thought of losing the eager young American had always been a possibility—it had always been possible that any of them could be shot at any time, no matter what the supposed rules were as lain out by the Geneva Prisoner of War Convention. But that fear had always been left unspoken.
Hogan cleared his throat and said into the quiet, “That was a stupid thing to say.” He swallowed. “Carter’s too smart to hang around when he’s placed one of his own explosives somewhere. I’m sure he’ll be back any minute.”
“That’s right, Colonel,” Le Beau replied, anxious to forget the whole conversation.
Hogan looked up again as a sound from the outside drew his attention. “Newkirk?”
Newkirk didn’t have to be told twice. He looked back out the door. “It’s them, sir,” he said, obviously relieved.
Hogan’s face broke into a wide grin. “See? Told you!” he said gleefully. “He turned and headed for his office. “Let’s find out what’s going on. Le Beau, watch the door and make sure Carter makes it back here. Kinch, let’s get the coffee pot warmed up.”
“I can see the trunk of the car opening, Colonel!” Le Beau called out.
Kinch relaxed and followed Hogan into his quarters. The tension had been broken. Somehow it was always okay.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“What took you so long?” Hogan asked as Carter stretched his arms and legs. Le Beau handed him a cup of coffee; Kinch handed him a cigarette.
“Well I didn’t have any choice about when to come back, sir,” Carter replied. “I mean, Klink had Schultz driving all over the place. Thought he’d made a mistake in the directions.” He stopped and grinned. “But he didn’t.”
Hogan smiled. “No. He didn’t.”
“Anyway, so we got there, and when I heard Klink yelling at Schultz about how they couldn’t find Colonel Feldkamp, I figured it was safe. So I snuck out and wired it all up. Took two seconds flat; it was easy. All I had to do was make sure Schultz and Klink didn’t drive off without me!”
Hogan shook his head, still amazed that Carter was standing babbling before him, still immeasurably relieved that Carter was safe and obviously unaffected by the events of the night. “So how come we haven’t heard any explosions?” asked Kinch.
“Oh, that!” Carter replied. Hogan raised his eyebrows. Carter started shifting from foot to foot. “Well,” he said, avoiding Hogan’s eyes, “um, well, I know you said you wanted, you know, twenty minute timers and all, Colonel, but um…” Carter shoved his hands in his pockets, faltering.
“Yes?” Hogan asked, starting to worry.
“Well, sir, um… I wasn’t sure how long it would take Klink to get out of there. And the way he was hovering around waiting, I just didn’t think he was gonna move the car until it was too late… so I set them for an hour, just in case.” Carter looked at the floor. “Sorry, Colonel.”
Hogan let his shoulders relax. He smiled gently at his young subordinate. “Carter,” he said, “you were the one out there. You were the only one who could judge what was best. You improvised. That’s what I expected you to do. You don’t have to apologize; you did good. What’s more, I’d expect you to do it again, if you needed to.”
“Gosh, Colonel—disobey one of your orders?” Carter gasped.
“Only if I’m not around and it endangers your life or the lives of the men you’re with in a way that isn’t necessary to protect the operation.” Hogan shrugged. “It’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants job, Sergeant. If you’re out on a mission, you have to be prepared to adapt to the unexpected. And if you’re going to remain a part of this merry little band, you’ll probably have to do it all the time.” His eyes swept the room to make sure the others understood their inclusion in his declarations. “You can think on your feet; it’s one of the many reasons you’re part of the core group.” Carter straightened, feeling proud. “But if you ever disobey one of my general orders,” Hogan shot at Carter with mock strictness, “I’ll see your can court-martialed from here to North Dakota!”
“Oh, no, sir, boy!” Carter replied loudly, snapping to attention. “Um—I mean, no sir, Colonel. I wouldn’t do that, Colonel, no, sir. I mean, I know you say it’s okay to do what I have to on the outside, and I understand that, sir, but I sure won’t be making a practice of it. I wouldn’t dream of not doing anything else you said, Colonel Hogan, sir—”
“Carter!” Hogan stopped him, laughing. “I accept your loyalty, and I’m grateful! So when do we expect the fireworks?”
“Fireworks? I only placed—” Carter cut himself off and grinned. “Oh, you didn’t mean fireworks, did you?” he guessed. “You meant—um,” he looked at his watch, “about… five minutes.”
“I can hardly wait.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Klink’s voice echoed across the compound in the early morning light. Hogan blinked sleepily, hands jammed into the slit pockets of his bomber jacket, head down, stifling a yawn. The noise in the camp after the explosions finally went off last night had kept the prisoners hopping. Cars flying out of camp, cars roaring into camp, footsteps, searchlights, shouting, and an extra roll call about twenty minutes after the initial explosion that forced everyone out into the cold night while they were counted, and recounted, and counted again. Then another count an hour later. No one was answering questions.
“Herr Kommandant, all prisoners present and accounted for!” Schultz barked.
“Very good, Schultz!” Klink answered.
Hogan considered getting Klink all wound up, then decided against it as the stiff morning wind snaked its way through the assembled men. As it turned out, he didn’t have to do a thing—it had all been done the night before.
“Gentlemen!” Klink started. Hogan sighed. “All prisoners will be confined to barracks until further notice!” Klink stopped, lightly bouncing his riding crop under his arm as his eyes ran up and down the lines of men. Hogan recognized the move: a precursor to an accusation of some injustice done to himself or his precious camp’s reputation. He didn’t have long to wait. “Last night there was some unusual activity a few miles from here. A bridge was blown up, and no one is claiming responsibility.”
“Well some of the best works of art are done anonymously,” Hogan piped up. The men around him snickered.
“The Gestapo is searching the woods as we speak!” Klink continued, ignoring Hogan as best he could. “The perpetrators will be found!”
“Uh-huh, just like they found the ones who blew that ammo dump, right, Kommandant? What are you doing to guarantee the protection of my men, in case one of those explosions gets out of hand?”
“There will be no more explosions to worry about, Colonel Hogan,” Klink answered, coming face to face with his senior Prisoner of War. “But if you have any concerns, you can urge your men to heed my order to stay inside the barracks.” Hogan merely raised an eyebrow. Klink turned on his heel and started pacing in front of the men. “Now in the heat of last night’s… events… it also became apparent that there has been more tampering with camp vehicles. I have doubled the guard at the motor pool. And anyone caught trying to get near the cars will be severely punished!”
“I think you’ve got the fox guarding the chicken coop, Kommandant,” Hogan declared.
Klink squinted as he tried to assimilate what Hogan had said. “The fox, Colonel Hogan?”
“Well, obviously my men had nothing to do with it—you’ve said yourself a guard drove right out of camp the other night without permission; sounds like you’ve got a revolution on your hands, not mischievous prisoners.”
“That’s enough, Hogan,” Klink seethed. “Just make sure your men stay away from the cars.”
Hogan shrugged. “Okay, but your car’s due for its ten thousand mile check. I wouldn’t want to be held responsible if the brakes fail or the carburetor dies, or…”
“I’ll take my chances!” Klink responded, frustrated. He added, almost under his breath, “It’s better than trying to win an argument with you.”
“Whatever you say, sir.”
“Hogan, if only that were true, I would feel much better about you being in this camp.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Are you sure it’s all clear?”
“Yes, Colonel—we swept the area; the Gestapo has moved out. They must think the saboteurs have moved on to another area.”
“Great. We’ll make our move on the plant tonight. Tell the Underground to make sure Ludwig and Alida are ready. The time for waiting is over.”
“You’re all square on the plan?” Hogan asked, having gone over the sequence of the night’s events yet again with Newkirk, Kinch, Carter and Le Beau. “When we’ve cleared the munitions plant and the bridge, you fellas head home. I’ll detour over to the Schultzes’ and bring Ludwig and Alida back here.”
“Oui, Colonel,” Le Beau answered. “Are you sure one of us cannot go with you?”
“Definitely not; there’ll be Krauts swarming as soon as that thing blows, and I want you guys home safe and sound.”
“Never thought I’d think of this crummy place as home,” Newkirk commented.
Hogan turned to him. “Yeah, well, be it ever so humble… you know how it goes. For better or for worse, when we’re seen to be here, we’re safer than we are out there—most of the time anyway. And here is exactly where I want you when the Germans start to congregate. Got it?”
Le Beau sighed. “Got it.”
“And Carter,” Hogan added, when he saw the young man about to protest, “you can consider this a general order.”
Carter swallowed. “Yes, sir.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
The problem of getting explosives into the plant had been considered over the few days leading up to this moment; in the end, Hogan had determined, with input from Carter, that there would be sufficient material in the plant to be converted quickly into something deadly. Shoe laces, however, had been replaced by fuses, and inside their socks and tight around their waists were tiny, concealed amounts of gunpowder. “Now that’s what I call a hotfoot,” Kinch quipped, breaking up the tension they were all feeling as they made their preparations.
“Have you got your papers?” Hogan asked, as they prepared to head out.
“Right here, Colonel,” Newkirk answered, holding them up for him and Le Beau to take. “I copied them from the ones White Rabbit got us.”
Hogan took his and studied them. “Hm, Johannes Schneider. Sounds generic enough.”
Carter looked at his and frowned. “I’m not sure I can get the Germans to believe my name is Max Laffer,” Carter said. “I mean, I’m probably more of an Isaac or a Jeremy, or a—”
“Or a dead man if you use names like that,” Hogan retorted. Carter shrugged. “Okay, let’s get moving,” Hogan urged, taking a last look over the men around him. He, Carter, and Newkirk were dressed in civilian work clothes, gathered over the course of the operation’s buildup, the rest borrowed from members of the Underground. Kinch and Le Beau were dressed all in black, and Le Beau had covered his face and hands with soot from the stove in the common room. Hogan led the way to the bunk that hid the entrance to the tunnel, then turned before tripping the catch. “Remember—you do your work, and you get out. I’ll meet you back here with Ludwig and Alida as soon as I can. No deviations from that part of the plan. For anyone. Understood?”
The meaning behind Hogan’s words was all too clear. They could look after each other while they were at the plant, but once Hogan was on his own, their part of the job was finished, and they weren’t to get involved again until he arrived back at camp. If he didn’t arrive as planned because of major German activity in the woods, they were to do nothing.
Nothing but worry.
And then, quite possibly, nothing but grieve.
Kinch nodded and spoke quietly for the group. “Understood, Colonel.”
Hogan nodded, took a moment to look each of his men in the eye, then tapped the bunk and started down the ladder.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan watched carefully as Carter handed his documents to the German soldier standing at the door to the plant. The guard studied them, glanced at Carter, and said, “Sie sind Max Laffer?”
Carter just smiled self-consciously and shifted feet. “Ja, Leutnant, ja, bin ich Max Laffer.”
Hogan drew in a breath and held it as the soldier said nothing, but continued looking at the papers. Finally, the Lieutenant nodded and waved Carter through. Newkirk passed easily, and then Hogan himself was allowed to enter.
At first they simply followed the rest of the crowd. Old men, women of all ages, a few people who looked just slightly too young to join the German military. Hogan had a feeling that if the war lasted another couple of years, those youth would be drafted and sent off to fight, some never to return to their families, who were likely somewhere else in this crowd. But then, depending on how the evening turned out, Hogan thought with a sick feeling in his stomach, most of these people wouldn’t be going home tonight. There’s got to be a way….
Soon they were given direction, with Hogan, Newkirk and Carter assigned to a small room with two bulky machines. Hogan looked inquiringly at his men, who shrugged their ignorance of the equipment’s use as well. Three other men had been assigned with them, as well as a German military supervisor, who started firing off instructions.
“Du musst nur wenig tun. Sorg einfach dafür, dass diese Maschine nicht anhält, und sammle das auf, was auf der anderen Seite herauskommt.” The solider pointed to a large container on wheels at the foot of the machine, then to others near the opposite wall. “Wenn sie voll Sind, trag sie durch das Tor und in die Halle.” The men nodded understanding: watch the machines, let the materials fall into the containers, then bring the containers down the hall. The soldier came up to Hogan and shook his head. “Du siehst zu gesund aus, um in einer Fabrik zu sein, statt in Uniform. Du musst dumm sein. Verstehst du, was ich sage?” The soldier smiled teasingly.
Hogan knew he shouldn’t be offended at the guard’s words: you look too healthy to be here instead of fighting; you must be stupid. After all, he needed to fit in. But something inside him still seethed. Is this how they treated the people who, in the end, were the ones supplying the war effort with what it needed to survive? Is this how they treated their own countrymen?
“Verstehst du?” the guard repeated.
Hogan stayed completely expressionless. “Ja. Ja, mein Herr, ich verstehe.” I understand all too well.
The supervisor laughed softly and moved away, leaning against the wall and lighting a cigarette.
“Can’t help thinking that’s a bad idea,” Carter muttered under his breath when he joined Hogan and Newkirk in dragging one of the huge containers toward the end of the machine.
“Why’s that?” Hogan whispered.
“Well, a lit cigarette near explosives…well, gee, that could start a fire… or worse! I mean, take a look at this stuff! Casings for grenades, over there are some—”
Hogan gestured for Carter to keep his voice down. The trio very slowly jostled the container into place. “Carter, you’re brilliant,” Hogan said, patting his arm.
“What? I am?”
Hogan straightened. “You’ve just helped save countless lives.”
“Look out,” Newkirk muttered quickly, and cleared his throat as the supervisor moved into earshot.
“Die hier ist voll. Bring sie in die Verpackungshalle und hol die nächste,” the overseer said, then moved on to where the other three men were working at the other machine.
Hogan nodded and Newkirk smiled ingratiatingly, grabbing an empty container to wheel over to the processor. Hogan and Carter pulled their load out the door and started heading down the hall. It was deserted except for a mouse that hopped frantically along the wall, looking for a hole. It quickly disappeared under a door as the noise of the container rolling across the floor echoed piercingly.
Several doors were getting Hogan’s attention at present. He wanted to know what might be behind them—or, more to the point, who might be behind them. “Carter, look out for any kind of alarm system,” he said softly, conscious of the possibility of his voice carrying.
“Air raid, fire, anything like that.” Carter nodded. “And remember, we still have to find the switch to disarm that fence—and fast. I have a feeling we’ll find all those things in the same area.”
The door ahead of them opened, and another two workers, pushing an empty container, passed them in the opposite direction. “Guten abend, gnädig Frauen,” Hogan nodded.
The two women smiled warmly. “Guten abend, mein Herr.” And they passed back into another room.
Carter grinned. “Hey, I think the little one liked you, Colonel. D-did you see how she smiled at you?”
Hogan let out a short laugh. “Maybe I’ll look her up—after the mission, okay, Max?” Let me take you back to Connecticut, fraulein. “I need a girl I can take home to Mother.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“I wonder how they are going in there,” Le Beau whispered, as he and Kinch stayed crouched behind some brush in the woods near the plant. Deciding that discretion was the better part of staying alive, they had no made any move yet towards the plant, and had remained near the rear of the building, away from the gates where there were guards and weapons.
“The Colonel said we’d know when we have the all-clear. And you know the Colonel—he doesn’t do things in a small way. When he comes up with a signal, it’ll be a big one.”
“Well I hope it is a soon one,” Le Beau added. “I am freezing.”
“Better than sweating it out in there,” Kinch reminded him. “Being right in the middle of all those Germans—I don’t think I’d want to do it.”
“I don’t think they would be too pleased, either,” Le Beau replied, laughing under his breath. “Maybe one time you can go in as a Bosche General. That would shake them up.”
“It’d give a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Brothers in arms.’”
Kinch and Le Beau laughed, then settled back in to wait for the signal, each silently praying that all was going smoothly on the inside, and that they hadn’t seen their companions for the last time.
All In A Night’s Work
Hogan tugged at the heavy container and gave a grunt as it only moved a few inches. “Diesmal ist es zu schwer. Max, Klaus, helft mir, das zum Verpackungsraumzu bringen.” The supervisor looked up curiously, shaking his head at Johannes Schneider’s apparent weakness. Needing two other people to move a container? “Unfall in der Kindheit,” Hogan explained aloud for the benefit of the onlooker. A childhood accident? Possibly believable. “Brach meine beiden Arme. Seither bin ich nicht mehr derselbe.” I’d like to break both of your arms, Hogan thought, still disproportionately angry with the man watching them. And it wouldn’t be any accident, either.
Newkirk and Carter came forward, agreeing in mumbled German to help do whatever they had to. “Und dann ist es vielleicht Zeit für eine Pause, ja? Um uns durch eine Harte Arbeitsnacht zu helfen,” Newkirk said. He shrugged at his companions. Might as well ask for a coffee break. I could use a cigarette. And we could use the freedom of movement.
“Nein,” replied the supervisor, shaking his head. “Niemand macht hier irgend welche Pausen, bis die Arbeit getan ist. Rasten könnt ihr in der Freizeit; solange ihr hier seid, gehört eure Zeit dem Führer.”
“I bet he doesn’t pay very well,” muttered Newkirk under his breath. “‘You’re on the Fuhrer’s time,’” he mimicked. “What a load of—”
“Okay, okay, settle down,” Hogan said, as they left the room behind. “You can join the union later. Right now we have to get that fence looked after.”
They moved very slowly, watching carefully for any sign that someone was coming out of one of the rooms that lined the hall. Still looking around, Hogan pointed to a door near the packing room and nodded for the others to follow him in. They pushed the container so it was up against the wall and slipped away. “Newkirk—lookout,” Hogan whispered. Newkirk nodded and posted himself near the door they had just entered. Carter and Hogan worked using only the dim light the moon provided through the high windows, with the Colonel taking Carter’s lead in priming and manipulating the materials they had brought into this room in bits over the last ninety minutes. It had taken several trips down the hall to discover which room held the alarm systems, and several more trips to feel confident they were not being watched.
Hogan very carefully pulled one of the fuses off of his shoes, and with a pocketknife Carter cut it to the length he wanted. They continued their work quickly and quietly, until everything they had brought with them had been used. Hogan glanced toward where Newkirk was standing guard; satisfied all was still well, he moved toward a panel on the wall. “Eintragung verboten,” was stenciled on the cover. Hogan ignored the warning and lifted the panel to reveal a strip of switches. Zaun, one read, in bold letters, with the indicator pointing toward Auf. Hogan hesitantly, cautiously, turned the indicator in the opposite direction, and waited. No alarm. No lights. No shouts.
Hogan let out a breath and looked toward the others. Carter was moving toward the door, arms loaded with newly charged explosives. Then they all moved back out into the hallway, and Newkirk carefully took one of the live pieces from Carter and gently buried it underneath some of the others in the container. “Allow me,” he said with mock gallantry, as he took several more from Carter and headed into the packing room with it all.
Hogan bit his lip and looked at Carter. “One of those will set off the whole room,” Carter said, nodding.
“And the timers?”
“First one’s set for thirty minutes.”
“Then we’d better get moving. We’ve been gone too long already.”
Newkirk reappeared, making an “okay” signal to the others, and they headed quickly back to their assigned production room. Another cart quickly filled up and this time only Newkirk and Hogan left the room, as the supervisor seemed unhappy with their pace. This time, Hogan took some of the explosives that had been primed in the side room and placed them in two other unused equipment rooms along the corridor. Newkirk planted one more in the cart he was wheeling into the packing room, and then he met Hogan back in the hall.
“We’re running out of time, sir,” Newkirk said.
“I know. We’ve just got to get a couple more in place. See if you can find out where the bathroom is; Bruno can’t refuse you that.”
What followed was a stilted conversation between Newkirk and the German supervisor, while Newkirk tried to bring to bear all his charm and wiles on a man not interested in either. In the end, the man grunted and pointed to another door, and Newkirk nodded and smiled exaggeratedly, and headed out, another small explosive hidden under his shirt.
Hogan and Carter, meanwhile, brought out yet another container, careful not to cross paths with the other trio of men who had been doing the same. “Time?” Hogan asked.
Carter looked at his watch. “Sixteen minutes, Colonel,” he answered.
“We haven’t done enough. This plant won’t blow completely, even with what we’ve done.”
“We’ll cripple it, Colonel. Maybe London’ll bomb it while it’s down?”
Hogan shook his head. “Maybe.” There has to be something else. “What about the wiring?”
“What about it?”
“Do we have enough time to jury-rig the wiring so the whole place goes up?”
“Gee, Colonel, I don’t know.”
“It could blow sky high and the whole thing could look like an accident…. Maybe it’s too ambitious,” Hogan mused aloud. “The box is in the room with the alarms. I’ll get the fire alarm going; you head back and start shouting. The Krauts will start evacuating the building. I’ll plant the rest of the bombs as the rooms are evacuated and meet you back at camp. Kinch and Le Beau need time. We have to give them the signal now.”
“Sounds awfully risky, Colonel.”
Hogan paused and smiled wanly at Carter. “The whole night’s been risky, Carter. Running out of the building’s probably the safest thing we could do.” He punched Carter lightly on the arm. “Go.” Carter hesitated. “That’s an order.”
“Yes, sir.” Carter turned away and slowly headed for the equipment room.
Hogan moved quickly into the room with the control panel and hit the switch marked Feuer. Then he got to work.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
The loud alarm bells emanating from the plant jolted Kinch and Le Beau into action. “That’s gotta be the signal,” Kinch said, tapping Le Beau.
The Frenchman was already on his feet. “C’est bon. Let’s go.”
The pair headed for the fence and started setting their charges, trying to keep their mind off the fact that they wouldn’t know what had happened to their comrades until after they had already hurled grenades at the building, and did their best to reduce the structure to a pile of rubble.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Feuer! Feuer! Alle nach draußen, alle raus, schnell! Feuer!”
Hogan heard the shouting from down the hall and pushed his hands to do their detailed work more quickly. Impatiently massaging his fingers quickly to relieve a sudden cramp, he mentally ticked off time. Eleven minutes. He imagined the two young women they had seen running out of the building, along with the mere teenagers who had looked so uncertain when they had entered ahead of him, Carter, and Newkirk. Come on, schnell, he thought, urging them out. Frowning with the effort, Hogan continued to tinker with the wiring. His mind blotting out the drone of the sirens and the sound of starting explosions from the outside, he grabbed the last of the explosives Carter had left behind, and headed out of the room.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Kommt—weiter, weiter!” the soldiers at the gate were saying. Carter had stopped dead in his tracks and was looking back at the building. “Raus!” Carter was pushed from behind.
“Come on,” urged Newkirk through his teeth, hoping no one heard his English over the din. People were pouring out from the building, which had started blazing from what the pair could only presume were explosives set off by Kinch and Le Beau.
“The Colonel’s not out yet,” Carter said, unwilling to move. He was making a constant scan of the exit, but had not been able to spot their commanding officer.
“He’ll come when he’s ready, now come on!” Newkirk insisted, pulling Carter out of the path of the fleeing throng.
Bright flames waved at them from over the roof of the building, burning deep into Carter’s mind. That’s an order, is all he could hear. Tears that he wouldn’t bother pretending had anything to do with the smoke burned his eyes, and he reluctantly followed Newkirk out of the gate and toward the agreed rendezvous point near the bridge they were to destroy. He would follow orders; that’s what he had promised Colonel Hogan he would do.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
“Boy, did you see that place go up? There were Krauts running everywhere! It will be a long time before they get to sleep tonight!” enthused Le Beau excitedly, as he and Kinch practically bounced their way down the hilly ground to the bridge that was their next target.
“They’re sure going to be busy for awhile,” Kinch agreed happily, sliding to a stop near Newkirk and Carter.
“And now this bridge—they are not going to know what hit them!” Le Beau added, still panting with the adrenalin rush. “That was brilliant—to get the people out first with the alarm,” he said. “The whole place will be useless by the time—” Le Beau stopped short when he suddenly realized Carter and Newkirk weren’t joining in their celebration. He took in Carter’s pale face and turned a shade whiter himself. “Qu’est-ce c’est?” he asked, all at once shaky inside. He took a fast look around them. “Where is le Colonel? He is getting the others, oui? Oui?”
Carter didn’t answer, continuing to look blindly ahead. Newkirk avoided their eyes and said reluctantly, “’E said he needed to finish a couple of things to make sure the building went up. ’E was still inside when it started going off.”
Kinch’s eyes widened as he felt his stomach plunge to his feet. “You mean he was in there? The Colonel was in there when we started throwing grenades at it?” He sat down on the ground, uncertain of his legs.
“How could you let him stay there? Why did you not go get him out?” Le Beau asked angrily, incredulous, terrified.
Carter finally spoke up, numbly. “It was an order.” He looked at the others and added simply, “Colonel Hogan said it was an order.” Newkirk studied the ground. Kinch found a faraway tree suddenly quite fascinating, and Le Beau remained focused on the bridge before them. “He said he’d meet us back at camp.” Carter seemed to draw himself up and find some strength in Hogan’s words. “He said he’d be there later with Ludwig and Alida. So we’d better get the bridge done and get back to Stalag 13, otherwise he’ll court-martial all of us.”
Newkirk drew himself out of his own stupor long enough to move to Carter and place a hand on his shoulder. “That’s right, Carter,” he said softly. “The gov’nor expects us to get the rest of the work done. Let’s finish this off, and when we go back to camp, I’m sure he’ll meet us there in no time.” His body seemed full of lead as he turned to Kinch and Le Beau. “You’ve got the stuff to blow this one, mates?”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Down on his hands and knees, Hogan coughed until he was sure he would turn himself inside out. He had accidentally taken in a lungful of smoke as he’d passed that last room, and his eyes and his chest were stinging. Tears streamed down his face. He had to get out, had to get to the exit. But in the confusion of people flowing out and the shouting and the panic, he had become disoriented and was now simply staying as low as he could, and following the distant voices of people who were running for their lives.
“Kommen—auf diese Weise,” a voice from nowhere said, and Hogan felt himself being tugged away from the wall where he had stopped to get his bearings. He tried to see the person acting as his savior, but his eyes were burning and he couldn’t focus them properly. So he nodded and blindly allowed himself to be pulled along.
After just a few steps, Hogan felt a blast of cold hit him, and he sank back to his knees, trying to draw fresh air into his body. “Nein—kommen,” the voice insisted, and Hogan stumbled further along until his arm was released. He felt himself being leaned against a tree, and, still gasping and coughing, he forced open his stinging eyes to see the person asking in worried German if he was all right.
“Ja… danke,” Hogan managed, nodding. His mind vaguely registered the relief on the man’s face before he closed his eyes again. He listened to the sounds of breaking glass and a chain of explosions, and shouting, and some crying. Finally, Hogan realized he needed to get out of here, fast, and, using his arm to splint muscles sore from coughing, he staggered toward the outer gate, and into the wild night.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Carter’s haunted eyes disturbed them all as they sat scattered in the common room of Barracks Two. Still hearing noises from the factory in the distance, they sat silently, not looking at each other, or anything else. Le Beau hovered uselessly near the stove, picking up and putting down Hogan’s coffee cup, and Kinch was keeping a closer eye on the bunk bed that led to the tunnel below than he had ever done before. Newkirk sat on his upper berth, a cigarette burning out in his hands, never touching it to his lips.
The work they had been asked to do had gone to plan: the bridge was blown, and the plant was no more. But the price was too high; the elation they had expected to feel had been destroyed by the uncertainty over whether Hogan had made it out of the factory. “We should go back—we should see if we can find him,” Le Beau had proposed. But the others agreed that would be useless by this time, and no one else knew where Ludwig’s house was to go and try to find the Colonel there. They would simply have to wait. And the mental images keeping them company were unwelcome.
“It was selfish—he should have come with you,” Le Beau suddenly spouted. He knew he didn’t mean what he was saying, but his anxiety was not allowing him to stay silent. “He would have known we would be worried.”
Kinch shook his head and spoke gently. “You know we had orders to destroy the plant. It was the Colonel’s responsibility to make sure that happened, and he wasn’t going to leave any of us behind to do it if he wouldn’t do it himself.”
“Oui.” Louis nodded, numb. He went to the office door and looked inside, all at once determined to sense Hogan’s calm command presence, somehow. He stepped hesitantly inside. “S’il vous plaît, mon Dieu…” he whispered. “If You can hear me over the noises we have made tonight… bring the Colonel back safely.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
The familiar whinny of the horse greeted Hogan as he entered the barn on the Schultz property, and despite his tiredness and discomfort, Hogan smiled at the sound. Wiping at his eyes for what seemed like the hundredth time, Hogan swallowed a cough and made his way to the animal, wearily wrapping an arm around her neck. “Hey, girl,” he rasped, a mistake as a coughing fit wracked his body, pounding his battered stomach muscles and squeezing his lungs even harder. He pulled away from the mare and hugged his body tightly.
His eyes were barely working now, he realized, leaving him vulnerable to anyone and anything he encountered here. The door to the barn being opened startled him, but he didn’t move from his makeshift seat on the bale of hay, nor did he bother to lift his head to try and see who had come in. It was already too late to hide if anything was amiss; fate and exhaustion were in control now.
“Colonel Hogan,” came Ludwig’s voice.
Hogan nodded, relieved but pushed almost beyond caring. He felt rather than saw the man come to his side. “Colonel Hogan, are you hurt?”
Hogan shook his head. “No,” he said, determined not to cough. “Just got—smoke in my eyes.”
“Here.” Ludwig pulled Hogan up. “We will go inside the house—Alida can help.”
Hogan once again allowed himself to be led, and felt warmth as the door to the house was opened before him. “Alida—some water, quickly.”
“What happened?” Hogan heard her cry, as he was guided to a seat at the kitchen table.
“Just smoke—I got smoke in my eyes,” Hogan tried to reassure her, and started coughing again.
“More than just your eyes,” she said. Hogan tried to open his eyes fully, but he was involuntarily blinking constantly to ease the stinging and could not. Soon, he felt Alida’s hand pull his own away from his face and she gently pressed a cool, wet cloth to his eyes and started dabbing. Hogan accepted gratefully and eventually took over the task, finally feeling recovered enough to sit back and open his eyes.
“Thanks,” Hogan said simply, genuinely. He looked down at his clothes, filthy and in one spot, scorched. “Been a big night—I didn’t have a chance to clean up.”
“I take it you are part of the group responsible for disturbing my animals tonight,” Ludwig said, not unkindly.
“The less you know about that the better,” Hogan replied. “We don’t have much time. The patrols have all been drawn to the fire. We’d better take advantage of it while we can.”
“You are right, of course,” Ludwig replied. “Alida, you are ready?”
Hogan watched as the woman’s expression briefly changed to one of fear and sadness. This could not be easy for her, for either of them. He watched as Alida’s eyes seemed to trace the room, alighting momentarily on a photo on the wall, on a teapot sitting prettily on a shelf, on an intricately embroidered dishcloth. They were giving up their life, trading in all they knew and all that brought them comfort, to escape from the country that had betrayed them, that in the end could do nothing to help them. Hogan felt a pang of compassion for these people who had worked so hard to do what they felt was right. But words would not help them now, and so he remained silent, feeling like an intruder.
When Alida’s eyes turned back to Hogan they were determined. “I am ready. Colonel Hogan, will you please get us out of Germany?”
Hogan understood the request; she had needed to say it herself in order to accept it. “I will,” he said, standing. He returned to wet cloth to the sink. “Is everything organized here? Have you got everything you need? Everything you want?”
“The mare will be taken tomorrow by friends who think we are loaning her to them to help on their farm,” Ludwig explained. “We have taken some special things, sentimental things. Everything else is unnecessary.”
Hogan nodded and took a final look around for himself. There still seemed to be so many “sentimental” things left. “Then let’s go.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Someone’s in the tunnel,” Kinch said suddenly, as he heard a noise he couldn’t pass off as coming from the still-roaring hubbub outside the camp. He sat up straight at the table and stared toward the bunk entrance.
“It’s the Colonel,” Carter declared, racing over and reaching for the trigger that would activate the ladder.
“Wait, Carter,” Newkirk shot before the Sergeant had a chance to touch it. “We don’t know for sure. We can’t take a chance.”
“But he could be hurt—he might need us and not be able to give the signal!”
“If he got this far, Andrew, he’ll be able to signal,” Kinch said.
Le Beau came and stood beside Carter as he stood silently by the bunk. The noise from below had ceased, and the wait seemed almost interminable. Then, finally, there was a sound. Tap tap. Tap. Carter was suddenly frozen in place. Le Beau pushed past him and triggered the release on the bunk. The base of the bed started to rise, and the creak of the ladder moving into place seemed to echo through the room.
Le Beau looked down into the dimness. “C’est le Colonel!” he cried. The tension in the hut immediately dispersed as Hogan’s dark hair announced his ascent into the room. Le Beau and Carter pulled Hogan in, and the Colonel turned around to carefully help Alida into the barracks, supported from below by her husband, who then came into the hut as well.
Hogan turned to his men, taking in their astonished faces, and sensing their overwhelmed relief. “I got back as soon as I could,” he said, appreciating their feelings. “I didn’t mean to make you worry.”
“Worry? I wasn’t worried; I told ’em you’d come back when you were finished,” Carter piped up.
“That’s right, sir, ’e did,” Newkirk said.
“You said it was an order, and an order’s an order,” Carter continued. “I mean, I know you said we could go against orders once in awhile, but I didn’t think this was one of those times, you know? So I thought ‘Andrew’—’cause that’s what I call myself when I think to myself, not ‘Carter’—‘Andrew, the Colonel said he’d meet us back here when he was finished, and that’s what he’s gonna do. No sense worrying about something that night not be—’”
“He’s been like this for two hours now,” Newkirk explained with relief, shaking his head.
“Carter,” Hogan said, coming to stand in front of the Sergeant. Carter stopped speaking, and Hogan saw in the man’s eyes that worrying had been all he had done, despite him trying to convey otherwise. He was touched. “Carter, you did the right thing. An order’s an order. It would have been a bad move for any of you to go back to the plant, or not to finish off the bridge.” He stopped and looked around. “You did get the bridge, right?”
“Oh, oui, Colonel,” Le Beau answered. “We did as you ordered us to do.”
Hogan smiled fondly. “Never doubted it for a second,” he said. “And now the factory is history, too. Everyone did a great job. Kinch, radio London. Tell them mission accomplished and ask for pick up of two parcels when the Krauts settle down.”
“Right away, Colonel,” Kinch said, and he brushed past the Schultzes and downstairs.
Home Away From Home
Hogan felt a special responsibility to the Schultzes, and personally made sure they were settled down in the tunnel for the evening. He took the time to check on blankets and light, and brought Alida a small bucket filled with fresh water, in case she and her husband wanted to freshen up after their trek through the woods. Normally, escaped prisoners were happy just to bunk in and wait, but these were civilians, and Hogan, still full of their hospitality and personal sacrifice, wanted to make the transition less painful in any way he could.
Though Ludwig expressed curiosity about the operation he was but seeing the fringes of, Hogan insisted that it would be better if he and Alida knew very little, and asked firmly that they stick to the section of the tunnel to which they had been brought. Ludwig agreed, and Alida’s eyes quietly followed Hogan as he paced back and forth, explaining how they needed to behave while they were staying in the camp.
“Make yourself at home; our prison is your prison. I’ll have the camp medic check you over tomorrow. Meanwhile, the best thing you can do is get some sleep,” Hogan concluded, stifling a yawn. “I don’t know how much you’ll get on your journey out of here.” He rubbed the back of his neck tiredly. “If you need anything, signal us up top like this—” Hogan tapped in an odd rhythm on a supporting beam—“and someone will come running. Whatever you do, don’t just try and appear—you’ll throw Kinch right off his bunk, and you could walk into a room full of Nazis. I’ll be back to check on you in the morning.”
“Colonel Hogan,” started Alida, as Hogan turned to head back upstairs.
Hogan paused and turned toward her. “Yes?”
“I know that a lot of people took many risks to help us,” she began. Hogan watched thoughtfully as she spoke, so quiet and gentle after the roar of the evening. “You have all been very kind. Ludwig and I wish to thank you, but I am afraid words seem so inadequate.”
“You don’t have to thank us; this is what we do,” Hogan replied gently. Then, grinning boyishly he added, “You wouldn’t have a spare pair of nylon stockings, would you? I owe someone a big favor.” He winked and said good night, leaving them with their private thoughts and memories.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“So what brings you back this time, Colonel?” Hogan asked Feldkamp, as the American stood, straight-backed and arms crossed in Klink’s office the next morning.
Klink was standing behind his desk, looking uncomfortably from one Colonel to the other. For some reason, even though Hogan was an enemy and Feldkamp purportedly an ally, there was no doubt in Klink’s mind who was the better man. Certainly Hogan could rub people the wrong way—those cold mornings when Klink wanted nothing more than to dispense with the business of the camp roll call and get back inside, but Hogan insisted on getting him all flustered, were tops on Klink’s list of irritating moments—but there was still a mischievous—but not malicious—charm about Hogan that was appealing. Somehow, Klink suspected, if there were not a war on, Hogan would be a man to get to know better. On the other hand, he could do without seeing Feldkamp again, any time. “The Colonel is here to set up a command post in connection with a certain act of sabotage that took place last night, Colonel Hogan,” he said now.
“Sabotage?” Hogan repeated innocently. “Oh, you mean that big boom we heard last night, and all the smoke in the air?”
“That’s right, Hogan,” Feldkamp said, moving in close to the American. “We lost an important munitions plant last night. Someone tried to make it look like an electrical fire, but we are certain there was more to it. The plant was very close to this camp. As usual.”
Hogan raised an eyebrow. “That’s a shame,” he said with mock sincerity. “Work is so hard to come by these days.”
Feldkamp slapped the glove he was holding across his other palm. “There is something fishy going on around here, Hogan…and I cannot help but feel that you are involved.”
“Me?” Hogan said testily. “Come on, Kommandant, not again.”
“No, no, Hogan… not again,” Feldkamp said. “I am merely here to observe. If you have nothing to hide, you will not have any problems with me.”
“That’s what I had hoped the last time,” Hogan replied evenly.
Feldkamp smiled. “This time you have my word.”
Klink laughed nervously. “There you have it, Hogan, Colonel Feldkamp has given you his word—you can’t ask for better than that!”
“Yes I can, but I doubt I’m going to get it.” Hogan looked at Feldkamp, not bothering to mask his repulsion. “How long are you going to be hanging around?”
“What’s the rush to get me out of here, Hogan?” Feldkamp asked smoothly.
“No rush, other than the fact that I rather like the back of your head better than the front.” Hogan kept his demeanor completely calm as he let the insult sink in and watched Feldkamp turn a deep scarlet.
Klink watched the exchange with a mixture of apprehension and admiration. Feldkamp had never been one of his favorite people, either, but it would never have occurred to him to put his distaste into words. But Hogan had nothing to lose by expressing his feelings—well, not in the same way, Klink thought. He could certainly put you through Hell again, Hogan…haven’t you taken enough punishment? But this was the only way Hogan could fight back; as a Prisoner of War he had no real recourse if he was treated unjustly, as Feldkamp had done in the past; that had to be humiliating as a man. Taking a chance on future abuse might seem reckless to some, Klink thought, but in reality it might be Hogan’s only way of maintaining his sanity in an insane time.
“What did you want to see me for, Kommandant?” Hogan asked, his voice only slightly giving away the anger that was bubbling under the surface.
“Hogan, while Colonel Feldkamp is here, you and your men are confined to barracks so he can carry out his investigation unhindered.” Klink was getting tired of confining the prisoners; it felt like that was all he had done with them lately. But he had to admit that it was easier to look after the camp when the men were not scattered all over the place. And maybe it would mean that Feldkamp could finish his investigation and get out of Stalag 13 that much quicker.
“Sir, the men are entitled to exercise periods and recreation. Confinement to barracks is getting to be too regular.”
“You will worry about what you are entitled to later, Hogan—Gestapo business takes priority over the comfort of the prisoners,” Feldkamp countered.
“Only if you’re not a prisoner,” Hogan said.
“Hogan…” Klink said warningly.
“All right, all right,” Hogan said, putting his hands up in surrender. “I can take a hint.” He turned to leave. “But when the men are finally let out, sir, I can tell you right now they’re going to be raring for some action. We’ll have to plan a volleyball game—maybe football.” Hogan turned back, warming up. “Or if you’d be involved, sir, perhaps we could have a ping-pong tournament. I know how good you are with the paddle, sir.” Klink started to smile; he always was good at table tennis, although he did prefer chess. “We could set something up for Saturday night—”
“Enough!” Feldkamp burst. Hogan stopped and put on a slightly hurt look. “Hogan, you just watch your step, or you’ll have a lot more to worry about soon than your ping-pong tournament,” he spat out. Then, looking closely at the American, he observed, “Your eyes are very red today, Hogan. What do you think is the cause of that?”
Hogan didn’t miss a beat. “Eye strain. Stayed up late reading. You know, once you pick up that Mein Kampf you just can’t put it down.” He let out a chuckle. “You might get put in front of a firing squad if you dared admit the thing was a piece of boring propaganda!”
Hogan aimed a quick salute at Klink and made a hasty exit as Feldkamp was about to explode.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“So Feldkamp is going to stay around for awhile,” Hogan said to the Schultzes. “And that means I’m afraid you’re going to have to be our guests for a little bit longer.” He sighed and offered a humorless smile. “It was always a possibility, considering the timing. But I’m afraid if we try to get you out of here now, we’ll all be caught, and I don’t look good riddled with bullet holes.”
Ludwig nodded curtly. Alida stayed stock-still. Poor thing’s scared to death, Hogan realized. Can’t say I blame her. Hogan turned to Le Beau, who, with Carter, and Newkirk, was huddled in the tunnel, as Kinch manned the radio nearby. “Louis, think you can cook for two more for a couple of nights?”
“Oh, oui, Colonel. Ma mère always taught me that if you add a few more pommes des terres you can feed an army with one bowl of broth, eh?” He smiled encouragingly at Alida, who wanly smiled back.
“Ah, the secrets of the great chefs,” Hogan quipped, trying to make things light, but recognizing that in their situation, there was little that could alleviate the tension the Schultzes were feeling. Still, he tried again. “Okay, the good news is that in all the time we’ve been doing this, we haven’t had anyone discover our tunnel or stop us from getting people moved. The bad news is you’ll have to put up with us traipsing through your bedroom for a couple of days while we sort things out.”
Ludwig smiled. “Hans traipses through our house at all hours of the day and night as well, Colonel. It is nothing we cannot get used to.”
Hogan nodded as Kinch got up from the desk. “Good; then you’ll fit right in,” he replied. He turned to Kinch. “What’s the word?”
“London’s thrilled with the results of the last sabotage mission, Colonel. They said to say congratulations, and may this be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
“Great. Sounds like they’ll be keeping us busy from now on.”
“They want to know when to have the plane standing by, sir,” Kinch said.
“A plane?” Alida repeated. “You are getting a plane?”
“Only the best for our first class passengers. Kinch, tell them we’ll need them to be on standby; we have to wait for the goons to clear out first. We’ll let them know when we’re ready.”
“There, all set,” Hogan said, turning back to their guests. “I know it’s a little unorthodox, but…”
Alida smiled. “Everything about you seems to be… unorthodox… Colonel,” she said softly.
“We tell ’im that all the time,” Newkirk piped up.
“Just showing the lady that she’s not alone in her observations, gov’nor. You wouldn’t want our guests feeling out of sorts, now, would you?”
Hogan shook his head, good-naturedly. “Carter here will be your personal valet, while Newkirk has given himself the role of personal psychologist.”
Ludwig and Alida couldn’t help but laugh, and Hogan got the slightest feeling that things might turn out okay.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Wilson turned to Hogan and said, “All clear, Colonel.” He snapped shut his bag and smiled at Alida and Ludwig. “They’re both fine to travel. A bit worse for wear, perhaps, but that’s to be expected. They shouldn’t have any trouble.”
“Thanks, Joe,” Hogan said.
“And you, look after your eyes; they look miserable. Cool, wet compresses till the irritation clears.”
Hogan nodded and said nothing, knowing he’d be chastised severely if he didn’t follow orders. Wilson bade them good night and worked his way back down the tunnel towards Barracks Five. Ludwig said, kindly, “A medical check up was not necessary, Colonel. Your consideration is appreciated, but really, we are fine.”
“All part of the service,” Hogan said lightly. “Feldkamp seems to be losing heart, but until he leaves, we’d better lie low. You never know if there’s a radio detection truck around.” Ludwig nodded. “I’ll leave Newkirk to make sure you’ve got what you need, and I’ll see you in the morning.”
He headed up the ladder. Newkirk put the blankets he was carrying down on the nearest bunk. “The Colonel thought it might have been a bit too cold down ’ere last night. The weather’s getting to be a bit fierce out there, and we ’aven’t got any heaters for the tunnel… yet.”
“Your Colonel Hogan is a very interesting man,” Alida said thoughtfully.
“That ’e is, ma’am,” Newkirk agreed. “Man has a mind the likes of which I’ve never seen. Nearly as cunning and clever as meself.”
“He believes in his work here,” Ludwig noted.
“Oh, blimey, yes, sir, gov’nor. He should have been gone from here a long time ago.” Newkirk paused, remembering Hogan’s first real escape, his desperation to get away from the Gestapo, and his unexpected return. “But he didn’t want to leave us all behind.” He shook his head. “You can never know what drives a man like that,” he said.
Alida nodded. “You are right. You cannot know; you must simply be grateful to have crossed his path.” Then she frowned, thinking. “What did Colonel Hogan mean last night when he said he owes someone a big favor?”
Newkirk smiled. “Oh, that’d be the Kommandant’s secretary, Helga. She let the gov’nor see a few things that helped us last night. You know, by accident,” he added with a wink.
“The secretary to the Kommandant of the camp?” Ludwig asked, astonished. “She is an Underground agent?”
“I don’t think so,” Newkirk said. “I think she just fancies the Colonel.” He grinned. “And I think the feeling’s mutual.”
“A pretty girl,” Ludwig guessed.
Alida nodded knowingly. “Mmm, and from the sound of it, a smart one.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Colonel Hogan, my brother is gone.”
Schultz had pulled Hogan aside after roll call the next morning, looking worried and like he had not slept a wink. Hogan frowned as he listened to Schultz’s tale. “What happened, Schultz?”
“I stopped in at Ludwig’s house, the same way I usually do when I am on my way home from town. But this time when I got there, there was no one home.”
“Couldn’t they have gone out, Schultz? No one is home all the time.” Hogan was beating himself up inside. So much of him wanted to ease Schultz’s obvious suffering, but if he did the operation would be compromised—or worse. So he kept up the banter, trying to remember that it was a greater cause he was serving, and that, after all, Schultz was the enemy… somehow. “If he wasn’t expecting you, he wouldn’t necessarily be waiting.”
“But this was different,” Schultz insisted. “The house was locked up. I looked through the windows; it was all too tidy, like no one lived there. And when I went in the barn, the horse was gone. Ludwig never takes her away, even if he travels; always there is someone to look after her.” Schultz’s innocent eyes reflected worry, and fear. “Colonel Hogan, I am worried that something has happened to him and to Alida. They would not leave without telling me.”
Hogan was finding this conversation difficult to continue. He didn’t like having to deceive anyone about a member of their family, especially when the fear would be so easy to assuage with a few simple words. “Happened to him?” he asked simply.
“My brother, Colonel Hogan, he is like me. He does not like to make waves.” If you only knew… Hogan thought. “But I think, in this war, he has been angry. Very angry. And he misses his kinder, and he is upset because Alida gets scared and cries at night. I worry that he may have done something foolish, Colonel Hogan. Tried to go to England to see the leibchen, perhaps, or just run away from the war. The Gestapo does not like it when people run away from the war.”
Hogan’s mind drifted to the couple in the tunnel. Such a close family, he thought. He closed his eyes briefly to steel himself against the emotions battering him. This is what you have to do, he reminded himself. “I’m sure he’s fine, Schultz,” Hogan said softly. “If the Gestapo had come for them, they probably wouldn’t have been so neat about it all.” Schultz seemed to consider this, and for a moment the deep concern left his eyes. “Keep me posted.”
Hogan swallowed hard, blamed the burning in the back of his eyes on the smoke from the other night, and went back to the barracks.
A Minute Too Soon
“Feldkamp is gone,” Hogan said to the others. “And from what Klink says, he’s going to concentrate his investigation elsewhere. So it’s time to get our visitors on their way. Kinch, radio London; tell them we need a plane tonight. And get in touch with the Underground. We’re going to need Schnitzer to get them out in the dog truck.”
“Right, Colonel,” Kinch said, and he took off at once to complete his assigned tasks.
Alida and Ludwig, now sitting at the table of the common room in the barracks, simply watched in silence as the events started to unfold around them. “Le Beau, I need you to make sure Schultz’s attention is fully on anything except the dog pen when Schnitzer comes in tonight.”
“Oui, Colonel. I will get right to work on my strudel.” Le Beau turned to Alida. “Or does he prefer potato pancakes?”
“Oh, potato pancakes!” Alida said at once. Then, realizing what was being discussed, her expression changed to one of confusion, and a bit of regret.
“Je regrette,” Le Beau apologized. “It’s just that we know the best way to get your brother-in-law’s attention is with food.”
“Your cooking is very good,” Alida said quietly, unsure how to react.
“Merci,” Le Beau answered.
“I’m afraid you won’t get a chance to say goodbye to your brother,” Hogan said. “I’m sorry; it’s regrettable, but it can’t be helped. If he sees you here, we’ll all be in great danger, and I can’t let that happen.”
“We understand, Colonel,” Ludwig said, serious. “I heard he spoke with you about us today. What did he say?”
“He knows you’re not at home,” Hogan said, uncomfortable. “He was worried the Gestapo had come for you; he thought you might be trying to get to England to see your daughter. He doesn’t know you’re here.”
Ludwig nodded and took Alida’s hands in his.
“Colonel—one more thing,” Newkirk piped up. Hogan looked at him, glad to interrupt his own thoughts. “With the radio silence and being confined to barracks and all, sir… well, the men took advantage of the time and finished the tunnel to the dog pen.”
“What?” Hogan said. “But that’s impossible; there was so much work to be done! Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“It’s only just finished, sir. The men knew you wanted to use it, so they’ve been doing it in shifts and on the quiet, sir. It’s not perfect yet, but it’ll get the job done. The exit is under one of the doghouses.”
Hogan grinned, thinking of some poor dog being startled by a man coming up from underneath it. “Fantastic. Where’s the dirt?”
“All brought out to the other tunnels, waiting to be disposed of properly, gov’nor. No one took any chances, sir. Honest.”
Hogan pushed his cap back on his head and grinned. “Well, that’s one worry out of the way. Now all we have to do is make sure Schnitzer’s continued training the dogs to like us!”
“I do not understand, Colonel,” Ludwig said.
“The tunnel you’ve been in is just one in a series, Ludwig. We have others. And since we were planning to smuggle you out in the dog truck, the boys have made sure the tunnel under the dog pen was completed in time. The local vet changes the dogs so they don’t get too friendly with the prisoners. But our local vet makes sure that the dogs love civilians…and Allied uniforms.”
“They should; they’ve sure seen enough of them,” Carter grinned.
“And he does a bit of Underground work on the side. For fun.” Hogan smiled at the Schultzes’ astonished faces. “Le Beau, what’s on the menu for Heidi, Bismarck, Fritz and Wolfgang?”
“I am sure I will find something acceptable to them, Colonel,” Le Beau answered.
“Good. Nothing worse than a fussy killer dog.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“London says it can’t have the plane ready till tomorrow, Colonel,” Kinch reported, reluctantly.
Hogan slammed his hand down on his desk. “Swell!”
Hogan sighed and turned to Kinch. “Not your fault, Kinch. Contact Schnitzer and tell him to be ready tomorrow night instead. Unless London suddenly decides to declare a public holiday and makes us wait again.”
“What do we do now, then, Colonel?”
Hogan shook his head, resigned. “Tell Ludwig and Alida that it’s off for tonight. We’ll try again tomorrow. Meanwhile we’ll have a run down the new tunnel just to check it out and see how it goes. Le Beau can stop his cooking.”
“Are you kidding? He wouldn’t stop even if the war was over.”
Hogan shrugged. “Then we’ll all have a great dinner tonight instead. Setting for seven, please, garçon.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Are you sure we should be up here, Colonel Hogan?” asked Alida that night, as she and Ludwig sat at the large table in the common room. Le Beau was passing out plates filled with delicious-smelling food that he had spent many hours making.
“Can’t think of any place else I’d rather have a meal of this caliber,” Hogan said, opening up a cloth napkin that Carter handed him as he completed his own task of laying the place settings. “Unless it’s a gourmet restaurant in Paris…or Mom’s kitchen in Connecticut.” He looked at the dish before him and inhaled appreciatively. “Louis, this smells great.”
“Amazing what you can do with just a can of Spam and a few potatoes,” Newkirk quipped.
Le Beau started spouting in French, then realized he was in mixed company. “Oh, pardonnez-moi, Madame Schultz,” he said.
Alida smiled. “That is quite all right, Corporal. I am no stranger to a lively time at dinner... I grew up in a house full of boys.”
Carter was suddenly inspired. “I grew up in a houseful of people, too. But I mean it wasn’t just boys. After all, we had my mom there, too, and our dog Angel—she was a girl. And once in awhile my Uncle Amos would come and visit—well, he wasn’t a girl, of course, but he added to the number of the people in the house. And—”
Suddenly Carter’s patter was cut off by a dollop of potato hitting him on the cheek. Stunned, Carter just blinked as it slid off his cheek and down onto his plate. He looked around him; Newkirk was grinning.
“Now that’s more like the way it was at my house, mate.” Newkirk threw an apologetic look toward Hogan, who just sighed and shook his head, like a den mother who’d lost control over her beloved cubs. “Sorry, gov’nor. Just got caught up in the moment.”
“Newkirk,” Hogan said, “haven’t I taught you anything?” Hogan very slowly lowered his fork to his plate. It was time for them all to relax and break the tension that had been building over the last few days. “You are sitting here, with guests for dinner, no less, and all you can do is fling your vegetables across the table?”
Newkirk lowered his eyes like a chastised child. “Sorry, Colonel.”
But Hogan kept on. With a glance at Alida, who was starting to suppress a smile, and Ludwig, who wasn’t bothering to hide his, Hogan said, “When you were growing up, did your family think it was acceptable to waste food like that? We need to be prudent, Corporal. We are in a prison camp. Food is not always easy to come by, and Corporal Le Beau worked hard making this meal for us all.”
“If you’re going to start a food fight, Corporal Newkirk,” Hogan said, continuing to play with his fork, “you’re going to have to learn to do it right!” Suddenly, Hogan’s fork was in the air and projecting a small piece of meat at Newkirk’s shirt. The Colonel then went for a potato, and a carrot, as Newkirk called out in surprise and quickly went for his own plate. “You have to use your meat, too!”
The assaults were soon coming fast and furious. Even Le Beau, who initially balked at the idea of anyone offending the food he had prepared, quickly dissolved into laughter, happy that Hogan had found a way to let everyone unwind and release their pent-up anxieties. And when he found himself assaulted with his own creations, he aimed straight back at the offender. Ludwig and Alida at first simply observed, then found themselves being pelted as well, and joined in, with Alida giggling girlishly as she made Hogan her target.
The noise grew to a crescendo, and Hogan was just starting to call for decorum, when a sudden cry from near the door brought them all to an abrupt stillness. “Schultz is coming!”
Hogan stood up at once and took charge, all lightness instantly forgotten. “Kinch, get them down in the tunnel. Olsen, Barnes—take the Schultzes’ places at the table. The rest of you make sure there’s no trace of them up here. Now break it up. Fast.”
Without a word, the men started to obey. Hogan wiped away a bit of potato that had clung to his eyebrow, and moved swiftly toward the door. He turned and watched as Kinch opened the entry to the tunnel, and started helping Alida down. Ludwig was about to follow when Hogan felt pressure on the other side of the door as someone tried to open it.
“Open the door!” came Schultz’s voice. Hogan kept his weight against the door and looked toward Kinch. Ludwig was still heading down, and looked toward Hogan, startled.
“Hang on, Schultz; it’s stuck!” Hogan called, pushing with all his might to keep the door shut.
As Ludwig’s head disappeared, Hogan lost the battle. Kinch was still pushing the release mechanism for the bunk to fall back into place when Schultz burst through with all his weight, hurling Hogan across the room and into another bunk. Hogan just stayed not moving, breathing heavily, and keeping his full attention on the guard.
“There! That was terrible,” Schultz declared. “Suppose there was a fire and you boys were trapped—” Schultz’s voice trailed off as he saw the bunk move and the blankets neatly fall down on top of it. “What… was that?”
Hogan felt a sudden chill as a sense of fear swept through the room. The game is up.
Hogan stared at Schultz, for a moment unable to move. He couldn’t pass off what the guard had seen as anything but what it was. He couldn’t pretend that the German hadn’t seen anything, as it was quite clear that he had. He couldn’t convince Schultz that he, Hogan, was the only one who knew about the tunnel, since it was Kinch who was closest to the bunk. It’s over, he thought. Hogan shivered, so much more from the emotions he was feeling than from the cold air coming in through the open door. Then he felt an eerie, unsurpassable calm.
Schultz’s face had gone from relieved to confused to concerned in the few seconds that had actually passed. His jaw dropped open and he looked from Kinch to the bench to Hogan and back. “Was ist…was ist los?” he said breathlessly, seeming unwilling to believe his own eyes.
Schultz absently closed the door and moved further into the room. No one answered him. All the men’s eyes were on Hogan, and silently he ordered them not to say anything. Schultz shuffled to the common room table. “Colonel Hogan, was ist… what is going on?”
Hogan took a couple of deep breaths to make sure his voice remained steady as he spoke. Still, not trusting himself, he kept his response brief. “We’re having dinner, Schultz.”
“Dinner?” the guard questioned, in wonderment. He approached the table, where Le Beau, Barnes, and Olsen were still sitting. Looking at the table he saw all the places settings and the food scattered not only on the plates, the on the table as well. “You have been messy,” he observed calmly.
Hogan let out a breath but didn’t answer.
“We got a little carried away,” Le Beau offered, attempting a laugh but stopping quickly as he did not feel it and Schultz wasn’t responding.
Newkirk, his arm propped up on a bunk, stood following Schultz’s every move with his eyes. Carter stood up, then sat, then stood again, waiting. And Kinch just remained motionless, as though guarding the bunk that just given their secret operation away. Schultz came to stand before the radioman. “Sergeant Kinchloe,” he said. “Did I just see… what I thought I saw?”
Kinch straightened visibly as he drew in a breath and opened his mouth as though to answer, when Hogan sprang up from the bunk he had been pushed to and joined him. “What do you think you saw, Schultz?” Hogan asked.
Schultz turned to Hogan and slightly away from Kinch. Kinch felt relief, but he couldn’t relax. “Colonel Hogan, I thought I saw…” Schultz stopped, then gave a little chuckle as he considered what he was about to say. “You will think this is silly…. I am sure I saw that bunk,” he said, pointing, “moving through the air, and falling back onto the base,” he said. “There was a hole underneath it.” Hogan didn’t say anything. No one was breathing. Schultz tilted his head slightly at Hogan and got deadly serious. “That is what I saw. How would you explain that?”
Hogan still didn’t move. His expression didn’t change. Only the twitching muscle in his neck gave away the panic he was feeling inside. Fighting to maintain his composure, he replied, “How would you explain it, Schultz?”
Schultz paused. “Colonel Hogan,” he said, “I am a simple man. I do not like war. I do not like fighting. But, it is my job to make sure prisoners do not escape.”
Hogan’s hands were turning to ice as the guard spoke, and he concentrated on keeping his breathing steady. Keep a clear head. If you can focus, maybe you can keep the guys out of this mess and save a few lives….
“If a prisoner escapes, I can get in serious trouble… and he can get hurt.” Schultz brought himself to attention and faced Hogan directly. “Colonel Hogan, you have a tunnel under there. I want to see it, and then I will have to report this to the Kommandant,” he said efficiently. He remained at attention, eyes straight ahead, looking at no one as though in formation.
Hogan thought he could see a twinge of distress in Schultz’s eyes, and felt a few regrets of his own. His eyes swept the room. Le Beau’s brow was furrowed with worry; Carter was pale and couldn’t stop looking from Hogan to Schultz to the bunk and back, in a maddening pattern; Newkirk had crossed his arms, and, eyes wide, was letting his worst fears play across his face; and Kinch, right near Hogan, was standing silent and still, arms by his sides, watching no one but his commanding officer.
Hogan’s mind was racing. There had to be a way to protect Ludwig and Alida downstairs. There had to be a way to convince the Germans that his men had nothing to do with the explosives they would find when they went through the tunnel. There had to be a way to explain the radio and the maps that were scattered down there, along with the civilian clothing and the German uniforms. There had to be a way to stop them all from facing the firing squad. Oh, God, help me! But he couldn’t think of a single one. Except…maybe…
Hogan looked at his men in a way that was intended to be reassuring. And, wanting so desperately to believe that their commanding officer could get them out of anything, they clung to that comfort, forcing themselves to ignore the worry and doubt they could truly see etched in Hogan’s features. Then Hogan said calmly, “Kinch, open the tunnel.”
The prisoners all looked at each other. Hogan heard a gasp, but no one spoke. Kinch nodded, and with trembling hands found the latch that tripped the entrance. A bead of sweat worked its way down Hogan’s temple as he subconsciously registered the cold he was feeling inside. Kinch stepped back as Schultz, astonished at what he was seeing, moved in closer. Hogan waited for just a second, then moved in next to him. “Schultz, it’s important that you know the other prisoners didn’t have any choice in all this—they were taking orders from me—”
“Colonel Hogan, there is a tunnel down there,” Schultz breathed, incredulous.
Hogan nodded. With only a look, he ordered the other prisoners to stay back. “That’s right,” he said quietly. “My own, personal tunnel.”
Schultz looked at him questioningly. “Your own, personal…?” He let his voice trail off as he gazed back down the hole.
“I told you before: I want out, Schultz,” Hogan said, still quietly. “As senior officer, I can get the men to do whatever I want. And I wanted a tunnel.”
Newkirk bit his lip as he exchanged looks with the others. Hogan was trying to shield them from the inevitable fallout. He was trying to get the blame focused squarely on himself. He was trying to get himself killed! Newkirk had to say something; he had to. Looking at the others, he could see the same war waging within them. If they spoke up, they would only end up joining Hogan in hot water. Then they would all quite possibly be shot as saboteurs. What Hogan was trying to do was minimize the damage; if someone had to be sacrificed, it would be only himself. That was what he was expected to do as senior officer: protect the men, and protect the operation.
What hadn’t been made clear was how painful and impossible it would be to watch it happening. Die knowing you were laying down your life for your cause? Or live, knowing someone else had died for you? That was a form of death itself, and much more lingering and unbearable. The decision was obvious. Newkirk took a step forward. “Colonel—”
“Newkirk!” Hogan snapped. His order was inescapable. Despite what he wanted to do, Newkirk found himself bound to obey, and stopped. He looked around the room. Le Beau’s bottom lip was trembling; Carter’s breathing was almost wild, and his eyes were filling with tears; Kinch was a statue, a shocked and devastated look plastered on his face. Hogan himself appeared determined, and engrossed in his plan.
“No one has ever escaped from Stalag 13, Schultz,” Hogan continued coolly, “at least no one that hasn’t come back.” He looked down into the gaping hole below them. “Come on up,” he called evenly.
Schultz’s expression turned quizzical. Then he and Hogan stepped back and allowed the two figures into the room. Schultz’s eyes widened as he stood face to face with his brother, whose face was unreadable, and whose demeanor toward Hans Schultz was almost cold.
Hogan moved away a few feet, to allow the brothers to talk, and in the process, possibly save his own men’s lives.
“Ludwig?” Schultz gasped. “Alida?”
Alida said nothing, but nodded slightly. Ludwig looked at his brother. “Ja, Hans. We are safe.”
“B-b-b-but… I do not understand!”
Hogan cleared his throat and said very softly, “We’re helping them get out of Germany, Schultz. The Gestapo was starting to look for them.”
Schultz looked at his brother. “This is true?” he asked.
Ludwig nodded. “Unlike yourself, brother, I take sides. I admire your work, and your humanity, but I cannot let things move as they have been in this country without speaking out. I have been working for the Underground these last few months, and now that work has become dangerous for Alida and myself. If we stay in Germany, we will be taken by the Gestapo; there is no doubt in my mind about that. Alida was already being followed from day to day. If we leave, we may live to fight again another day.”
“Colonel Hogan can get us out.” Ludwig looked at Hogan for permission to say more; Hogan nodded. “He came to the house one night; we discussed it and agreed to go.”
“He came to the house?” Schultz’s head was spinning. He could not believe all he was seeing and hearing. “He came to the house? But he is a prisoner—” Schultz cut himself off, and turned to the door. His mind was muddled; he couldn’t think straight. He would simply have to follow his routine, do his duty as a German. “I must report his escape to the Kommandant—”
“Hans, Hans,” Ludwig persisted, grabbing Schultz by the forearms and pulling him down to the bench. “Listen to me.” Schultz nodded. “Colonel Hogan is helping Germans. He is helping Allies. He is helping anyone that wants a swift end to this war. He does not like what the Fuhrer is doing to Germany, to the world. He is like you, Hans,” Ludwig persisted.
Schultz whispered, “But he is taking sides. He is the enemy, Ludwig.”
Ludwig shook his head, impatient. Desperate. “Hans, at one time or another in his life, every man must take sides. What is important is to be able to live with your choice. I could not live with the side our own country was telling us to take. Colonel Hogan could not accept being controlled by that same power. We have chosen to take the same side, Hans. What country we are from does not matter. We both want the same thing: for the war to end quickly, and to bring freedom and equality to our world. Perhaps it is time for you to choose what side you are on,” he added quietly.
Hogan and his men looked on in silence. Schultz’s indecision was playing all over his face. “If I say something now, then you and Alida will be in danger,” he said. Ludwig nodded. “If I don’t say something now, Colonel Hogan can keep up his monkey business.” Hogan’s men exchanged worried looks. Hogan did not lock eyes with his men; he didn’t want them to see the fear that they surely had to sense was there.
Schultz looked at Hogan, who was standing arms crossed, features still frozen in place. The American said nothing, even though inside he was screaming. “What is to stop me from making sure that you get out safely, and then turning in Colonel Hogan?” Schultz asked thoughtfully.
Hogan swallowed, hard. The others shifted position. Carter bit his bottom lip. “Nothing,” Ludwig answered. “Other than your own love of life, dear brother.”
“How do you mean?” Schultz asked.
Hogan finally found his voice. “Simple, Schultz. You let Ludwig and Alida escape. Then you turn me in to Klink. He asks how you found out about it, and you make up some brilliant story—even tell him the truth: you saw the bunk swinging back into place. Then they find out that your brother’s gone. And his wife. And then I tell them he was a member of the Underground, which, if I’m already on the chopping block, won’t make any difference to me—after all, they can’t do anything to him anyway. And they put two and two together and decide that you let an enemy of the State escape. On purpose. That doesn’t usually go down too well with the Fuhrer. And then, all of a sudden instead of just protecting your family and doing your duty, you end up on the Russian front yourself—if they don’t shoot you as a traitor first.”
It was Schultz’s turn to swallow hard. He looked to his brother. “Ludwig—are you an enemy of the Fatherland?”
“Call it what you will, Hans. I say I am someone who loves our country, and who cannot stand to see what has happened to her. And I stand behind Colonel Hogan and what he does.” Ludwig shrugged. “If that makes me a traitor, then I am proud to bear that title.”
Schultz remained silent, thinking, for a moment. Then he stood up with a heavy sigh, saying, “I will do my duty, Ludwig.”
The people in the room took in a collective breath. Hogan stepped forward. “Then you should know, Schultz, that I’m going to do everything I can to make sure my men are found innocent of any part in what I’ve been—”
“My duty is to my family, Colonel Hogan,” Schultz said. Hogan stopped. Schultz looked deep into his brother’s eyes. “If anyone finds out, it would be worth my life.”
“And worth mine,” Ludwig said. “And Alida’s.” He stood up and drew his wife to himself. “What you do about Colonel Hogan is your own business. But somehow I think you will do the right thing. From what he tells me, you have not changed so much from before the war to suddenly put a man’s life at risk for personal gain.”
“And don’t you worry, Schultz,” Hogan said. “I’ll remind you of your stake in this any time you forget this conversation.”
“Ja, I think you will,” Schultz mumbled.
Hogan and his men visibly relaxed. Schultz remained motionless, uncertain how to act with prisoners around when he wanted to speak intimately with his family. Hogan picked up his emotional signal and gestured for the men to back off. Then, unable to avoid eavesdropping because of the closeness of the barracks, the men heard the end of the conversation.
“Wenn der Krieg vorbei ist, werden wir wieder als Familie zusammen sein,” Ludwig murmured. When the war is over, we will be together as a family again, Hogan automatically translated.
“Du hast meine Liebe, und meine Bewunderung. Ich werde dein Geheimnis wahren,” Schultz replied. You have my love…and my admiration… . I will protect your secret.
Hogan knew the other men were still struggling with their newly learned German and could not make out exactly what was being said. But he did not want to translate, just as he did not want to truly hear the farewell, brother to brother, heart to heart, deciding their own futures, and that of his men.
Alida spoke softly. “Wir werden nach Hause kommen, das verspreche ich dir.” A promise to come home when all was well.
Schultz nodded. He took Alida in his arms and gave her a gentle embrace, then gave Ludwig a bear hug. “Geh,” he said, his voice choked with tears, “geh, mein liebster Bruder, und mögest du sicher sein.” Hogan blinked to hold back his own emotions. Go, my dearest brother, and may you be safe.
Schultz turned and came to Hogan and his men. Hogan pulled away from the group. “We are in this together now, Colonel Hogan,” said Schultz. “You understand?”
“I understand, Schultz,” Hogan said.
“I came in here tonight to find out about the noise I was hearing from outside. I found nothing.” Hogan nodded. “I see nothing, I hear nothing, and I know nothing.”
“There is nothing, Schultz,” Hogan said quietly. “Nothing at all.”
Schultz took a final look at Ludwig and left the barracks in silence. If Hogan hadn’t sat down just then, he was sure he would have fainted dead away.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Two days later, Schultz pulled Hogan up after morning roll call as the men filed back to their barracks. “Colonel Hogan, they are gone?”
Hogan hesitated, then answered, “Yeah, Schultz. They’re gone.”
Schultz nodded. “I will look after the house. Get some things out to save for them. In case looters come, or someone like that.”
“I’m sure they’ll be grateful.” Hogan paused. “They’re good people, Schultz. You were right; you have a fine brother.”
“Ja, I do,” Schultz agreed. “But Ludwig is wrong about one thing. I cannot take sides, not even now. I am still a German soldier.” Hogan raised an eyebrow, a small thrill of alarm starting to rise in his body. “I am grateful to you for what you have done. But please, Colonel Hogan, do not tell me how you did it. I do not want to know. And if you are planning to do it again, please do it when I am not around. I do not know how to speak Russian.”
“You have my word on that, tovarich,” Hogan said. He let out a breath. Although Stalag 13 was not his favorite place to be, for now it was home, humble as it may be, and it was much preferred over the other options available to prisoners, especially to ones involved in sabotage and intelligence. He massaged his shoulder muscles, realizing just then how much he wanted to sleep away the whole last two weeks or so. “I think I need to have a big sleep to forget the whole thing,” he said.
“Oh—Colonel Hogan,” Schultz said, stopping Hogan by the arm. “There is one other thing. Alida told me to give you this when she was gone.”
Hogan gave Schultz a puzzled look, then broke into a wide grin when the guard discreetly pulled a pair of nylon stockings out of his pocket and handed them to the American. “She said she owed you a big favor.” Hogan nodded and chuckled. “What does that mean?”
Hogan laughed lightly and pocketed the precious gift. “It means my nap’s going to have to wait, Schultz,” he said. “I owe someone else a big favor. Now be a good guard and make sure no one gets into Klink’s office for a couple of hours, okay? And make sure that includes Klink!”
Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Linda Groundwater
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.