Confidence Game - Fourth Inning
Margaret Bryan, Patti Hutchins

This story overlaps slightly with the events chronicled in our story Mind Games and continues until just after the events chronicled in our story Game in Overtime.  But this story was also written in answer to two challenges posted on the Hogan’s Heroes Smartgroup’s List. So to this end, we have taken up those two challenges and have attempted to combine them into one story, as well as integrating them into our continuing ‘Game Universe.’ We again do not make any claims on the original Hogan’s Heroes’ characters.  All other characters are ours.  But again, those characters are free for anyone to use, if you so choose. 
Our rating for this story would be PG-13 for strong language.  Enjoy!
Confidence Game
Chapter Four

Skill and confidence are an unconquered army.
George Herbert

Hammelburg, Germany,
Hammelburg Telephone Company,
Day Four, April 5, 1943, 2100 Hours
Zilli Werner took off her coat and the scarf covering her hair. She hung them up on one of the hooks at the back of the cramped room that served as the telephone operator’s cloakroom.  Two other women soon joined her there, as their shift was about ready to begin.  This was where Zilli spent her evenings, six nights a week, from 9pm to 6am.  The night shift gave her time to complete chores around the farm, while also bringing some much-needed income into the home she shared with her father. 

And now it seemed, that it was also going to allow her to supply her father and his contacts in the underground with some desired intelligence about the Gestapo in the surrounding area.  Although somewhat anxious about this new task, Zillie was truly happy to help her father.  She had certainly been surprised, but also pleased when he admitted to her that he was involved with the resistance in the area.  Zillie, herself, had always thought that the dogma being preached by Hitler was despicable. And she knew her father had felt the same way, only she never would have guessed that he’d involve himself with such deceitfulness, no matter how strongly he felt. 

Zillie now felt empowered with her father’s support behind her. It was time to do her part in putting a stop to Hitler and the fools who supported him.  She would do whatever she could to aid those who fought against the Nazi Regime. Can you imagine, she thought to herself, telling folks that only those with blond hair and blue eyes were acceptable breeding stock! Even Hitler himself was brown eyed with black hair.  Where did this obsession of the perfect Aryan specimen come from? It’s insane, but then so many of his other ‘policies’ are equally insane. 

Zillie wended her way to stand behind the operator station to the far right of the small workroom. As soon as Bernadette Adler stood from the station, ending her last connection, Zilli slid onto the stool to take the woman’s place. 

“It’s been a busy night already,” Bernadette informed her with a smirk, “for Herr Faust from out Diebach way, that is. He keeps calling Frau Kaufman. It is so cute!”

“Has Frau Kaufman agreed to Herr Faust’s advances yet?” Zilli asked with a giggle, well aware that it was common practice for the operators to listen in on calls.  They all tended to gossip, amongst themselves, between calls.  Zilli knew that there was very little going on in the surrounding area that these woman didn’t know.

“Nien.  She keeps hanging up on him, just when he’s getting to the good part too!” Bernadette heaved a sigh, though her eyes were laughing.  “Otherwise the night has been quiet, too quiet.”

“You mean that Major Muenich from Creglingen hasn’t called in tonight?” Zilli asked with her own smirk, knowing that the other operator was in love with the Gestapo Major’s voice, not to mention having a secret desire to marry the man if she could ever get her hands on him.

“Nein Zilli.  No military activity on my board tonight at all,” Bernadette replied sadly.  “Though Heike had taken several calls from Gestapo Headquarters in Gerolzhoten during the day. Although it appears that nothing earth shattering occurred.” Bernadette reached down past Zilli to pick up her used coffee cup, and throw it into the trash bin under the operator station, while offering her replacement adieu, “Well have a good night, Zilli.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Danke, Bernadette. Good night,” Zillie replied, just as her board lit up with an incoming call.  “Operator, how may I direct your call…”

For a while, at least during their quiet periods, Zillie kept the other two operators she shared the shift with gossiping about Bernadette’s fascination with Gestapo Major Sepp Muenich. Their conversation continued with each woman offering her own opinion about the Gestapo Officers stationed in the area. It was generally easy to get to know the men’s voices as all had to report into the Gestapo Area Commander’s Office in Hammelburg fairly often. It had actually been easy for Zilli to develop a list, as she’d been asked to by her father, of the Gestapo officers that lead small detachments nearby. But she was surprised that she was also learning much more about the other types of military presence in the area as well, including the construction of a new anti aircraft gun emplacement in Creglingen. It was just that before now, it hadn’t been something she’d been paying any attention too.
“Zillie,” Agatha began speaking excitedly after unplugging her current call, “Did you know that Major Krueger was Colonel Vogel’s brother-in-law?”

“Nein!” Zillie replied surprised.  Major Gustav Krueger had made it to her ‘short’ list of Gestapo officers to give to her father.  Although now, she mentally crossed him right off the list, as the citizens of Hammelburg certainly didn’t need to inherit another Vogel! “How do you know? What has happened?”

“I just took a call from Major Krueger to Colonel Vogel at his home.  Apparently Krueger’s wife, Marie, is pregnant and has been having some difficulty today.  Herr Vogel appears anxious about his sister’s health is all,” Agatha replied.

“Ah,” Zillie began but was shocked silent by the sounds of two explosions that were close enough to set the windows in the Hammelburg Telephone Company shuddering.  “What was that?” Zillie asked frightened. “There was no air raid warning.” She couldn’t help herself and rose to peek out the blackened curtains and into the street. “Oh no,” she said in a panic. “There’s a large fire at Gestapo Headquarters. It’s in the parking lot.”

Before any one of the three women could react, their boards lit up like Christmas trees, with concerned citizens reacting to the unexpected explosions.  Zillie reacted before her companions. “Agatha, keep your line clear for emergency calls. Elena, contact the fire department. I’ll try and clear the rest of these calls…”

All three women practically attacked their operator stations trying to ease the fears of their neighbors as well as getting help to those who might have been injured.

It had turned out to be, not such a quiet night after all…

Hammelburg, Germany,
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
Day Five, April 6, 1943, 0200 Hours
For the third time in a week Gestapo Colonel Vogel returned to Stalag 13, although his time he brought with him two trucks containing close to two dozen men.  Both trucks slid to a stop in the mud outside of the Kommandant’s quarters.  It had been raining hard for nearly three hours, and the compound was a morass of ankle deep mud.  The soldiers in the back of each truck exited, some slipping in the uncertain footing, and formed ranks awaiting orders from their commanding officer.
Sergeant Matthias Duerr, who was standing guard outside of Kommandant Klink’s quarters, met Colonel Vogel and Captain Schotz as they approached.  “Colonel Vogel, sir,” Duerr said with a hasty salute.  “Is there a problem? What can I do for you?”
“I need to speak with Kommandant Klink, immediately.  Wake him,” Vogel ordered imperiously waving the Sergeant ahead of him into the building.
“At once, Herr Colonel!” Sergeant Duerr replied with another salute before he fairly sprinted through the Kommandant’s door.
By the time that Vogel and Schotz had entered Klink’s sitting room they could hear voices from what had to be Klink’s bedroom.  Soon the Kommandant, clothed hastily in his dressing gown, joined his surprise guests. “Colonel Vogel! It is
two o’clock in the morning! What do you want now?” the German Colonel demanded angrily, his exhaustion overriding any semblance of military decorum, or caution, when dealing with the Gestapo.
“What I want…” Vogel began dangerously. “Is for you to call an immediate roll call.  I wish to personally assess that all of your prisoners are accounted for.  I believe you are missing at least one tonight,” Vogel accused.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Colonel.  As you know, we have never had a successful escape from Stalag 13.  In fact, we had a complete roll call a little less than two hours ago.  Every prisoner was accounted for at that time,” Klink adamantly informed the Gestapo Colonel.  “What makes you think that a prisoner of mine is missing?”
“There was a bombing at Gestapo Headquarters tonight.  Three of my men were killed and a number of others injured.  I know that your Colonel Hogan was involved, and I will prove it!” Vogel snarled enraged.
“That is absolutely ridiculous, Colonel! You will not find your guilty party here.  But just so you will realize that finally… I will order another roll call immediately,” Klink stated emphatically, but not very happily.  He could easily see that Vogel was soaking wet, so it still had to be raining outside.  He just knew that Hogan would be complaining in the morning about two roll calls in one night, and in the pouring rain of all things.  Regardless, Klink turned to Sergeant Duerr to say, “Order a roll call, Sergeant.”
“Jawohl, at once!” Duerr responded and turned to exit.
“Wait! I want my men to accompany each of your barracks guards personally to inspect and count the prisoners,” Vogel ordered.
Sergeant Duerr looked to Kommandant Klink for confirmation.  Klink sighed inwardly, nodded at Duerr and replied to Colonel Vogel.  “Of course, Colonel.  But be assured that neither you nor your men will find anything amiss here.”

Duerr left Klink’s quarters going at once outside to carry out the orders.
Klink returned to his room to dress quickly, shuddering as he pulled on his still damp boots.  He joined Vogel in the compound to watch the sleepy, unhappy, and wet prisoners assemble for the second time that evening.  Shortly after the entire prison population had come to stand in neat rows, the barracks guards, each one accompanied by a Gestapo officer, began a methodical accounting of the prisoners.  Each prisoner was inspected thoroughly by the Gestapo, as unknown to the guards of Stalag 13… they were looking for a man who had been shot not two hours previously at Gestapo Headquarters.
The inspection went on for nearly two hours. And the prisoners stood waiting, while the rain never let up.  Colonel Vogel had personally examined the men in Colonel Hogan’s barracks.  When he was finished with his inspection, and had not found what he was looking for, he stood staring at Hogan wishing for any kind of reaction from the American.  Hogan maintained a stoic expression as the rain continued to beat down and although soaked to the skin, and still nursing the deep body-ache gained by his close encounter with Vogel’s staff car, he carefully did not make eye contact with the German. And he got a perverse pleasure out of knowing that even though he and his men were stuck standing out in the ran for hours, so were the Germans.
After the final report came in, and having gained nothing from the evening, Vogel snarled angrily at the American Colonel, spun on his heel and sloshed across to where Kommandant Klink stood.
“Are you quite finished, Colonel?” Klink inquired, snidely.  “As you can plainly see, all of my prisoners are present and accounted for.  As they were four hours ago.  As they will be four hours from now. 
Berlin will hear of this matter, Colonel.”
Instead of replying to Klink, Vogel raised his voice to order his own men back to the truck.  “Fall in! Return to base!” I will catch that man one day! He is as guilty of complicity as any felon I have ever met.  But I must admit I believe that he is too intelligent and crafty of an operative to sabotage the same location three nights running. 

Hmm, perhaps Hogan is not the one responsible for the petty vandalism of the past few days.  But I will certainly discover exactly what Hogan is guilty of.  It is only a matter of time.

Hammelburg, Germany,
Home of Ludwig Bieber, Wankelstrasse
Day Five, April 6, 1943, 0220 Hours

Ludwig Bieber slowly woke from a self-induced alcoholic stupor. Lifting his head from the kitchen table where he had passed out hours before, he realized that he had not succeeded in his attempt to drink himself into oblivion. Ludwig’s only desire after starting to read a letter from his old college roommate, Ernst Rauch, an administrator at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute of Neurological Research in Berlin, was to die. Now that he knew the whole story, all he wanted was to finally join his wife, Marta, his daughter, Karlise, and his granddaughter, Ilka, in heaven.

Where they were sent by those, those…

Unable to finish that thought, and overcome
as he was by an uncontrollable surge of grief and guilt, Ludwig allowed his head to sag back onto the table, and onto his still crossed arms.  A lonely man’s tears flowed steadily, until suddenly, a bought of nausea had the older man jump up from the table and stagger haphazardly toward his bathroom. Ludwig barely made it to a position leaning over the toilet bowl, before that wave of nausea caused him to throw up… repeatedly.

The distraught elder German stood hunched over, facing the toilet, for uncountable minutes until the nausea and dizziness began to fade. After slowly standing and regaining his balance, he went to the sink, splashed water over his face, and took a small drink to remove the taste of bile still lingering there. Looking up into the mirror over the sink, another wave of grief and guilt assaulted him. The man he saw staring back at him, was the coward that had fled
Berlin, at the desperate urging of his friend Ernst, after the deaths of his family and the loss of his job at Berlin University.

Using more cold water from the faucet, Ludwig wiped his face with both hands, possibly trying to wipe away the image that he now had of himself. I’m so sorry Marta, Karlise, Ilka. And, of course you, Reinhold. Can you all forgive me? I knew things were not right in
Berlin. I only fled because I was so, so very scared. We never should have moved, Marta. You had always done well here in Hammelburg. But I thought being near Karlise, Ilka and Reinhold would be good for you. And since Ernst helped me get that professorship at Berlin University, I thought it was the best thing for us all.

Until you got sick again, Marta.

I should have just taken you home to Hammelburg. Everyone here understood your condition. But with the urging of my fellow professors, as well as Ernst, I had you admitted to the
Brandenburg Institution, where they assured me they could help you. Now I know, that it was that decision that brought about the demise of my entire family. Not even six weeks later, you, Karlise, and Reinhold were dead. And our little grandbaby Ilka… oh my lord…she was…
With tears streaming down his face, Ludwig fled the bathroom, no longer able to look at his reflection.
Although, upon returning to the kitchen, Ludwig’s heart began to pound in time with his head when his gaze fell on Ernst’s letter… the letter that had instigated his failed attempt at self-destruction.  With his heart consumed with guilt and sorrow, he accepted that he would now have to live the rest of his life with the knowledge gained from his old college roommate. Ludwig had come to realize that he was too much of a coward, and too inept, to ever again, make an attempt to take his own life. He now accepted that the rest of his life would be spent in a self-made purgatory… as a dead man among the living.

Picking up the only half-read letter, he asked out loud, “Ernst, how could you have known all this, for all this time, and not told me? You were my friend, did that not mean anything to you? But I suppose, I already know why. Power and position was all that seemed important to anyone in
Berlin. I saw that in you. But I also know I rode your coattails as well, enjoying the high-life of the rich and powerful. Until that all came to an end when Marta relapsed, becoming depressed, despondent, and inconsolable.”

How quickly one’s life can change, huh Ernst?

Ludwig almost laughed, knowing as he did, that he had just read Ernst Rauch’s obituary the day before yesterday. An odd feeling of curiosity eclipsed his remorse and grief, even if just for a moment. He now wanted to read the rest of Ernst’s letter, hoping to get an explanation for the man’s change of heart. Ludwig had already assumed the letter was a deathbed confession of sorts… but he just needed to hear the words from the man’s mouth. He picked up the letter, and quickly turned the pages until he reached the place where he had stopped reading last night, for he could not again read of ‘shock treatments’, ‘starvation’, ‘racial purification’,  ‘castration’, ‘sterilization’, ‘murder’, nor ‘infant euthanasia’, especially since he now believed he was the one truly responsible for allowing all that to befall his family.

Although as he began to read the remainder of the letter, a spark of anger developed within him, eclipsing even more of the remorse and grief, for Ernst Rauch only wrote to defend himself and the others in Berlin, who as he described, were involved in the glorious pursuit of  ‘cleansing the nation of impure and undesirable elements’.

Ludwig, fighting off another wave of nausea, now clearly saw, that in addition to the horrors that had befallen his family, there were very many more people ‘in the know’ behind the eventual loss of his position at the University as well. For Ludwig knew that that had only happened after he started to aggressively look for answers to his wife’s death, his daughter and son-in-law’s murder, and his granddaughter’s disappearance.

How blind could I have been? What kind of man lets himself be intimidated like that? I should have done more.

It was just that Ludwig had honestly believed at the time, that he could trust Ernst. And after knowing that he had indeed angered the powers that be in
Berlin, and would never again find work in the city, was when he fled Berlin with Ernst’s desperate urging and promise that he would continue investigating the situation discreetly for Ludwig. Ludwig had quickly accepted Ernst advice, as one friend would from another friend. Only now Ludwig knew it was all part of the cover-up of some evil intent. 

We were friends, Ernst. I thought I could trust you.

Of course, I am now not surprised that I heard nothing from you, even after my repeated phone calls early on. I guess after that, I have only myself to blame though, as I buried myself here in Hammelburg. Why? I do not know. Fear and grief, maybe. Although, I would not have imagined what you just wrote to me, Ernst. I only had thoughts of a mere accident in Marta’s death and robbery in Karlise and Reinhold’s murder. As for Poor Ilka, I wasn’t sure what to think, but to ever assume that all four deaths were the result our government’s mandate to maintain racial purity…

It is so far from anything I would have thought could have happen to my family.

Until now…

Ludwig crumpled the letter in his fist, anger and sorrow getting the best of him. He took the letter into his living room to where his fireplace stood. Kneeling down, he took a long match from the container on the hearth, and struck it. As the small spark ignited the match, he glanced at the letter in his hand, and as if somehow that lighted match struck a cord within him, he became mesmerized by what he was holding.

Ludwig blew out the lighted match, collapsed onto the floor, and un-crumpled the letter. He realized that this letter was the only real connection to his family that he had left. As a new round of tears streaked his face, he took careful strides in flattening the letter, and trying desperately to remove every crinkle.

And somewhere in the back of his mind, although not yet a concrete notion, he knew that this letter also served as evidence of his government’s evil objective, an objective that had decimated his and possibly many other families.

Hammelburg, Germany,
On the way to Geoff and Helga Hirsch’s Apartment,
Day Five, April 6, 1943, 0405 Hours

“Papers,” a German Lieutenant asked abruptly of Oskar Freiling after stopping the doctor’s car at the roadblock in the center of Hammelburg.

“I’ve got an emergency, Lieutenant,” Doc Freiling stated purposely while handing the young German his papers, which thankfully, because he was a physician, allowed him to be out during curfew hours. Oskar usually had no problem making his way at night for emergencies, as most in Hammelburg knew him. Although, this Lieutenant is new to this posting. And that didn’t help Oskar’s nerves as the soldier was taking his own sweet time examining the papers… and most especially since this trip across town was not actually a medical emergency. But, an emergency of another type altogether.

“Ja, Ja,” the soldier replied half-heartedly as he scanned the papers. Barely looking up at Oskar, the Lieutenant offered, “Everything seems in order, Herr Doctor. You may go.”

“Danke, Lieutenant,” Oskar replied quickly and drove off at what he hoped did not appear as panic speed, but rather, well within the limits of emergency speed. “Oh Geoff,” Oskar exhaled out loud to himself. “What have you gotten yourself into? What have you gotten me into? I now have to figure out a way into your apartment building to warn Helga of your condition and make it appear that I’m really responding to a frantic call from Helga about your health… which, of course, she never made.”

Oskar fell silent, concentrating hard on how to make it passed the apartment building’s manager, especially since Ina Schatz was one of the biggest busybodies in Hammelburg. I somehow have to keep her from following me up to Geoff’s apartment. I’m not sure how to hide the fact that Helga doesn’t know I’m coming. More than likely, all the lights in the apartment will be off, and Helga sleeping. It just doesn’t lend itself to the manifestation of an emergency. Mein Gott, what do I say? My only saving grace is that Ina is sure to know of the injuries Geoff sustained earlier in the day. I’ll just have to convince her that he’s having a reaction to the medication I have him on.

I just hope I can persuade her.

Oskar’s heart began pounding as he pulled his car to a stop in front of Geoff and Helga’s apartment building. Taking a deep breath, he approached the entrance where he’d have to contact Ina Schatz first, as there was no way, without her pass key, to get into the building, nor into the Hirsch’s apartment, especially since he didn’t want to alarm Helga, nor did he want her sprinting across the apartment on her ‘not’ broken ankle, in case Ina Schatz did decide to follow him.

After ringing the manager’s doorbell a number of times, he heard footsteps just inside the apartment. As Ina peeked through the curtained front window, obviously to see if she could identify her early morning surprise visitor, Oskar voiced his concern, loudly, “Frau Schatz, it’s me, Doctor Freiling. Oskar Freiling, Ina. There’s an emergency. Geoff Hirsch needs my help. Please let me in.” 

“Mein Gott, Oskar,” Ina exclaimed as she exited her apartment and opened the main door of the building. “You certainly know how to frighten an old woman. Now, what’s this emergency? Geoff Hirsch, you say?”

“Ja, Ina,” Oskar agreed. “I need your pass key, seems Geoff is not doing well on the medication I gave him yesterday. Helga called me in a panic.”

“Ah, I knew he wasn’t well when he came home early yesterday,” Ina assumed. “Although, he never said what was wrong…” Ina replied with an open question in her voice, hoping to get an explanation from the doctor, but was disappointed.

“I can explain later, Ina. I must get upstairs now,” Oskar said anxiously extending his hand for the key.

“Of course,” Ina said turning back into her apartment and reaching for the set of keys always hanging by the door. Handing them to the doctor, she asked. “Why didn’t you just ring the Hirsch’s apartment? Not that I mind being waken up in the middle of the night for an emergency, it’s just…” she offered as the doctor practically disappeared up the stairs.

“I asked Helga to stay with her father, Ina,” Oskar said cutting her off, while concocting an explanation as he left the older woman where she stood. “I was worried for him. And I didn’t need to be treating two people tonight. Helga isn’t all that steady on her broken foot yet. I could just see her end up on the floor in her rush to get to the door. And what good would she do Geoff then, re-injuring herself?”

Oskar disappeared around the bend in the stairs to the second floor with Ina’s ‘Ah, I see’ wafting in the stairwell. As the doctor made it to the third floor and the Hirsch’s apartment, he was breathing heavy, but was relieved that Ina Schatz had indeed stayed behind. Gently putting the key into the lock, Oskar turned it softly as to forgo as much noise as possible. Finally, he opened the door and stepped into the darkened hallway, only to be hugged, and scared half to death, by a small blur that had to be Helga.

“Oh, Papa!” Helga shouted, taking who she thought was her father into a huge embrace. “What have you been doing? It’s dangerous to be out at this time of night!”

“Helga!” Oskar offered surprised, and quickly broke away from the grip Helga had on him. Although, as he saw Helga realize that her father was not the one that had just made an entrance, he grabbed onto the young woman’s arms, and offered, “Helga, it’s me, Oskar. It’s only me. It’s okay.”

“Oh no, Oskar!” Helga almost wailed after actually ‘seeing’ her companion. “What are you doing here? Please, please tell me Papa is all right. Please?”

“Helga, your father is alive,” Oskar spouted quickly. “But he was shot multiple times tonight.” Taking her into his own embrace and leading her into the living room, Oskar continued softly, “The pattern of the wounds indicates they were most likely caused by machinegun fire.” Pushing her onto the soft cloth couch, he explained, “I promise that he will be okay. He was still unconscious, although stable, when I left to come here. But you need to know, that he had managed to find his way, all alone, to my house after being injured. That is at least good news, as it means that his injuries were not as bad as they could have been. Although the loss of blood…”

“What happened?” Helga interrupted anxiously, not really wanting to know any more of the gory details.

“I don’t have the full story, Helga. Your father passed out before he could tell me anything. I can only imagine that his injuries were the result of some encounter with the authorities, rather than some random robbery.” Oskar shook his head negatively. “I’m sorry Helga, it just doesn’t make any sense that Geoff was out so late at night, unless he was up to no good. Normally I’d say it’s just not like him… but after yesterday afternoon…”

“You said he would be okay?” Helga again interrupted, asking nervously as her body began to shake from the culmination of surprise, shock and fear assaulting her senses.

“Ja, Helga,” Oskar assured. “He will. Physically, he will have a long recovery. The bullets did some major damage to his left leg. Walking will be a struggle for some time to come.” Sitting himself on the couch next to Helga, he put his hand around her shoulder. “Your father’s other wounds will heal in time, but I’m afraid that that’s not all we need to think about.”

Helga just looked curiously at Oskar, not sure at all what he meant, especially since she wasn’t quite thinking clearly herself at the moment.

“There is one thing that’s certain here Helga. And it makes me sad to say it, but your father has certainly made enemies now.” Oskar gave Helga a gentle kiss on the forehead. “There will be no way to hide his injuries. And since someone will be looking for the man they wounded in an altercation… Geoff can’t be where that someone can find him.”

“What are you saying, Oskar?” Helga asked still overwhelmed.

Again, Oskar gave her another small kiss, though this time on the cheek. “I’m saying that I think your father needs to leave Hammelburg, Helga. He just can’t stay here.” Oskar stood and began to pace the small living room. “I haven’t talked to the others yet and I have no real plan. It’s just that, I’m afraid, we will have to come up with a plan to cover for your father’s disappearance.” Stopping to face his young companion, and seeing the tears appear in her eyes, he said, “I’m sorry, Helga. I see no other way. Too many in town know your father. He cannot be laid up for months without someone figuring out what happened, nor can he just disappear with out an explanation. People will notice. And then you become a target as well.” Seeing the fear in Helga’s eyes Oskar tried to say something comforting. “Maybe things will change when we get the whole story from your father. Maybe it was just a robbery.” But I’m so afraid that it wasn’t. Not with how very angry Geoff was yesterday afternoon. I know in my gut that he was up to something last night.  And we need to be ready to find him a safe haven.

Helga, speechless, only nodded.

“Good,” Oskar assured and bent over and took her again by the shoulders. “First things first. You need to call Ursula, and in a panic ask for me to come here at once. Say your father is not breathing right. Ursula is waiting on your call. It will give some credence to my trip here.” I hope. Oskar picked Helga up off the couch and pointed her in the direction of the phone, and was glad, in an awful way, that Helga was still in shock, as it would make her phone call seem more real.

After Helga hung up the phone…

Oskar continued with the next part of his partial plan. “Okay, Helga. I’m hoping that since the authorities do not appear to be in a mad rush of searching the town, nor has anyone as yet traced your father to my door, that maybe, just maybe, Geoff got away from his assailant unrecognized. So, on that assumption, I need you to stay here today. We need to have everyone think your father is home, but ill. I will stay with you for a bit, so it seems plausible that he is indeed that ill. And we can be sure that Ina will let everyone know that as well. Then, when I leave, my plan is to go home, check on your father, and hopefully, if he’s awake, get the full story. Then I will go directly to the cobbler shop and put a ‘closed due to illness’ sign on the door. That way, I can easily use that as an excuse to make contact with Heinrich and Oskar Schnitzer at Heinrich’s store. Hopefully together, we will come up with how to solve this situation. Okay?”

Helga again only nodded.

Oskar, shaking his head took Helga into another embrace, which caused her to breakdown into sobs. “We will find a way to make this work Helga. I promise, we will.” Oskar led Helga, who was still sobbing, back to the couch, and held her until it was time for him to leave.
Hammelburg, Germany,
Luft Stalag 13, Colonel Hogan’s Quarters,
Day Five, April 6, 1943, 0845 Hours
Colonel Hogan was sitting at his desk contemplating the decision he’d made to give up the names of some of his contacts. Granted he did trust the two men he had divulged those names to. Oskar Schnitzer, Felix Unger, and their respective groups, had proven themselves many times. And now… all were willing to do more. Hogan knew deep inside that it was truly better for his organization if his civilians could broaden and combine the myriad abilities of different cells, but at the same time it was eating away at his gut. The more Hogan thought about how easily this whole crazy operation could come crashing down on them, the more he felt his stomach twist into tighter and tighter knots. I’ll probably die of a bleeding ulcer before this war is over, forget getting caught by the Nazis…

“Colonel,” Hogan heard Kinch call after hearing a knock on his door.  “Can I talk to you, sir?”
“Sure, Kinch,” Hogan said almost glad for the interruption, although, he had half expected Kinch and Carter to enter together.  When he saw that it was just Kinch, he could help but give him some grief.  “So, Sergeant, where’s your shadow?” he asked with a smirk.
“Carter is running some errands for me,” Kinch explained.  “I really need to talk to you about him, Colonel.  I had hoped to, yesterday.  But after Vogel’s visit, I thought I’d just hold off until today.  Are you feeling better today? I noticed that you still seemed pretty sore last night after two hours of standing outside in the pouring rain.”
“Yeah.  I’m much better this morning.  Just some left over bruises.  Landing on the hood of a Gestapo staff car certainly leaves something to be desired.  Though, it figures that it would stop raining just as Klink dismissed us,” Hogan answered. 
“Yeah,” Kinch agreed and then became quiet.
“So, Kinch,” Hogan answered getting worried when his friend clammed up.  “What’s this with Carter? Is there a problem?”
“Well.  That’s hard to say, Colonel,” Kinch admitted nervously.  “Remember how you told me that he was trying to hide from Matthews and his interviews?”
“Yeah,” Hogan replied expectantly.
“Well.  I think I found out why,” Kinch said quietly, shaking his head. 
“What is it, Kinch? It can’t be all that bad,” Hogan said matter of factly. Or could it?
“Well, sir,” Kinch admitted.  “I found out that our shy kid from
North Dakota has more than a fair amount of knowledge regarding chemicals and chemical explosives.”
“What?!?!” Hogan asked dumbfounded.  “Carter? Andrew Carter is a chemical explosives expert?”
“Yes, Colonel,” Kinch continued.  “It seems that way.  The problem is that Carter is terrified that he’s gonna kill someone.  He knows he’s clumsy, Colonel. He just doesn’t want to be responsible for people’s lives.  I think that the only reason that admission fell from his lips is that we were just talking casually.  He told me about how he blew up his high school science lab after I jokingly told him you were worried about him blowing up stuff with his chemistry set.”
“We could really use some homemade explosives,” Hogan thought out loud.  “We’re still waiting on
London to back us.  If they don’t, stuff like that could come in very handy.” Hogan shook his head negatively.  “Never mind.  I can’t have explosions going off all over the place.  The kid is probably gonna kill himself and us along with him.”
“You know, Colonel,” Kinch said.  “I probably should agree.  But there’s just this feeling I have.  The kid I’ve seen in the past few days is so different from that nervous kid that almost killed me.  I think it’s the pressure, Colonel.  I haven’t once asked him for anything other than errands.  He’s admitted all this stuff to me on his own.  And with a confidence that I’ve never seen in him.”
“So what are you suggesting?” Hogan asked a little accusingly.
“I’m thinking that if I keep it as casual as possible, maybe coming up with a reason we might need the explosives.  Not really asking him, but just saying it’s important,” Kinch schemed.  “Then maybe I can get him to prepare some stuff.  But I’ll just try keeping the pressure off.”
“Hell, Kinch.  I’m not sure I’m happy about Carter playing with explosives,” Hogan hedged.  “But go ahead.  Try.  It couldn’t hurt.  No strike that, it could kill.  But, if you really think Carter can handle it.  I’ll trust you.  I just won’t go anywhere near him.  I wouldn’t want to make him too edgy.”
“Good idea, Colonel,” Kinch agreed too quickly, and watched as a dejected look appeared on his commander’s face.  “Um, sorry.  No offense, Colonel, but staying away from Carter would probably be the best idea.  You have him so nervous as it is right now.”
“Okay, Kinch.  Okay,” Hogan agreed deflated.  “Just be careful.”

Munich, Germany,
SS Headquarters, Office of the late General Stefan Geist,
Day Five, April 6, 1943 1005 Hours
After a good night’s rest in his hotel room and a wonderful breakfast Preffrieger returned to the Munich office ready to begin an investigation into the last case file that Major Eckold had researched.  His investigation of a small local resistance cell had ultimately killed not only him, but also nearly every other SS officer involved with it.  He had spoken with Captain Schunck after Private Tieg fled from him the day before, but unfortunately the Captain had been unable to shed any more light on the subject, other than what would had been open knowledge to the entire staff.  Schunck had not been present when the events had unfolded, and had no first hand knowledge of any of it, but Preffrieger knew that there had to be something further to uncover that would shed light onto what had almost decimated the Munich SS.
Preffrieger slapped the file onto the desk, placed his full coffee mug beside it and seated himself in the office chair.  Today he spared not a glance outside at the glorious scenery beyond the window, but went quickly to work, hell-bent on finding the answers to this mystery.

Farmland outside of Hammelburg, Germany,
Werner Kemp’s Farm,
Day Five, April 6, 1943, 1020 Hours

Werner Kemp sat in his kitchen with his daughter Zillie waiting on the arrival of his fellow underground members. An emergency meeting had been called, but as yet, he didn’t have any specifics. The phone call he received from Oskar Freiling was very quick and to the point, or more readily, not to the point. The doctor called to confirm his house-call appointment at Werner’s for
10:30am today. So all Werner could do now was sit and wait impatiently for his friends to arrive.

“What do you think is wrong, Papa?” Zillie asked.

“I don’t know,” Werner replied, not really wanting to discuss it with his daughter.

“I can stay and join you,” Zillie offered, knowing full-well her father had had a hard enough time asking her to gather that information about the Gestapo. So she expected his answer, to her offer, would be no.

“No, Zillie,” Werner said quickly. “You have done enough already. I will pass the information you’ve discovered on. You need do no more. Go get some sleep. Everything will be fine.”

“I can help, Papa. I’m not a little girl any more,” Zillie retorted heatedly.

“I said no, Zillie,” Werner reprimanded, and then stated emphatically, “The answer is no.”

Zillie sighed, rose from the kitchen table, gave her father a small kiss on the forehead, and said, “Some day, Papa. I will prove that I am more capable than you believe.” She left the kitchen and headed to her room to get some sleep. With her schedule as it was, she generally slept during the morning hours, and did her chores in the late afternoon anyway.

Werner did not reply to his daughter’s terse statement, although his heart sank as he watched her walk away. I have no doubt that you will, Zillie. But I know it is a day I will regret. In my heart, I feel that you’ll be lost to me when that day comes. I’m only trying to keep you safe. Please understand…that I could not live without you.

Werner finally heard an automobile approaching…

He was expecting Oskar Freiling, although he wasn’t quite sure how the others in his group were to arrive, as it would appear rather obvious if everyone showed up in vehicles or even all at the same time.

Exiting through his back door, he greeted the doctor, “Good morning, Oskar. I’m glad you could make our appointment this morning. I’m still not feeling as well as I should.” As he reached the older man, Werner whispered, “What’s wrong?”

“Ah, Werner, you’re looking much better,” Oskar offered out loud, although neither man expected to be overheard as far out of town as they were, but they had all agreed to be as careful as possible. Finally the doctor whispered, “We’re in a mess, Werner. Geoff Hirsch is in trouble. Come. I’ll explain when the others arrive.”

Oskar Freiling looked around to make sure he saw no one, and entered the barn as he would for the evening meetings, followed closely by Werner. Both men were startled to find Hermann Schlick and Heinrich Berger already in the barn.

“I never heard either of you arrive,” Werner stated anxiously, with his heart pumping a little harder than normal.

“That is a good thing, Werner,” Heinrich replied. “Although, our intention was not to give you a heart attack.” Heinrich turned to Oskar Freiling, and asked without any preamble, “Did Geoff regain consciousness? Was he able to tell you anything?”

“Heinrich,” Oskar answered. “Geoff will be okay. He is awake, and has told me much.” Oskar started to shake his head negatively. “It is not good news, but I do not want to have to repeat myself. Let’s wait for Oskar.”

“But…” Heinrich replied.

“Not buts,” Oskar stated. “I know he is a friend, Heinrich. He is to us all. We will wait.”

Heinrich said nothing more, only hung his head, and sat down on one of the benches that Werner had scattered around the barn.

Thankfully, no one had to wait too much longer…

Oskar Schnitzer entered the barn, breathing heavily, “I’m sorry to be late. It’s much harder making my way here on foot during the day, so much more activity to avoid. Forgive me.” As the older German found his own seat on a bench, he sighed, “So Oskar, how is Geoff. Did he regain consciousness? Was he able to tell you anything?”

“Geoff is awake, and has told me what happened,” Oskar Freiling began. “It is not good. But let us start at the beginning, for I know poor Werner here is the one most in the dark about what happened, as I suspect Heinrich you and Hermann have already talked on your way here, ja?”

Heinrich only nodded.

“Well, first off,” Oskar began. “Whether any of you can believe this or not, Geoff is our vandal. He’s been the one slashing tires, and cutting the break lines of those Gestapo vehicles. And last night, after becoming even angrier because of the beating he took from Colonel Vogel, as well as learning that Helga, and we all, have kept our little secret from him… he decided on his own, to continue his vandalism hoping to distract the Gestapo from the work we are doing to remove Vogel from Hammelburg. He was the one who caused the Gestapo’s vehicles to explode last night by igniting one of the automobile’s gas tanks. Fortunately, he was able to get away. Unfortunately, he was hit by machine gun fire in his attempt to get away. How he made it to my house still amazes me. And how he wasn’t caught or killed amazes me even more.”

Oskar Freiling exhaled heavily and found his own seat. “He will recover…”

“Excuse me, Oskar,” Doc Schnitzer interrupted. “I think I can explain why Geoff was able to get away undiscovered.” Oskar shook his head. “He is just plain lucky that Colonel Vogel suspects Colonel Hogan of every wrongdoing in town. It seems that when the Gestapo couldn’t locate Geoff’s trail because of the heavy rain, they immediately went to Stalag 13. Colonel Hogan’s note this morning says as much. He and his men were made to stand out in the pouring rain last night for hours while Vogel and his men searched for ‘something’. Colonel Hogan has just asked us to keep our ears open for information about what that ‘something’ was, nothing more.”

“So Geoff is not being sought by the Gestapo,” Werner interjected. “That is good, ja?”

“No, it only buys us a little time,” Doc Freiling replied. “Geoff will recover, but he has a long, long road to travel. His left leg was badly damaged. It will be impossible to hide his injury. Months of rehabilitation will surely bring too much attention to him. And we also have to worry for Helga as well. I’m sorry, Werner. The others know of my idea. The only way we have to save Geoff is for us to find a way that he can leave Hammelburg undetected.”

“And your plan is what?” Werner asked quietly.

Oskar deferred to Heinrich, by nodding in his direction.

“Well, Werner. Both Oskars and I had a quick discussion earlier this morning. We have to make it appear that Geoff has been killed somehow. It is the only way that we believe both he and Helga will be free and clear of any suspicion. And we are hoping that Colonel Hogan can help move Geoff out of the area. Granted, until Oskar had talked to Geoff, we were planning all this with the hope that last night would be somehow explainable, and we would not have to do anything. But clearly, that is now not the case.”

“Again, your plan is what?” Werner repeated, not quite sure what to think. “You all know, I think, that we don’t have all that much experience in this type of thing. I want to help Geoff as much as any of you, but…”

Heinrich looked to Hermann before beginning his ex planation.“Hermannand I have come up with a plan. We have been together since early morning, making arrangements.” Heinrich fell silent, as an unexpected wave of emotion took him off-guard.

Hermann came forward, put a hand to his friend’s shoulder, and continued for him. “It is our intention to cause another explosion. This time large enough to destroy much of Geoff’s cobbler shop.” Hermann squeezed Heinrich’s shoulder tightly. “And which will also, if we can pull it off what we have planned, do as much or more damage to Heinrich’s store, as they share the same storefront.”

“You are willing to lose your livelihood in this, Heinrich?” Werner asked somewhat disbelievingly.  “Even after rebuilding once already.”

“It is something I must do, Werner.” Heinrich looked around the room at his companions. “I owe Geoff everything for that livelihood. It’s been almost twenty-five years now that we’ve shared our combined storefront. But, what most of you don’t know, is that if it wasn’t for Geoff, I never would have been able to afford to purchase that space to start my business.”

Heinrich sat back down on the bench before he continued. 

“I remember the day, as if it were yesterday.” Heinrich smiled. “Olga, eight-months pregnant with Viktor, and carrying Reuben on her hip. And me so cocksure that I could make a living as a store owner.” He shook his head in dismay. “Ha, what a pompous young fool, I was. We both walked into the space that would become our store, and standing there was Geoff and the building’s owner. Geoff was contemplating expanding his own space and was making a money offer to the owner. I strode up to them, brazenly interrupted, and offered my own monetary figure for the space, sure that I could sway the owner in my favor.”

Heinrich glanced up at his companions, with an embarrassed smirk. “My bid was not even close to what Geoff had offered. The owner just laughed, reached out, took Geoff by the hand, repeated clearly what Geoff had offered, and then gave him the space. Needless to say I was mortified. And Olga… Lord, there are so many reasons why I love that woman. She looked at me as if I was her knight in shining armor, gave me a kiss, and said, ‘We’ll find an even better place, Heinrich. Don’t worry’.”

Heinrich laughed and shook his head. “Well, we made quite the impression on Geoff, I guess. He agreed to purchase the space, and then he allowed me to set up shop and pay him in installments until I could purchase the space outright. He said he couldn’t see a young family trying so hard to succeed, and then fail.” Heinrich glanced around again at his companions. “I owe him, and will do anything to help him, even if that means losing the livelihood he gave to me.”

“Ach,” Hermann interjected. “All is not lost here, Heinrich. We already have a plan for you to continue with your livelihood.”

“Ah yes,” Heinrich said as he stood and approached is childhood friend. “It is good to have friends, yes?” Heinrich patted Hermann on the shoulder and turned back to the others. “Hermann has graciously offered to give Olga and I space at the Haus Brau until we can rebuild.” Heinrich turned back to Hermann and embraced him. “Thank you, my friend.”

“Ach,” Hermann repeated, breaking the embrace with his longtime friend. “Enough of that, we have work to do.”

“Ja, of course,” Heinrich agreed, but was reminded of something else entirely. “Oh. Oskar, Oskar,” Heinrich said addressing each man in turn, “this whole move to Hermann’s will interrupt some plans he and I’ve made with regards to you both. We will need to talk later, okay?”

When both Oskars just accepted that statement silently, Werner’s frustration, with not knowing the whole story, got the better of him and he offered loudly. “So if this craziness is to work, I need to understand some things. Maybe it is that I’ve missed something. But where is Geoff now? How is blowing up his shop going to ‘kill’ him? Where do we get the explosives? Has Helga been made aware? What is the plan?”

“Oh. I’m sorry Werner,” Heinrich answered. “You are right, we need to get back to business. First of all, Geoff is recuperating at Oskar’s, in his storm cellar. Oskar was able to contact Helga. She, right now, knows that we are working on some kind of a plan. I’m going to ask Olga to go see her later, under the pretense of checking on Geoff, and have her give Helga the specifics of our plan. Hermann and I will be jury-rigging the shared water heater in the basement of both shops to explode. Geoff is supposed to be resting at home today. But I will confirm with anyone who asks that Geoff came into work late, saying that he was feeling better, and wanted to work on the finicky water heater, now that he had time. His idea will be to work late and sleep at the shop. Only tinkering with the water heater causes it to explode, and with a little help from Hermann, myself and some gasoline, the fire will spread quickly. It is to look as if the building burnt to the ground, and that not much of Geoff’s body is left to be found.”

“Do you think the Gestapo will just accept, no body to be found?” Werner asked. “And how does Geoff manage to leave his apartment late in the day, get all the way to work, enter his shop, and be seen only by you Heinrich?”

“We are only slightly ahead of you in this, Werner,” Heinrich continued. “I know some people. People, who with a little monetary coaxing would will be willing enough to rob a newly dug gravesite for a body and also cover up their tracks. Olga will retrieve some of Geoff’s clothes from Helga, so we can disguise that body. As to whether or not Geoff will be noticed coming to work… I think there are enough quiet times in both our shops when he could arrive seen only by me.”

“Ach,” Werner accused. “You are all crazy!” When he saw his friend’s startled reaction, he sighed and said quickly, “What else is new, huh? How can I help?”

Heinrich smiled at his long time friend, “I think, Werner, we just need you to be available. Most of what needs to happen is Hermann’s responsibility and mine, alone. Olga can cover for me at the store today, and Erika can fill in for Hermann.”

“Heinrich, Hermann,” Oskar Schnitzer asked concerned. “Don’t you think it’s too obvious that you both are spending a good part of the day together? I know you’ve been friends since childhood, but this is not something that happens regularly. It could be construed by the wrong people as something out of the ordinary, and that’s not good.”

“You make a valid point, Oskar,” Oskar Freiling supported. “Our covert activities have to remain as close to our normal activities as possible.”

“You are both correct,” Heinrich explained. “And I can’t wait for the promised radios from Colonel Hogan, then the less we’ll have to make up crazy excuses. But for today, Hermann and I have a very good excuse. You see, many people have seen us about town together recently,” Heinrich smiled at both older Germans, “excluding you both.”

At the confused look on both Oskar’s faces, the three younger men laughed out loud.

Heinrich continued, “I’m sorry. This is all related to what I wanted to talk to you both about later. But, I guess now is as good a time as any, though. As I said, the movement of my store into Hermann’s extra space will affect the plans we were making. But for today, we can still pretend to make plans. Hermann and I were going to throw you both a surprise 70th birthday party at the Haus Brau. It was to take place next week. We decided to have it just prior to your actual birthdays. Anyway, we’ve been planning it for weeks now. Many people were invited. Only now it looks that it will not come to be…”

Heinrich hadn’t expected to make either man cry, but he stood dumbfounded as both older German doctors’ eyes filled with tears. “Happy Birthday,” was all he could think to say.

“Ach,” Oskar Schnitzer responded first. “I, for one, think I’ve already gotten the best birthday present possible. You have all grown into men, I’m honored to call friends.”

Oskar Freiling smiled and continued Schnitzer’s thought, “A better present couldn’t be had, Oskar.” Then he smirked, and unable to help himself said, “Although, I remember a few times when I wasn’t so sure I’d ever see them turn into grown men!”

“Ja. Ja,” Schnitzer replied smiling, “remember the time…”

“Now, that’s enough,” Heinrich interjected not wanting to be reminded again of his and his friends’ foibles as youngsters. “You are not disappointed?” he asked feeling guilty, and not wanting to hurt the older men’s’ feelings.

When both men shook their heads, silently, Heinrich continued, “Good, good. So we should get down to our normal business, as this meeting has already taken too much time. I will start. Hermann and I have talked to Tiger this morning. Hermann already had an appointment to pick up some of their 1938 Weisser Burgunder for your party. It seems that in answer to Colonel Hogan’s question… Tiger has a problem with space. I guess as big as the winery is, they only have one cellar that they consider a safe haven. And even though a good size, she is worried about the POWs’ anxiety and fears determining their actions. She says she has had incidents between those she has hidden before. Too many emotions breed trouble is how she put it. And she feels that any more than five is a danger to them all. She has six men now, and is very anxious to move them.”

“So,” Werner asked. “What are we to do? Just pass this information along to Colonel Hogan?”

“For now, I think that is all we can do,” Heinrich answered. “I had toyed with the idea of Tiger transporting them to my store as now my involvement is openly known to her. Only with our plans for tonight, that makes that a complete impossibility. And since neither Louise nor her brother frequent my store that often, a change in routine would be noticed. Plus the fact that I already have to redirect Rolf’s morning delivery tomorrow, it would just be too much all at once.”

Heinrich turned quickly to the veterinarian as he remembered a piece of tomorrow’s puzzle, “Oh, Oskar. You can do as you did before, meet Rolf at the
Hammelburg Road turnoff, yes?”

“Of course, Heinrich,” Oskar Schnitzer answered. “But let me say something. I do think we should just pass Tiger’s information along. You’re right, there is too much happening all at once tonight. But you all should know that Colonel Hogan did give me the names of his other contacts. Maybe they can be of help.”

“Who?” Hermann asked quickly. “Maybe we can get them too…”

“Hold on,” Doc Freiling interrupted. “I think we should step back here. It’s important to make a good impression on these new contacts. We should set up a meeting. Do we even know if Colonel Hogan has told them of us?”

“His note says that he has,” Doc Schnitzer stated.

“That’s good to know. But Oskar is right,” Heinrich offered. “Let us get through tonight, and we can make a better plan of action.” That is of course if we can get through tonight. “Tiger’s POWs are okay for now, at least. Louise didn’t indicate that she was having problems, only that she would like to avoid problems. We need to concentrate on Geoff tonight. Let’s just hope that Colonel Hogan will forgive us this lapse in focus from our main objective. Oskar, you will have to let Colonel Hogan know of our success or failure in this endeavor tomorrow morning. All right?”

Schnitzer just nodded.

When Schnitzer offered nothing more, Hermann said in frustration, “Well, even if we fail miserably tonight and end up dead. I still want to know who our new contacts would have been.”

“Oh,” Schnitzer replied. “Colonel Hogan gave me four names. I only recognize two.” Oskar reached into his pocket and opened the note he’d received from Colonel Hogan. “The names are Felix Unger, Jenny & Willy Adler, and Greta Koenig. I know a Jenny and Willy Adler. If they are who I think they are…. they are old acquaintances of Frieda’s. But, I can’t say I know them all that well.”

“Did Colonel Hogan tell you anything more about them?” Heinrich asked.

“He mentions only that Felix Unger is the camp’s laundry man. He is responsible for picking up and returning the German soldiers uniforms from the laundry facility located in the lot adjacent to the supply depot,” Schnitzer reported. “He mentions nothing else.”

“Anyone else recognize the names?” Heinrich asked.

Almost as one, the others answered, “Nein.”

“Then that means, we really should take our time, and not rush to contact these people,” Heinrich stated. “You agree, yes?”

Almost as one, again the others answered, only this time in the affirmative.

“Okay, so it is time to break up this meeting,” Heinrich stated. “With the Lord’s good graces, we will all still be here tomorrow to continue our work.”

As the men began to leave, Werner interrupted their exit with an anxious, “Oh wait. With everything else that was happening, I almost forgot. Zillie has given me the names of the Gestapo Officers that could be Colonel Vogel’s replacement.” Werner reached into his pocket, retrieved the note, and then exasperated said, “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s all right, Werner,” Oskar Schnitzer offered as he took the note from Werner’s hand. “I will just pass this note along.” Oskar headed for the barn door, under the assumption that the meeting was still over.

Hermann interrupted the veterinarian’s egress by yanking the note from Oskar’s hand. “You are not leaving without telling us who those Gestapo Officers are, are you?”

“Oh,” Schnitzer replied. “I guess not.”

Hermann began reading the note aloud, “So, we have a Major Sepp Muenich in Creglingen, and a Major Gustav Krueger in Gerolzhoten. Ha, would you believe that he’s Colonel Vogel’s brother-in-law!” Hermann turned quickly to Heinrich, and asked anxiously, “Isn’t that where Viktor is living and working now?”

“Ja,” Heinrich offered, taken back that his youngest son was somehow now connected to this.

“Let us cross Krueger off this list,” Hermann suggested, trying to ease the surprise he saw in his friend’s face. “Viktor doesn’t need to become the next of Vogel’s victims. There are enough others to choose from.”

“Ah, Hermann,” Heinrich replied. “As much as I would truly not want to subject Viktor, his friends and neighbors to Colonel Vogel. This is not our decision. Who are the others listed?”

“There’s a Colonel Alphonse Schmidt in Obersinn, a Major Josef Krause in Aidhausen, and lastly a Colonel Gregor Feldcamp in Grafenrheinfeld,” Hermann finished. “Zillie has also listed some information about other military encampments in the area as well.”

“Wonderful, Zilli has done well,” Heinrich stated. And then, really trying to end this meeting once and for all, he continued, “All right, it is time to pass that information along too. We can trust Colonel Hogan to make the best choice available.” Heinrich glanced at his friends, and tried to be re-assuring. “And if everything goes well tonight, we will be making condolence calls of Helga during the day tomorrow.”

Heinrich sighed, “But for now, we still have to much to do…”

Hammelburg, Germany,
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
Day Five, April 6, 1943, 1215 Hours
Colonel Hogan took a seat on the bench outside barracks two contemplating an idea of how to get Klink off their backs, as well as taking any chance he could get, to rest his still achy muscles.  He watched as the rest of the POWs broke from the
noon roll.  Most had dispersed about the compound, some found a mundane chore or two to complete. Others took up a game of volleyball even though the compound itself had not completely dried from last night’s deluge and still others just loitered about in the sun.  Most of the POWs still had no work to do as the camp was actually being run like a prison with Kommandant Klink on the war path and the Colonel himself, having put a lot of the operation on hold.  Other than Doc Schnitzer’s morning deliveries, there wasn’t all that much going on.  Everyone is just bored, thought Hogan.  And as much as Klink has been cracking down on us, there isn’t anything for Klink to catch us doing.  For the most part, no one is doing anything that isn’t what a POW is supposed to do.  

There was some amusement to be had out of the whole situation by watching Colonel Klink tear into his own men.  He’d been running them ragged for days now.  Every guard had been put on double shifts.  And when they weren’t on duty, he had the
m drilling.  Klink now had three assemblies a day for his own men.  He conducted a complete spit and polish inspection every time.  I’m actually starting to feel bad for them.  If Klink keeps this up, we’ll be able to walk right out of camp past many a sleeping guard.  Although I have to admit that some of the guards have gotten a little nasty as a result of being overworked.  I told my men to be careful, but surprisingly enough, all I’ve seen so far are squabbles between the guards themselves, with nothing as yet being directed at the POWs.  Klink’s really got to ease off soon or his own men are going to be the ones escaping.
Colonel Hogan finally saw Sergeant Shultz break away from their maniacal Kommandant, who was in the midst of making his rounds surveying the compound.  The Kommandant had taken to being very involved in the daily running of the camp, much to the chagrin of his own men, as well as the POWs.  He could now be found almost anywhere.  Hogan saw Shultz sigh with relief as he started across the compound away from Klink.  Poor Shultz.  Klink’s got him crazy.  I don’t think he’s had a minute’s rest since this all began.  Hogan got up slowly from his spot on the bench wanting to intercept Shultz, but the big German had stopped to take in the volleyball game being played in the compound.  Hogan had to continue in his direction.  Well I hope my idea works.  Shultz will probably be more than happy to help.  Finding old Iron Eagle a girlfriend will hopefully get him off all our backs.  I really hope I can convince Shultz to do some legwork for me; it could relieve some of the pressure we’re all feeling.
“Hey, Shultzie,” Hogan said happily as he came up behind the Sergeant and patted him on the shoulder.  “The Iron Eagle has got you all running ragged.  You doin’ okay? I think I can talk LeBeau into a piece of strudel for you later.  That is, if you can ever get a free moment.”
“Oh, Colonel Hogan,” Shultz sighed looking around the compound nervously.  “Thank you, but I don’t think I can.  The Kommandant has now threatened to put any guards, who fraternize with the prisoners, on report.  I can get in trouble by just talking to you.”
Colonel Hogan made his own survey of the compound before answering.  He saw Klink come out from behind the delousing station.  “Hey, Shultz, here he comes now.  Act like you’re reprimanding me for something.  I really have to talk to you.  I have an idea to get the Kommandant off everyone’s back.”
“Really!” Shultz exclaimed and went into his most dangerous pose, rifle at the ready, pointed directly at Colonel Hogan.  “How? I’m all ears,” he continued still trying to look mean.
“Well.  It’s like this…” Colonel Hogan began, but stopped shocked in mid sentence as machine gun fire erupted in the compound.  Hogan had been so startled that he hadn’t reacted.  All he was able to do was watch dumbfounded as Shultz fell to the ground after taking a hit.  Hogan was then immediately sorry that he hadn’t reacted -- as a bullet from Shultz’s gun -- tore through his left arm.  The big affable German guard mustn’t have had the safety on his gun and when he got hit, the jolt caused him to pull the trigger. 
Hogan staggered slightly backward as the bullet impacted, but luckily was able to maintain his balance.  “We’ve got men down,” he yelled slightly disorientated as he blearily took in the carnage at the volleyball net.  Men were down everywhere, Germans and POWs alike.  Hogan was trying hard not to clutch at his injured arm, as he knew there would surely be those that would require more medical attention.  He would wait until the injuries were sorted out before getting treatment.  As he slowly regained some of his composure, he tried to assess the rest of the compound, but never got the chance as a number of his men as well as a number of Germans began converging on his location. 
There was pandemonium while the injured were being sorted out.  Hogan was relieved to see
Wilson arrive on scene.  The medic quickly took charge assessing the injured.  Hogan could only watch gratefully as most of the men he had considered down, got up.  His heart sank though, when he noticed that five men were not getting up.  Three of his own men, as well as two of the Germans.  Hogan quickly ordered all of his men in the area to back off, so the injured could be treated without everyone hovering.  But Hogan himself couldn’t tear his eyes off his own men.  He wanted to check on each one of them personally, but was forced to abandon even that thought when he heard more gunfire come from just across the compound. 
Hogan’s heart began pounding hard in his chest.  He could hear Klink’s panicked yelling of orders.  He could even hear Kinch’s voice hollering as well.  Both seemingly trying to diffuse another bad situation.  Hogan holding his injured arm tightly by his side, pushed with his good arm, through the crush of men standing around the volleyball net, only to see a large gathering of POWs near one of the guard towers.  Those POWs were being held at bay by a number of camp guards, with Kinch and Klink in the forefront.  No one looked injured, but as Hogan approached, he watched some of Klink’s men, handcuff and force to the ground, two of the other German guards.  What the hell happened? Goddamn bastards! Could they be responsible for the shootings? And why would they shoot their own men? What in God’s name would have caused that? It had to have been an accident.  Or make that, it had better have been an accident.  Because if it wasn’t… I’ll tear those Nazi bastards apart, limb-by-limb, myself.
Hogan tried desperately to control his own anger, pain, and fear, as he made his way quickly to join Kinch and Klink in front of the mob of POWs at the guard tower.  It didn’t take much for him to see that their anger and fear was building rapidly against the German contingent holding them at bay.  Cal
m down.  You need to hold this place together.  You need to get the men to settle down.  You just can’t let this situation get any more out of hand.  You just don’t need more bloodshed.  “Hold on!” Hogan yelled as loudly as he could, even as he saw that more of his men were joining the angry group of POWs.  “Calm down.  You men have to realize that whatever happened here wasn’t directed at us specifically.  They,” Hogan continued indicating with his good arm the two handcuffed guards, “took down two of their own as well.  So break it up before this situation gets any worse!”
Hogan only saw his men’s angry and frightened faces staring back at him.  It was the same look of desperation that he had seen on all their faces when he first arrived at Stalag 13.  He had hoped to never see that look again.  “You heard me!” he hollered in the best command tone he could muster, hoping to snap them out of their fear.  Hogan sighed with relief as he saw some of the men begin to focus their attention on him.  “I want everyone not on triage in the barracks until we straighten this out!” he ordered.  He turned quickly to his second in command, “Kinch, you’re in charge here.  Get the men into the barracks.  And do it now!”
“Yes sir, Colonel,” Kinch replied immediately starting a search of the compound to round up the barracks commanders to help contain the POWs.  He was very glad that the POWs had all become used to obeying their commanding officer at the drop of a hat.  Their lives had always depended on it and the Colonel had never led them astray. 
“What did you say, Colonel Hogan?” Kommandant Klink asked completely taken aback as he came to stand directly in front of his Senior POW Officer.  He hadn’t yet had a chance to even contemplate that people could have been injured with all of the hullabaloo at the guard tower. 
“Well, Kommandant.  Those goddamn bastards of yours,” Hogan said as the anger and pain got the better of him, “shot five men, three of my men and two of your own guards.  Sergeant Shultz went down right in front of me.  I didn’t even get the chance to find out the extent anyone’s injuries,” he sighed turning his gaze back to where the five men were still laying on the ground by the volleyball net.  At least someone is still attending to each of them.  I just hope that means there will be some good news. 
Klink chose to ignore Hogan’s derogatory remarks when he noticed that the man’s left arm was limp at his side and blood was covering his hand.  He was also very relieved that Hogan had been able to diffuse what could have become a disastrous situation.  Klink was impressed all over again that Hogan could control the POWs as easily as he had.  But he also knew that that ability had been one of the only reasons that he had put up with Hogan’s outlandish activities until recently. 
“Very well, Colonel,” Klink retorted quickly, although almost immediately became extremely nervous as he realized that this whole situation might have been his fault.  “Let’s go check on the injured together.” Klink ordered the two guards responsible for the fiasco confined to the cooler under heavy guard, as well as ordering the rest of his men back to their duty stations before he caught up with Colonel Hogan. 
The American Colonel hadn’t waited for him before heading back across the compound to assess the injured.  As the Kommandant came up behind his Senior POW Officer, he noticed that the man had put both hands in his pockets as he walked back to the triage area.  Trying to hide his injury? Why? Probably because he won’t accept treatment until after his men are taken care of.  I guess I won’t say anything unless the man looks like he’s going to fall flat on his face. 
I just hope, though, that none of these men are injured too seriously.  I don’t know how I will live with myself knowing that I might have been responsible.  It was me that assigned those two men to punishment duty together. Did I push them and the others beyond their limits? This whole bloody mess started because a fight broke out between those two men in the guard tower and somehow their struggle caused the machine gun to fire a short random burst into the compound.  I heard the whole argument begin, but I couldn’t stop it in time.  Now men could die.  What am I going to do?
Hammelburg, Germany,
Doctor Freiling’s Clinic,
Day Five, April 6, 1943, 1230 Hours
Oskar Freiling was examining a patient when his wife Ursula came rushing into the exam room.  “Oskar.  There’s an emergency at that POW camp.  Multiple men shot, some critical, some not.  Kommandant Klink called and asked that you come immediately!” Ursula’s heart was pounding; Oskar had explained to her how Colonel Hogan and his men were being treated recently, but she could tell by the look on Oskar’s face that even he had hoped it wouldn’t get this bad.
“You told him we would be there, yes?” Oskar said anxiously.  “We will have to finish up some other time, Francesca.  All right? I have an emergency,” he told his patient even as he began gathering the medical supplies that he would need.
After Francesca had left and the clinic door had been locked, Ursula asked, “What do you think happened at Stalag 13?”
Oskar was silent for a moment, his frantic movements halted.  “I do not know.  I am afraid.  I am afraid for the lives there.  And that perhaps all of our hard work has been for naught. And today… of all days, for this to happen. We have so much planned for this evening. What if this is the end of it all, Ursula?”
“Do not borrow trouble before it is here, Oskar.  Colonel Hogan has proven himself many times.  If it is possible, he will do so again.  You will see.  I believe that it will be okay,” Ursula scolded.
“Ja, ja.  I have a lot of confidence in Colonel Hogan.  But to even loose one person, one life, would be too much.  Those men do not need to stay there.  They only do so out of loyalty to Colonel Hogan, and to help us,” Oskar replied continuing with his frantic packing. “What if Colonel Hogan is one of the injured or maybe dead? Where does that leave us, Ursula?”
“Please, Oskar. I understand your concern,” Ursula agreed, taking his face in her hands and kissing him on the forehead. “We all have our lives at stake in this. But we cannot beat a dead horse by ourselves. Let us go and assess the situation. If it is the end, then we will face it together.”

“Ah, Ursula,” Oskar replied. “What would I do without your steady presence? You’re right. Let us go. We will find a way to do all that we have to do. I just pray that we will be in time to save the injured.”

“So you do want me to come to be a nurse for you, Oskar?” Ursula asked unsure, as she’d never gone with her husband to Stalag 13. She knew that her husband had always tried to keep her from seeing that place up close.
“Ja, I think you had better.  If there are more than a few injured, you will be needed,” Oskar replied.
“What about Geoff?” Ursula asked.  “He still needs care.  Should we leave him alone?”
“He is awake and stable.  I have explained the situation to him.  He knows he cannot be seen or heard. Go and tell him we will be leaving for a while.  Bring him water and an extra blanket. He should be all right.  There is really nothing else we can do,” Oskar said.
“Ja.  I know.  I will meet you at the car,” Ursula replied. 

Hammelburg, Germany,
The Haus Brau Restaurant,
Day Five, April 6, 1943 1300 Hours

Erika Strasse, the barmaid of the Haus Brau restaurant, and younger sister of owner Hermann Schlick, dropped steins of beer off at a table for three of her regular patrons, all workers from the Hammelburg Water Company. “Here you go, Gentlemen,” she said with a bright flirtatious smile, knowing that even in wartime that would get her better tips. “Let me know, if you’d like anything else.” 

A chorus of “Danke, Fraulein Erika” sent her on her way back toward the kitchen, but as she turned, Erika noticed, out of the corner of her eye, that someone had just occupied another table nearby. 

“Welcome,” she said again with a bright smile before really seeing her new customer. Her heart skipped a beat though, as she recognized the young man. “Ah, Captain Dingle!  I’d thought you’d abandoned us for fairer luncheon spots,” Erika practically purred.

Captain Konrad Dingle, Commanding Officer of the supply depot just outside town, grinned back at the lovely barmaid, “Nein, not likely, Fraulein Erika. Things at the depot have just been very busy the last few days. An inspection. So, you see, getting out to lunch was impossible.  But the inspector has left, and now it’s back to business as usual.”

“Oh, an inspection, you say?” Erika replied her interest peaked at the unexpected news. “The war must keep you busy.” Ach, Mein Gott! What a silly thing to say! Flustered and embarrassed by having said something so inane, she continued with her job, by quickly clearing the Captain’s table of the remains left by its previous occupants.

“Ja, busy indeed,” the Captain replied with a smile, never once even contemplating that what she had said was anything other than intellectual conversation. “Only this time, it was just a routine inspection. Although Major Trask, from the regional office, never makes it just a simple inspection,” Dingle replied.

Glad that Dingle did not seem to notice her lapse in sanity, she offered, “Well Captain, I’m just glad that it wasn’t another fraulein barmaid that stole you away from the Haus Brau.” Erika smiled, and her eyes sparkled at the young Captain.

“Nein, Fraulein!  Never,” Dingle replied, with his heart pumping just a little too hard, as he had come to enjoy his regular visits to the Haus Brau. Erika had always been a pleasurable diversion to his daily routine. A most pleasurable diversion... indeed.

“Wonderful,” Erika assured with a quiet and what she hoped was a seductive smile. “So can I get you a beer, Herr Captain?”

“Ja, Fraulein Erika. Danke, but please call me Konrad,” Dingle replied with a smile of his own, to match hers.

“Most certainly, Konrad,” Erika replied, and then almost sickened by her behavior, hurried back to the bar where her brother was stocking the shelves for the day.  She grabbed his arm and whispered, “Hermann, he is here! I need to speak with you!”

Hermann, catching on quickly that he sister was anxious, looked around the room quickly to make sure of whom his sister was talking. He was glad that Captain Dingle had once again graced his restaurant. At least, something has gone right today. “Oh, I see,” Hermann offered, and followed his sister through the kitchen to the far back corner of the restaurant.

Once they were safely ensconced in the back storeroom, Erika hissed at her brother, “Hermann do you really want me to do this?”

“You must, Erika. Colonel Hogan really needs those automobile supplies, and it would be very helpful in the future if we had access to the depot,” Hermann explained, and then asked nervously, “Can you do it?”

Erika sighed and ran her fingers back through her hair apprehensively, “I think so.  I’m nervous, though.  I don’t know how far I can go with this. Flirting I can do. As a barmaid, it is part of the job. More than that… I just don’t know Hermann. It’s been a long time… and he can’t be much older than my own Dietrich!”

“Mein Gott, Erika!” Hermann took hold of his sister’s shoulders. “I’m not asking you to do more than flirt.  I only suggested that you ask discreet questions of him while you flirt.”

Just then…

Quickly, and almost too quickly for Erika’s taste, a sly smirk took over her brother’s face. “Although, I’ve seen the way he looks at you, Erika,” Hermann teased. “If more is something you want…”

He never got to finish that statement though, as Erika’s hand came up quickly, and painfully, to wipe the sly smirk from his face. “Don’t you ever talk like that to me!”

Hermann grabbed her hand and apologized, “I’m sorry, but as you said, it’s been a long time. Your Stefan has been gone for almost eight years now.” He squeezed her hand tightly in his fist, and continued with, “You should, I think, take young Captain Dingle’s attention, as a compliment. Whether you realize it or not, you still look as you did, fifteen years ago.”

“Ach,” Erika rebuked. “Mind your own business.”

“Fine,” Hermann replied. “Then you will continue as you have? We really just need information at this point.” But then, he smirked again. “Although, I was a young man once myself, Erika. Be careful how far you tease, or one day, our young Dingle just might have to go home and change his underwear before going back to work.”

Erika glared angrily at her older brother, and left him where he stood, knowing that she needed to get back with Captain Dingle’s beer before too much time went by. As much as I love my brother, he can be such a patience tester. But, I’ve agreed to this and I will do my part.  I just don’t have to like it.  It is one thing to flirt as a barmaid. It is another thing entirely to lead the young man on for nefarious purposes. I only hope that I can get the information we need… with as little coercion on my part, as possible.

Erika returned to where Captain Dingle sat, carrying a single stein of beer. But as she looked into the Captain’s eyes – and most especially now just after Hermann’s instigation – she saw something more in them than she ever had before. Erika got flustered as she tried to place the stein on the table in front of the Captain. She fumbled and dropped the stein of beer, which ended up in the young German’s lap.

Hermann entered the bar from the kitchen, just in time to see Captain Dingle leap from his seat and topple the chair he’d been sitting in. He couldn’t help but laugh, as Erika the mother that she was, knelt down in front of the young man and began a frantic wiping of the Captain’s uniform jacket and pants to remove the excess liquid. Ha, not quite what I intended Erika, but I think you may have achieved the same result.

Herman chose to step in and rescue his sister, as she had yet to see the look on the Captain’s face. The young man was a study in utter desire, as the attention she was offering, was a little more than he could cope with. Ah, to be young again!

“My apologies, Herr Captain,” Hermann said as he reached the couple and took hold of his sister’s shoulders and pulled her up from her knees. Giving her a gentle shove in the direction of the kitchen, he reprimanded, “What a mess, Erika. Go get the mop to clean the floor.”

As Erika wandered back toward the kitchen, Herman again apologized to the Luftwaffe Officer. “I’m so very sorry for this Captain. Please allow me to pay for your uniform to be cleaned.”

“Nein, Herr Schlick,” Dingle replied. “It was an accident. No har
m done. I’ll just go home and get changed.”

“Then please,” Heinrich offered. “Allow me to offer you a free meal and all the beer you can drink on your next visit. Ja? It’s it the least I can do.”

“Danke, Herr Schlick,” Dingle answered. “I will most certainly take you up on that offer.”

“Good. Good,” Herman replied. “Let me show you to the door then.” Herman followed the officer to the front of the Haus Brau, helped him on with his overcoat, and sighed as the door closed behind him.

Erika came up behind him in a panic, and whispered, “Oh, Hermann. I made a mess of things. What if I’ve scared him away?”

“Don’t worry, Erika. I have offered him free food and beer. He will be back,” Hermann assured. Although Erika, I don’t think it’s the beer that is going to bring him back. Because, if I remember anything from my youth… the look on his face tells me that it is you he’ll be back to see. Only out loud all he said was, “It will be fine, I know it,” for he really didn’t need another reprimand from his sister. Hermann rubbed his cheek absentmindedly and returned to his place behind the bar, leaving his sister with cleanup duty.

Finally, after the excitement was over and the lunch rush ended…

Erika sat and tried to enjoy her own lunch, especially after the embarrassing encounter with Captain Dingle. She took the opportunity to straighten and stretch her tired back, as she knew, now would come the long slow glide into the evening hours.
“Erika,” Hermann said coming from behind the bar after he’d finally got it setup for the evening.  “I am going shortly.  Heinrich and I will be occupied most of the night.  The party is close and there is much to be done still.”

Erika knew that Hermann and Heinrich had things to prepare, faced as they were with a dangerous night ahead. But she smiled and nodded, playing along for the few patrons that still lingered. “Ja, have fun. This will be such a wonderful surprise for them both.  I bet no one has given either of them a birthday party in years!”

“I wouldn’t take that bet,” Hermann replied, removing his apron. “You will be able to handle tonight alone?”

“I should be able to,” Erika replied.  “It is a Tuesday, and business is usually slower on Tuesdays.”

“Good, then I will see you at home this evening.  Good luck,” Hermann said giving his sister a hug.

“You too,” she whispered in his ear while he held her close. “Be safe. I hope that you and the others can do what you need to, to take care of Geoff.”

“We really have little choice, we must succeed,” he whispered back. “Or it will be the end.”

Erika watched her brother leave, and though tears were threatening, she could only smile. Her older brother had always been there for her. And even though he teased her un-mercilessly, she knew he always cared, as attested to the fact that she was sharing his apartment above the Haus Brau. Hermann had asked her to move in after her husband Stefan had died, and her son Dietrich had taken his own path in life, by joining the Waffen SS.

Erika could no longer keep the tears at bay, and quickly escaped to the back storeroom unable to fathom how much her life had changed. She only ever wanted to remember the happy days just after getting married to Stefan and giving birth to their son Dietrich. Life was so much simpler. Her life was full of love, hope and joy then. But today, with no husband – and no son to speak of – it was only full of hate, fear and loneliness.

Her tears flowed uncontrolled until she heard a patron calling for another beer. She wiped her face, plastered a smile there, and went back to work, for it was all she could do…

Munich, Germany,
SS Headquarters, Office of the late General Stefan Geist,
Day Five, April 6, 1943 1430 Hours
General Preffrieger rose to his full height and stretched.  He hadn’t moved in several hours, having been fully engrossed in the case file spread open before him.  It had been … interesting reading.  The file containing the investigation into this local resistance cell was incomplete at best, but Major Eckold had over several months traced it out to the deaths of several of its suspected members in and around the
Munich area, specifically in Rohrmoos and Ismanning. The prisoner Klein had been the one and only remaining lead in the case, and he had been executed before any information had been gained from him.  Incompetents!

There had even been no trace found of the Ohms family after Eckold’s execution of suspected resistance members Edgar Ohms and Dieter Wirth in Rohrmoos, only that their car had been found abandoned days later in
Dachau. The rest of the Ohms family had apparently vanished without a trace.  So with the deaths of its local members, it did appear that this local resistance cell was now obsolete. But the General knew that no resistance cell ever existed alone.  They are always connected like the silvery strands of silk in a spider’s web, each bolstering the confidence of the next.  Preffrieger snorted in disgust at the thought of so many traitors to the Fatherland that he’d sworn to defend. Even so, he knew what his job was. I will trace each and every strand of this web until I find the spider at its core. And when I do, I will obliterate it.
Preffrieger allowed his attention to move to the papers in the upper right corner of the desk.  These he had found in General Geist’s office.  Interestingly enough, General Geist himself had added several pages of notes to the search of the resistance cell in the area.  He had apparently been very interested in the investigation and according to Captain Schunck had demanded daily updates from Major Eckold about his progress.  While it was not odd that the General wanted to be kept up to date on the investigation of a resistance cell… it was odd that he was so committed to the investigation. 
Still, even after reading files for most of the day Preffrieger still could not say with any certainty exactly what had happened.  Eckold had certainly been onto something big.  The resistance cell he uncovered, even though small, appeared to be a well organized one.  Yet, not one trace of a remaining member or a contact to another cell is visible.  That in and of itself is … odd.  And if neither Hoztein nor Eckold murdered Klein, then Bruer had.  But, to what benefit? Would Klein have fingered Bruer of conspiracy or even as a member of the resistance cell that Eckold had spent the last several months investigating? Hmm.  Had Bruer ‘inadvertently’ held back the investigation?
Preffrieger rifled back through the file, but could find no mention of Major Bruer.  The only officer consistently mentioned other than Eckold had been General Geist, although Major Bruer had been General Geist’s private aide. 
Hmm.  This just gets odder as I delve deeper into it.  I think I need to expand my investigation.  
Preffrieger quickly closed up the file on the
Munich resistance cell, and dropped it to the office floor in case he wanted to refer to it again.  Then he snagged his empty coffee mug and left the office to demand the office records and reports written by Major Karl Bruer and General Stefan Geist for the past six months.

It was going to be another long night, and an even longer week ahead.  
Hammelburg, Germany,
Luft Stalag 13, Infirmary,
Day Five, April 6, 1943, 1505 Hours
Kommandant Klink was standing just inside the door to the infirmary watching the volunteers, German and POW alike, as they worked at making the injured comfortable.  There had been six men injured in the horrible melee that occurred almost three hours before.  Including two of his own men, a Corporal Armin Zweig and Sergeant Shultz.  The other four were POWs.  Corporal Philip Belvedere, an Englander.  Sergeant Peter Murdock, an Australian.  And two Americans… a Corporal Douglas Engorn and Colonel Hogan.  Four of the men had only incurred minor injuries.  The other two men, Armin Zweig and Philip Belvedere had been injured seriously enough that Oskar Freiling, Hammelburg’s only physician with a private practice, had been contacted for his help. 
The Kommandant was relieved when the doctor had readily agreed to come.  He had arrived quickly with his wife in tow as a nurse.  The doctor now had both men in surgery in a little room, off to one side of the camp’s small infirmary.  The doctor had been adamant that only he, his wife, the camp’s medic and a person who could translate for the medic be allowed into that room.  Klink had assigned Corporal Karl Langenscheidt to the doctor so he could translate for Sergeant Wilson.  He was the only one in camp, besides the Kommandant and Sergeant Shultz, who spoke English well enough to translate.
Klink was now glad to see that at least three of the four men in the main infirmary appeared to be resting comfortably.  The fourth man, Colonel Hogan, had not moved from his sitting position facing the closed door on the other side of the infirmary.  Hogan hadn’t made any eye contact with the Kommandant since Klink had told one of Hogan’s men that the Colonel had been injured -- almost two hours ago.  Klink had only said something when it began to look as if the American Colonel was not going to admit to it on his own.
Klink had seen the anger in Hogan’s eyes flare explosively when the Colonel realized that Klink was the one who turned him in.  The Kommandant had gotten very nervous as he watched Hogan’s reaction.  Klink knew that the American Colonel would be angry about the whole situation -- and certainly had the right to be.  It was just that Klink had never seen so fiery a look in the American’s eyes before.  It was a look that made him even surer that someday he would pay dearly to this man for their incarceration.  Klink knew in his heart that it was a price he would have to pay, but he also knew that the only way he was going to keep the POWs safe was to have Colonel Hogan here.  So he knew that it was a price he would willingly pay when the time came.  But for right now -- he was just glad that he hadn’t had to confront the man behind those eyes for the last couple hours. 
I really don’t know what to do to relieve the anger and tension.  I’m just glad that for now things have settled down.  The prisoners are confined to the barracks on Hogan’s order.  I guess I should feel concerned that they are not there on my order.  But at this point, it’s just probably safer that I don’t force the issue.  My men are still on double duty and haven’t reported any problems from the POWs.  Hogan’s man Kinchloe requested permission to see Hogan just a short time ago and even that seemed only to offer a report on the status in camp as well as getting a status report on the injured POWs. 
Hopefully that means the threat of Hogan’s men retaliating to this awful tragedy is over.  It probably would have already happened, if it were going to.  Especially with the situation being as volatile as it was earlier.  I suppose though if that young man, Corporal Belvedere, dies -- that in itself could begin another tragic series of events, especially if the look I saw in Hogan’s eyes earlier was any indication of the anger the POWs are feeling.  I just hope that Hogan realizes that the whole situation was an accident.  If not, I’m just not sure of what to expect next. 
Although, I have to remember that I do have the upper hand here.  I could crack down even harder, I suppose.  But that’s what caused this whole fiasco in the first place.  We’d probably just end up with even more injured or dead.  That’s just not how it’s supposed to work.  These men are the enemy, but they are still my responsibility to keep safe until the war is over.  I need to find a way to make sure that happens.  And I know that I need Hogan here for that to even have a chance of happening. 
Of course, Hogan truly has the right to make a protest to the protecting powers.  He could easily make it very difficult for me.  I really need to keep him fro
m doing that. I can’t allow word of this incident to get out of camp.  If Berlin finds out, I could easily end up being transferred or maybe even being dead.  Not that there is a difference between the two.  Should I be honest and admit to Hogan that it was my fault.  Maybe put forth a token of good faith -- transferring those two guards out of camp -- maybe even lessening the new restrictions -- or removing them altogether.  I can certainly put those things into motion right now.  So when Hogan and I have the inevitable confrontation over this -- those things will already be in place, and maybe since Hogan has been very accommodating recently, we can work out some kind of deal?
Or maybe I should just get packed for the Russian Front? Or just plan my funeral?
Klink turned toward the door of the infirmary when he heard Sergeant Matthias Duerr enter the infirmary with a loud and tense, “Kommandant Klink!” having spewed forth from his lips.

“What is it Sergeant?” Klink replied quickly, as his heart began pounding. He just didn’t need another emergency.

After Duerr made his way hastily to where the Kommandant was standing, he stopped, looked around, and thought better of voicing his message out loud. He leaned closely into the Kommandant and whispered, “General Burkhaulter just phoned sir. He wanted you to know that he will be here tomorrow to make an inspection of Stalag 13, and then is planning to meet with Gestapo Colonel Vogel as well.”

“Tomorrow!? Here!?” Klink asked in a panic of no one in particular. He can’t be coming here. There’s just not enough time to make things right. 

“Ja, Herr Kommandant,” Duerr replied just in case the question was directed at him.

Klink shook his head. Funeral planning may indeed be the order of the day. The German Colonel left the infirmary immediately, although not before asking one of his men to have Doctor Freiling escorted to his office after the surgery.  Regardless of this present emergency, he did want get a report from the doctor in person as to the medical status of the two men.  But with the General coming the next day, he decided to cut the paperwork to transfer those two soldiers out of camp, immediately.  He also wanted to get Sergeant Matthias Duerr to take over for Shultz and have him help restore the camp back to its original level of security and remove many of the restrictions that had been imposed in the last few days. All the while hoping it would be enough to restore some semblance of normality to his POW camp.

Normalcy ha! My life may still be over, even with all the restrictions being lifted. Because if I can’t get Hogan to agree to a deal, or even worse… if that boy dies… there will be no way I can cover for the disastrous events that took place today.

I will be as good as dead, and deservedly so.
Hammelburg, Germany,
Luft Stalag 13, Infirmary,
Day Five, April 6, 1943, 1510 Hours

Colonel Hogan’s attention had been glued to the door of the makeshift operating room where Doc Freiling was still working on one of his men as well as one of Klink’s.  Hogan had sat for the past couple hours trying to control his anger as well as the pain from the gunshot wound in his arm.  But he actually couldn’t tell what pained him more, his arm -- or his chest.  That nasty clamp had taken hold of his heart again.  The one he had hoped he had gotten rid of for good, just last month, after the pneumonia outbreak had resolved itself.  Just face it Hogan.  It ain’t never gonna go away.  And it’s gonna sneak up and grab hold, when you least expect it.

Yeah.  Yeah.  I know.  I just can’t let it get the best of me anymore.

Easy for you to say.
Hogan turned quickly toward the entrance to the infirmary when he heard Kommandant Klink raised voice, although he didn’t actually know what the Kommandant was talking about.  He hadn’t been able to look the man in the eye since this whole thing began.  Hogan’s anger, at himself, had reached overwhelming proportions during the past few hours.  He knew that if he let his anger get the best of him now, he could easily take revenge on Klink and any other Nazi bastard that got in his way.  But he also knew he had to cal
m down before confronting Klink face to face.  It was just eating at his gut, that he had let Klink bully him as far as he did.  And because of that Hogan knew that he could only blame himself for the injuries to his men. 
Not that Klink doesn’t deserve most of the blame for this whole bloody thing, but I just can’t take it out on Klink.  I need him and this camp.  If this operation is ever going to work, I need to control everything that is going on in this camp.  And Klink, as much as he’s a pompous ass, he’s the only pompous ass I know -- for sure -- that I can manipulate.  But right now, at this very moment, I’m just not sure how to confront him.  I need to be able to balance very carefully, ‘the anger of the Senior POW Officer’ with ‘the needs of the spy now calling himself Papa Bear’.
But, I also have to keep a lid on the anger and fear of my own men.  And that may prove to be the hardest part.  I can’t let it go back to the way it was when I first got here.  I just can’t.  Right now, the men are paying attention to my orders.  But will it last? What if Belvedere dies? My heart wants me to let the men wreak havoc on the Nazi bastards, but I know I can’t do that.  How am I going to explain that to them? How am I going to explain away the death of an 18-year-old kid? How can I allow those bastards to get away with murdering an innocent young kid, without having it appear that they’ve gotten away with it? I may have to figure out a way though if I’m to keep this operation running.  It’s just that that poor kid doesn’t deserve to die in anonymity. 
That’s enough Hogan.  He’s not dead yet.

C’mon kid, you can make it.
To be continued…

Thanks for Reading
Patti and Marg

Author’s Note: The Odd Couple?

Little-known facts about Stalag 13’s laundryman.

"On November 13th, 1942, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife. Deep down he knew she was right. But he also knew that someday he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his childhood friend, Oskar Madison. Sometime earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return. Can two divorced men share an flat in Hammelburg, Germany, during WWII, without driving each other crazy?"

Look for answers to this question in an upcoming chapter of Confidence Game… or maybe not…

Sorry we just couldn’t resist using Felix Unger as a character name in this chapter of Confidence Game. It came about accidentally, as Patti and I went through a list of German first names, and then a list of German surnames to crosswalk some new character names, and lo and behold Felix Unger the laundry guy was born.

Quite appropriate, we thought!

The authors would like to thank Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman for portraying one of the most enduring and endearing screen duos in American stage, film and television history.

Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Margaret Bryan, Patti Hutchins

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.