What Child Is This?
Linda Groundwater



“Head for the barn; we have to get out of sight!”


Colonel Robert Hogan gestured toward the darkened building and scanned the area to make sure no one was watching. He could still hear shouting in the distance, and what they had all just seen had shaken him.


“I’ll take the lead, gov’nor.” Peter Newkirk, RAF Corporal, came up beside the American officer and tightened his grip on his gun. “Those Nazi scum won’t get anywhere near me.”


“Easy, Newkirk,” Hogan answered. “I know you’re upset, but we have to think clearly or we’ll lose our heads—literally.”


“Colonel, those bloody Germans just hauled off that family! Did you see the way they pulled that girl’s arm?—”


“I know, I know,” Hogan replied shortly. “I don’t like it any more than you do. But we’ve gotta get out of here, and out of sight, and the Krauts’ve already been through this place, so they’re not likely to come back. Now let’s go!”


----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----


“How’s your leg, Kinch?” Hogan looked over at the tall, black Sergeant whom he had helped into the barn and sat down on a hay bale.


“Okay, Colonel,” James Kinchloe answered, though his voice wasn’t very convincing. “Just nicked the side of the kneecap.”


Hogan glanced over at Andrew Carter and nodded slightly. Carter approached Kinch cautiously. “Can I take a look, Kinch? I was a Boy Scout—maybe I can put on a tourniquet or something so it stops bleeding.”


Kinch grimaced and looked warily back at the mild-mannered Sergeant. “It’s already stopping,” he answered. “Look, it was just a graze; the Germans weren’t even shooting at me—they just missed their target and I got in the way!”


“And you were damn lucky they didn’t get any other part of you,” Hogan said. “Louis, keep an eye on the door.”


Oui, Colonel.” The small French Corporal kept peeking his nose out through the huge barn doors.


“This is a fine mess, a fine mess!” Newkirk burst. “Holding a load of information for Headquarters, stuck outside the camp in the middle of the night—this was not my plan for the holidays!”


“I wasn’t looking forward to Boxing Day anyway,” Hogan said, trying to force some lightness into the situation. “You’re the one always telling me the officers have to trade places with the enlisted men, and my English accent is awful.”


“I was thinking more of trading places with the Kommandant,” Newkirk replied, falling easily into the Colonel’s trap. He stood up straight to begin his oration. “If I am elected to take over Prisoner of War camp Stalag 13, I hereby declare an extra ration of white bread for every man, five showers a week, and two on Sundays—”


“Okay, Mr. Churchill, we get it,” Hogan declared, shaking his head. He looked over at Kinch. “I want that leg fixed up before we go. It’s a long walk back to camp in the snow, and you can’t afford to be caught lagging behind.” Hogan came up beside Le Beau and peered outside at the falling snow. “Le Beau, how’s it looking?”


“Everything is quiet, Colonel. No lights, no sounds.”


Hogan turned back to the others. “Carter, Newkirk, I want you to get inside that house and get hold of anything we can use as dressing. Louis, you keep watch.”


“Right, Colonel.”


Hogan sat down next to Kinch, who was trying his best not to look remotely bothered by the stinging of his leg. “I’ll keep the Sergeant company by telling him the story of ‘The Night Before Christmas.’”


“Oh, I love that story!” Carter said enthusiastically. “‘On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen—’”


Newkirk grabbed Carter and shoved him toward the barn door after Le Beau. “On Carter, on Newkirk, on Germans and Blitzes!—Come on.”


----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----


“Anything, Carter?”


“There are some towels here we could use. And there’s a sheet here, maybe we could tie it with that. I’ll check over here.”


“I’m going to look for a knife and some tape.”




“Keep your ruddy voice down—we don’t want to wake the whole bleedin’ country!”






“Hey, Newkirk, I think I’ve got something!”


“Carter, you’d better come here. I think I’ve got something, too.”


----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----


The barn door opened and Hogan turned around, instantly on the alert. “How’d you go?” he asked Le Beau, as the Corporal entered the barn empty-handed.


“We found some dressings, Colonel. Carter has them.”


Hogan nodded. “Good.”


“But we have a problem.”


“A problem?” Hogan waited for an answer, then nearly took a step back when Carter and Newkirk came in. “Tell me that’s not what it looks like,” he said.


Newkirk looked up from the bundle he was holding and smiled sheepishly. “It is, Colonel.” He came toward Hogan, still looking down at his burden. He held it out tentatively. “It’s a baby.”


Hogan sighed and rubbed his hand over his eyes. He could see he was going to have a headache tonight. “Great. That’s great,” he said. “And what do you expect us to do with it?”


“Is it a girl or a boy?” Kinch couldn’t help asking. Hogan shot him a look as Carter peered into the face of the tiny child.


“I haven’t thought to look yet,” Newkirk said. “It was too cold in the house to think of undressing the poor thing.”


“The baby must have belonged to the girl the Nazis took away, Colonel,” Le Beau said. “They must not have known he was there.”


She!” Carter corrected. “I think it’s a girl.”


“You don’t know that, Carter,” Newkirk interjected. “It might be a boy.”


“Hold it. Hold it!” Hogan cut in. “Look, it doesn’t matter what gender it is; we can’t keep it in a prison camp! It needs a home, with a family.”


Carter looked hurt. “Aw, shucks, Colonel, don’t call her an ‘it.’”


Hogan shook his head. “Sorry, Carter. I’m just a little lost at the moment. First off, we need to look after Kinch. Start getting his wound dressed so we can get out of here.”


“Right, Colonel.”


Hogan sat down on a spare hay bale and heaved a heavy sigh. “Then we need to figure out how to get a baby back to a prison camp in the middle of the night in Nazi Germany!”


----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----


“Hold him closer, Carter, closer! You are not keeping him warm enough that way!”


“I’m keeping her just right, Louis. Don’t you worry about that. I’ve been around babies all my life, and I never had a problem before.”


“I’ll bet you never had to walk through the woods in the middle of a snowstorm with an infant in your arms while trying not to get shot before,” Kinch put in, coming up beside Carter. “Here, let me take her. I’m bigger and warmer.” He put out his hands, and Carter reluctantly relinquished the baby.


Hogan turned back toward his men. “We’re nearly there; stay close and quiet.”


Kinch jumped a short time later when the child in his arms started whimpering. He rocked the baby a bit to soothe it, but the infant would have none of it, and was soon crying out loud.


“Kinch, keep that baby quiet! There are patrols all over the place!” Hogan ordered, knowing it was a hopeless task; you couldn’t stop a baby that wanted to cry.


Kinch tried nonetheless. He lifted the baby up so he could see the child’s face and try to get its attention. “Hey there. Hey there,” he said softly. The baby unscrewed its face for the briefest moment. “Hey. We’ll get you warm and full of food soon, promise. Hey? Hey?” He smiled, and the infant for a second seemed to understand and went silent.


Hogan breathed out and turned back toward the camp. “They’re keeping a pretty tight watch on the fence. But they’ve fixed that searchlight that was out this morning. Carter, Le Beau—move in toward the stump, but make it quick and quiet.”


Oui, Colonel.”


Hogan and Newkirk covered the pair with their guns as Carter and Le Beau headed for the tree stump that was the entrance to their secret tunnel. They had just dodged the lights from the camp watchtower and had opened the hatch when a wail from behind them drove them back to the ground.


“Kinch!” whispered Hogan loudly.


Kinch shrugged and tried to cover the baby’s mouth, all the while rocking and cuddling in a vain attempt to bring silence to the woods again. “Sorry, Colonel; I think she’s hungry!”


“Well promise her strudel, promise her anything, just get her quiet!”


Newkirk moved back to Kinch and handed the Sergeant his gun. “Here, let me take ’im,” he offered. Kinch took the gun and handed over the baby, who seemed to be distracted from his crying by the change. Kinch moved in next to Hogan, while Newkirk cooed and rocked silently, trying to coax a smile from the infant while the others tried to get back into camp.


Carter and Le Beau dropped into the tunnel, and Hogan motioned for Kinch to join them. Satisfied, the Colonel turned back to Newkirk, expecting him to be ready to go down under the camp. Instead, he found the Corporal making silly faces and gurgly noises and not paying the least attention to what was happening around him. Hogan stood up from his crouched position and pulled Newkirk physically back into reality and toward the entrance. “Come on, Groucho, you can work on your clown act when we’re back in the barracks.”


Newkirk stumbled forward and obeyed, handing the baby down to Le Beau’s waiting hands. Hogan came down behind them, and locked the latch.


----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----


“All bets are in, folks—no more bets, please, no more bets!”


“And the winner is….” Carter very slowly and cautiously pulled down the diaper that was pinned onto the baby. He drew in a breath and held it as some of the others in the room turned away. “A girl!” he announced triumphantly.


Several people cheered and Newkirk drew them away to distribute the winnings. Kinch wrinkled his nose and wanted to turn away but couldn’t help looking at the little face peering back up at him. “You got a clean one of those for her?” he asked, trying not to inhale.


“I have to get rid of this one first,” Carter answered.


“You’re going to have to take it out to the rubbish trucks yourself,” Le Beau said, coming up with a cup of milk, a piece of cloth, and a towel over his shoulder. “The guards will smell that a mile away.” He handed the towel to Carter. “Use this as a new diaper,” he said, then watched, amazed, as Carter rather proficiently folded it up into a makeshift diaper and pinned it onto the baby. Le Beau held out the cup for Kinch to take and then fashioned the other material into a tube. “She is hungry,” Louis said. “Kinch, pour that in here.” Kinch carefully poured the milk into the tubing, and it held without leaking. Le Beau then cut a tiny hole in the bottom of the tube as he sat on Carter’s bunk and lifted up the baby. “This is how you feed a baby,” he said expertly.


The others could only look on as the child took instantly to the milk and settled down.


----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----


Carter knocked softly on the open door to Hogan’s quarters and entered without waiting for an answer. “Colonel? We thought you might like to know—it’s a girl.”


Hogan looked up. He had been sitting with an elbow on his desk, his chin resting in his hand, his mind far, far away. He nodded. “That’s good, Carter.”


Carter ventured further into the room. “What’s the matter, Colonel? Don’t you like babies?” he asked warily.


Hogan smiled ruefully and shook his head, letting out a soft breath through his nose. “Yeah, Carter. I like babies.” He dropped his arm so his hand hit the desk. “I just don’t know what we’re going to do with one in a POW camp. This isn’t exactly the best place to go into child care.”


Carter shook his head in agreement. “No, I guess not.”


“And that kid’s parents have just been hauled away by the Gestapo. The chances of them being reunited are pretty slim. Not a very nice life,” Hogan said tersely. He stood up and walked toward his bunk. “We don’t even know her name.” He threw his crush cap almost angrily onto the upper bunk.


Carter stood awkwardly in the doorway. Hogan was obviously unhappy, and Carter felt bad because he realized he had misinterpreted Hogan’s shortness with them as being a sign of the Colonel’s dislike of children. It was clearly now a sign of his unhappiness about the baby’s future. “Well, gee… Colonel… seeing how tomorrow is Christmas…” Carter’s voice trailed off as he noticed Hogan stiffen. Christmas. Another spike to be driven into a POW. Away from home at the most important time of year. “I mean, seeing how the holidays are here, I thought maybe we could call her Noelle.”


Hogan looked at Carter, clearly struggling to control his mixed emotions, and nodded slowly. “Sounds nice, Carter. You’d better go back out to her.”


Carter smiled, then said, “Um, Colonel? You haven’t even looked at her close up yet. Don’t you want to? I’ve cleaned her up.”


Hogan let a small smile creep up on the corner of his lips. “Maybe later, Carter. First I’ve got to figure out how to hide her from the Krauts until we can get her out of here.”


----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----


Despite the bad weather and the circumstances they were in, the men of Barracks Two found themselves in a happier mood. Some of them cut out paper snowflakes and tried to decorate the barracks with them; others started singing Christmas carols; still others made a chain from their precious writing paper to string up around the bunks. Though it was well past lights out, the German guards didn’t seem to be too disturbed; after all, it was Christmas, and the men weren’t causing any trouble, and the covers Hogan’s men had put up over the windows stopped most of the light from showing in the compound.


Noelle slept through most of the noise in the middle of Carter’s bunk, and when she did wake up, there was always someone there waiting to look after her like a doting uncle. Still, Hogan did not come out of his quarters, aside from making a brief appearance in the doorway when someone offered him an ersatz version of eggnog, which he took a swallow of, nearly choked, let out a muted laugh and then turned back to his room.


Finally, Kinch limped to his commanding officer’s quarters and entered. “Colonel, got a minute?”


Hogan was sitting on his bunk, holding a book but not reading it. He nodded. “Sure, Kinch.” Kinch sat down on the edge of the bunk. “How’s your leg?”


“I’ve still got it, if that’s what you want to know,” Kinch answered.


“You see Wilson in the morning to make sure it’s all cleaned up.”


“Right, sir.”


“And take the baby with you. Might as well make sure she’s in top condition, too.”


“Yep.” Kinch paused. “You’re worried, aren’t you?”


Hogan waited before answering. “The Krauts find a baby and we’re all dead, Kinch. And the baby won’t be in too good hands, either.”


“They won’t find her,” Kinch replied. “We’ll keep her hidden.”


“We’ll have to contact the Underground tomorrow and get them to take her. Pass on the information about how we got her and where so they can try to trace her parents, or some other members of her family if…” His mind jumped back to what they had seen earlier in the evening and refused to let him finish that thought. “Kinch, how the hell did we end up with a baby?”


Kinch smiled softly. “It was a gift.” Hogan looked at him, his eyes questioning. “She was a gift, Colonel. Something to give us hope. It’s the time of year for babies bringing hope, isn’t it?”


Hogan listened as the men in the other room broke into a soft, soothing version of Silent Night. He nodded. “Yeah, I guess it is.” He refocused and looked at Kinch. “We’d better all get some shut-eye. Tell the fellas it’s lights out in ten minutes. We can continue our Christmas ‘celebrations’ in the morning.”


“Right, Colonel.” Kinch stood up and headed for the door.




“Yes, Colonel?”




----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----


Au revoir, mon petit chou,” Le Beau said two days later, cradling the baby in his arms. He kissed her each of her cheeks as she cooed and flailed her little arms contentedly. “Joyeux Noël,” he said. He handed the baby to Kinch, made sure the little feeding tube he had created was in the pack he was handing to the woman from the Underground, and turned away.


Kinch smiled down at the baby’s face looking back at him. “You take care, Noelle. Remember us, someday, if you can.” One of her tiny hands gripped his big finger. Kinch kissed it and caressed her face gently with two fingers. He handed the baby to Newkirk.


The RAF Corporal smiled a little too brightly and laughed a little too loudly down in the tunnel. “You’re a little ray of sunshine, you know that, little girl?” he declared. The baby wiggled in his arms. He lowered his voice to almost a whisper and leaned in close to her face. “Thanks for being here, love.” He kissed her gently, then handed her to Carter, moving over to where Le Beau was standing, staring at the floor.


“Remember me, Noelle?” Carter asked. “Now you make sure you be good for the nice Underground people who are going to look for your family. They’ll look after you as well as we did, so you make sure you do the right thing and grow up to be a big, strong girl, okay?” He paused, gave her a gentle cuddle, and then gave her a kiss. Then, after only a brief hesitation, he walked over to Hogan and held out the baby. “Colonel? Do you want to say goodbye to Noelle?”


Hogan hesitated. Carter nodded to encourage his commanding officer to act. Hogan reached out and, for the first time since she had arrived, he held the baby. His demeanor changed almost instantly: his body relaxed, his features softened, and he started swaying slowly, gently, as though to rock the baby to sleep. He spent a moment just gazing at her face, touching her hands, caressing her cheeks. And then he leaned close and whispered to her words that the others could not hear. When he finished, he closed his eyes and gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead, then handed her to the Underground agent waiting for them to finish. “She’s ready,” he said, his voice rough. “See that she’s kept warm and dry.”


The woman nodded knowingly.


“She likes her bottles every four hours on the dot,” Carter said suddenly.


“I understand.”


“And her milk must be cool enough so it just tingles when you touch it to your wrist,” Le Beau added.


“I see.”


“And she likes it if you sing to her when she’s being changed,” Newkirk piped up.


“Very well.”


“And she likes faces. Make sure she’s got someone to look at,” Kinch declared.


“Of course.”


Hogan stepped forward tentatively. “It’s cold out. Make sure she’s wrapped up warmly. She won’t mind… she seems to have become really fond of that scratchy old blanket.”


Hogan reached out to adjust the blanket around the baby’s body. A gentle touch of the agent’s hand stopped him, and she looked him in the eye and nodded, understanding. “Please don’t worry. She will be safe.”


Hogan nodded and stepped back, as muted goodbyes and suppressed emotions filled the tunnel. Then Hogan handed the woman up the ladder to the others waiting outside for her and the baby.


No one dared speak for a moment. Then Newkirk cleared his throat loudly and said, “So, gentlemen, it’s Boxing Day.”


Hogan nodded and turned to the British Corporal. “And?” he prompted.


“And in the greatest of English traditions, I believe it’s time for the officers and enlisted men to swap places.”


“Have you convinced Klink that you’re the best choice for Kommandant?”


“To tell you the truth I haven’t approached him, Colonel,” Newkirk said. “I thought it would be only fair to give this great honor to our own beloved commanding officer.”


“In other words, you chickened out,” Kinch paraphrased.


Newkirk gave a mock sneer and then continued. “I believe our fair gov’nor, Colonel Hogan, is man enough to accept the challenge. Seeing as it’s an English tradition, I believe I should be the first to take his cushy job—I mean, to become Colonel—for the hour.”


Hogan screwed up his face and nodded agreement. “Okay, Newkirk. But my first ‘cushy’ job today was going to be to butter up Klink by listening to him play the violin.”


Newkirk’s eyes widened in direct proportion to his face dropping. “Oh… uh… perhaps I was being a trifle hasty, sir. After all, this is an English thing, and you’re an American, and I couldn’t presume to…”


“Don’t you worry about that, Corporal. I firmly believe in a good mixing of cultures; it makes us all feel like we know each other just a little bit better.” Hogan put his arm around Newkirk’s shoulders and directed him back toward the ladder that led to the barracks. “Now. What were you planning for the morning? A little creative card playing, perhaps? I might just grab that old deck of cards you’ve got stashed under your mattress and head over to Barracks Five and get in a good game of poker. Or maybe I’ll try to learn some of those faces you’ve been pulling over the last couple of days. I always thought it might be fun to be a circus clown….”



Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Linda Groundwater

This copyright covers only  original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.