Vive Le Stalag 13
2006 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
2006 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Challenge - Yankee Swap Plot Bunny Challenge
2006 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character - Corporal LeBeau
2006 Papa Bear Awards - First Place
Best Yankee Swap Story
Bad News Travels Fast
“Message from London, Colonel.”
Sergeant James Kinchloe handed the small blue piece of paper over to his commanding officer and watched the man’s face. Robert Hogan, US Army Air Corps, accepted the note, scanned its contents, then raised his eyebrows. “Do we know any more?” Hogan asked.
“Not yet, sir.”
“Get on the horn to the Underground. Find out what’s going on.” Hogan paused, knowing there was harder work ahead. “Where’s Louis?”
Kinchloe shrugged. “He was doing laundry out in the yard when I last saw him. I’m not sure now.”
Hogan nodded and put the paper in the pocket of his brown leather bomber jacket. “Let me tell him,” he said.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Still clutching the secret note that Kinch had passed him, Hogan regarded Corporal Louis Le Beau from a distance. The Frenchman had been one of the first people Hogan had met almost two years ago when he came to this prisoner of war camp, Stalag 13, near a small place called Hammelburg in Nazi Germany. And he was one of the few people Hogan could trust as head of a secret sabotage and espionage unit the Colonel operated right out of the camp.
Now, watching the small patriot seemingly lost in his own world, the Colonel almost regretted having to intrude. But it was not to be avoided, and so he approached as Le Beau rather forcefully wrung out a shirt and started hanging it on a makeshift clothesline.
“Still at it, Le Beau,” Hogan observed, rounding to the wall of the barracks so he could lean casually against it. At least that’s how he hoped it looked.
Le Beau paused in his work, surprised by the American’s presence, and squinted in the morning sun before turning back to the task at hand. “Oui, Colonel,” he said. “I promised Schultz I would wash a couple of his shirts the other night to get him to tell us when Kommandant Klink was planning his surprise bed check.”
Hogan nodded with a smile at the thought of the big Sergeant of the Guard, Hans Schultz. “Now there’s an enemy to always have on your side,” Hogan said. He paused. “We got a message this morning, Louis.”
“What is it, Colonel?” the Corporal asked, starting to scrub another shirt. He froze when Hogan didn’t answer right away. “Colonel?” he prompted, concerned.
Hogan took in and let out a heavy sigh, and dug his hands deeper into his pockets. “The Krauts are mining Paris,” he said finally, reluctantly.
All the color drained out of the small man’s face. “Le Père, le Fils et le Saint-Esprit,” he said in barely a whisper. The shirt fell back into the dirty water. “Colonel…”
Hogan came away from the wall and put his hand on Le Beau’s arm. “I know, Louis. I’m finding out all I can. You know Hitler brought in General von Choltitz as ‘Fortress Commander’ of Paris a few days ago, and our Intelligence says Hitler told him to operate under the Scorched Earth policy if it looks like the Allies are going to take back the city.” He felt Le Beau’s arm trembling beneath his hand. “But so far everything’s okay, Louis,” he said, trying to sound reassuring. “There are a lot of members of the French Resistance in Paris. I’m sure they’re getting ready to act.”
“Or waiting like sitting ducks to be killed!” Le Beau replied, uncomforted. “Colonel—I have family in Paris. Cousins. Aunts and uncles. Things are very bad in Paris now. There is no electricity in most places, no coal, no gas. People are cooking meals on campfires in the streets. There is no bread, there is little butter. There are vegetable patches in the middle of the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries. People have no place to go—they are trapped where they are. And for les Boches to dare think of blowing it up—”
“I’m sorry, Louis,” Hogan said. “The best I can do at the moment is keep us up to date on what’s going on.” He lowered his eyes to the ground, feeling helpless in the face of Le Beau’s anguish. “And I promise you, if there’s anything we can do to help… we’ll do it.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“What are they saying, Kinch? What is going on?”
Kinch waved a hand impatiently as Le Beau came charging down the ladder to the tunnel under Barracks Two, practically drowning out the voice on the other end of the radio. The Sergeant furrowed his brow, listening intently, and resumed scribbling on the paper before him, shrugging to avoid having the Frenchman breathe into the back of his neck while he craned to see what was being written down. Louis should know better anyway, he thought; only Hogan could translate the radio man’s scrawl.
Finally, Kinch said words of acknowledgement into the microphone, then signed off. He put the headsets down and looked up at the Frenchman, who was almost dancing beside the desk. “Louis, I can’t hear anything when you yell in my ear like that,” he said.
“Sorry, Kinch. But mon Colonel told me you were going to talk to the Underground. What do they say?” Le Beau asked, still moving constantly.
“Nothing; everything is still intact.”
“And that’s it?” Le Beau said in disbelief. “That’s all they could tell you? Did they not say what the Allies are doing to stop it?”
“Yes, that’s all they could tell me, and no, they didn’t fill me in on invasion details over the radio. I have to report to Colonel Hogan. Come on, you can listen in.”
Le Beau scrambled up the ladder behind Kinch and trailed him to the Colonel’s small office that doubled as his quarters in the hut. Kinch knocked and entered, to find Hogan sitting at his desk, studying a map and frowning. “I’ve got some information from the Underground, sir,” Kinch began when Hogan didn’t look up immediately.
Hogan nodded, pre-occupied. “Uh-huh,” he said vaguely. He continued studying the document before him. Kinch waited. Le Beau crossed his arms and rocked on his heels. Finally Hogan let out a long breath and shook his head. “I just don’t know where they’ll be,” he said cryptically, running a hand through his dark hair.
“Who, Colonel?” Kinch asked.
Hogan looked at the Sergeant like he just realized he was in the room. “Dubois and Tiger,” he said, thinking of the two members of the Resistance with whom he had more than once worked closely to ruin the Nazis’ plans. “They’re bound to be in Paris somewhere. I want to try to contact them… just to… make sure they’re safe,” he said, deliberately avoiding saying aloud what he didn’t want to think, even to himself.
“They’ll be okay, Colonel,” Kinch said. “They’re resourceful.”
“That they are,” Hogan admitted reluctantly. “So, what do you have, Kinch?” he asked, purposefully turning his attention away from his worry.
“Well, we know where the Krauts have already set explosives—”
“Filthy Boches,” Le Beau spat.
Hogan glanced at the Frenchman. He felt badly that he could not prevent these terrible events from happening, and worse that he could not stop them now that they had begun. “Louis, are you sure you want to hear this?” Hogan asked him.
“Oui,” Le Beau answered. “I want to know exactly how many bombs there are so I know exactly how many Nazis I have to kill to get my revenge.”
Hogan said nothing in response to that, but only looked instead more intently at Kinch. “Where?” he asked flatly.
“Well,” Kinch started, looking uncomfortably at Le Beau, “the 813th Pionierkompanie started on the bridges that cross the Seine—”
“Formidable,” Le Beau muttered.
Kinch ignored him and continued. “Then they went for the electricity and water plants,” he said.
“Boches,” came the Frenchman’s voice again.
“The Nazis have also mined the Palais du Luxembourg, the Chamber of Deputies, and the French Foreign Office, the telephone exchanges, the railroad station, the aircraft plant and all the major factories in the area,” he said all in one breath, hoping to hold off further outbursts from Le Beau.
Hogan glanced at the Corporal, then said to Kinch, “Any other good news?”
“Just one more,” the Sergeant finished. Hogan crossed his arms and braced himself. “There are U-boat torpedoes in a tunnel under the city. If they blow, half the city will go with them.”
Hogan brought a hand up to his eyes, feeling a headache starting behind them already. And at the moment he couldn’t look at Le Beau, whom he could hear now letting off a string of impolite phrases, most of which Hogan considered far too restrained in light of the news he had just heard. “What else is going on?” Hogan asked weakly.
“Intelligence has intercepted a message from Hitler ordering the Gestapo and all non-combat administrators to evacuate Paris.”
Hogan nodded. “So he’s expecting things to get moving soon.”
“Looks like it. And the Underground also reports that von Choltitz has been ordered—”
Kinch paused. Hogan looked at Le Beau, whose eyes were wide and huge against a now almost white face. “Go on,” Hogan said quietly.
“He’s been ordered to start the destruction of Paris.”
Hogan caught Le Beau by the arm as the Frenchman sank to his knees. He helped ease the man down, but the Corporal wasn’t in a faint; far from it—he almost seemed to be in a trance. His lips were moving non-stop in prayer, and he was staring at nothing as Hogan led him to the bunk across the room. “Kinch, get some water,” he said.
Kinch moved instantly, and within seconds was back with a cup. Hogan took it and tried to get the water to Le Beau’s lips. “Come on, Louis. Take this; take a drink.”
“I’m sorry, Colonel,” Kinch said quietly.
Hogan shook his head as Le Beau grasped the cup and drank mechanically. “It’s not your fault,” Hogan replied. “I should have known he wouldn’t be able to take hearing that.”
Le Beau started muttering a little more loudly. “What is it, Louis?” Hogan asked, trying to read the man’s thoughts.
“It is not your fault, Kinch,” Le Beau said, finally locking his eyes in the present and turning them to his friend. “It is not anyone’s fault but les Boches. They will destroy my home. And I will destroy them.” He looked at Hogan, a fire burning in his eyes. “I must go to Paris, Colonel,” he said determinedly.
“Louis, you can’t go there now—it’s not safe there now. You know what the Nazis are planning to do—”
“I know what they are planning to do—and I must be there with my people when they do it!” Le Beau insisted, anger lashing out at his commanding officer. “You do not know what it is like—the Germans have never attacked you as they have attacked us! Shamed you as they have shamed us! If it is to happen, then I will die as a Frenchman, in France, free and proud! Not sitting in a prison camp, cowered and caged like an animal. I will go, Colonel. I will go tonight.”
Hogan accepted Le Beau’s anger without taking it personally. He understood the rage welling within the man—it was true, the United States did not have Germans marching down the streets of Washington, rubbing Americans’ faces in their stunning and swift defeat. But they had the memory of Pearl Harbor, and the devastating reality of that unexpected and tragic blow—on their own territory, against their own men, in their own souls. But no purpose would be served by Le Beau’s return to a city on the brink of destruction. And much as he appreciated the Frenchman’s patriotism, his consuming love of country, he still hoped against hope that the Corporal would look beyond that devotion, and accept the Colonel’s words, at least for now.
“Louis,” Hogan said, not sure even as he spoke what words would be coming out of his mouth. “Louis. Can you give me till tomorrow? Let me see what I can find out. Let me see if there’s anything we can do. If I can’t think of a plan, I’ll let you go home, I promise. But give me a few hours; that’s all I’m asking for. Will you do that for me? Please?”
Le Beau’s eyes wandered the room as he seemed to consider Hogan’s plea. Could he wait? Should he? Could Hogan do anything that the entire French Resistance could not? And in less than twenty-four hours? He looked at his commanding officer, studying him, trying to look into him, past him, to tomorrow. Hogan accepted the examination unflinchingly, almost pleadingly. And in the midst of his despair, Le Beau made his decision.
“D’accord, mon Colonel. I will wait until tomorrow. You know, my grandfather helped build the Eiffel Tower,” he said. “I do not want to see it destroyed. He would be very upset.” He looked at Hogan. “And I do not know that there is anything that can be done if Hitler decides that he wants to leave the French with nothing.” He paused. “But if anyone can find a way, Colonel, it is you. And I will give you that chance.”
Hogan nodded once, emotion threatening to spill out from behind his eyes. “I’ll do my best, Louis,” he said hoarsely. “I promise you that. I’ll do everything I can.”
Le Beau seemed to come into himself at that, and he smiled and patted Hogan lightly on the arm. “I know you will, mon ami,” he said softly. “But please… please… do it soon.”
Tension in the Ranks
“I’m sorry to hear about it, Louis.” RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk sat down next to Le Beau after dinner that night as the Frenchman fruitlessly tried to sew up the ever-present hole in his red sweater.
Le Beau should have known it would not work; he had tried countless times before, and there just wasn’t enough material there to close the gap. But tonight, with Hogan down in the tunnel and emerging not once, not once, in the last three hours, the Frenchman was on edge. The others warned him against trying to go down there with the Colonel, even on the pretense of bringing him a cup of coffee or something to eat. And since he couldn’t distract himself by cooking again tonight, as the Red Cross rations were a bit low, he tried sewing. Again.
“Merci, Pierre,” Le Beau said shortly, unable to contain his tension. He continued pulling at the fabric.
“I know how you feel, mate,” Newkirk continued, shaking his head. “Bleedin’ Krauts think they own the world….”
“You do not know how I feel,” the Frenchman countered, yanking too hard on a piece of thread and breaking it. He cursed under his breath. “No one is marching through London.”
“No, but the goons bombed it, didn’t they?” the Englishman retorted, his love for his own homeland sparking anger in his voice that he tried hard to control.
“And then they left it alone. The English have been left alone. Your cities are still yours to do with what you will.”
“Yeah, once they’re rebuilt, once people have stopped starving in their homes, once the boys come marching back with whatever parts of their bodies left that they can manage!” Newkirk said, his voice rising with his passion. “You want someone who hasn’t been affected, mate, try the Yanks—no Krauts on their territory, are there?”
“No, Newkirk, no Krauts,” Kinch admitted, but only as his own anger started to simmer. “But what about Pearl Harbor? A lowlife, sneaky attack on a Sunday morning when men were getting ready to go to church and baseball games—thousands of men killed in an attack on ships not out to harm anyone.”
“And what about les américains?” Le Beau persisted, intent on picking an argument with anyone who would have it. “They only got involved in the war when someone attacked them directly—what about helping your Allies in Europe? Why did you not come forth when you saw what Hitler was doing?”
“Hey, we did!” Sergeant Andrew Carter spoke up. Silent up to now, he couldn’t sit still any longer. “We sent out planes to help the RAF, remember? I mean Colonel Hogan was up in the air flying missions to help the Allies before the United States officially declared war on anybody!”
“A few lousy planes and some know-it-all pilots—big deal!” Le Beau replied, unable to stop himself, even though he realized as he spoke that he was insulting men whom he held dear, and his commanding officer, whose loyalties and devotion to the cause of getting rid of Hitler the Frenchman had never once doubted or even thought of belittling. But that was before this—before Paris was in imminent danger of being erased from existence. It was too frightening to think about. And so he lashed out blindly.
“Well, I don’t recall anyone telling us to get out when we offered to help!” Kinch said heatedly.
“Hey, hey, what’s going on?” Hogan’s annoyed voice startled the men. Caught up in their own anger, they hadn’t heard their commanding officer come up from the tunnel below, and now they all fell silent, ashamed at their own words, and mortified that he had heard them.
Hogan stepped fully into the barracks and looked from one man to the other. All of them avoided his gaze. Hogan had heard the last few passionate exchanges, and there was no doubt in his mind what the discussion was about. “None of us got off easy,” he said harshly. His men shifted uncomfortably. Then, quietly, Hogan added, “We all just got hit differently.”
Hogan ran the back of his hand across his face and headed for his locker, studiously ignoring the eyes on him. He grabbed his cup and then crossed to the stove, picking up the kettle and pouring what would have been his fourth or fifth cup of coffee of the night. Le Beau watched, a mix of guilt and anger playing within him. Guilt that the Colonel had without question heard the Frenchman thoughtlessly make little of the American’s deep, hard-fought involvement earlier in the war, and anger that this same man came from a country that had not come out in force until its own safety was threatened.
Newkirk was the first to speak up. Plunging his fists deep into his pockets, he tried to look at the others as he said, “I’m… sorry, Colonel.” Hogan kept pouring. “I guess I just get a bit… y’know, carried away when I think about dear ol’ London being treated the way she is, sir. You’re right, gov’nor—we’ve all had our share—all of us.” Hogan nodded once but remained silent. Newkirk looked around at the others, quietly noting their slight change in stance, their slowly relaxing shoulders. “I’m sorry, Louis,” he said. “I was just trying to sympathize with you, mate.”
Le Beau shrugged, embarrassed. “You do not have to be sorry, Pierre. You were being a good friend. But I was angry and I took it out on you. That was not fair, and I apologize.” He looked to Kinch and Carter. “And I am sorry for what I said about the Americans, as well,” he said. “I guess they did do some good in the beginning. And in any case, it was not your decision about when your country should have started getting involved in the fighting.”
The conversation faltered as Hogan disappeared into his room and softly shut the door.
Carter stared after him. “It’s okay, Louis,” he said, still looking where Hogan had wordlessly slipped away. “I guess we’d be upset, too, if it was being done to our hometowns.”
Newkirk shook his head in playful mockery. “Who’d want to blow up Cane Toad, North Dakota, anyway?” he asked.
“That’s Bullfrog, North Dakota. And no one would; that’s the whole point! But I mean, I’d probably wanna blow up a place with nothing but cane toads, too, if it were me. Do you think that’s how the Germans picked Paris?”
“Because of the toads?” Kinch asked incredulously.
“No, I mean because it has something they want to get rid of?”
“No, mon ami,” Le Beau said, standing up from the bench and letting out a heavy sigh. “Because it has something they want to keep for themselves, and they have never learned to share.” He put his sewing on the table and headed for Hogan’s door. “Just as I have never learned to keep my big mouth shut.”
Carter, Newkirk and Kinch yawned and got ready to turn in for the night, as Le Beau knocked on the Colonel’s door. At the invitation to enter, the Frenchman went into the dimly lit room, and saw Hogan sitting at his desk, the small lamp offering the only respite from the darkness. Le Beau stayed in the doorway, just watching as the American once again ran his fingers over the map he had left spread out there, one elbow on the desk, his hand braced against his forehead, his coffee untouched beside him.
He is tired, thought Le Beau regretfully. And I am an idiot. “Colonel Hogan—”
“Looks like Paris has a short reprieve,” Hogan said with false brightness, immediately cutting off what he could see coming. His fingers rubbed his forehead and his sore eyes, then fell to the desk. He shook his head. “Von Choltitz hasn’t started anything yet. Word is that he’s a bit reluctant to destroy the City of Light.”
“Colonel?” breathed Le Beau, afraid to hope.
“The head of the French Resistance apparently wants some kind of general insurrection before the Allies can get to the city. They’re a lot closer than they were and it looks like things are really starting to cook. If von Choltitz was going to do anything, now would be the time.” Hogan shrugged. “But he’s not doing it.” A long sigh. “But I don’t know how long he can hold out. Hitler’s put out an order that basically holds his family hostage if he doesn’t follow orders well enough—or fast enough.”
Le Beau looked at Hogan incredulously. “Incroyable.”
“If he doesn’t do what they say, they kill his family.”
“But Colonel—all of Paris!”
Hogan turned fully to the Frenchman. “If you had to choose between your family, and a city you didn’t live in with people you didn’t care about in it, which would you pick?”
Le Beau’s eyes widened. Then he straightened and said seriously, “We must all make sacrifices for the greater good.”
Hogan wanted to laugh at Le Beau’s patriotic indifference to von Choltitz’s horrible dilemma. But somewhere inside him, the Colonel was sure the Frenchman wasn’t remotely kidding. Suddenly Hogan turned deeply somber. “Yeah,” he said, turning back to the desk.
Le Beau frowned. “What is it, Colonel?”
Hogan shook his head. He was silent too long. Le Beau wondered what was going through his head but didn’t dare ask. “It’s nothing, Louis,” the Colonel finally replied. Then, quiet but clearly plotting, he said, “I keep thinking… I keep thinking that somehow von Choltitz’s family is the key.”
“How is that, Colonel?”
Hogan turned to Le Beau, his eyes wandering the room as he thought aloud. “What if the only thing stopping von Choltitz from standing up to Hitler is that order against his family?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean if we could make sure his family was safe from the firing squad, von Choltitz might be that much more willing to stand his ground against that nut brain in Berlin.”
Le Beau frowned, thinking. “So we are supposed to help this Boche General save his family? After all that he has done?”
Hogan nodded firmly, the plan cementing itself in his mind. “If it helps save Paris, isn’t it worth it, Le Beau? And we are talking about children here.”
Almost reluctantly, the Frenchman nodded agreement. “Oui. Les enfants do not have any choices about who their parents are. How will we do it?”
“I’ll have to think about it. But fast, because I don’t think we have much time.” Hogan’s eyes drifted to his own thoughts again. “Tell Kinch I need him right away.” He turned back to his desk and stared at the map before him.
Le Beau swallowed, and then softly spoke up. “Colonel—”
Hogan stiffened slightly, then after a second, nodded.
“About what I said before—when you were in the tunnel and we were arguing—”
“Don’t say it, Louis,” came Hogan’s weary voice. “I know you didn’t mean it personally.”
“It was still wrong, Colonel,” Le Beau said in a low voice. “I was angry about what the Krauts are doing, and I was angry at the Allies for not being able to save Paris. I know you fought very hard even before the Americans joined in the war. I spoke without thinking, and I am sorry.”
Silence. Then a voice that could barely be called a whisper: “It’s okay.”
Le Beau watched his commanding officer’s back for a moment. Then, still concerned but knowing better now than to ask questions, he murmured, “I will get Kinch,” and left the room.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“We know where von Choltitz’s family is, Colonel,” Kinch reported a couple of hours later.
Hogan pulled his head away from the wall of the tunnel and opened his eyes. He had been standing there, overseeing Kinch’s attempts to contact anyone and everyone, and eventually let his head drop back in exhaustion. Now, he yawned and brought a hand up to the small of his back, hoping to relieve the ache that had been growing there since he started his vigil beside the radio. “Where are they?”
“Swell,” Hogan said sarcastically. “Swell—that’s over a hundred and fifty miles from here.” He moved the hand up to his forehead, where a slow pounding was gnawing at him. “All right, tell me what else you know.”
“His wife’s name is Uberta, and he’s got two daughters and a son—Maria, who’s fourteen, Anna, who’s eight, and Timo is just an infant. Von Choltitz stopped at home to see them on his way to Paris.”
Hogan came forward as the Sergeant spoke. “Interesting,” he said ponderously.
“How so, Colonel?”
“Put yourself in von Choltitz’s place. You’ve been ordered back from the Russian front, and you’re under direct orders from Hitler to get into Paris and defend it to the death.” Hogan started pacing slowly. “If you’re so gung ho about supporting your Fuhrer, wouldn’t you go straight there instead of detouring via the old homestead?”
Kinch shrugged. “Maybe,” he said.
“But if you’re not so sure about what you’re about to do—or you’re afraid it might be the last time you ever get to see your wife and kids—might you stop home to have a chance to say goodbye?”
Kinch knitted his eyebrows. “What are you getting at, Colonel?”
Hogan stopped pacing and faced Kinch. “I’m getting at, that von Choltitz might very possibly be persuaded to hold off on the destruction of Paris, if we can convince him that his wife and children are in safe hands.” He nodded once, as though to convince himself. “This just might work after all. Kinch, get back on the radio and contact the Underground. See if we can arrange to pick up the family and get them out—someplace they can be kept until Paris is secure and it’s safe for them to be released.”
Kinch started flicking switches, and shook his head. “Gee, Colonel, this one’s going to be a miracle if you can pull it off.”
Hogan let out a loud breath. “That’s what it’s going to take this time.” Hogan laid a hand on Kinch’s arm. “And Kinch—”
The radio man looked up at his commanding officer and realized right then just how tired the Colonel looked. Tired, and worried. How could he possibly still be scheming?
“Any word yet?”
Kinch lowered his eyes, not wanting to see Hogan’s face when he delivered the news. “No, Colonel. Dubois has checked in… but not Tiger. No one has seen her since early yesterday.”
As it happened, even if Kinch had been watching, he wouldn’t have seen Hogan’s expression. The Colonel turned away and closed his eyes, crossing his arms and blanketing his face with one hand. A weary sigh broke the deafening silence. “And?” he asked quietly.
“And… she was last seen with three Resistance leaders who were caught in a car full of arms and classified papers.” Kinch watched as Hogan’s head dropped even lower and his other hand returned to his lower back. Softly, the radio man finished, “The Underground reports that those men were picked up by an SS patrol.”
Hogan remained frozen in place. Kinch said gently, “Colonel, why don’t you get some sleep—you’ve been up since roll call this morning. I’ve catnapped, but I’d bet all my back pay that you haven’t.” He shook his head. “You can’t help Tiger from here.”
More stillness. Then, “You’re right, Kinch.” Kinch cocked his head at the soft voice, curious. “I can’t help Tiger from here.” Hogan turned all at once to the Sergeant, determined and alert. “But I can help her from Paris. Tell the Underground I’m coming to France as soon as we get word that von Choltitz’s family has been taken.”
“But Colonel, it’s like you told Louis—it’s too dangerous for one man to go to France right now; there’s so much going on, someone’s bound to get himself killed! There’s a cease-fire in effect from the street fighting, but that’s weakening and it’s bound to start again soon.”
“Then it won’t be one man—Louis wants to go; I’ll let him go. Who knows, it might help; I hear his French accent is better than mine.” Hogan started pacing again, his mind racing as a million plans appeared and disappeared as others took form. “Tell the Underground I need a car—nothing flash; just something with enough gas to get me to Paris, and enough in store to get back. Then make sure there’s someone there to meet us who knows how to get to von Choltitz. If we’re going to have any chance of having this plan work, I’m going to have to convince him that his family is in safe hands. Then I’ll need to be in touch with the last people to have seen and spoken with Tiger. Once everything is organized here, we’ll be on our way.”
Hogan paused, noticing that Kinch had not moved, and was now looking at him warily. “Look, I know it sounds crazy,” he admitted. Kinch said nothing. “But this is the only chance we have to stop von Choltitz.” Kinch waited. Hogan added softly, “Plus… we all owe Tiger a lot—I owe Tiger a lot. The Nazis might have her locked up somewhere close to all their explosives, just for fun. I can’t let the city get blown to bits and not know if there might have been a way to save her.”
Kinch registered the earnestness in Hogan’s voice, and the almost desperate look in his eyes. It was no secret that Hogan held a special place in his heart for the beautiful Resistance leader. But this was something different—this was a very real fear that if he didn’t act, then Tiger might be lost, permanently. Kinch nodded in silent support. “I’ll get right on it, sir.” He looked closely at Hogan. “When will you leave?”
“As soon as we can.”
“Louis’s gonna go nuts.”
“I’ll just have to make sure he saves it for the Germans.”
Carter knocked on the door to Hogan’s office very softly the next morning about three hours after roll call had been completed and the Colonel had retreated to his quarters. He suspected that Hogan had gone back to bed, since he looked exhausted and bleary-eyed in the line up at dawn, and had none of his usual humor to prop up tired and unhappy prisoners. Still, what the Sergeant had to say couldn’t wait, and so reluctantly he tapped with just two fingers on the door.
He was surprised when he heard a call instantly from the other side. “Yeah?”
Carter opened the door and poked his head in. Hogan was sitting at his desk, writing. “Uh—Colonel Hogan?” he said.
Hogan looked up, the light in the room accentuating the dark circles under his eyes. “What is it, Carter?”
Carter stepped inside, and hesitantly approached the desk. “Sorry to wake y’up, Colonel,” he began.
Hogan smiled tolerantly. “I wasn’t getting very far in that area, I’m afraid,” he said. “What’s going on?”
Carter grinned self-deprecatingly and plunged in. “Kinch said to tell you that the Underground has that German General’s family. They’ve been taken to a safe house outside of Düsseldorf.”
“Good.” Hogan rubbed the space between his eyes. “Was there any trouble?” he asked.
Carter shrugged. “Well, I don’t think they wanted to go, but they’re all okay.”
“Will they have to be moved again?”
“Oh, no, Colonel,” Carter replied brightly. “The house is near a school, and it has a big fence, and—” As Hogan brought down his hand and arched an eyebrow toward the Sergeant, Carter stopped. “Oh,” he said sheepishly, “you mean, do they have everything they need already.” Hogan nodded. “Well—yeah, sure they do, Colonel. I mean, they have a lady in the house who can help look after the baby, and there’s enough room for everyone there, and it’s a pretty big place. Everyone should be okay.”
“Good.” Hogan said again. He thought of the family that had just been unceremoniously and probably quite frighteningly moved from their home and felt a slight twinge of sympathy. Then Tiger’s face floated into his mind and the von Choltitz family immediately disappeared from his thoughts. “Then it’s time to go. The car is already lined up for us. Tell Le Beau we go tonight.”
“Right, Colonel.” Carter turned to leave, then stopped and looked back. Hogan was still at his desk, still hunched over, still alone in his thoughts and his obvious worries. “It’ll be okay, Colonel,” he offered. “Your plans are always good, even if you don’t think so all the time.”
Hogan turned his head toward the door but not far enough to look Carter in the eye. “Thanks, Carter,” he said over his shoulder. “Let’s hope so. Too many people’s lives are depending on it.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Louis Le Beau pulled a heavy coat on over his sweater and fixed his red beret firmly on his head. “I sure wish there was another way of doing this,” Carter said as he watched the Frenchman get ready to go.
“So do I,” Newkirk agreed, shaking his head. “I can’t help thinking that the gov’nor’s biting off more than he can chew on this one.”
Le Beau shrugged as he checked his pockets. “This will get me to Paris; I am satisfied.”
“But Louis, mate, Paris isn’t just the City of Light right now—there’s a lot of street fighting going on there; everything is falling apart!”
“Le Colonel says there is a cease fire at the moment. We will go in when it is peaceful. We will get out as soon as we can.”
Carter pursed his lips and frowned but said nothing. Newkirk shifted unhappily and looked around the barracks. Le Beau paused in his preparations and turned to his friends. “You do not have to worry. Paris is my home. I will know what to do and where to go.”
“Yeah, but what happens when you blow your top?” Carter burst.
Le Beau raised his eyebrows. “’e’s right,” Newkirk said. “You see what it’s really like there now and you’re off like a shot. You’re the one who told us how bad things are in Paris—do you really think you’ll be able to face all that close up and not try to get to the Krauts responsible? And what about the Colonel? Running off to find Tiger, when she’s probably been picked up by the bleedin’ SS and handed over to be shot—we don’t even know for sure where she is; you could be walking right into a deathtrap.”
“I know.” The quiet resolution in Le Beau’s voice gave his two companions pause. “I promised Colonel Hogan I would give him twenty-four hours to come up with a plan before he had to let me go to Paris.” Newkirk and Carter exchanged surprised looks. “He knew I would have to go unless he had a good reason for me not to.” He shrugged and offered a small smile. “In the end, it turns out his plan included me going anyway.”
“Then the man’s gone ’round the bend,” Newkirk concluded. “You don’t need to go, and he doesn’t need to go. It’s suicide.”
Le Beau smiled good-naturedly. “Ah, mon ami, have you never heard of l’amour?” The sour look on Newkirk’s face changed to one of puzzlement. “I love Paris. I would do anything to help her. And Colonel Hogan—well, you and I both know that he would do almost anything to keep Tiger safe.”
Carter’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline. “Are you saying the Colonel’s sweet on Tiger?”
Newkirk slapped his arm. “Blimey, mate, haven’t you ever noticed that before? Do you walk around with blinders on?”
Carter shook his head. “But Colonel Hogan would never risk the operation for just one person, not even for Tiger!”
“The operation, non. Himself, oui.” Le Beau smiled gently. “Did you not see him this morning? He has not slept all night. He is pre-occupied. He is worried about her and he cannot wait to get moving.” Le Beau smiled broadly. “And I will go with him. After all, somebody has to keep his head on straight.”
“Fantastic,” Newkirk muttered, resigning. “Now I know for sure we’re gonna lose both of you.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Le Beau gently nudged Hogan’s arm in the back seat of the car as it wended its way cautiously down the roads leading to Paris. “Colonel,” he whispered.
Hogan reluctantly opened his eyes. The darkness and the gentle rocking of the car had lulled him to sleep, and Le Beau had not wanted to wake him. Now, Hogan rubbed a kink out of his neck and tried to bring himself back into focus. “Where are we?” he murmured.
“Just outside Paris, Colonel,” Le Beau answered, still looking around them and out all the windows.
“How long have I been asleep?” the Colonel asked, blinking as he stared at the back of the driver’s head. Frederic had insisted on driving Hogan and Le Beau to France himself. He knew the roads, he said, and he knew the safest places to go. And most importantly, he knew where their contact was waiting. Hogan had agreed, too anxious to get moving to put up much more than a token argument.
“Just over an hour. We will be meeting our contact soon.”
“Right.” Hogan shifted in the seat and tried to straighten. He had needed the sleep, but now he was feeling drugged; he shook himself to ward off his heavy-headedness. “We’re going to have to move fast; we’ve got to get to von Choltitz as soon as possible. There’s no telling how much time we have left.” For Paris… or for Tiger.
“Frederic says we will be there in about fifteen minutes, Colonel.”
Hogan nodded, looking out into the darkness. “And how are you feeling, Louis?” he asked.
“I am worried, mon Colonel,” the Frenchman said.
“That we will already be too late.”
“We’ll make it, Le Beau,” Hogan replied. His mind and his heart once again flew to Tiger, and he felt himself go cold. “We’ll make it.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Le Beau’s twitching and blinking and fidgeting was starting to drive Hogan to distraction. The Frenchman had begun this physical reaction to the visions around him almost immediately after their car had first moved into Paris. But Hogan said nothing, because he couldn’t blame the man for the way he felt, and, indeed, he actually thought Le Beau was handling his stress rather admirably, considering the sight.
Paris had become a fortress and a battleground. Both Gaullist forces and Communist factions were attacking German fortifications and defenses that the Nazis had put around the city. While there was still a cease-fire in effect, small groups were violating the truce, leaving eerie orange glows in their burning wake. Beautiful gardens were now trampled, there were Germans patrolling the city and firing randomly as they were shot at by resistant Parisians, and the tension was physical.
Frederic steered away from the main part of the city, and headed for a small house on the outskirts, where he parked the car in a dark alleyway. Hogan and Le Beau followed him to a back door, where he knocked in an odd rhythm. The door was opened, and the trio was ushered inside.
Hogan looked around the dark room sharply, absorbing anything and everything he could. There was a man standing in the shadows near an unlit stove; a woman, almost cowering, hovering near a door that the Colonel suspected led to a cellar. In his pale trench coat, Hogan stood out in the dimness. But walking into the city in his Air Corps uniform would have been inviting death.
Now, standing in a tiny, faintly-lit cellar with four other people, Hogan was being made more keenly aware of Le Beau’s squirming, but he merely made a mental note to try and keep the Corporal away from as many of the visions of what was happening in his beloved city as possible, and got back to the subject at hand.
“So where can I get to von Choltitz?”
“The General is at the Hôtel Meurice on the rue de Rivoli,” began a man introduced to Hogan and Le Beau only as Charles. “He has been holed up there since he arrived in the city.”
Le Beau muttered something incomprehensible under his breath. Steady, my friend, steady, Hogan thought. “How can I get to him?”
“The building is very heavily guarded, as you can imagine. But we still have a friend in the kitchen, and you can make it up to von Choltitz as a, how do you call it, busboy; the General has his breakfast brought to him every morning. We have made up the identification you will need to carry with you, all but the photograph. You will be Henri Bastion; he is… no longer in need of his own name.”
Hogan and Le Beau exchanged looks, and for the briefest moment, Le Beau was completely still. He threw a worried look toward Hogan. Hogan simply said, “Okay.”
“We will photograph you and process the film within the hour, Colonel Hogan. Then we will wait until the time is right.”
“There isn’t a lot of time to spare,” Hogan retorted.
“No, Colonel,” Frederic replied with a grimace. “But if we move too soon, then you are also forfeit. And that will accomplish nothing.”
Hogan nodded in agreement. “All right; you’re right. The less time we have, the more we need to use it wisely. If we can’t get to von Choltitz until tomorrow, there are other things we can be doing.” He paused. “What have we found out about Tiger? Anything?”
“Oui, Colonel,” Charles answered. The Frenchman regarded Hogan quizzically, as a sudden desperate look took over the American’s eyes. Clearly there was some connection between Marie Monet—the agent known as Tiger—and the Colonel. But Hogan fought the fear—and the expression that went with it—down almost instantly, and so Charles continued without comment. “As we feared, Tiger has been arrested by the SS. We believe she and three other leaders of the Resistance are going to be presented to von Choltitz himself to determine their fate. When, we do not know.”
Le Beau watched as Hogan paled alarmingly and he began to look more tired than the Corporal had seen in a week. “Where are they being held?” Hogan asked, his voice rough with suppressed emotion.
“Their Headquarters is at the Hôtel Terminus on the rue de Faubourg-Saint Honoré. It is, of course, also guarded heavily. It would be suicide to even attempt to get in there.”
“Sounds like they’re taking all the best places in town,” Hogan remarked tersely, his fists clenching and unclenching as he tried to contain his growing alarm.
“Oui. They have indeed. All we can hope for now is that you can somehow stop them from blowing it all up when the Allies come rolling in.”
“And they are not far away now,” Frederic put in. “Our intelligence reports Allied troops one hundred and twenty miles outside the city. You had best be out of Paris by the time they arrive, or you may not make it back to Stalag 13 alive.”
“How soon can I get to von Choltitz?” Hogan asked.
“In the morning, Colonel Hogan. You must have rest before you begin this dangerous gamble.” Charles noticed the American readying to protest and added quickly, “Von Choltitz is asleep, Colonel. There is no point in you trying to go to him now. We will take your photograph, then complete your identity papers while you and Corporal Le Beau sleep.” Charles came forward and, putting a hand on Hogan’s arm, looked deep into the Colonel’s eyes. “We cannot thank you enough for this, Papa Bear. If you can hold off von Choltitz until the Allies arrive, we may yet save our beloved Paris.”
Hogan stared back, of two minds as he considered action versus inaction at this very moment. Charles seemed to sense this in the Colonel, and he lightly squeezed Hogan’s arm. “We will not forget Marie, Colonel,” he added quietly. “We will find out what we can while you are at the Hôtel Meurice.”
Hogan nodded and dropped his eyes. Charles moved away and stood next to the woman who had come downstairs with them. “Jacinthe will look after you now. There is a place to wash and think and rest. It will do you good; the journey has been long.”
The quiet woman smiled almost shyly at Hogan. He hadn’t even noticed before now that she couldn’t be more than about twenty years old. Someone’s sister… someone’s daughter… did she still have family? “Please, Colonel… Corporal…” she invited. “I will show you.”
Le Beau moved in quickly. Hogan couldn’t help but smile. No matter how bad things were, Le Beau always found time for potential romance. “Merci, mademoiselle,” the Frenchman said graciously. “Quel de ces hommes est votre mari?”
Hogan tried not to laugh. Le Beau can be so obvious when it comes to love. “Which one of these men is your husband?”
“Non, non.” Jacinthe laughed lightly as she led them toward a small private area that had been fashioned out of the corner of the cellar. “Charles est mon frère. Je ne suis pas marié.”
Hogan shook his head, and followed.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan paused wearily as he leaned over to take off his shoes, leaving one arm across his knee and the other dangling near his crossed legs. He sighed, closing his eyes and lowering his head, thinking vaguely that there was no time to sleep, and that ironically at the same time there was too much time to wait. So much was at stake now; it bothered him not to be able to take action right away.
From his bed, he looked over toward his companion, who was scurrying around like a mouse in a nest, arranging his beret and his coat just so on his bed, moving back and forth as he tucked in the blanket, plumping up the pillow. Louis Le Beau was a bundle of energy, and next to Hogan’s current lack of stamina, he looked even more like he was running at high speed. Hogan took the constant activity for what it was: nervousness and anxiety expressing itself in the only way it could without sending the Corporal screaming into the streets.
“You have a nice talk with Jacinthe?” Hogan asked eventually, sitting up and beginning to loosen his tie.
“Oui, she is a nice girl,” Le Beau answered. He smoothed out the pillowcase again.
Hogan smiled softly. “I heard you ask if she was married.” He draped the tie over the head of the bed, then lay his suit jacket with it.
Le Beau paused. “She is not,” he said, almost too casually. “Charles is her brother.” He shrugged, then went back to fidgeting with his blanket. “They have been involved with the Resistance for a long time. She is very passionate about it.” The Frenchman turned and sat on the bed, kicking off his shoes and putting his feet up. “French women are very passionate about many things.”
Hogan finished undoing the top button of his shirt and climbed under the blankets, giving his own pillow a light slap. “So I’m led to believe,” he replied pensively.
Le Beau turned over and looked out of the tiny window in the cellar that opened to the city. “She is hurting, Colonel,” he said regretfully.
Hogan frowned as he settled down on the thin mattress. “Jacinthe? What’s wrong?”
“Not Jacinthe. Paris.”
Hogan nodded silently. Nothing he could say would make Le Beau feel better about what was happening to his country.
“There is so much suffering, Colonel. There is little food. There is often no electricity. Look at us here now; kerosene lamps and candles for the most part, and even those rationed out—splurged on us because we are guests.” The Frenchman rolled over to face his commanding officer. “The Germans have used Paris and discarded her as they would a casual lover: with no respect for her dignity.”
“Paris will rise above it, Louis. You’re living proof of that. They can’t beat down the spirit of the people here. Look at what’s happening out on the streets. Years after occupation, the French are still fighting, still resisting.”
“But for what, Colonel?” Le Beau burst, suddenly desperate. “All that Boche General has to do is snap his fingers and he will blow up all of Paris! What will be left for them to rebuild if he decides he loves his little Boche baby more than all the people of this city?”
Hogan didn’t have an answer. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. Von Choltitz’s family is being protected by the Underground. I’ll make sure he knows that tomorrow. Then he may be less likely to give the order to start destroying Paris.”
“But what if tomorrow is already too late?” Le Beau persisted, anguished. He sat up in his bed. “Don’t you see, Colonel—he can do whatever he wants, and you cannot stop him with words if you are here and he is in one of the best hotels in the city!”
Hogan felt goose bumps rise up on his skin. Le Beau was right, and they both knew it; the order could come at any time. And yet the opportunity to get to von Choltitz wouldn’t present itself until the morning. What guarantee did he have that the Germans wouldn’t start blowing up Paris while they lay huddled in their humble beds, just a few hundred yards from where they knew the Nazis were plotting and planning? “It will be morning soon, Louis. Just a few hours and we can act. We’ll make it in time to save Paris.” I hope.
Le Beau nodded, reassured as always by the confidence he had in his commanding officer, and settled back into the bed. “I believe you will do it, Colonel,” he said softly. “I do not know how—I never know how—but I know that somehow you will do it.”
Hogan blew out the candle on the crate wedged between the two beds as a makeshift nightstand, and, lying back, brought a hand up to his forehead.
Hogan opened his eyes in the darkness. “Yes, Louis?”
“How are you planning to get Tiger away from the SS?”
Hogan closed his eyes again, the pressure behind them building to a crescendo. He rubbed his face tenderly before answering. “I don’t know, Louis,” he answered, seeing the woman’s trusting face in his mind’s eye. “Aside from a frontal attack, I haven’t got the foggiest idea what to do.”
Le Beau was silent for a moment, letting Hogan’s self-doubt hang in the room between them. Then, in the darkness, the Frenchman’s voice floated to the Colonel’s ears, carrying faithfulness and support. “She is in Paris, Colonel. And since you will save Paris, you will save Tiger as well.”
Hogan let his arm rest on the pillow above his head as he stared into the blackness and listened to the faint noises filtering in from upstairs and from the outside, and a small voice of helplessness started to cry within him. What did you possibly think you could do against the whole German war machine—one man, in Occupied Paris? “Thanks, Louis,” Hogan whispered. And he rolled over, away from his friend, and started praying.
Hogan looked at the identity papers he had been handed and quickly memorized everything on them. “They look good,” he said shortly, as he put them inside the breast pocket of his jacket. Hogan had only managed to catch a couple of hours’ sleep overnight, his mind still ticking over what he had to do today and how he was going to approach the task. When he did doze, his mind conspired to keep him working on the problem, displaying a jumble of images that included everything from Paris burning before his eyes to Tiger being dragged away to face a firing squad. In every scenario, there was nothing he could do but watch impotently, apologetically, and silently mourn his losses alone.
“Jorge will meet you in the kitchen; you are expected. He will arrange von Choltitz’s breakfast and then it is up to you.” Charles straightened and faced Hogan head-on, his posture almost formal. Hogan raised his chin and furrowed his brow questioningly. “Paris is in your hands this morning, Colonel Hogan. Bonne chance.”
Hogan swallowed hard. He nodded once sharply but did not answer. He turned to Le Beau, who was standing with Jacinthe near the doorway. “You know what to do.”
“Oui, mon Colonel,” Le Beau answered. “I will watch the Hôtel Terminus to keep track of the Gestapo’s movements and to look for Tiger.”
“And?” Hogan asked pointedly.
Le Beau’s eyes took on a sudden sadness. “And if you are not back by nightfall, I am to go back to camp on my own.”
Hogan nodded. The others in the room shifted uncomfortably. While they all took chances for the cause they believed in, it was always hard to watch contingency plans being made for the loss of one of their own. Now, knowing they were witnessing what could be the last job from the leader of the legendary organization that operated out of Stalag 13, they were even more ill at ease. Hogan had proved himself to the Resistance over and over again in the past couple of years, by the work he did, and by the lives he had saved. And he was now taking on what they could only consider the nearly impossible—but knowing it himself, and with the life of a single member of the Resistance still in his mind, he was still heading out with a cool-headedness that amazed them all. There was not a tremor, not a quiver in his hands, in his voice; not a shadow of doubt on his face. He was doing his job; the incredible risk that went with it was incidental. Hogan accepted that fact with apparent ease, and that filled them with a respect that none of them could voice.
“Merci bien pour votre gentillesse pendant que nous avons été ici,” Hogan said to Jacinthe now. Thank you for your kindness while we have been here.
The woman came forward and gently placed a hand on Hogan’s arm. “Dieu est avec vous,” she replied softly. “We will meet you when you return.”
Hogan nodded, then stared deeply into Le Beau’s eyes, and walked out.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“Some parts of Paris are still quite beautiful,” Jacinthe said as she and Le Beau walked slowly down the street, trying to look like two lovers on a casual stroll, instead of a pair of agents trying to keep track of the Germans.
Le Beau linked her arm in his and turned his gaze upward. “Oui, c’est vrai,” he admitted. Then his voice turned hard. “But it is only because those are the parts of the city that the Germans want to keep for themselves.”
Jacinthe laughed gaily as a German soldier passed them on the sidewalk. “Oh, Louis, you say the loveliest things!” she cried, and as the soldier continued to watch, she kissed the Frenchman on the cheek and squeezed him tight.
As the German left, she released him. “Maybe I should call him back to watch us all day long,” Le Beau said with a small smirk.
“Ah, now there is a bit of the man I expected to see,” Jacinthe declared.
“Je ne comprends pas,” Le Beau replied.
“A prisoner of war, kept in a camp full of men for years… one would expect you to be more… shall we say… lonely?” Their arms still linked, Jacinthe reached away from him to pick a single yellow flower from a pot outside a café.
Le Beau shrugged. “Oui, d’accord,” he agreed. “But at the moment I have perhaps too many things on my mind.”
“Your Colonel,” Jacinthe guessed.
Le Beau nodded heavily. “Oui. I am worried about him. What he is doing is not easy, or safe. Or even possible.”
Jacinthe twirled the bright blossom in front of her face, marveling at the simplicity of the design, and the beauty of the delicate flower. “He must not think so, if he is attempting it.”
“Le Colonel is known for doing the impossible,” Le Beau admitted. “But this time…” He sighed. “Even if he succeeds in stopping von Choltitz, he will go back to Germany feeling he has failed if he cannot find a way to save Tiger.”
“Ah, Tiger,” Jacinthe repeated knowingly. Suddenly she tugged at Le Beau’s arm, and nodded imperceptibly across the large street. There was the hotel before them—a beautiful, finely structured building—with armed soldiers standing outside the entrance, and others scattered on the pavement nearby. She pulled him down onto a little bench, snuggling in close as though she could not get enough of him. “Put your arm around me,” she whispered. “We can sit here and wait, as long as we do not look suspicious.”
Le Beau complied, despite his worries appreciating the softness of Jacinthe’s body, and the silky feeling of her warm blonde hair.
“Tiger,” Jacinthe repeated in a whisper. “She is such a brave woman. I have only met her once, but Charles has met her many times. Your Colonel—he cares about her very much, non?”
Le Beau nodded. “Oui. He will not admit it; he says he cannot get emotionally attached to anyone in our line of work. But he does.” Le Beau thought of his commanding officer, now surely at the Hôtel Meurice, and walking straight into the enemy’s lair. “And I think, perhaps, she also likes le Colonel très profondément.”
“It must be hard for him, knowing she is with the SS, but not being able to do anything for her.”
“He will try to save her somehow, when he is finished with von Choltitz today. He will not simply give up. It is not Colonel Hogan’s way.”
“You have great faith in Colonel Hogan,” Jacinthe observed.
Le Beau nodded. “Oui. If anything can be done, he will do it.” He sighed and stared at the entrance to the hotel across from them. No one was going in, and no one out. He wondered if Hogan would be leaving the Hôtel Meurice as a free man today. “Regardless of the cost to himself.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan took a last look at the white suit jacket he had been given by Jorge downstairs and gave it a final tug, whether to straighten it or to steel his nerves he wasn’t sure. He waited with outward patience while the soldier armed with a rifle stationed outside the door picked the lid off the plate on the trolley and peered suspiciously at the eggs and sausages arranged so nicely by Jorge only minutes earlier.
Finally the soldier replaced the lid and shrugged. He knocked on the door to the room. “Frühstück, Herr General,” he announced. He opened the door a couple of inches and waved Hogan into the room.
Hogan swallowed his heart for the fourth time since getting off the elevator and pushed the trolley into the suite, closing the door behind him. “Herr General, nourishment for your busy day ahead,” he said in French.
Hogan looked up around the room to find the man he presumed was von Choltitz fully dressed and staring out the glass doors that led to the balcony. The German officer turned, glanced at the trolley, and stared at Hogan. “Who are you?” he asked curtly in German.
Hogan tilted his head as though not understanding. “Comment vous appelez-vous?” the German asked now.
Hogan registered the politeness of the man’s words, even though the tone was harsh. Interesting, he thought, as he tucked the information away. “Je m’appelle Henri, monsieur.” He moved the trolley toward a beautifully upholstered chair and started arranging the tray. Von Choltitz turned back to the window. “Vous devez manger, monsieur le général.”
At Hogan’s urging the General to eat, von Choltitz whirled around. “Wer Ihnen hier gesandt hat?” he asked sharply, moving in. Who sent you here?
Hogan paused in his preparations and put on a surprised look at the General’s question. “Général?”
Von Choltitz stared at Hogan hard for a moment, as though suddenly doubting that he really was who he appeared to be. Then he shook his head and waved his hand to dismiss the question. He turned back to the window.
Hogan stayed still for a moment to give von Choltitz time to regain his composure, then he finished laying out the meal and looked at von Choltitz, who was clearly lost in thought. “Votre petit déjeuner, général.” Hogan gestured toward the food on the plate.
Von Choltitz almost reluctantly came further into the room, looking listlessly at the food that would have been a feast to many Parisians this morning. “Danke,” he said emotionlessly. Then he sat down and stared at the food but did not move to eat it.
Hogan paused. Now or never, he thought. Hogan glanced one last time around the room, then said in a low voice, in English, “You’re thinking about your family, General?”
Von Choltitz jerked himself out of his chair, requiring Hogan to take a step back or else be run down. “Who are you?” he demanded, his eyes boring into Hogan’s.
Hogan forced himself to remain steady and unmoving. “That’s not important,” he replied as calmly as he could. “What is important is what I have to tell you. Your family is safe.”
Von Choltitz continued to stare intently at the Colonel. Hogan accepted it with only a trickle of sweat down his back to give away his tension. “How do you know about that? Where have you taken them?” the General asked.
Hogan took in a deep breath and deliberately moved away from von Choltitz. “We need to talk, General,” he said. He looked meaningfully toward the door.
“No one will come in,” von Choltitz answered. “Now, what are you saying about my family? What do you know about them?”
“I know that until two nights ago they were at home in Baden-Baden waiting for you to return after you finished blowing up Paris.”
Von Choltitz’s face looked anguished. “Yes, they were. What do you want with them? Why do you have them?”
“I understand that your family was going to be held accountable if you didn’t follow Hitler’s orders fast enough,” Hogan said.
Von Choltitz’s eyes widened. “The Führer?” he said, as though considering a new possibility. “Are you saying the Führer has ordered their arrest?” He grew angry. “You will tell me what I want to know or I will call the guard!”
Hogan shook his head. “I don’t think so. Look, General, this is how it works. You’ve got orders to destroy Paris. For some reason, you haven’t done it yet—whether for aesthetic reasons or personal reasons, I don’t know and I don’t care. But sooner of later someone was going to find out and go for your wife and kids, and I’ll bet you’d have caved in pretty quickly when that happened.”
“So if you know your family is safe, you might have more strength to defy Hitler and prevent one of the biggest tragedies of the war.”
Von Choltitz seemed to calm down a bit at that statement. “Where are they?” he asked quietly.
“They’re safe and being well looked after,” Hogan answered.
“I have my orders,” von Choltitz said defiantly.
“I know,” Hogan confirmed. Then he started his appeal. “General von Choltitz,” he began, “do you really want to be responsible for the destruction of this city? Of all this history, all this beauty—all these people? You’re a military man, General. Military men used to have honor. War is for battlefields, not for children riding bicycles in city gardens, and old men and women scraping for a crust of bread.” Hogan went over to the balcony doors and looked out over the city. “These people have suffered enough, General. The Allies are close, and you know it. If you can hold out just a little longer, you can stop them from suffering any more. Now we’ve looked after your people—it’s time for you to take care of ours.”
“It is my duty to stop the progress of the Allies, in any way the Führer sees fit.”
“And it’s my duty to stop you, in any way I see fit. I’m giving you a chance to make a difference, General.”
“You are holding my family hostage. You are no better than those you purport to fight,” von Choltitz said accusingly.
Hogan shook his head. “No, General. There’s a big difference. Hitler was going to execute your family if you didn’t burn Paris. We’re going to protect them if you don’t.”
“And if I follow orders? If I start the destruction today? Will you kill them then?”
“No,” Hogan admitted quietly. “I’ll be honest with you, General. I took a chance ordering them to be swept away from the Nazis. I don’t know if your dedication to Hitler is greater than your dedication to your family. But killing innocent women and children isn’t what I’m about. If you destroy Paris, they’ll be released when it’s safe for the people they’re with to do so. If you don’t, they’ll be kept safe from the Nazis until there’s no chance of them being harmed.”
Von Choltitz stared again at this busboy who had turned his life upside down. “Who are you that you can guarantee me this?”
“Let’s just say I’m a friend of Paris.”
“I could call the guard right now, order you taken by the Gestapo—”
“But you won’t do that, General,” Hogan countered. “If I don’t show up where I’m expected tonight, some people might get very cranky.” Von Choltitz said nothing; the implication was clear. “By the way, General,” Hogan said. “I understand some members of the Resistance are to be brought before you to decide their fate. Think about what impact they might have as free men, instead of as dead ones.”
Von Choltitz was still unable to speak. He nodded briefly, and looked at Hogan intently. The Colonel went to the door. “Don’t have me followed, General.”
Von Choltitz finally found his voice. “They are safe, you say,” he said.
Hogan nodded once. “Yes.”
A pause. Then: “You have my word, you will not be followed.”
“And you have my word I’ll keep my promise.” Hogan pointed toward the untouched breakfast. “I understand you weren’t too impressed with Hitler’s table manners when you met him last year. Maybe you’re better off eating alone after all. Guten Tag, Herr General.”
“The Allies will come soon, and Paris will be free,” Le Beau said. He took Jacinthe’s arm and led her across the street to a small park where they were continuing their stroll while ensuring they were in full view of the front of the hotel.
“That would be a dream come true,” Jacinthe answered, turning to the Corporal with a pretty smile as a soldier on patrol passed them.
Le Beau let put on a wry smile. “I think I need to keep those Boches in tow when I am with a pretty girl from now on,” he said in a low voice. “It is very good for me.”
Jacinthe smiled again and then linked Le Beau’s arm in hers. “You would not need a German soldier to give you good luck with les femmes.” She looked around at the park, which, despite all attempts to keep it looking lovely, had suffered in the war. “How long do you think it will be before the Americans show up here, Louis?”
“Very soon,” Le Beau answered immediately. “The Allies will come, and the Germans will run like the cowards they are.”
“It is a wonderful thought,” Jacinthe said. “But you sound like you are trying to convince yourself.” She wandered with her companion toward a large tree that offered some respite from the hot sun. “Do you not believe it can happen?”
“Of course it can happen!” Le Beau protested. Then, in a softer voice, “I just wish it had happened so much sooner.”
Jacinthe nodded. There was nothing to say.
Le Beau suddenly pulled away, straining to see across the street. “What is it?” Jacinthe asked, coming up beside him.
Le Beau leaned forward, took another couple of steps. “L’hôtel,” he said briefly. “Look who is coming out.”
“Soldiers,” Jacinthe breathed, uncomfortable seeing the sheer number of men in those glaring black uniforms.
“Oui. And Tiger.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Weary, Hogan sat down heavily on a bench and closed his eyes, his tight muscles easing up as he sank further back on the seat. He could afford to stop for a few minutes now; he’d been walking for a solid two hours at a fast clip, wandering aimlessly up and down the city streets, making sure no one was following him or trying to see where he was going, or who he was meeting.
The encounter with von Choltitz had left Hogan feeling drained. Talking with the enemy was nothing he hadn’t done before; indeed, it was almost a regular occurrence when running the operation. But he rarely had to confront the Germans as an American, even more vulnerable to the whims of the Nazis and any ideas they might have about what to do with him.
And he had never used a man’s family to accomplish his objectives.
Hogan had expected von Choltitz to be concerned about his wife and three children. But the accusation that Hogan was as bad as the people he fought had stung him. Hogan had never even considered the possibility that to von Choltitz, the Colonel was doing the exact same thing that Hitler was doing—using his family against him. While Hogan knew that he would never order any harm to come to the von Choltitz family, until the General had accused Hogan, the American, perhaps naively, had not even dreamed that anyone would think he might. And his assurances to the German, coming from the man who had clearly had a part in his wife and children’s disappearance, could hardly be thought of as reliable.
Hogan now had little confidence that his appeal to von Choltitz had had the desired effect. If the German officer had even the slightest doubt that Hogan was telling the truth, there would be no reason for him not to obey Hitler’s orders to make Paris burn before the Allies were allowed to take it. And with the bombs already in place, it would just be a matter of time.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan and Le Beau found themselves once again standing before Charles and Jacinthe in the dimly-lit cellar, this time getting ready to head back to Stalag 13. “Thank you for everything you have done, Colonel,” Charles said, extending his hand.
Hogan accepted the gesture, and watched silently as the Frenchman enveloped the Colonel’s hands in his own. “I don’t know if we’ve accomplished anything,” Hogan said, almost in a whisper.
Charles understood. “There was no chance at all before, Colonel Hogan.” He shrugged. “Now, there is at least hope.”
Jacinthe came forward and laid her hand on the men’s. “We will contact you if we hear anything, Colonel,” she promised.
Hogan nodded and looked away. He could see Louis hovering in the shadows, unwilling or unable to come forward. He pulled his hand away gently, and went to the Corporal. “Louis?” he prompted gently.
Le Beau nodded, his eyes full and his voice untrustworthy. He thought of the Paris he had grown up with, full of beautiful gardens, laughing people, music, and a carefree quality that had made being in the city such a joy. And then he thought of the city he had seen today—one of deprivation, of fighting, and of fear among the tarnished beauty. It was more than he could bear to see. “I am ready to go, mon Colonel,” he choked, and he lowered his head.
Hogan looked at Le Beau, concerned and saddened by his obvious misery. Paris was no longer what Louis Le Beau remembered it to be, and they could all only hope that it would be able to recover once the war was over, if there was anything left to work with.
Fast footsteps on the stairs broke the tension. “Colonel, Charles—you will not be able to believe—”
Frederic moved aside as the group almost as one moved to head upstairs. Hogan was in the lead and was about to bound up the steps two by two when he found himself frozen in place by the sight that suddenly appeared before him, and he stared, unable to move, as the others behind him backed off and watched.
“Von Choltitz… he let us go,” Tiger whispered, as though still bewildered, as she looked into Hogan’s startled eyes. She stepped slowly down to the cellar.
Hogan stared unblinkingly as the woman came toward him, robbed of his voice, and even his ability to think. Could it be?
“He said… he wanted us to try and restore peace in the streets if we could... and so… he released us.”
Hogan nodded once, somewhere deep inside registering the words, but too overwhelmed to respond. Could what I said to von Choltitz have made a difference?
Now directly in front of him, Tiger continued to look deeply into Hogan’s eyes. “Colonel Hogan…?”
Unable to express himself the way he wanted to, and yet unable to do nothing, Hogan suddenly pulled Tiger to himself and kissed her, thinking of nothing but her, seeing nothing but her, feeling nothing but overwhelming relief, and something else that he could not—or would not—define.
For her part, Tiger accepted the gesture, and reciprocated willingly. As they finally, lingeringly, separated, Hogan continued to look at her intently. But now his voice had returned, and he announced, “We’d better go.” When he broke Tiger’s gaze it was to look up at Frederic, who was trying to hide his satisfaction behind a serious face but failing. “Is the car ready?”
Frederic nodded. “Waiting now, Colonel.”
Hogan turned again to Charles and Jacinthe. “Thank you. Thank…” His voice trailed off as his eyes once again drifted to Tiger, who was watching him with open fondness. He nodded and shook himself back to focus on his hosts. “Keep in touch,” he said to Jacinthe.
The young woman smiled softly. “I will, Colonel,” she replied. “And we will tell Tiger everything that happened today.”
Hogan nodded. “Keep yourselves safe,” he implored. One more glance toward Tiger. “All of you.”
Jacinthe looked from Hogan to Tiger and back again, knowingly. “Merci, mon Colonel. Bon voyage.”
“Thank you,” Hogan said, and, making eye contact with no one, he bolted up the stairs.
Jacinthe turned to Le Beau. “Louis… merci for your company today,” she said almost shyly.
Le Beau smiled and took her hands in his. “The pleasure was mine,” he said, as she flushed with quiet happiness. He kissed her on both cheeks. “Au revoir.”
Le Beau farewelled Charles, then faced Tiger, who smiled down at him, slightly puzzled. “Le Colonel, he met with von Choltitz today,” he said to her. “He asked for your release. I am glad the General listened.”
Tiger had no chance to respond, as Le Beau kissed both her cheeks, then followed Hogan up the stairs.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
“And then Tiger appeared on the stairs, and the Colonel was so stunned he could not do anything but kiss her!”
Carter and Newkirk were huddled in close at the common room table, taking in the stories that Le Beau was relating and wishing they had been there to see it all. “Blimey,” Newkirk remarked softly. “I’d love to have seen the look on her face.”
Carter smiled slyly. “I wanna hear more about Jacinthe.”
“Oh, yeah!” agreed the Englishman. “Leave it to you to find romance outside SS bloody Headquarters!”
Le Beau shrugged. “For a Frenchman, any place is a fine place for l’amour.”
Kinch chose that moment to come up from the tunnel under the barracks. The others turned to him and slowly lost their light looks as they could see the Sergeant was in a serious mood. “What’s going on, Kinch?” asked Le Beau.
Kinch ignored the question. “Where’s the Colonel?” he asked.
“He’s in his quarters,” Newkirk answered, frowning. “I think ’e’s having a bit of a kip.”
Kinch nodded and headed for the Colonel’s door. “Thanks.”
“Is everything okay, Kinch?” Newkirk called after him, as Kinch knocked and then entered. “Kinch?” he called. But the door had been shut behind him. He, Carter and Le Beau were left to look at each other and worry.
Vive La France
“When did this happen?” Hogan asked.
“We just got word, Colonel. It’s all happened in the last few hours.”
“Great. That’s just great,” Hogan said deliberately, sarcasm filling his voice and doing nothing to hide the worry in his face. “So French radio announces the liberation of the city, and anything but that is happening!” Hogan shook his head and started pacing his office. He hadn’t been asleep when Kinch asked to see him; despite a lingering tiredness, his mind was still in too much of a spin to wind down long enough to allow him to rest, and so he had sat up reading and thinking, and waiting, away from his men, from whom he did not want to be pounded with questions that he could not answer.
“The Second French Armored Division is on the way, but that’s just aggravated the Germans and they’ve…” Kinch slowed down, hoping to ease his commander into this bit of bad news. “… burned the Grand Palais.”
Hogan stopped moving and staggered as though he’d been physically struck. Kinch took in the look of anguish on the Colonel’s face and waited as Hogan tried to absorb the news so he could think clearly again. Soon, Hogan flexed his shoulders and drew in a calming breath. Then he crossed his arms and looked fixedly at Kinch. “And?” he asked, cursing his shaking voice.
“Von Choltitz is threatening to attack the rest of the public buildings with heavy arms.”
Hogan’s shoulders were suddenly too heavy to support, and he felt them sag as his eyes dropped to the floor. “Damn,” he cursed softly. He stood frozen for a moment, then chuckled bitterly as he turned away and headed toward his window, a useless gesture as he had left the shutters closed to keep prying eyes away. “You know, I’d finally convinced myself that it just might work.” Hogan shook his head and sat down on his lower bunk. Had he really expected to be able to hold off the destruction of Paris with one simple, heartfelt appeal? “That was a joke,” he said wryly. “And it looks like von Choltitz had the last laugh.”
Kinch watched Hogan silently for a moment, then reminded him softly, “It was a huge gamble. All we could do was hope for the best.” Hogan didn’t answer. “You saved Tiger, Colonel. Your trip wasn’t in vain.”
At that Hogan’s head nodded twice, then stilled. Kinch understood Hogan’s need for solitude, and turned to the door. “I’ll stay at the radio, Colonel. I’ll let you know if anything changes.”
Hogan said nothing, too weary to speak. But as Kinch left, he answered in his mind: Oh, there’ll be change all right… and none of it’s going to be good.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Le Beau looked at Kinch worriedly as the radio man emerged from the tunnel. “What is happening, Kinch?” he asked, a lack of sleep and abundance of worry reflected in his voice. “What is going on now?”
Kinch regarded his friend with a real sympathy that he knew the Frenchman would never accept in words. “Nothing, Louis. The Germans aren’t doing much of anything at the moment. They’re just accepting the advance.”
Le Beau’s features lightened just briefly. “You mean they are backing off? They are running away?”
“I didn’t say that,” Kinch replied. “Come on, I have to report to Colonel Hogan.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Hogan stopped throwing the baseball against the wall of the barracks as soon as he saw Kinch approach, with Le Beau practically running to keep up with the taller man’s long strides. “What’s going on?” Hogan asked as Kinch closed in.
“Colonel Billotte has sent an ultimatum to von Choltitz, demanding the surrender of the Nazis.”
Hogan grimaced. “This is it. What are the Krauts doing?”
“Nothing, Colonel. I mean, there are pockets of fighting, but von Choltitz hasn’t ordered anything to be burned or blown up, and the Berlin doesn’t seem to be sending in any back-up for the German forces already in the city.”
“We will be free by tonight, Colonel,” Le Beau predicted.
“I don’t know,” Hogan countered, hating to rain on Le Beau’s parade but not willing to surrender to hope just yet. “Von Choltitz still holds all the cards.”
“You have convinced him, Colonel,” Le Beau insisted. “That Kraut would be torching all of Paris right now if you had not. The Allies are moving in, and he is not fighting back. We are winning, Colonel!”
Hogan wanted to believe. But he couldn’t just yet. “I hope so, Louis. We’ll see.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Kinch tried hard not to shrug away as Hogan moved even closer to the headsets. If he gets any closer, he’s gonna be on the other side of me, the Sergeant thought. But he understood Hogan’s anxiety and did his best to ignore the crowding. Directly in front of him, Le Beau stood hunched over and poised as though to jump at the slightest news, and, blessedly further away but also in the tunnel, were Carter and Newkirk, listening as news filtered through from Paris.
Kinch turned his head slightly to the left, causing Hogan to jerk back before the equipment hit him in the nose. “Sorry. Sorry,” Hogan apologized. But he simply moved right back in when Kinch turned back to the desk. He exchanged looks with Le Beau, whose anxiety mirrored his own.
“They think von Choltitz is about to admit defeat, Colonel,” Kinch announced a short time later. “The Germans haven’t sent any troops to help him defend Paris and he hasn’t ordered Paris to be burned, even though it’s becoming more evident that the Krauts don’t have a chance of defending the city.”
Hogan straightened and moved away.
Le Beau slapped the desk triumphantly. “See? I told you—the Allies move in, and the Krauts run away!”
“They haven’t run away yet, Louis,” Kinch said. “They’re just talking.”
“And they still have those ruddy bombs all over the city,” Newkirk added. “They might be waiting until everything sounds just right, and then wham—they hit when all their ducks are in line.” He glanced over toward Hogan, who seemed to stiffen at the suggestion. “Of course,” the Englishman amended, “they might also be trying to make a better case for themselves when they’re brought to trial for crimes after the war—you know, ‘I didn’t actually destroy the city, so don’t be too hard on me.’”
Hogan let out a long breath. “They might,” he said. “In the meantime…”
“Wait!” Kinch suddenly exclaimed. The talk in the tunnel stopped immediately. Kinch listened harder. “Are you sure about that?” he said. “Please repeat your message.”
Hogan stared hard at the radio, as though doing so would allow him to hear what was being said. But it didn’t work, and so the Colonel waited intolerably as Kinch simply acknowledged what he was hearing, and listened again. “Right. Roger, D’Artagnan,” he said to the agent who was supplying them with their information. “Will await further developments. Papa Bear over and out.”
Kinch turned off the radio and took off his headsets. Hogan asked immediately, “What’s the message, Kinch?”
Kinch shook his head, still amazed at the message himself. “Von Choltitz has surrendered.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Le Beau stood by the radio that night, staring into space, listening proudly and intently as he translated for the others. “Paris! Paris insulted! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris freed! Paris freed by itself, freed by its own people with the assistance of the armies of France, with the support and assistance of the entire French nation, of the France that fights, of the only France, of the true France, of France eternal.”
As Charles De Gaulle continued his triumphant speech that night, Le Beau looked over at his Colonel with fondness and pride. General De Gaulle was right—yes, French forces had come into the city that day, and yes, von Choltitz had surrendered to the French Forces of the Interior as well as to General Philippe Leclerc’s army. But there had been other factors that had helped bring the Allies to victory, and Le Beau was looking at one of them right now. In the Frenchman’s mind, there was no doubt that if Hogan had not intervened and ordered von Choltitz’s family to be taken, that the German officer would have, at some stage, done much more than authorize the burning of the Grand Palais. Le Beau wished fervently that De Gaulle could recognize that contribution to the Allied victory as well, though he knew that could never happen, even if the General had known.
“Vive la France!” Le Beau concluded, leaving the phrase in his native language, as there was no doubt as to its meaning. He smiled and looked at his friends. “It is done, my friends. Paris is free.”
Newkirk smiled and put his arm around the Corporal’s shoulders. “I’m glad for you, Louis.”
“Yeah, me, too,” Carter said. “Gee, that General De Gaulle sure knows how to make a speech.”
“Oui, Andrew, he is very charismatic.” Le Beau sighed happily. “Tomorrow, I will make a beautiful feast for us all to celebrate—French foods, fine wine...”
“Fine wine?” Kinch repeated, raising an eyebrow. “Where are you planning to get that from?”
Le Beau shrugged. “Newkirk made it this afternoon. By tomorrow it should be perfect.”
“Von Choltitz is in for it now, boy,” Carter said.
“That he is, Carter. And he’ll deserve everything he gets,” Newkirk declared. Hogan frowned. “What is it, gov’nor?”
Hogan tried to reconcile the contradictory feelings he was having. “I’m not so sure you’re right there, Newkirk.”
“But Colonel, how can you say that? That von Choltitz put bombs all over the city!”
Hogan nodded, still conflicted. “Yes, he did. But he was under orders to blow up Paris, and he didn’t do it. Maybe his compromise was to place the bombs, to keep Hitler and his goons off his back—maybe he never had any intention of detonating them.”
“Colonel, are you saying that von Choltitz might have been a double agent?” Kinch asked.
Hogan shook his head. “No. I’m just saying maybe we finally found a Kraut General who had a sense of honor, and he was doing everything he could to stop the unthinkable from happening.” He looked at the radio, recalling the news of von Choltitz’s surrender. “And when the Allies came, and he wasn’t given any back-up, he could finally let it go without being completely to blame.”
“What do you think will happen to him now, Colonel?” asked Le Beau.
“I don’t know, Louis. It’s not up to us.”
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Le Beau padded over to Hogan’s quarters late that night and softly knocked on the door before entering. As he suspected, Hogan was fully dressed, and sitting on the lower bunk, feet up, reading.
“I saw your light, Colonel,” the Frenchman said.
Hogan looked up, put his book aside. “Couldn’t sleep, Louis?”
Le Beau shook his head. “No. I am still too excited about Paris.”
Hogan smiled softly. “I can understand that.”
Le Beau came further into the room. “I wanted to say thank you, Colonel.”
Hogan furrowed his brow. “What for?” he asked.
“For everything you have done. For taking me to Paris. For coming up with a plan to make it easier for von Choltitz to defy Hitler. For going to see him yourself, when it could have meant the firing squad. For helping to save Paris.”
Hogan sat up and swung his feet off the bunk. Le Beau sat down beside him. “We may never know what made von Choltitz do what he did, Louis. You don’t have anything to thank me for.”
“But I do, Colonel,” Le Beau insisted. He turned to make sure Hogan was facing him as he continued. “When you first told me that von Choltitz had been ordered to destroy Paris, I was sure there was no hope, and I was ready to go home and fight to the death for my homeland.” Hogan nodded. “And now, I see that there are many ways to fight. I do not have to be there in person. I can actually do more from this POW camp, I think, than I can hiding with Resistance forces somewhere in France.”
The earnestness in Le Beau’s voice touched Hogan. “Paris will be rebuilt, Louis. It’ll become beautiful again.”
“Oui, that I know is true,” Le Beau answered.
“And you don’t want to go there and help that happen?”
Le Beau considered thoughtfully, then shook his head. “No, Colonel. I do not want to go there. Not now. She is too sad to see. I will go back after the war, and see how she has recovered. But for now, I want to stay here with you, and watch you come up with more ingenious ways of making the Krauts stumble and fall as the Allies move in to free Europe from Hitler’s grasp. France will find her glory again, with or without me there.”
Hogan smiled, humbled by the Frenchman’s tribute. He looked at the small patriot, so fierce in his loyalties, both to his country, and to his commanding officer. Hogan was grateful, and moved. “Vive la France,” Hogan proclaimed softly.
Le Beau smiled. “Oui, Colonel. Et vive le Stalag 13.”
This story was the result of a “plot bunny” challenge that asked me to explore Le Beau’s feelings about the liberation of Paris in August of 1944, when he was still at Stalag 13, with respect to such stories as “Cuisine a la Stalag 13” and “Is General Hammerschlag Burning?” My desire to describe the “real” Paris during the time of liberation led me to have to reconcile the Paris of the show (gay and lovely all the time) to the real one, which was anything but charming in some areas. And Le Beau’s rather off-hand remark about the fate of the City of Light in “Hammerschlag” did not ring true based on his reactions in other episodes. So there was some real work trying to get both sides of his moods in place!
General Dietrich von Choltitz was ordered back from the Russian front by Adolf Hitler in early August 1944. He stopped in Baden-Baden to see his wife Uberta and three children on the way into the City of Light. On the way in on the train, he learned of Hitler’s “barbaric” order to in essence hold the families of Third Reich officers hostage, to ensure that his orders would be followed swiftly, and to the letter. Von Choltitz was ordered to blow up Paris, but apparently did not want to be responsible for its destruction, and so he lied to his superiors when they asked if the city was burning, and told them Yes, the destruction of Paris was already underway. Within days, Allied troops arrived and von Choltitz was forced to surrender.
The descriptions of Paris in the summer of 1944 are accurate—there was little to eat, often no power, and the public gardens were used to grow vegetables. The only parts of Paris left in their former glory were, as Louis Le Beau stated, the places that the Nazis wanted to use for their own pleasure as a break from the war.
The location of von Choltitz’s headquarters and the SS were indeed at the hotels named in this story, and the location of the bombs and mines around the city are also true and correct.
In the days leading up to the liberation of Paris, three Resistance leaders were arrested by the SS and brought to von Choltitz, who inexplicably released them to see what peace they might be able to restore in the war-torn city. I have simply made Tiger the fictional fourth person held.
The speech Louis was translating was excerpted from Charles De Gaulle’s historic declaration to the French people the night of the German surrender. It was broadcast over French radio.
Hogan’s comment about von Choltitz meeting Hitler in 1943 and being disgusted by his table manners is true.
No one knows for sure why von Choltitz chose to defy Hitler and save Paris. This idea that if his family was safe he could continue to defend the city is, of course, pure fantasy. There is no evidence that his family were anywhere but their home in Baden-Baden. After the liberation, von Choltitz was actually arrested and charged with treason. But he had friends in high places, so his court martial proceedings were held off until after the war, when no harm could come to his family.
Thank you for reading.
Linda J. Groundwater
Text and original characters copyright 2005 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.