Ties That Bind
2006 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
2006 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Original Character - Jeanine Bruyere
A Meal Best Served Cold
Corporal Louis Le Beau stirred the vegetable mêlée in the pot on the small black barrel stove in the centre of what was known as Barracks Two of the German Prisoner of War camp, Stalag 13.
Sergeant Andrew Carter loitered close by, waiting for his time to steal a taste. He'd been waiting the better part of an hour and still Le Beau had not left the pot unattended.
"We're not having vegetables again, are we?" RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk asked while trying to patch another hole in his favourite sock.
"Ratatouille is not just vegetables!" Le Beau screeched, holding the wooden spoon dangerously close to Newkirk. "What do you want? Turkey?"
Seeing his chance, Carter quickly picked some vegetables from the pot and swallowed them. Le Beau turned around just as Carter closed his mouth. "Your mother never taught you to wash your hands first?" he admonished, now waving the spoon in front of him.
Newkirk savoured the look of discomfort on Carter's face as the Sergeant tried to hastily consume the mêlée without burning too much off the top of his mouth. "She obviously didn't tell him that anything cooking on a stove is hot, either."
The bunk bed that led to Tunnel Two rose and Sergeant James Kinchloe climbed out. "Where's the Colonel?" Kinch asked.
United States Army Air Corps Colonel Robert Hogan came out from his room and joined his men at the common room table in the centre of the barracks. "What have we got?"
Kinch handed his Colonel the decoded message. Hogan didn't sit down. He rested one foot on the chair before him at the table and read out the orders to his men. "Top priority. Two packages. Strike offensive tomorrow night."
"Blimey! Where's the offensive?" Newkirk asked
Hogan shrugged. "I guess that's why they're sending us packages," he said
"And it’s a nice night for it, too." All eyes were on Carter. "The packages I mean…"
"Colonel, you're not going to ask me to go out with him tonight, are you? He hasn't been himself lately." Newkirk bemoaned.
"Only if you both promise to be back by midnight."
"That's just dandy, that is," Newkirk whined .
"Kinch, call London and confirm pickup tonight."
"Yes, sir," Kinch acknowledged as he made his way back to the tunnel.
On his way to his room, Colonel Hogan noticed the pot on the stove. He stopped, savoured the aroma then scooped out a vegetable piece with his fingers and popped it in his mouth.
Le Beau stood transfixed. Carter opened his mouth to say something when suddenly he found Newkirk's hand smashed unceremoniously against it.
Sergeant Hans Schultz was making his routine patrol around the camp when he came close to his favourite place in the entire camp. He leaned against the door, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Mmmmm, dinner time," he muttered to himself. Shouldering his rifle, he slowly opened the door, closed his eyes and inhaled; savouring the pungent aroma wafting to him from within. It was beckoning a connoisseur like himself to inspect further.
Newkirk couldn't believe it. The door to the barracks and the tunnel entrance were opening simultaneously. Instantly he threw himself on the bed crushing the opening from Tunnel Two, the muffled sounds beneath him unmistakable.
Schultz manoeuvred his ample girth into the barracks, making a beeline for the stove.
"Le Beau, what have you cooked tonight?" Schultz asked with childlike delight.
"What do you think I've cooked? The same thing I cooked yesterday! The same thing I cooked the day before! What do you think I can possibly cook in a place like this and with lazy prisoners that do not want to help me in the vegetable garden!" Le Beau yelled.
"I know." Schultz sympathised. "Believe me, it is so hard to get a good meal these days." He looked around the room, then back at Le Beau and whispered, "Do you think I can have a taste?"
"At least you have the decency to ask!" Le Beau commended. "Not like some people."
"You would have said no." Carter retorted.
"Exactly!" Le Beau yelled. In the space of an hour his wooden spoon had been pointed at everyone.
Schultz saw Newkirk fidget nervously on the bunk. "What is wrong with Newkirk? He doesn't look too good," he asked Le Beau.
"Nothing, Schultz. Just gave my heart a little start when you walked in like that, that's all," he said, placing his hand over his heart. It was beating so fast he feared he really would have a coronary.
"I have been on duty," he said to no one in particular, taking the wooden spoon from Le Beau and stirring the pot. "I did not have dinner." Then Le Beau watched, horrified, as Schultz removed a spoonful of vegetables and immediately put it in his mouth.
"What does everybody think this is: Vichyssoise?" Le Beau yelled out in exasperation.
Colonel Hogan heard the commotion from his room and joined his men. He had forgotten that Schultz was on patrol.
"Hi Schultz!" he called out. He didn't miss Newkirk's nervous fidgeting on the tunnel bunk bed. "Klink got you on patrol again, Schultz?"
"Ah, the Kommandant always has me on patrol…" Schultz answered with a mouth full of food. "Whenever he has a bad day, I end up on patrol." He swallowed hard then whispered to Le Beau imploringly, "Le Beau, would you mind if I had another taste?" Then sheepishly explained to Hogan, "the patrol is making me hungry and I can't afford to lose any more weight. It takes so long to get another uniform!"
"We have plenty of leftovers, Schultz." Hogan said .
"What leftovers?" Le Beau asked incredulously.
"You know. The leftovers." Hogan darted his eyes to Newkirk lying on the tunnel bunk bed.
"Of course! The leftovers!" Le Beau turned the pot handle towards Schultz "Here, Schultz. You came just in time."
"Are you sure?" Schultz asked excited
"Absolutely. These are all for you. To eat in your barracks. Now go, go before it gets cold." Le Beau pushed Schultz out the door but as he shut it, Schultz poked his head in and in earnest declared, "Le Beau, you know, you mustn't cook so much. It is wasteful."
"I'll remember for next time." Le Beau closed the door behind him.
Newkirk immediately jumped off the bunk bed and hit the access panel. "How can you possibly waste anything with that carnivore we have walking around!" he asked.
Kinch stumbled out, nearly colliding with Newkirk in his haste. "I almost broke my neck!" Kinch yelled at Newkirk. "Warn me next time!"
"I couldn't!" Newkirk tried to explain.
"We have a problem, Colonel," Kinch said, handing Hogan the new message from London.
"I know!" Hogan cried. "We're all going to bed hungry!" He read the message. "This is it? They can't give us any more information?"
"No sir. Radio silence effective immediately," Kinch added.
"Well, how do they want us to do this?" Hogan asked.
"Do what, Gov'?" Newkirk asked
"London suspects one of the packages is a double agent. We're to expose and eliminate the double agent then follow through with the mission."
Everyone started talking at once until Hogan raised his hand to get some silence in the room.
"Colonel, how are we going to expose them without exposing ourselves at the same time?" Carter asked fearfully.
Hogan began pacing. It helped him think. "We can't."
"Does London suspect this double agent will leak the mission details to the Gestapo?" Newkirk asked
"Generally speaking they usually have to go through other channels but …" Suddenly he stopped his pacing. "Of course! The Gestapo!"
"See what has happened?" Le Beau yelled at Newkirk; the wooden spoon finding its way in his hand again. "I had to give my famous ratatouille to Schultz and now our Colonel cannot concentrate from lack of hunger!"
"Go directly to the source… only the Gestapo will not be the Gestapo at all," Kinch surmised.
"Exactly. Both packages will be met by German guards and shown the hospitality of Gestapo headquarters where they will be thoroughly interrogated." The faces before him were horror-stricken. "In the cooler!" he quickly added. "Newkirk and Carter will meet them dressed as German guards and escort them blindfolded to the cooler where Major Overmier will conduct the interrogation and all going well, where he will be given the information by our very proud double agent!"
"Major who?" Le Beau asked having trouble following it all.
Hogan took the spoon from Le Beau then slammed it on the table before his men, shouting in a German accent. "Never question the orders of Major Overmier! Heil Hitler!"
Newkirk turned to a frightened-looking Carter and stated, "Translation: We're going to get shot!"
Down in the tunnel, Hogan, dressed in a Gestapo officer's uniform, awaited Newkirk and Carter's return.
Kinch descended the tunnel steps to join him. "You think this will work?" he asked
"As long as we keep Schultz fed, I'm sure he'll keep well away from the cooler." Hogan confirmed. He tightened his belt another notch on his uniform. "Just make sure you tell Le Beau to prepare enough. If I keep going like this I'm going to have to ask Klink for a new uniform."
"We have a problem, sir," a flustered Newkirk yelled as he quickly made his way from the tunnel entrance to his Colonel; "one of the packages is wounded."
"You shot them?" Hogan asked horrified.
"No sir," Newkirk and a panting Carter cried in unison.
"Kinch, get Doc fitted out in Gestapo uniform. Set him up in solitary confinement. In the meantime, Newkirk, you and Carter bring him to the second cell. Let's get this interrogation over and done with!"
"But, Colonel…" Carter began, but Newkirk cut him off. "Yes, sir!"
Carter stared at Newkirk confused. "Why didn't you tell him about…"
Newkirk put his arm around Carter's shoulders and whispered, "Carter, ol' boy, there are some things that our beloved Major Overmier does not need to be told."
Jeanine Bruyere leaned against the cold stonewall of her cell and hastily removed the belt around her waist. She then gradually lowered herself to a seated position so her back was flush against the wall for support and she could stretch out her legs. Blood rapidly pooled beneath her right leg. With her belt in her lap, Jeanine reached across and ripped the already torn and bloodied trouser leg, exposing the bullet wound just below her knee.
Captain Alan Stratford ceased his examination of the cell and watched her. "You do know you’d be better off letting it bleed."
Jeanine deftly tied the belt around her thigh and pulled at the knot, but each time she tightened it, her hands would slip off the belt; the blood covering them now thwarting the grip she needed to make it into a workable tourniquet.
Watching her third failed attempt, Stratford cursed and squatted beside her. With his small knife he sliced the partially ripped trouser leg completely off exposing the bloodied wound. He then roughly dabbed at the blood, enough to get a good look at the wound itself. Jeanine gasped each time he touched her. "There's no bullet. Just a nasty gash," he informed her. Suddenly Jeanine was horrified as Stratford proceeded to bandage her leg in the same material he used to clean the wound. "I don't suppose using the shirt off your back would be a viable option, would it?" Jeanine asked sardonically. Stratford glared at her then continued the bandaging. He then grabbed the bloodied belt from her hands and pulled at the knot. Jeanine stifled a cry. "Don't take this out on me! I didn't shoot myself, you know," Jeanine defended herself.
"You won't survive this." He admonished, replacing the knife in his jacket pocket. "It would have been more humane for you to have died of a bullet wound. You won't survive a Gestapo interrogation."
"Right, and I suppose you will? Don't try to hide your animosity Captain, it's all over you like a rash!"
Stratford stared at her. She was right. He didn't agree with this new direction that London was taking with agents. "You have no idea how much."
"Sure you didn't shoot me?" Jeanine taunted.
"Me?" he smirked, then leaning closer to her whispered, "You wouldn't be sitting here if I did."
Jeanine shivered. She watched him make his way back across the cell, discarding his jacket on the floor as a makeshift pillow.
"Are your papers in your jacket?" he asked her, making himself comfortable on the floor.
"Just like yours," Jeanine answered cautiously.
She watched him, mentally recalling the rendezvous. She heard gunfire – directly in front of her, but it was so dark she couldn't see anything.
"Whoever goes in with the Gestapo leaves their jacket here. We can't afford for the papers to fall into their hands." Stratford ordered. "I have yet to see what is so important that you had to come along. This mission could have been completed by one agent."
"I'll put it on the agenda for when we're next in London," she replied cynically.
"London had no business sending a woman on this mission. Do you have any idea what Gestapo do to women? Women that are being interrogated by Gestapo are not sent to Prisoner of War camps. They are tortured and humiliated in ways you cannot imagine. By the time the interrogation is over your mind will not be your own. The only thought you will carry in what is left of coherency in your mind will be a prayer that when you sleep you do not awake!"
"You know, Captain, you're beginning to remind me of an old suitor of mine. Oh, but don't flatter yourself. He loved to point out every flaw that he saw, daily. And just like you, he eventually became tiresome." Jeanine leaned her head back against the cell wall. "When the guards come in to check on us next, I'm going to ask for my own room!"
"You have no concept of how serious this is do you? If you hadn't gotten yourself shot we may still have made our contacts."
Stratford's voice had that droning effect; the same as the one her university professor had; the same one that succeeded in putting her to sleep all the time. She smiled to herself. She failed that subject.
Jeanine wrapped her arms around herself to ward off the sudden chill in the cell. It was acting like a comforter, enveloping her. She surmised that if she succumbed to a little sleep she could effectively ignore Stratford. "Pardon me if I don't react to your abject paranoia but I pride myself on being an optimist!" Jeanine stated through half shut eyes.
"Poor misguided fool. Like I said, London had no business sending a woman on this mission." Stratford reiterated.
She deliberately allowed her eyelids to fall. "I agree. They should have sent two!"
"Schnell! Schnell!" They were everywhere. The uniformed German guards rounded up the villagers and lined them up in front of her home. Trembling she stood in the line up with her mother and grandmother. Even though they both held her hands tightly, she could not stop the trembling. "Ne montrez pas la crainte, mon amour. Ne montrez pas la crainte." Do not show fear. It was so hard. She could not control her trembling. Her grandmother squeezed her hand. "Schnell!" There were so many people standing before these Germans. Even more screaming. They searched the houses, finding young men hidden. She watched as one of her neighbours, Pierre, was dragged out at gunpoint. "Pour la liberté et la France" she heard Pierre shout as they dragged him past the villagers – for liberty and France. In anger, the guard levelled the gun at Pierre's head and shot. She let out an anguished cry. The guard before her heard it and grabbed her. Her grandmother and mother cried out, each trying to shield her. He raised his pistol and shot her mother in the head, then shot her grandmother in the head, all the while holding onto her wrist. She screamed, collapsing beside her family but the guard dragged her into her home behind where they were forced to line up. She screamed louder. Still holding on to her he began ripping her clothes. Terror consumed her senses and her screams now bordered on madness. A force struck her face and she knew no more.
An anguished cry filled the cell. The cell door crashed open and two German guards entered. One covered Stratford with his rifle. The other loomed over Jeanine. She stifled another cry. "Wachen Sie auf!"
"The general idea is to accompany him," Stratford volunteered.
Jeanine tried to rise but couldn't.
Stratford rose to go to her but the other guard raised his rifle at him and shouted "Halt!"
Jeanine was shocked when the guard looming over her bent down to pick her up. Instantly she rolled to her side and pushed herself up, avoiding all contact. As she followed the guard out of the cell she said to a scowling Stratford, "that means 'stop'."
From the corner of her eye she was positive she caught a smile on the face of one of the German guards, but when she turned to look at him, his face was stoic.
Jeanine was led to another cell, similar to the one she was in except for a chair in the centre of the room and a Gestapo officer staring at her in shock.
The officer composed himself immediately. "Bitte, Fräulein." he said, motioning to the chair.
She limped to the chair and sat down. The wound was throbbing but she was fortunate that the makeshift bandage was stopping some of the continuous blood flow.
Colonel Hogan was momentarily taken aback. He approached Newkirk and Carter standing at the door and whispered to them, "Let me know as soon as Doc is set up." They nodded.
"Fräulein. How did you get shot?" he asked in his best German accent.
"Ask your men!" Jeanine answered
Newkirk and Carter exchanged confused looks.
"My guards brought you here because you were found loitering in the woods at night. Now, I shall inform you of two facts. Fact one is we, the Gestapo, are not inhumane. We will arrange for your wound to be treated once you give us the information we need. Fact two – your cooperation is essential to guarantee your release."
Jeanine remained silent.
"Should you not wish to cooperate with us, we can easily go through the basic Gestapo interrogation techniques. It would only take a maximum of three interrogations. Usually by the fourth we find that things become quite intimate."
He saw her cringe. It was unmistakable.
"If, however, you cooperate, you will be released unharmed. Now, what were you doing in the woods tonight with that man in your cell?"
Jeanine forced a smile. "It was a rendezvous."
Hogan broke out in a cold sweat. It couldn't be her! She couldn't possibly be the double agent!
"The cover of the trees; the moon to guide us. Perfect. To any man, nights like tonight makes us all look like Venus. It is good for business."
Hogan was speechless. Jeanine continued unperturbed. "My liaisons do not want to come to the village or be seen; what with the war and all. However, your guards could have waited until the business transaction was finalised. As it stands I have provided a service and I have not been paid. And, to add insult to injury, I have been shot, which will keep me out of action for at least a week!"
"At least," Hogan squeaked, then quickly regained his composure. "How do I know that you are telling me the truth, Fraulein?"
"My services are exclusive, Major. However, for the Gestapo, I am certain we can reach an understanding."
"You play a dangerous game, Fraulein."
"My liaisons play the dangerous game, Major. Especially when their wives find out." She was positive she could pull this off. She felt her heart beat faster. It was not panic that she felt. It was pure adrenaline. Two could play at this game! "Major. I am no threat to you or anyone else. This is what I do to eat. It is war. I survive as best I can. You cannot possibly imprison me for what I do. After all, ours is the oldest profession in the world!"
"Who is the man in your cell? Your liaison?" Hogan asked.
"I do not know. Sometimes I ask questions. Sometimes I do not. Tonight, I did not."
"How many romantic liaisons do you hold in the woods on a night?"
"I would not call them romantic, Major. As for how many? It depends on how hungry I am."
Newkirk opened the interrogation room door, peered out then closed it and discreetly coughed. Hogan understood the signal. Doc was ready.
"Fräulein, I do not believe you. What I do believe is that you are connected to the man in the cell and that you are both spies. You have been caught in the woods late at night. That confirms to me you are spies. This interrogation is not ended. You will be questioned again in an hour and every hour after that until we have your confession." He turned to Newkirk. "Take her to solitary confinement."
Jeanine blanched. She thought she had gotten away with it. It was so plausible that she believed it herself.
Newkirk opened the door for her. As she was being led out, Hogan called out. "All you have to do is confess, Fräulein. We can take care of you. We will make sure that you never go hungry. You do not want us to believe that you harbour a death wish, do you?"
She hissed, "Only yours."
Hogan heard her and smiled.
For Life And Country…
Flanked on either side by the German guards, Jeanine left the interrogation cell and her Gestapo interrogator to be escorted to solitary confinement. She laughed to herself at the absurdity of it all. Solitary confinement. Did the Gestapo believe that solitude would unnerve her? One guard walked ahead and opened the door to the cell then stood aside, motioning for her to enter. Jeanine derived great pleasure glaring at him as she walked past.
Newkirk opened the door to solitary confinement and then stood aside for Jeanine to enter. When she glared at him, Newkirk was so taken aback he wanted to confess who he was immediately. He felt like an English schoolboy about to be reprimanded.
Jeanine stopped short just inside the cell. In the far corner stood a Gestapo officer wiping a knife with what looked like mismatched pieces of material. "I guess the one hour interrogation intervals got shortened to none!" she said contemptuously. She could feel a sliver of trepidation slowly taking hold.
"You don't have to be insulting!" the officer said, ceasing his wiping of the knife and taking a good look at the young woman before him. He stared at the tourniquet on her injured right leg. "I'm what's between you keeping and losing your leg." he said threateningly. "I am a doctor. Please, lie on the bed and I will tend to your wound before you really do end up losing your leg."
Jeanine remained standing.
"The tourniquet you have applied has staunched the blood flow which means you don't walk around with blood dripping off your leg, but at the same time you are depriving the bottom part of your leg of its much needed blood supply. Hence, it will die." He stood directly before her, face to face. "You may lie; you may sit. You may not stand!"
"There is no bullet. It will close on its own." Jeanine stated purposefully avoiding his eyes.
"Very well. We both stand." Doc shrugged. "If there is a necessity for the tourniquet, there is a necessity for stitches," he said, continuing, "you will be good to no-one with a permanent limp!"
Now Jeanine stared at him. He bowed! She was flabbergasted. "Like I said, I am a doctor. Nothing more." He saw her eyes scan the German Gestapo uniform he wore. He hated this uniform! Finally, she relented and seated herself on the makeshift bed. Doc knelt before her and deftly removed the tourniquet, throwing the belt on the small table near the bed. He carefully began peeling off the bloodied material, conscious of the fact that the dried blood was acting as sealant and that the wound could begin bleeding uncontrollably.
The room was cold. The surface beneath his knees was cold. He shivered involuntarily. He hated this room.
The collar of his uniform was simulating a noose around his neck. He loosened the first two buttons on his jacket then noticed there was blood on his hands from the wound he was examining. Obviously he had now transferred some of that blood to the jacket lapel.
He hated this uniform.
Stratford allowed himself to be escorted into the interrogation cell. He stopped just inside the cell. Before him a Gestapo officer paced with his hands clenched behind his back. Newkirk nudged Stratford with his rifle to move forward but he remained where he stood.
Colonel Hogan turned abruptly, ceasing his pacing. He stared at the officer before him. There was a definite cockiness about him, arrogance. Hogan was familiar with the body language. How many times was he on the receiving end of a German's rifle? Stratford looked too confident, too smug with himself.
Stratford threw the two jackets he held in his hands at the Gestapo officer before him. "You don't know how close you came to stuffing up! No wonder you're losing the war!" Stratford screeched.
Hogan caught the two jackets, surprised, for the second time in so many hours. "Name!" he demanded.
"Captain Alan Stratford. That's all you need to know for now."
Hogan laughed, nervously, looking at the two jackets he held. "So, what do I do with these?"
"Make your career!" Stratford jubilantly announced and then he walked to the lone chair in the centre of the room, turned it around and casually straddled it. "And mine."
Hogan was stunned.
Stratford removed his tie and began loosening his shirt. "Got any cigarettes? American ones?"
Hogan nodded to Newkirk who disappeared, only to re-appear in no time with two cigarettes, no packet. Hogan lit both and handed one to Stratford. One he took himself.
"Danke." Stratford said then inhaled deeply. He stared at Hogan and the jackets, took another puff then crossed his arms over the high back of the wooden chair and relaxed. "What you hold in your arms are mission details of a strike offensive to be mounted by the British tomorrow at midnight. Amazingly, five targets have been selected for bombing. London office unfortunately could not get full confirmation of the co-ordinates. The mission is going ahead, however. So, to ensure their optimum success they want the Underground to set up beacons for their bombers."
"Why has our capturing you then caused a problem? The Underground do not get the co-ordinates and the bombers miss their mark."
Stratford stared at him, "You see only half the picture. What is your biggest problem here, now, right at your front door? The Underground. They have been causing you many headaches. I figured, if they have the coordinates and they set up the beacons, and your men discreetly, and I do mean discreetly, hide; you will be able to capture the biggest contingent of underground operatives yet!" He stared at the burning cigarette then savoured another puff, exhaled and smiled broadly. "Imagine the pool of information that can be gleaned from the many interrogations you would undoubtedly perform?"
It was so simple, it could work, Hogan thought to himself, alarmed. Their whole operation would have been revealed. Hogan threw his cigarette on the ground and stomped on it roughly. This whole thing was leaving a nasty taste in his mouth. "How were you going to get this information to us?" he asked.
"Either come to you first, or meet the Underground and come to you later. Either way, I would have gotten word to you somehow. The information was received only a short while ago so everything has been quite impromptu."
"You were not concerned that my men may have shot you."
"Your men may have shot me. Your men may have shot the girl. We would undoubtedly have been searched and you still would have had the mission details."
"And I am to believe that you were prepared to die for the Fatherland?" Hogan's hostility was mounting. It was getting very hard to remain calm. "Your plan is flawed. The Underground do not have the details."
"No thanks to you." Stratford accused. He got up, threw the cigarette stub in a corner of the room and stood directly before Hogan. He smirked, "Release the girl. She will make contact with the Underground. Give her the jackets. There is still time for all this to work."
"So the young Fraulein has been aiding you, no?" Hogan enquired half-heartedly. He didn't really want to know, but he had to.
"I do not work with incompetence and I do not work with women! She is part of some new strategy by London to appease the British females! London obviously needed some mission to send her on, so they tailed her to me. Once this mission goes askew, so much for the new strategy, amongst other things."
"You shot her," Hogan guessed.
Stratford shrugged his shoulder. "She was wearing the other half of the plans. I only wounded her. If I had wanted to kill her, she would be dead."
That was it. United States Army Air Corps Colonel Robert Hogan had had enough! He punched Captain Stratford in the jaw, sending him sprawling to the ground, his head hitting the chair. Captain Stratford sat up holding his jaw and sputtering.
"Believability, Captain," Hogan said, smiling, the first real smile since the interrogation began. "We do have to keep up appearances." He turned to Newkirk and Carter at attention near the door. From the corner of his eye he more than once caught them fidgeting nervously during the interrogation. "Return our very helpful Captain Stratford back to his cell."
Stratford rose, still rubbing his jaw. Hogan was still smiling. "We will examine this information that you so courageously have given us and then we will meet again."
"Schnell!" Newkirk yelled, pointing the rifle at him.
Stratford reluctantly walked out of the room, glancing one final time at the Gestapo officer in the room.
Hogan clutched the jackets to himself protectively. He noted with some satisfaction that the arrogance the Captain walked into the room with at the beginning had somewhat dissipated by the end. He looked down at his stinging knuckles. It was a very good punch. He walked out of the cell, clutching the jackets and still smiling.
Jeanine had been seated at the end of the makeshift bed for well over an hour. Doc was crouched before her, reminding her for the umpteenth time that he was almost finished with the stitching. Although he took every precaution to make it as painless as possible, the mere sight of him stitching her flesh unnerved her.
Doc completed the final stitch and sat back on his heels. He was sweating profusely. For the second time, Jeanine watched as he absentmindedly pulled at the collar of his uniform. It didn't matter that he had already loosened the two top buttons; the entire jacket seemed to be uncomfortable for him.
Colonel Hogan walked in carrying the two jackets he'd been given. He spied Jeanine sitting on the edge of the bed and his camp Doctor crouched at her feet! "New bedside manner, Doc?"
Startled, Doc pulled sharply at the collar. A button fell off and rolled, coming to rest at Colonel Hogan's feet. "Was going to have a word to you about that … the uniform that is..." Doc sputtered.
"I'm sure you were," Hogan said. He smiled at Jeanine, which left Jeanine genuinely confused. Before her stood the officer that had interrogated her and threatened to continue interrogating her every hour. This was the same German officer that she definitely harboured a death wish for. She cringed and Hogan noticed. "You’re safe. We're not who you think we are," Hogan tried to explain.
"Although I am your doctor!" Doc said smugly, now choosing to unbutton his entire uniform jacket. Colonel Hogan glared at him.
"Well, I do have a reputation to maintain, and I still have to bandage that leg." Doc threw his jacket to a corner of the room, then grabbed the makeshift bandages off the table and crouched at Jeanine's feet, ready to bandage her stitched leg.
"Don't let me stop you, Doc," Hogan said sarcastically. Hogan returned his attention to Jeanine again, noting her confusion. "We're not really Gestapo. You were to meet us tonight. I'm Colonel Robert Hogan. Papa Bear."
"You're my contact?" She was so shocked she stood abruptly, simultaneously knocking Doc on his backside. "But the uniforms… All this… I don't understand." Jeanine stammered.
"London informed us that one of the contacts we were to meet was a double agent, they didn't tell us who."
"They suspected me?" she asked overwhelmed. She felt nauseous . The bile rose in her throat.
"And Captain Stratford," Hogan added.
Jeanine stared at him, dubiously. "You have the jackets. You explained to Captain Stratford who you are and he told you everything?"
"Captain Stratford volunteered everything to Major Overmier." Hogan said slowly, adding, "it was Captain Stratford that shot you. He needed to make sure you would stay close by. The papers were to be shown to the Gestapo and then passed on by you to the Underground. Once our people were in place, the Gestapo were to move in."
"They would have been slaughtered," she stammered, shaken. She was going to be sick! Jeanine immediately turned and rushed to the basin on the table where she loudly threw up.
"I'm sorry," Hogan said ruefully, gently rubbing her shoulders. She was shivering. He needed to get a change of clothes to her. "It's going to be alright. We've got what we need."
He helped her sit back on the bed. "Doc will give you something to rest a little. I need to get these jackets to my men. I'll call in later. It's fine, really…" he said, walking to the door.
Doc promptly resumed his bandaging.
Jeanine ran her fingers through her hair in frustration. Then, watching Colonel Robert Hogan head for the door took a deep breath and called out, "You won't find anything,"
Hogan abruptly stopped with his hand on the door.
She glanced at Doc, absorbed in his bandaging, then at the Colonel. "I have the mission coordinates…" she began carefully, "memorised."
Smart, Hogan thought to himself. Stratford had nothing to bargain with and he didn't even know it. "That's a risk. What if you were caught?" he asked, returning to her side.
"I was." She said, taking another deep breath. It didn't help. Spots were appearing before her eyes. "Captain Stratford and I didn't exactly see eye to eye. He was instrumental in undermining a lot of what I put forward to the Commander. His gratuitous remarks became a 'drink time' running joke. My reports to the Commander were dismissed and I was told it was just a severe case of letting off steam. When the orders came through for this mission, he badgered my Commander for someone else. I had reasons of my own to badger my Commander to go on this mission. He owed me. I won. Stratford went on a barrage of characteristic flaws to anyone who'd care to listen, about me. A constant in his appraisal of me was my so-called ineptitude." She shrugged nonchalantly. "I wanted to teach him a lesson. I removed the mission papers just before departure and memorised them."
Hogan found he wasn't as shocked as he should have been. He was, however, intrigued. "What did you do with the papers?"
"On my Commander's desk," she recollected. "I gathered, if he saw them maybe he'd assume we were both inept."
"I'd say you alerted your Commander to a possible double agent and didn't realise how close to the mark you were." Colonel Hogan laughed. "All right, what's this mission you memorised?”
"There will be an aerial offensive tomorrow night, hitting five major targets. London wants the Underground to construct beacons at these targets ensuring their bombers make direct hits."
"Do they have problems with the coordinates?"
"They couldn't be confirmed and it’s essential that all five targets are hit."
"Why all five?"
"The coordinates are not recognisable sites. Two days ago a message was decoded that five farmhouses in remote proximity were really storage facilities of various degrees. One is a storage site for ammunition. Another houses parts for some type of new arsenal they're developing. Parts unidentifiable. Another one seems to have a wonderful collection of guns, packed and ready to be shipped out. We are not certain of the last two, as we received no further communication. They are not massive finds, by all means, but the word is out that Hitler is a little paranoid about the enemy hitting his smaller, seemingly insignificant yet important targets. With direct hits on these farmhouses, the message will be out to Hitler that his little secrets are being leaked to the enemy. Because confirmation of the coordinates could not be ascertained, they were to be confirmed in the next transmission, and because of their delicate nature, London thought beacons could ensure that they get their direct hits."
"Another nail in Hitler's coffin. Okay. Let's have the coordinates of these supposed sites."
"You give me your word that you and your men will help me with my mission, and I will give you the co-ordinates."
"We're not on the same mission?" Hogan asked flabbergasted.
"London had no way to verify the mission co-ordinates because the operatives in the field that procured them were betrayed to the Germans. London believes they're with Gestapo. Before boarding the flight over here, I received an anonymous message that they're alive and being held in one of the farmhouses. My Commander allowed me to join this mission on the pretence that I get some help getting my operatives out. However, it's unofficial."
"How were you going to achieve that? You don't know that your operatives are alive."
She winced. No one more than her was aware that her operatives might be dead. "I know that you wouldn't have these coordinates if not for them. I was going to join the Underground on the mission. I know the coordinates of the farm house they're being held in."
"We could be walking into a trap," Hogan argued. He didn't like messy missions.
"You could be doing that by setting up the beacons as well. This makes no difference."
"Setting up the beacons will be discreet. Rescuing your operatives…"
"…will not be such a big ask of Major Overmier…" Jeanine finished. She stood abruptly, sending Doc sprawling onto his backside again. "Please, Colonel Hogan," she begged, "I have to get them out"
"How many are we looking at?" he asked, already making a mental note of who to contact.
"Two. Only two." She silently prayed that there really would be two - two alive.
Watching her carefully, it suddenly dawned on Colonel Robert Hogan that he didn't know this woman's name. She never revealed it at interrogation and she did not reveal it in conversation now.
"I don't know your name," he said, almost embarrassed.
She smiled then said, "Jeanine Bruyere"
"Jeanine Bruyere, let's get those coordinates and both missions under way."
Jeanine breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, sir" she said softly.
Hogan nodded then smiled when he noticed Doc still sprawled at Jeanine's feet, massaging his backside. "You really do need to work on that bedside manner, Doc."
Jeanine looked down at the bandages falling limply from her leg and promptly sat on the bed, smiling awkwardly. Doc silently proceeded with the bandaging, again. She muttered a 'sorry' but didn't get a response. Maybe he didn't hear it. Then again, maybe he did.
A Visit To Hell…
In a secluded barn, surrounded by crude farm machinery, four figures huddled over a well-worn map, fully illuminated by the light from four torches.
Pierre, and Nicolas, his right hand man, nervously listened as Colonel Robert Hogan went through the mission details, outlining the coordinates on the map as he did so. Suddenly Pierre saw Nicolas stiffen. He stared down at the last set of coordinates the Colonel pointed to and immediately understood why. "We are all familiar with these places you speak of, but I cannot understand why they have been targeted," Pierre began carefully. "There is nothing of importance there. Farmhouses; some of them not even that anymore."
"They are farmhouses." Hogan admitted. "However, what they store is a different matter. Bonfires must be lit at all five targets allowing our bombers to make direct hits. They have the coordinates but they need more help. All we need you and your men to do is get these bonfires lit. They must all be burning by midnight, no later."
Pierre removed the old dusty glasses he wore and with the back of his shirtsleeve, wiped his eyes. Colonel Hogan sat back on his haunches. He had known Pierre for a very long time, but not Nicolas. Nicolas came across as brash and angry. Hogan was impressed, however, that he was man enough to keep that anger in check now. He could tell this mission made them uncomfortable, more so than other missions.
He wanted to know why.
"Pierre, it is important, but if you feel it is too dangerous for your men, then we'll find another way. That has been our arrangement all along. We will not force you or your men to sacrifice your lives for us, you know that," Hogan firmly informed him.
Pierre put his glasses back on, blinking furiously. "What is that you suspect is in these farmhouses?”
"Ammunition, various arrays of arsenal, machinery parts…"
"But you are not certain," Nicolas demanded angrily, finally deciding to speak.
"Hey, what gives?" Newkirk snapped. "We're all in the same boat 'ere you know."
Pierre rested his hand on Nicolas's shoulder. "One of your farmhouses…" he began slowly, "an old woman lives there with her son. He is big and … jeune …young."
Colonel Hogan stared at the coordinates that Nicolas pointed to. They were the ones Jeanine gave him of where her operatives were supposedly being held.
"He is a mother's boy… you know, like young…" Pierre continued, nervously.
"Fair enough, but how old in our years?" Newkirk asked irritated.
Pierre shrugged and muttered, "maybe thirty years…maybe more…. He is …" Pierre made the sign of the cross then touched his head quickly "touched… mentalement retardé. His mother is an old woman. Many of our men have at one time or other helped her with various chores around the farm."
"Let me guess, she's all dressed in black with a black scarf covering 'er head and when you finish helping with the chores she has cookies and milk out on the small table in the centre of her living room for you," Newkirk said sarcastically,
"Bread." Nicolas corrected quietly. "She bakes bread in an old oven for us. As a thank you for chopping wood." Then added as an after thought, "Only sometimes… when we carry in the wood we chop."
Colonel Hogan looked from Pierre to Nicolas to Newkirk. He folded his map. "In any event, we'll take care of this farmhouse. If it's just an old woman and her son, as you say, the bonfire will not be lit. The others must go ahead as planned. Anything else I need to know about?"
Pierre retrieved his notes from the dirt.
Hogan pocketed his map and extended his hand. Pierre took it and held it firmly. "There are many implements we can use for bonfires on these farms. You will have your bonfires."
At the same time, Nicolas extended his hand to Newkirk. "You promise! If you and your Colonel only find an old woman and her son, you set no bonfire."
"Wha' ya think? We're gonna whack an ol' woman?" Newkirk asked appalled.
Hogan put his arm round Newkirk's shoulders and steered him out of the barn. "We promise."
Outside, Hogan didn't have to see his Corporal to know he was seething. "Where do they come off, Colonel? Insinuating such a thing?"
"It's been a long night. Let's go home before Schultz calls roll call and we're still out here."
"Gestapo! Geöffnet!" Newkirk yelled, banging twice with the butt of his rifle on the farmhouse door.
"Do you really have to be so loud?" Carter asked, concerned. Newkirk and Hogan glared at him. "Colonel, you said it might just be an old woman and it could frighten her."
"Maybe she's hard of hearing!" Newkirk teased then whispered in his ear, " 'ave you ever heard of that?"
Carter remained silent but still not convinced.
"We're Gestapo." Hogan said to Corporal Andrew Carter. "They want to scare people – all people." He ordered Newkirk, "Again! We don't have much time." Again Newkirk banged his rifle butt against the door.
By the second bang the door was opened by a little old woman dressed in black, with a black scarf covering her head. "I am so sorry. At my age, my hearing is not what it once was. Please, come in, come in," she said, guiding them inside. Newkirk glanced back at Carter, giving him his I told you so look.
Inside the farmhouse, the room before them was quite spacious, housing a large stove in the far corner and two old dressers against a wall. A table with four chairs was in the centre of the room with places set for two people.
"I didn't expect you. The arrangement was that I would call when I had something for you. I do not recall calling you…" she glared at Hogan's uniform "Major…"
"Overmier," Hogan finished.
"I am not senile, Major. I did not call you or any of the staff at Gestapo Headquarters. So, tell me, why are you here?"
It was evident this old woman was used to working with Gestapo. Pierre said that his men from the Underground assisted her as well. Hogan straightened visibly, "The Gestapo does not need a reason to either interrogate or inspect."
She stood before Hogan, defiantly. "Do not quote Gestapo mantra to me, young man, I invented it."
Hogan had to look down to talk to her. She was at least a foot shorted than he. "Frau, please, my superiors issued orders to inspect your home. You know I cannot question them. Allow me to do this and we will then leave."
She turned her back on them and went to her stove, tending to a pot that was starting to boil over. "Inspect all you like and then you may give a message to your superior. Tell him that next time he'd best humour an old woman with an apology lest he finds his meal unpalatable."
Colonel Hogan smiled. "I will be sure to pass that on, Frau." He whispered to Carter, "Stay here."
Aware of the time, Newkirk and Hogan meticulously checked all five rooms in the farmhouse, becoming disheartened when they came up with nothing unusual.
"You don’t think our Jeanine's been misled, Colonel, do you?" Newkirk asked, "You know, been given the wrong coordinates."
"Maybe," Hogan agreed. He knew from the start that there was always that possibility, however; the old woman dealt with Gestapo so this farmhouse wasn't as innocent as it appeared and she herself contacted them.
"For an old woman, she keeps everything so clean." Newkirk said moving from room to room. "Maybe next time she gets some help, she could get these walls dusted."
"Why?" Hogan asked, moving wardrobes in search of trap doors.
"The hallway. Large dust marks, like something hung here for a while."
Hogan stared at the wardrobe he'd moved aside. "Of course…" he rushed to Newkirk's side, staring at the dust marks on the pristine white wall of the hallway, "… or something stood against it."
"Yeah. But it'd have to be tall and wide judging by the scuff marks on the rug, too," Newkirk agreed staring at his Colonel, confused. "Doing a little re-decorating, perhaps?"
"With dressers. Women never put two dressers side by side. My mother told me that. They want to display their wares, not clutter them." Hogan rushed back to the kitchen, convinced he was right. When he spotted the two dressers in the far corner and the fourth chair at the table he knew he was right. At first glance, and from the angle of the door, it looked like two dressers next to a table surrounded by four chairs, but on closer inspection, the chair was wedged between the table and the dressers.
"Let's move them out of the way!" Hogan instructed.
"What do you want with my dressers!" the old woman cried out throwing herself in front of the dressers.
Newkirk stared imploringly at his Colonel. He wasn't very well going to run over a little old woman with her own dresser!
"They are just dressers, nothing more!" she said, confronting Newkirk. He stopped, afraid if he moved it, she'd be pushed back and would fall.
"Frau, please take a seat. It is for your own good!" Hogan said quietly, nodding to Carter who raised the rifle and aimed it at her, slowly. Aiming a rifle at a little old woman did not sit too well with him.
The old woman looked from Hogan to Carter to her dressers, then, reluctantly seated herself at the table and watched them continue to slide them across the room.
Newkirk gave the dresser a final push forward, almost tripping over an iron handle embedded into the floor. "Here!" Newkirk called out. Forcing it, a trap door opened up revealing crude wooden steps descending into darkness.
"It’s just a cellar," the old woman explained quickly. "We use it for storage."
"…and nothing more…" Newkirk mimicked to his Colonel then made his way down the cellar steps.
The old woman clasped both hands roughly in her lap and glared at an increasingly uncomfortable Carter. "It is just a cellar," she repeated.
In the farmhouse cellar, the small light they found cast an eerie glow. Newkirk and Hogan shouldered their rifles and tread carefully. The ground was dirt filled but with pockets of mud here and there.
Overflowing drums surrounded them. "They must be some sort of scavengers." Newkirk said finally, after finding the umpteenth drum filled to the brim with useless items of crockery, pots, worn machinery parts and the like.
"They're more than that. You heard her, she didn't call the Gestapo, which means usually she does." Colonel Hogan pulled out worn wires from another drum. "They're helping the Gestapo somehow."
"Maybe this is their supply store." Newkirk said checking the contents of another drum. He pulled out a piece of clothing, held it up to the light then swore, "Blimey!" He handed it to his Colonel. "American! It's an American Air officer's flight suit, sir!"
Hogan took the suit and carefully inspected it. "There's only one way to get one of these," he concluded shocked.
"Yeah, lose the body first!" Newkirk added as he tipped the drum over. An array of tattered uniforms fell forward at Hogan's feet. They both held them up to the light. "I've got ten." Newkirk finally said, hoarsely. "Six American, four English."
"Five more, American and English," Hogan added, alarmed. "That's what the old woman meant by the Gestapo. They'd most probably capture our boys and then hand them to the Gestapo."
"Yeah, and for their dedication to the Third Reich, the Gestapo would reward them in all this," Newkirk spat out. "And 'er being an old woman and such."
"Split up. We need to check this entire cellar. Things are definitely not what they appear to be."
Hogan watched as Newkirk went from one drum to the other, tipping it to the ground in frustration.
Colonel Hogan made his way across to the opposite end of the cellar. There were more drums. From what he could see, the Cellar encompassed almost the entire area of the farmhouse and held everything from usual farmhouse utensils to a large array of arsenals. He picked up a small German pistol from another drum. It was loaded and had been recently cleaned. Moving forward he noticed a worn workbench covered in rudimentary knives, whips and chains. They looked stained, or rusted. He could not make it out in the dim light. There was no dust on this workbench so it had to have been used recently. A large framed picture of Hitler was prominently displayed on the wall above the bench. Suddenly, his mind reeled. When they had come in the first thing he noticed was the dirt pot marked with pockets of mud. He looked down at his booted feet. He was standing in mud, but there was no way water would travel down a cellar, unless it was brought down. He stared at the utensils. He lifted the stained knife. These were not rust stains! If the bench had been used recently, then so had the instruments on the bench. They were blood stained!
"Colonel!" Newkirk shouted. Then almost immediately Newkirk yelled again "Bloody Hell!"
Hogan dropped the knife and rushed back to Newkirk, navigating the obstacle of upturned drums along the way and noting where the cellar floor was covered in dirt and where it was mud.
When he eventually reached Newkirk, he found him crouched in front of the cellar wall.
Newkirk turned and looked at his Colonel. "They were hidden behind the last two drums I knocked over." he said, visibly distressed. He moved a little so his Colonel could get a closer look.
Hogan reeled. Two petite figures lay huddled against the wall, one had her head in the lap of the other. "For the love of God!” Hogan cried, shocked by the atrocity before him. He immediately dropped his rifle and fell to his knees. The young women were stripped to their slips. With trembling hands, he attempted to find a pulse on the neck of the young woman seated. This young woman had her arm protectively over the one lying in her lap. "Oh God – GOD!" he swore again. He couldn't feel a pulse and he was too scared to press deeper on her bruised neck. He couldn't control his shaking.
Newkirk felt the neck pulse of the young woman lying in her lap. He gently moved her hair to one side then gasped as it revealed the bruises on her neck. His hand also shook when he tried to take her pulse. "It's faint, sir." He finally said.
Hogan supported the head of his young woman with one hand and tried to take her neck pulse again, but the bruises on her neck covered almost all of it. So fearful was he that he might cause more pain that he held back, afraid to touch her, but when her head lolled to the side, he quickly supported it and taking a deep breath, felt again for a pulse.. "It's faint here, too," he finally whispered, relieved. Then he abruptly stood and began unbuttoning his Gestapo uniform jacket. "Let's get them out of here!" Hogan ordered, hoarsely.
Newkirk wrapped his jacket around his young woman. As he did so, her slip rode up exposing the bruising and lacerations to her legs and thighs. Newkirk let out another expletive then gently picked her up, holding her protectively in his arms. Her hair fell away from her face revealing the swollen eyes and bruised cheeks. He couldn't tell if she was unconscious or whether she didn't open her eyes because they were so swollen. He stared across at his Colonel who was having a hard enough time of his own.
Colonel Hogan wrapped his Gestapo uniform jacket around the other young woman. The tattered slip she wore barely covered the welts on her thighs. Hogan gently picked her up then stiffened when she groaned. He held her tightly to him, arranging the uniform around the exposed parts of her body. Slowly he bent to retrieve his rifle, then shouldering it motioned to Newkirk.
Newkirk followed his Colonel out of the cellar, their way made all the more difficult with the upturned drums he'd thrown. They both tightened their hold on their charges as they climbed up the wooden steps. Newkirk saw the horror on his Colonel's face. He shivered involuntarily.
They had just seen what hell looked like.
Emerging from the cellar, Hogan and Newkirk heard voices. Before them a tall heavyset man dressed in overalls was yelling at the old woman. It had to be her son, Hogan thought for the old woman was not intimidated and answered him in a clipped soft voice. Carter kept them at bay with his rifle.
"I explained all this to you last time Garin. Please, try to remember." the old woman repeated to him, over and over.
"Garin? He'd make a perfect double sized Adolf!" Newkirk added.
"Let's make this quick," Hogan began, but before he could continue Garin lunged at Newkirk.
"She's mine!" he shouted, grabbing at the young woman in Newkirk's arms. Shocked, Newkirk turned his back, protecting his charge from any assault. Carter forced his way between Newkirk and Garin and cocked his rifle ready to shoot.
The old woman gasped. She rushed to Garin's side, attempting to placate him. "I told you that eventually we would have to hand them over to the Gestapo, son. You know that. I explained it to you. It's the same as all the other times." She began stroking his arms. "You remember, don't you?"
Hogan was right. The uniforms belonged to downed airmen these people handed over to the Gestapo.
Garin stared down at Carter and the rifle then at Newkirk. The old woman grabbed his face, turning it to look directly at her, away from everyone else. "They're Gestapo, son. You remember the Gestapo, don't you?" she softly pleaded with him.
"But you said I could keep that one, mama! You said! You said!" he wailed uncontrollably.
Colonel Robert Hogan swallowed the acid-like bile rising in his throat, then urgently motioned for his men to get out!
Carter wasted no time starting the engine to Klink's borrowed staff car, but before he could drive off, a member of the Underground opened Colonel Hogan's passenger side door and peered in. "Did you find what …" Pierre stopped short, shocked at the sight of the young women in their arms. "I…I…will tell my men to start the bonfire, " he stammered and left.
"Get us out of here, Carter," Hogan ordered abruptly.
"Yes, sir," Carter said, glancing back at his Colonel and then at Newkirk. Newkirk met Carter's eyes briefly, then arranged the German jacket he'd thrown around his young woman in a protective cocoon and held her tightly to him. Moments later, as an afterthought he released his grip, suddenly scared that he might have harmed her further. He thought he felt her shiver, and waited to see if she would open her eyes, but they remained shut. He was struck with a deepening sense of sorrow. He so wanted her to move, to awaken and yet she remained alarmingly still. Carter watched him repeatedly as he drove, he wanted to say something, but didn't know what. Newkirk stopped fussing and glared at the road ahead. Then, after a few minutes, he began rhythmically stroking the jacket.
Colonel Hogan mentally counted down the minutes to the planned air raid. They had walked into a torture chamber. The mud beneath his feet had to have been blood. He stared down at the exposed lacerations on the legs of the young woman he held. They were recently made. They were torturers, both mother and son. How many of his countrymen were maimed or worse at their hands? As they drove off the farmland he saw the figures silently set up the bonfire.
The drive was endless. Hogan was anxious to get back to camp, to distance himself from what he saw, to get these women where they could be treated, to get them home.
He was getting restless.
Hogan stared ahead at the road illuminated by headlights and lay his head back on the seat, making certain he held firmly to the young woman in his arms. He watched her, through the slivers of light streaming into the car. How many nightmares would she endure from this experience? How many weeks would she beg for death when the pain from her wounds became unbearable? She was so young. Hogan caressed her face, brushing away the strands of hair that had matted themselves to her lacerated cheeks. Suddenly he was met with a pair of terror-stricken bloodshot eyes. "We're taking you to safety. You're going to be all right, " he whispered softly, still caressing her cheek. The eyes slowly closed, but not before a tear escaped and left a trail down her cheek. Colonel Hogan's eyes remained riveted on the tear. Again, he lay his head back against the car seat. His eyes burned. His throat hurt. He tightened his hold on the young woman and closed his eyes. You are so young, he thought despairingly. We are all so very, very young!
An Eye For An Eye
Newkirk and Hogan carefully lay the young women on the makeshift beds lining the walls of the tunnel, conscious of the collective gasps from those around them.
Newkirk delicately wiped blood from the cut on his charge's face. After being so diligent in the way he handled her; so careful that he didn't unintentionally inflict more harm in the way he carried her, now he was scared that he was instrumental in causing the bleeding on her lacerations to begin anew. Alarmed, he brushed her light coloured hair away from her face, leaving his hand smeared in blood.
When he removed his jacket from around her and straightened her slip he found she was beginning to bleed from other lacerations as well. He looked up at Doc, distressed.
Doc put a blanket over Newkirk's young woman. "Once we tend to her, the bleeding will stop. Don't worry, son. You got her here, that's what's important. Go on now, let us do the rest."
Newkirk nodded slowly, then, quickly glancing at the Colonel laying the other young woman on a bed, left. Carter watched the Colonel, then Newkirk. He followed Newkirk. He still didn't know what to say.
Hogan laid his young woman on the bed and lost no time removing his jacket from around her and wrapping her snugly in the Stalag 13 regular issue blanket. He was certain he felt her shiver. Then he sat on the edge of the bed, grabbed the sponge left in the basin at the head of the bed, and began wiping the blood from her face. He so wanted her to open her eyes again. He needed to tell her she was safe.
"Her name is Celeste," Jeanine said behind him. He heard the anguish in Jeanine's voice. He didn't trust himself to face Jeanine, not just yet. His emotions were too raw, too close to the surface, and he needed just a little more time to get himself under some control. He continued wiping the blood gently from Celeste's face and neck. "Celeste," he muttered her name to himself.
Jeanine stood behind him, mesmerised by his actions. She wanted to do that. She wanted to be productive. To do something. She blinked back tears. "Celeste came to us a year ago. She was turned down after her psychological testing showed that she was difficult."
Hogan smiled. He could imagine that. He brushed Celeste's hair out of her face so he could wipe away more of the blood.
"It didn't deter her. She came to see me, and when I said I had to abide by my Commander's orders, she accosted him in the men's latrine and, as he embarrassingly relayed to me later, showed him how a woman can convince a man, any man, to divulge anything at all."
Hogan laughed. He stopped sponging and stared at the face before him. "She's got guts. When we found her, she had her arm protectively around the other young woman."
"Marie. Her partner in crime. The other thing she convinced my Commander to do was to allow Marie to be placed with her on this mission. During training Marie and Celeste became known as the reckless duo. They complemented each other in everything. It wasn't always according to regulations, but they got there and yes, I would expect Celeste to hold on to Marie. If it came to a matter of life and death, Celeste would sacrifice herself to save Marie."
"It did. It did come to a matter of life and death," he whispered almost to himself.
Doc joined them. "Jeanine, if you can tend to the other young woman, once I send our Colonel Hogan on his way, I can tend to this young woman." he said, standing directly before Hogan. "If it wasn't that your men need you in the barracks, I'd keep you down here." Doc explained to Hogan, then added, "Jeanine's going to help me here. Your men will need you. Go on. When I know something for sure, you'll all know. Ask Le Beau to make you something."
"I don't think his sleep concoction will do anything tonight," Colonel Hogan reluctantly admitted, gently taking Celeste's arm and sponging the blood away.
"So, you have discovered the secret to his after mission entrée?" Doc said smiling.
"My men come back from a mission all hyped with adrenaline and then sleep like babies after Le Beau passes them one of his concoctions. Yeah, I think I was warm to it a long time ago. How did you know about it, Doc?" he enquired, curious.
"Who do you think helped him perfect it?" Doc said, smugly.
"Ah, should have known."
Doc watched him then walked closer to the bed to adjust the blanket.
Suddenly he gasped at the severity of the injuries before him. He took the sponge from Hogan, rinsed it and purposefully cleaned some of the blood, fearful of what he was seeing. As the blood cleared and the injuries became more prominent, Hogan could hear Doc angrily muttering to himself.
He watched Doc throw the sponge in the basin and attempt to grab a handful of bandages that lay on the table. A pistol, hidden amongst the bandages, fell to the floor. Doc angrily picked it up.
"Everyone knows I'm a doctor," he declared, "and as Camp doctor my duty is to save lives no matter what, no matter who, but…" he motioned to the women, "that…. that is torture … and…inhuman!"
Doc threw the pistol on the table in disgust and grabbing the bandages, examined the wounds to Celeste.
Hogan stood back and watched both Jeanine and Doc. Doc was the only one mumbling angrily. From Jeanine, he occasionally heard a sound not unlike a small whimper.
"Go!" Doc called out to him. "I'll keep you posted."
Hogan stood there a little longer, reluctant to leave. Watching. Doc's mumbling was getting angrier and louder. Finally, Hogan left the man to his work. Doc would send word. He knew that. He also knew that the women were in the best hands, as so many of his men and himself could attest to from personal experience. He just felt so helpless, and waiting was one thing he never seemed to master, no matter what the situation. Finally, he quietly left, deciding to follow his Doc's orders and check on his men.
Newkirk and Carter sat around the common room table nursing their drinks, with Le Beau hovering protectively over them.
"Drink it." Le Beau ordered. "It will help you sleep."
Newkirk glared at him with hollow eyes. "How can one person do that?"
Carter remained quiet. He'd cocked his rifle in that farmhouse. He was going to pull the trigger and fire. He was going to shoot an old woman.
"I can smell it." Newkirk continued, staring at his clean hands. "The blood. They're just young girls." He looked at Le Beau, horror-stricken and asked, his voice trembling, "If he was so simple minded, how did he have a mind to do that? How did his mother condone that?"
Carter's head snapped up. He wanted to say something. He had to say something but again, he didn't know how.
Newkirk pushed the cup away from him and stood up. "I just wanted her to open her eyes, you know, for me to tell her it was going to be all right, you know? That no one's ever gonna do that to her again."
Le Beau remained silent. There was nothing he could say.
Newkirk left the table and threw himself on his bunk with his arm over his eyes. He didn't touch his drink.
Le Beau held Newkirk's drink and sat at the table with Carter. He was aware that Carter hadn't uttered a word since he'd arrived back.
Carter fidgeted then picked up his drink, raised it, only to put it down again. Le Beau sat silently watching him. Carter would say what he wanted to say when he found the words. Le Beau knew that. They sat quietly for quite a while and then, suddenly, Carter cleared his throat, took a gulp of his drink and said, "I had a grandmother once. She was old and always wore black, because of her grief, she would tell us. She died when I was just out of high school." He stared at Le Beau with reddened eyes. "I would have shot that old woman, Le Beau. When her son lunged at Newkirk, I would have shot her and her son without hesitation."
"Andrew, she was not a mother or a grandmother. She was le diable. They were running a torture chamber."
Carter blinked furiously then rose and said, "I'm going to bed. Good night, Louis."
"Good night, Andrew," Le Beau whispered.
Carter didn't change his clothes. He just threw himself on his bunk and clasping his hands beneath his head stared at the barracks ceiling. Le Beau glanced across from Newkirk to Carter. Neither one would get any sleep tonight or for many nights after. The demons of this mission had found a home.
Much later that evening, after endless basins of fresh water and metres of bandages and Doc barking orders at Jeanine, Doc again called out to her. "Take a break!"
"I don't need one!" she called back for the umpteenth time. She had just finished setting Marie's hand in a splint. All the fingers in the girl’s right hand were broken. With the Doc's help they were able to treat almost all the wounds. The internal ones were a different matter.
"You will! I want you alert when they awaken." Doc called back. Jeanine could see he was still tending to Celeste. .
"Will they?" she whispered to herself, completing the bandaging.
Doc heard her, "One hour. I want you back in one hour."
Jeanine rose from the bed and stood in front of Doc. "What difference does it make if I am here or if I take a break?"
Doc stopped his bandaging and looked at her. "We have tended to their wounds; we are keeping them warm. They will awaken and when they do, I need you here. When the pain from the injuries or worse still the memories of the torture awaken, I want you here with me."
Jeanine stared at him. He was right. She knew that. They were not out of danger yet, and if they did survive, they would have their own private hell to deal with. She stood staring at her Celeste and her Marie. She felt so helpless, so useless.
Jeanine abruptly turned and walked away, her stride lengthening in check with the anger building within her. She marched from one tunnel to the next, the walls identical from one to the next. Every muscle in her body was tense, angry, fighting for release. Suddenly she stopped in the middle of another similar tunnel. Her eyes burned; her head hurt. She lunged at the wall smashing her fists at it continuously until they bled. On and on she pounded, the emotions that she'd kept deep within her fighting for release. Then, just as suddenly, she collapsed on the floor and, burying her head in her hands, wept uncontrollably.
When the tears abated and all her energies were depleted, Jeanine stood on shaky legs and looked at her hands. They stung. The small lacerations would be covered in bruises tomorrow. She wiped them roughly down the sides of her overalls then stopped when she felt the pistol in her pocket. She'd placed it there earlier when she noticed Doc take it. She didn't know what to do with it; maybe she just wasn't that comfortable with Doc handling it.
No, she thought to herself, Doc was not the type of man to handle a pistol, under any circumstances. His path in life was to save lives and she believed he would do all in his power to save Celeste and Marie. This pistol was for her and for one thing that up until now she'd shelved. This pistol was going to come in very handy for what she needed to do. She looked around her. All she had to do was remember the way she was escorted into these tunnels and retrace her steps.
Some time later Jeanine walked confidently down a set of cold uninviting corridors. She was pleased it was cold. It proved she was in the right place.
Finding the keys, conveniently hanging on a hook in a secluded area, she opened each cell door.
She had two cells left. She opened one and stepped inside. Light from the corridor let her see in the room . When her eyes adjusted to the dimness, she saw a figure lying huddled against the wall in the far corner. Immediately, she could feel the adrenaline pumping through her veins.
"You escaped? From Gestapo?" Stratford cried out, shocked. He was trembling from the cold. She smiled contentedly. Of course he'd be cold. He gave his jacket and hers to Major Overmier.
"Did I? You tell me," she asked calmly.
He rose, vigorously rubbing his arms then turned and walked quickly to the cell door.
"I wouldn't!" she threatened pointing the pistol at him.
"You crazy or something? Girl, do you know that pointing a loaded weapon at a superior officer could get you court martialled? What's wrong with you?" he asked, continuing on to the door.
Jeanine fired, deliberately hitting his lower leg. Stratford fell to his knees screaming. "That's not a gash, Captain Alan Stratford. I'd say it went through bone." Then she turned to leave.
"Hey! You can't leave me here! You shot me!" he yelled after her.
As she closed the cell door she called back to him, "I'd let it bleed if I were you. You never know, when these Germans get a hold of you…"
She slammed the door shut, locked it and contently walked back down the corridors to the tunnel. Her hands began to sting again. She'd just tell doc she couldn't make her way in the tunnels and fell, or maybe she wouldn't tell him anything. In any event, Doc was right, the break did her good.
Corporal Martin Taylor burst into barracks two, "Schultz - heading for the cooler," he warned Le Beau.
"Now?" Le Beau asked concerned, "why?"
Taylor shrugged his shoulders. "Should I look for the Colonel?"
"He has enough to worry about." Le Beau looked at the bunks where Carter and Newkirk were finally sleeping. "They all have." Suddenly, he spied his coffee pot. Of course, he could always offer Schultz a cup of coffee – or two…
Taylor watched, stunned, as Le Beau gingerly walked out of the barracks into the night carrying a cup in one hand and a coffee pot in the other and ever so quietly calling out to Schultz.
"You're going to get yourself killed!" Taylor called out to him from the safety of the barracks door.
"So, tell me something I don't already know!" Le Beau whispered back.
Juggling a coffee pot, cup and the searchlights was making Le Beau exhausted. "Schultz!" he called out as he neared the cooler. "Schultz!" he called again.
Schultz stood with his ear pressed against the main entrance of the cooler. At first he was certain he heard gun fire, only once, and now he could hear his name being called.
"Schultz!" His name was being used again, but this time there was a touch of urgency in the voice. He pressed his ear closer to the door.
"Schultz!" Behind him! It sounded like it was coming from behind him.
Le Beau patted him on the back whispering, "Schultz."
Schultz jumped, then swung his rifle in front as he turned around.
Le Beau ducked.
"Halt!" Schultz yelled into the darkness. "Halt! Or I will shoot!" The rifle shook uncontrollably in his hands.
"Schultz. It's me!" Le Beau whispered from his crouched position at Schultz's feet.
Schultz looked down. "What are you doing here!" he demanded startled "You should not be out! I will tell Colonel Hogan about this!"
"I brought you some coffee," Le Beau quickly explained, slowly rising. "You know how you always say that no one makes coffee like I do. Have a heart, Schultz, I was only concerned that you might fall asleep and then what would Kommandant Klink say?"
"You should not be out at night!" Schultz repeated, a little softer, touched by his concern.
"Then you don't want any?" Le Beau asked, pouring a cup and holding it up to him-- close enough for him to savour the aroma.
Schultz took one deep lingering breath. "Mmmmm." then he pulled himself up and said "No! First… First I have to perform my duty. Then, I will accept your coffee."
"What duty can't be performed better with a strong cup of coffee?" Le Beau asked.
"Le Beau, please." Schultz begged, leaning closer to where Le Beau was holding the cup. "Mmmmmm," he closed his eyes momentarily. "What a wonderful… No. Le Beau, you are distracting me! I have to find out what the noise was."
"What noise?" Le Beau asked, genuinely concerned.
"Gun fire." Schultz said smugly. He touched his ears. "I have very good hearing. Everyone tells me that."
"See! You do need your coffee. Now you're beginning to daydream – at night." He put the cup in Schultz's hands.
"Danke," Schultz said, taking large gulps. Le Beau cringed. Coffee was not supposed to be gulped! "I do not daydream." Schultz finally protested handing the cup to Le Beau and motioning for him to fill it up again.
"No? Has anyone been sent to the cooler that you know of?" Le Beau asked.
"No," he mumbled into his cup, in between gulps.
"Totally empty – as far as you know." Le Beau added.
Schultz nodded, draining the last of the second cup of coffee.
Le Beau stared unbelievably, then asked quickly, "So who's making the noise you believe you heard?"
Schultz stared over the rim of the drained coffee cup at Le Beau.
"I'd be careful if I were you. Hearing things. If you tell Kommandant Klink you inspected the cooler because you heard a noise – a noise that nobody else heard - even if you do have great hearing…" Le Beau improvised quickly.
Now Schultz was confused and a little more tired than before. "Maybe I did not hear a noise like gun fire. Maybe I did not hear a noise at all."
Le Beau retrieved his cup. "It's the late nights, Schultz. When we least expect it, we start seeing and hearing things."
"I did not say I saw anything! I see nothing! Le Beau, please – please go back to the barracks. It was very nice of you to bring me the coffee but now I must take you back to your barracks."
"Whatever you say, Schultz." Le Beau agreed, alongside him.
"I do not see things!" he repeated on their journey back. "I see nothing! I see nothing!"
Le Beau opened the barracks door a little then whispered, "I'd invite you in but, you've already had your coffee…"
Schultz walked away in the opposite direction to the cooler, "Always a jolly joker…" he muttered.
Taylor was anxiously awaiting Le Beau's return. "What's to stop him going back later tonight?" he asked Le Beau.
"The coffee." Le Beau said very pleased with himself.
Taylor looked at him dumbfounded.
Le Beau checked his watch then opened the barracks door a little and motioned for Taylor to join him. He pointed in the direction they had just seen Schultz walk. Then, with the aid of the circling spotlight they saw Schultz seated against the far barracks wall, fast asleep.
"Its an old family recipe." Le Beau whispered contentedly; "been in my family for generations."
Later that evening, Corporal Louis Le Beau waited patiently at the common room table in the barracks for his Colonel. When he saw the bunk rise and the tunnel entrance open he retrieved the refreshed coffee pot from the old stove and immediately filled a cup with his own homemade brew, just for the Colonel.
Hogan stumbled out of the tunnel entrance, but before he could decide whether to sit at the table or go to his office, Le Beau shoved the cup in his hands.
"Drink!" Le Beau demanded, shocked at his Colonel's dishevelled appearance and the hollowness evident in his eyes. "Please…" he begged, softly.
"Only if it's unadulterated," he said, touched by Le Beau's concern.
Le Beau stared at him stunned. "Would I do something like that?"
"Only with my best interests at heart. However, I'm not inviting sleep tonight. There are things I have to do," he said as he returned the cup to the Corporal and made his way to his office.
Once inside, he immediately opened his window and peered out. He could hear the distant bombings, interwoven with systematic flashings of light in the night sky. It had begun. He silently prayed one particular farmhouse had a direct and destructive hit. If not, he'd personally stage his own offensive.
Le Beau knocked and entered, promptly handing him another cup. Hogan looked at him suspiciously. "It's coffee," Le Beau protested, "I promise! And I promise you won't sleep. That coffee is so strong, I don't know how you drink it!"
"Thanks, Louis. You’d better get some sleep. I don't know what tomorrow's going to bring."
"Do we ever?" Le Beau asked, taking his leave
Hogan took a sip then put it down and lit a cigarette. Taking a slow drawn-out puff, he stared out at the darkness.
Then she came to mind. Celeste. Jeanine said her name was Celeste. She had been so cold. He had felt her shiver. He could feel the trembling in his arms, now, standing alone, just him and the shadows. She had looked at him-- at him. He recalled his elation when she opened her eyes and his anguish when he saw the horror reflected within them.
When he spoke to her, to reassure her that she was safe, her relief was palpable.
He angrily threw his unfinished cigarette out the window then stared at the small bruises appearing on the knuckles of his right hand, a physical reminder of the punch he gave one traitorous Captain Alan Stratford.
He had unfinished business!
In no time, Colonel Hogan reached his intended destination in the cooler. He removed the pistol attached to the German issue belt he still wore and held it comfortably in his hand. Taking the appropriate key, he opened the cell door and entered.
Captain Alan Stratford was crouched in a corner of the room trying to tie a belt around a bloody leg.
"For God's sake, don't just stand there! Get me some help! Can't you bloody well see I've been shot!" screamed Captain Stratford hunched over his leg.
"I'd say whoever did it was sloppy!" Hogan criticised.
Stratford's head shot up in surprise. "Major!"
Hogan drew closer to the Captain, fully aware that he still wore his German uniform.
"This is how you repay me? Leave me in this hellhole? Do you have any idea how important I am to you?" Stratford declared.
Hogan raised the pistol and aimed it directly at Stratford's chest.
Stratford froze. "You need me! Look … look, Major… I can give you the names of operatives that London still hasn't despatched!" he stammered. "You need me!"
Actions Of The One
In the tunnel directly beneath their barracks, Colonel Hogan joined his second in command Sergeant James Kinchloe at the radio.
Kinch looked up from his repetitive transmission. The Colonel's dishevelled appearance and exhausted expression alarmed him, but not more so than the unlatched pistol holder he was still wearing
Keeping his own counsel for the time being, he cautiously observed his Colonel. No one more than he knew the Colonel well, and now, at this very moment, his Colonel was going through his own personal struggle. He could ask, or he could watch. Hogan removed his belt and threw it on the table next to the transmitter. "Are we still on radio silence?" Hogan asked.
"Yeah. Been trying every hour, still nothing."
Hogan looked at him solemnly. "Make it every fifteen minutes. We need to get those young women home. There's only so much Doc can do."
"Do you want me to call you when I get through?"
"No. Just ask them to send a sub to pick up three fragile packages. Top Priority. You can get back to me when they give you a definite pick up time."
"Yes sir." Kinch agreed, taking down a quick note. "What about…" but when Kinch looked up, Hogan was already on his way out of the tunnel.
"Soak your hands!" Doc scolded Jeanine when she returned, well after the allowed hour. "We have work to do!"
Jeanine knew that. She quickly soaked her hands, bruised from the banging she gave them, and went to work, following one order after another. There were times she wanted to inform the good doctor that she was never trained as a nurse, and there were times, watching him work, that she felt privileged to lend a hand.
Secretly, she hoped that once the wounds were tended to, that, somehow, her women would awaken and everything would be all right. She worked and watched and waited, but unfortunately, her girls didn't move.
It was in the early hours of the morning that Jeanine was jarred awake by an ear-piercing scream, when Celeste sat bolt upright and screamed uncontrollably. Briefly shaken, Jeanine staggered, then held her, soothingly repeating over and over that she was safe. When sleep claimed Celeste, Jeanine stood, visibly distressed and, swallowing the lump in her throat, stepped further aside as Doc, for the umpteenth time that night, attended to Celeste.
No more than an hour later, a pain-filled cry not unlike howling filled the tunnel, to be reduced much later to whimpering.
Jeanine hugged herself at the obvious torment in the whimpering; the suffering. She was so sorry they went through this. Angrily, she stared at all before her, in this makeshift infirmary. This very tunnel was becoming claustrophobic.
She wanted out. More than anything, now, immediately, she wanted out.
Hastily she sought out a secluded area further down the tunnel and roughly threw herself to the ground, hugging her knees protectively.
Months ago she was training her women in the special operations division of their London office. Months ago, all she was concerned about was that these women were armed with enough knowledge to protect themselves.
She didn't prepare them to deal with the monstrosity they met here! She wasn't even prepared for this.
All she wanted to do was get them home. All she wanted to do was go home.
Hogan glimpsed a small huddled form in the far side of the tunnel. When he made out Jeanine, huddled over her knees, he quietly joined her.
Jeanine watched as Colonel Hogan awkwardly sat beside her. "I'm really not very good company at the moment, Colonel."
When he joined her, Hogan made out the shape of the pistol in her pocket.
"Neither am I."
Jeanine looked at him curiously. She wasn't going to apologise to him for shooting Stratford in the leg. She wasn't going to deny it either. He looked as tired as she felt. She wasn't going to bring it up.
"Ever heard of Finder's Keepers? My place," she said, patting the dirt beneath her.
He made himself more comfortable. "Once we get radio contact established with London, we'll get a sub organised and you and your girls can go home."
Jeanine nodded. He only said she and her girls. What about Stratford? She only shot him in the leg, for goodness sake.
"Usually, they can get one to us within twenty-four hours. We'll have you home soon. Promise."
She ran her hands nervously up and down her face. Twenty four hours.
He kept staring at her, with genuine concern. It almost made her feel guilty. "I – I needed a break. For a moment there… for a moment, I thought Celeste was coming out of it, you know, waking up, but she just screams and … and Marie… Marie hasn't moved since you brought her in here. If not for Doc repeating constantly that she's … you know… breathing…." She blinked furiously. "I … I don't know how to deal with this."
"Never covered it in training, huh?" he joked softly.
She shook her head then feeling nothing but absolute exhaustion, lay her head on her knees and closed her eyes.
"How much sleep have you had?" he asked, concerned. When she didn't answer him, Colonel Hogan put his arm round Jeanine's shoulders and hugged her to him.
"Get some sleep, Bruyere. I won't be needed for at least another two hours."
She did, and, remarkably, so did he.
In the morning, like clockwork, Sergeant Schultz barged into Barracks Two yelling, "Achtung! Achtung! Everybody out for roll call! Raus! Raus! Up, up, up!"
"I'd really love to Raus 'im this morning, I swear!" Newkirk groaned.
"Might have something to do with the amount of coffee he drank last night!" Corporal Martin Taylor whispered to Le Beau.
Le Beau stared at him uncomfortably, "And I suppose you had a better plan?"
Carter knocked on Hogan's door. "Roll call, Colonel Hogan," but was met with no answer. When he opened the door, there was no one inside. "He's not here," Carter exclaimed, surprised.
"Out!" Schultz yelled again, prodding everyone with his rifle.
Before anyone could comment, the barracks door opened and Hogan marched in, all rugged up in his leather jacket. "Come on, Schultz, what's the delay? You know how Klink hates to be kept waiting!"
"Colonel Hogan! It's your men. Please, Colonel Hogan. Please control your men," Schultz begged
"Come on, men. Mustn't keep the Kommandant waiting." Hogan cheerfully announced.
"Thank you, Colonel Hogan," Schultz said relieved, marching out of the barracks with the men. "Danke, danke…"
Hugging themselves against the biting cold, the men reluctantly stood in their usual formation of two lines outside their barracks, waiting for Schultz to finish his counting. It was the normal time for roll call at Stalag 13, however, it was not the normal time for a staff car to drive through the compound to Kommandant Klink's office.
"That could only be one person," Hogan muttered, standing in line with his men.
"Our very own General Burkhalter." Newkirk added.
"Do you think it has something to do with the bombings?" Carter asked innocently.
Newkirk stared at him dumbfounded. "Now what do you think?"
It didn't deter Carter from answering, "Social call on the Kommandant?"
General Burkhalter stood by the staff car, waiting for Klink to formally greet him. Hogan and his men watched the obvious display of grovelling from their Kommandant and abject superiority from the General. As they both walked towards the men, Hogan could hear Kommandant Klink boast of the efficiency of the guards in getting the men to roll call and what an honour his presence was to all here. Yep, Hogan thought to himself, Klink was turning grovelling into a fine art.
"Hogan, General Burkhalter would like to say a few words to your men," Klink advised, quite formally.
"I object, Kommandant. Anything the General says makes my men very upset and I can't let that happen, so if the General has anything to say, I'd rather he just said it to me."
"Scared, Colonel Hogan, that what I might say may be damaging to the morale of your men?" General Burkhalter asked proudly, perking himself up as he spoke.
"Isn't it always? You know, you Germans don't play very fair. We don't go around saying all the things we think about you and Kommandant Klink to your faces, now do we?"
The men burst into spontaneous laughter, made all the more enjoyable by Klink's embarrassment.
"Hogan! Control your men!" Klink demanded raising a fist at the men themselves.
"Hogan! Regardless of what you may think, I will address your men!" Burkhalter spat out, obviously insulted.
"Yeah, well, when you start hearing what we have to say about … you know… well, don't say I didn't warn you!"
Klink joined Colonel Hogan, hoping to understand a little more clearly what he was talking about. He was now so confused, he didn't know what either Colonel Hogan or General Burkhalter were talking about.
"Hogan!" Klink drew out.
"Leave it, Klink. This does not concern you!" General Burkhalter turned to the men, holding himself up so that his ample girth showed the men before him that there was no way a man of his poundage could see his shoes. They silently teased one another until Colonel Hogan motioned for them to quiet. He wanted to hear this anyway.
"Last night, American bombers…" General Burkhalter began.
"Ah, English, General…" Newkirk corrected.
"The Allies…" he continued, deliberately glaring at Newkirk, "saw fit to bomb innocent farmhouses in our fair land." He began pacing backwards and forwards in front of the prisoners as he spoke. "As prisoners of war, you will be anxious for any news on how the war is progressing." He stopped in front of Le Beau and deliberately stared down at him in an intimidating manner. "Of course, you would like us to lose…" Before Le Beau could speak, Hogan motioned for him to remain silent. Burkhalter resumed his pacing, occasionally glaring at Klink when he was in his way. "It is your own Allies who are letting you down by bombing useless targets with very, very expensive bombs and manpower." He returned back to stand before Newkirk but did not stop talking. "We in Germany, value our weaponry highly – that is why we will win this war."
Newkirk raised his hand and was ready to say something when Hogan immediately interrupted. "General. Is this what you want to tell my men, that we're losing and you're winning all because our boys hit some of your farms?" Hogan asked, genuinely curious but not by the speech.
"Yes, Colonel Hogan. Is it not such good news?" Burkhalter still stood staring at Newkirk. He was baiting him. Hogan knew it, he was hoping Newkirk did too.
"Depends on how you look at it." Hogan said, then quickly glanced at his men and added, "Just means that Hitler's going to have to shop elsewhere for his fresh juice in the morning!"
Everyone started laughing on cue.
General Burkhalter stood astonished by their behaviour. The speech was deliberately given to upset the morale of these men, instead he found himself as their obvious source of entertainment. This was not how he had envisaged this morning. "Klink! Dismiss these men."
"Yes General. Hogan, you and your men are dismissed."
In amongst the ruckus Newkirk, Le Beau, Carter and Kinch joined their Colonel. Something didn't sit right with Newkirk, however, "How could they not know what was stored there? There was enough ammo in one farm to start another war!"
"One hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing," Hogan muttered, almost to himself.
"Gestapo?" Le Beau whispered.
"It wouldn't be the first time they've tried to run their own show." Newkirk added.
Suddenly the General's own sentry raced across the compound shouting, "General, there is a man in the cooler..."
"Of course there is a man in the cooler, that's why it is there," he admonished.
"But, General, he has been shot," the sentry informed the General when he reached him.
General Burkhalter and Kommandant Klink immediately made their way to the cooler, amidst Klink's protests of, "I assure you General, no one is ever shot at Stalag 13…"
"What the hell was that sentry doing in the cooler? I didn't even see him go in," Newkirk said to no one in particular.
"He's Burkhalter's little stool pigeon. This is definitely a surprise visit and it wasn't to boost things up. I think our General suspects what we do, that someone is setting up their own little weapons cache." Hogan uncomfortably watched the commotion at the cooler entrance.
"And he thinks Klink's in on it?" Kinch asked, restless.
"No. Klink's just convenient. However, we may have just given him Klink's head on a platter," Hogan admitted nervously.
"Yeah, well, we're in a fine mess now aren't we?" Newkirk concluded, rubbing his arms for warmth and in obvious distress.
"We definitely are," Hogan admitted. "Gentlemen, we most definitely are."
One Captain - One Major
Hogan watched the mounting commotion outside the cooler. Where one guard entered, another would leave. He didn't miss the German doctor making his entrance either.
"All we 'ave to do is stay out of sight." Newkirk offered, now opting to thrust his hands in his pockets to ward off the morning chill and his ever-growing anxiety.
"Unfortunately, if I don't make a show, Klink is going to wonder why," Hogan stated.
"Stratford will point you out the first chance he gets, Colonel," Kinch quietly reminded him.
"I'm certain of that. Our Captain Stratford will definitely do anything to cover his back." Hogan zipped up his jacket, took a deep breath and marched to the cooler. "Better to face the devil you know…"
"We should 've shot him," Newkirk stated, watching his Colonel make his way to the cooler.
"He is shot," Le Beau said, "You heard the guards."
"Well don't look at me!" Newkirk said defensively, "I said we should 'ave. I didn't say I did." He looked suspiciously at Carter
"Well, I didn't. I mean I know I may have wanted to, but I didn't," Carter stated.
Corporal Louis Le Beau, Sergeant Andrew Carter, RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk and Sergeant James Kinchloe all simultaneously turned towards the cooler, watching the Colonel approach the sentry on guard. They then stared at one another, puzzled. Finally Newkirk loudly exclaimed, "Nuh….", joined by unanimous sighs of relief and sleeve slapping as they attempted to ward off the morning frost.
"I assure you, General, I have never seen this man before," Klink declared staring at the half conscious man leaning against the wall of the cell.
Burkhalter approached a semi conscious Captain Stratford. "I think I know that, Klink." He loomed over him, effectively blocking all the light filtering in from the corridor. "What is your name?" he demanded.
Captain Alan Stratford looked up. He blinked furiously. His vision was blurring. The pain from the wound was now reduced to an annoying throbbing, but his eyesight and hearing was being affected. It was bad enough he couldn't see very well in the poorly lit cell he was in, now all he could see was a massive bulk standing before him bellowing. The German accent was so thick, he didn't immediately understand the question. Stratford leaned his head back. He was exhausted. He knew he was losing too much blood.
"I need help," he muttered, almost to himself.
"We know that," General Burkhalter admitted. "Klink, get the staff doctor here immediately."
"He's here, General," Klink said, trying to get closer but not able to see anything.
The doctor effectively made his way to stand beside the General but didn't do anything until the General nodded.
"How did you get shot?" Burkhalter demanded.
Stratford laughed. "Don't talk to each other much, do you?" The cold, combined with the loss of blood, were not helping his concentration any. "You know, if you want to know more, I'd say you deal with my bullet wound. Once you take care of that little problem for me, I'll tell you anything you want to know."
"As you can see we are tending to your bullet wound. What I want to know is how you came to be here?" Burkhalter asked again, impatiently.
Stratford watched a small man crouch beside him and expertly begin examining his wound. Well, this brass was keeping his promise. "Ask your Gestapo," he finally stated.
"I knew it!" Klink exclaimed, effectively shouting in Burkhalter's ear. "And in my cooler!"
"Shut up, Klink. It could be in your very office and you wouldn't know it!" Burkhalter stared at the wound, then watched as the man before him struggled to keep his eyes open. "We shall speak again later."
Hogan tried to get past General Burkhalter's sentry close to the cell, but the sentry blocked him with his rifle. He yelled out, "Kommandant, as head of the camp, I have a right to be here and make sure that this man is getting everything he deserves!"
Captain Stratford's head shot up. He knew the voice. The accent was not all there, but the voice was unmistakable.
Klink joined the sentry and addressed Hogan from over the sentry's shoulder. "Hogan, later. First we deal with the bullet wound and later you can see him. Dissssssssmissed!"
Stratford smiled to himself.
The doctor prodded his wound. Stratford had time for only one fleeting thought before welcoming oblivion; how difficult Major Overmier's life was going to become when he reported to these brass what Overmier should already have passed on.
Colonel Hogan joined his men at the table in the centre of their Barracks.
"Why can't we use the tunnel in the cooler?" Newkirk asked, smoking his second cigarette in the hour.
"Stratford is going to snitch no matter what we say. What I'm concerned about is how much information he does have," Hogan said, concerned.
"And once he sees the Colonel, he's sure to tell Klink about the uniforms," Carter mentioned.
Newkirk stared at him. "What are you talking about?"
"The uniforms. What's to stop him telling Klink we were wearing German uniforms?"
"Stratford thinks we are German!" Newkirk admonished flicking his hat at Carter.
"He does, doesn't he?" Hogan agreed, sounding a little more positive. "Our Captain Stratford has only seen the inside of the cooler and only dealt with his captors, basically, two German guards and one Gestapo Major. What's to say he doesn't become a little paranoid when he sees Major Overmier as an American?"
"What's to say we don't all find ourselves in front of the firing squad!" Newkirk added sarcastically.
"Stratford has just been taken to Klink's office," Le Beau informed them all.
"That's my cue." Hogan said, quickly joining Le Beau. Then, as an afterthought he turned to his men, and clearly ordered, "Stand ready. Anything goes wrong in there, I want you all out," and he left.
Newkirk stubbed out his cigarette and swore, "Ruddy Hell!"
In his office, Klink collapsed in his chair. He felt like he’d been on his feet all day, following the General from one inspection to the next, killing time while the prisoner was being tended to. He could not recall this person being processed. He never saw him. He certainly didn't send him to the cooler. He would have known if he had sent someone to the cooler. This was not good. General Burkhalter could question his competency because of this. He did not know this man!
General Burkhalter burst into Klink's office unannounced and, after pouring himself a generous glass of schnapps, made himself comfortable in the rather large chair he'd spied across from Klink's desk.
"So, you have found a comfortable piece of furniture to add to your dreary office, Klink," General Burkhalter stated, sitting back and savouring his schnapps.
"Of course, General. When you mentioned the condition of some of my furniture on your last visit, I thought it prudent to overhaul what I could. The chair you will find…"
"Shut up, Klink!" General Burkhalter demanded. "I did not ask you why. I was making an observation, and the other observation that I am making at this present time is that you had no idea whatsoever what was happening under your very nose."
"General, I assure you, my guards check the cooler every day and every night. I am as surprised as you are about all this, believe me, General." Klink explained. "Schultz, just bring him in," Klink called out when he heard the banging at the door.
Burkhalter and Klink watched as Schultz brought in their new prisoner. "Please, sit down." Burkhalter motioned to the chair across from him.
Still feverish, Stratford was pleased to be able to take a seat, unstable as he was. He stared at the large man before him. In his cell he could barely make him out, now seeing him in the light, Stratford observed that he was some sort of brass; some General.
"Now," Burkhalter began, "we have been courteous in providing our half of the bargain. You, in turn, must now provide your half. Your name please."
"United States Army Air Corps Captain Alan Stratford," he recited.
"An American officer. I knew it!" Klink exclaimed.
"Shut up Klink!" Burkhalter yelled, then turned back to Stratford. "What were you doing in the cooler?"
Stratford took a deep breath and sat back on the chair. He spied the alcoholic drink on the dresser against the wall. "I could use a drink," he begged.
"Klink! Get the man a drink," General Burkhalter's ordered.
Klink reluctantly measured some of his schnapps into a glass and handed it to Stratford, who immediately sculled it in one fluid motion then returned the glass to a shocked Kommandant Klink.
At the same time, Hogan barged in. "General, under the rules of the Geneva Convention, an officer must be present during any interrogation and as senior officer of this camp…"
"Hogan, we are not interrogating him. We merely want to know who he is. Klink, tell him," General Burkhalter quickly relayed. He wanted to hurry up with the discussion.
"And he can tell you that, sir, but no more." Hogan looked directly at Stratford who for the last few minutes stared at him confused, yet not surprised. "Name, rank and serial number, that's all you have to give," Hogan informed him.
Stratford lounged back in the chair languorously surveying the scene before him. Finally he sniggered, "What do you think I am?" He sat forward, staring directly at the General stating, "I'm in Intelligence. I know how this works," he continued, making his way towards Hogan. "You think you can fool me?"
Before Hogan knew what was happening, Stratford had pulled off the Colonel’s Army Air Force Pilot Sterling Silver Wings Pin from just above the left breast pocket of his shirt. "Don't seem to have much of an intelligence unit. Trying to pass yourself off as an Allied officer? These are American Army Air Corps Pilot wings; something I don't believe a Gestapo Major could have earned."
Klink couldn’t believe what he'd just witnessed. Hogan didn't respond to the clear insubordination; however, Klink did.
Klink was indignant that an officer of Hogan's rank could be treated in such a manner in the very presence of the enemy. Colonel Hogan commanded respect, if not for himself, then for the uniform he wore. As members of military regimes, it shocked Klink that Colonel Hogan was not reacting to this blatant insubordination.
"Captain, Colonel Hogan is the senior officer in charge of this camp," Klink emphasised. He had never seen anyone do such a thing to Hogan. He quickly made his way to Hogan's side. "Believe me." He stared at Stratford. "We have not contacted the Gestapo. This is merely a discussion to ascertain why you were in our cooler."
Klink could not mistake the contempt etched in the Captain's Stratford's face. He knew these two men did not like each other, and yet they had just met… hadn’t they? "Captain, it is common practice for Colonel Hogan to be present when a prisoner is brought in for processing. You would do well to heed his advice!"
"Klink! Sit down and shut up!" General Burkhalter demanded. He was enjoying the definite display of insubordination.
Klink resumed his place behind his desk but was decidedly uncomfortable by the display before him. The prisoner Stratford still did not take his seat!
Stratford pocketed the silver wings then smirked, "I gave you a chance to make your career. You should have killed me when you had the chance."
Hogan watched him pocket his wings with disgust, yet remained silent.
Stratford laughed at him, then turned to the others. "Gentlemen, as I was about to inform you, I was taken by guards and locked up in the very cell you found me in. I was detained by the Gestapo and during that time passed on all the information I had of a strike offensive set up by London. The rest is, as you would say, history."
"Why would the Gestapo interrogate you in my cooler?" Klink asked confused.
"Shut up, Klink. Did this Gestapo go by the name of Major Hochstetter?"
Stratford turned to Hogan, pleased with himself. "His name was Major Overmier."
"My cooler!" Klink exclaimed. "They carried on their secret interrogations in my cooler!"
"Klink! Get Gestapo Headquarters on the line," General Burkhalter ordered.
Hogan marched out. Stratford watched, wholly self satisfied, then walked to the cabinet across the room and poured himself another drink.
It didn't take Hogan long to decide what to do about Stratford. When the call was put through to Gestapo Headquarters, he knew he couldn't risk leaving him around much longer. The comment he made about Intelligence would be enough for the Gestapo to detain him indefinitely and even if he had the most basic level of security in Intelligence, it would be too risky to let the Gestapo have it. He had to get him out and it looked like sending him back to London was the only way to go.
"Message from London, sir," Kinch said, handing Hogan the message he'd just deciphered.
"Okay, they're ready for us," Hogan informed his men. "We move out tonight. Kinch, inform Doc. Newkirk, I want you and Carter to spring Stratford from the cooler."
"You must be joking!" Newkirk exclaimed
"Gestapo will be here tomorrow morning. We can't risk him mouthing off, whatever it is."
"How are we supposed to spring 'im? What if he won't come?" Newkirk complained, confused.
"I didn't say you had to ask his permission!" Hogan said sarcastically.
"Schultz and one of General Burkhalter's guards are on cooler patrol tonight," Carter informed them.
"Le Beau. You take care of the guards, then join us in the tunnel."
"Oui, Colonel," Le Beau said, immediately rising to brew more of his concoction.
Later that night, preparations were well underway for the departure. Newkirk and Carter rushed in with a confused Captain Stratford between them. Once in the tunnel, Newkirk left Carter to guard Stratford and joined Jeanine at Marie's bedside.
Hogan, dressed in full black like the other men in his group, approached the Captain. He immediately reached into Stratford's top shirt pocket and retrieved his silver wings. "These were earned!" Hogan spat out contemptuously, then joined Doc.
Carter was stunned. When Colonel Hogan returned abruptly from Kommandant Klink's office and demanded that the Captain be aided to return to London, they all suspected that it was for security reasons. Now, noting the bitterness in the Colonel's voice, and watching him retrieve his own wings from the Captain's pocket, Carter understood implicitly. The Captain had taken the Colonel's wings!
Carter looked around, anxious about what he had just witnessed, but everyone was busy getting ready to move out. He watched as his Colonel pocketed his wings and walked away towards the Doc. Without realising it, Carter had raised his rifle, effectively covering the Captain.
Captain Stratford deliberately ignored Carter and surveyed all before him, attempting to shrug off what had just transpired.
Doc held Celeste in his arms, ready to hand her over to Colonel Hogan. As he lay her in the Colonel's arms he adjusted the blanket he had around her. "Careful. She may scream out. Her nightmare, you know."
"I know. Thank you," Hogan muttered. He had heard the screaming. It was not something he was going to forget.
Doc then made his way to Marie's bedside. Newkirk was seated next to her, holding her hand and whispering. Doc sympathetically rested his hand on his shoulder. Newkirk looked up at him solemnly. "I was hoping she'd wake up. Just long enough for me to tell her she's safe."
Doc squeezed his shoulder. "I believe she knows that, son. Now, let’s get her home."
Newkirk stood and waited until Doc wrapped her in the blanket and then lay her in his arms. "Be careful," he said.
Newkirk nodded and tightened his hold.
"Let's make a move," Hogan urgently called out and began moving down the tunnel.
Stratford who had watched the entire preparation, sniggered "All this trouble for some dames who'd probably never make it home anyway!" he spat out. But when he turned around an almighty force slammed into his chin, sending him flying across the tunnel floor with a thump on the dirt floor. Coughing and sputtering dirt, Stratford tried to get up, unsure what had just happened. He leaned heavily on his elbow, still coughing up dirt. The room was spinning and he tasted blood.
"We have to go, sir," Carter said, pointing his rifle at a sprawled Stratford.
Stratford raised his hand for Carter to help him up. Carter hesitated, then looked up to see the group already a few feet away from him and reluctantly took his hand and pulled him up.
Doc shoved his fist in the always ready basin of water on the small table near the bed. It hurt like hell, yet felt rewardingly satisfying.
The group made their way to the designated area. Aside from the minimal light of their torches, they were enveloped in total darkness and silence.
Colonel Hogan allowed his men to lead the way and dropped back. He watched the way Carter stood guard over Stratford all during their hike. He knew Carter would not kill him. Stratford did not. Stratford would not risk being shot or killed. Hogan was certain he was already planning his defence for London. He wouldn't be too surprised if London informed him that Stratford got off being charged. Then again, there was always Jeanine. She walked ahead beside Le Beau and Martin, in the lead. That definitely did not surprise him. He was pleased she would be going home, and he was sorry. Newkirk walked behind Carter. Hogan knew that was Newkirk's way of showing the young Sergeant he was there if needed.
Celeste moaned. Hogan uncomfortably put his hand softly over her mouth.
They reached a small clearing surrounded by thick bushes. Again, Hogan was pleased it was pitch black.
Hogan motioned to Le Beau. Le Beau removed his flashlight and flicked it on and off a number of times, stopped, then repeated the process. Movement began in the bushes around them and suddenly four figures also in total black stepped into their line of vision.
"Papa Bear?" one asked, staring from one member of the group to another.
"Yeah." Hogan muttered, making his way to the front.
"Here to relieve you of your packages, sir."
A second man stepped out of the shadows and extended his arms towards Hogan. Reluctantly, Hogan lay Celeste in them. "Careful, she may scream out."
"Yes sir," this young man said, holding her securely.
A third man made his way towards Newkirk. Newkirk saw him coming. He even saw him extend his arms. He just wasn't ready yet. He tightened his grip on Marie. Hogan joined him and gently squeezed his shoulder. Newkirk lay Marie in the man's arms, then tucked the blanket securely around her. "She gets cold easily," he explained.
"We'll take care of her, sir," the man said softly.
Carter prodded Stratford.
The fourth man of the team noticed the action and approached them. "Captain Alan Stratford?"
"Yeah." Stratford muttered, again glaring at Carter.
This fourth man drew his gun and aimed it clearly at him. "Please follow me, sir."
Startled, Stratford looked at Hogan. Hogan wasn't surprised. London may have suspected him all along. Maybe the good Captain wasn't going to get away with it as easily as he'd thought.
Jeanine took a deep breath and adjusted her jacket, "This is where we part company, Colonel," she said, quietly
"You'll be home soon, Jeanine," Hogan said, relieved.
The first man that met them approached Jeanine and handed her an envelope. "Miss Bruyere, the Commander said you'd need this."
"Thank you," Jeanine said softly.
"Sir." He nodded to Colonel Hogan then motioned to his team to make tracks.
Jeanine looked at Colonel Hogan. "Its important I find their transmitter and the group they were working with."
"That group may have been instrumental in betraying them," Hogan argued, not believing what he was hearing.
"Which means that it will happen to more of our operatives. I have to do this. Celeste and Marie were only the first of many to come."
"You know very well you could be walking into a trap," Hogan stressed.
Jeanine leaned across and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, then whispered, "I will keep in contact, do not worry. I promise, mon chéri."
Hogan watched her walk away in the darkness.
"Anything they can send across would be a help," Doc finished telling Hogan, leaving his office in Barracks Two.
"I'll put Kinch on to it," Hogan agreed, then they both joined the men at the common room table. Le Beau was at the stove, busy stirring and tasting.
Carter was trying one of Newkirk's card tricks and failing.
" 'aven't I taught you anything? You've got to hold 'em down before you fan 'em." Newkirk admonished Carter. Newkirk stopped his sewing and looked up at his Colonel who rested one foot on a chair and accepted a cup of coffee from Le Beau. Doc stood beside the Colonel, holding his cup out to Le Beau, and obviously enjoying the revelry.
"Only been teaching 'im that trick for the last three weeks, that's all!" Newkirk explained, disappointed.
"It's not as easy as it looks," Carter complained. "It must be my hands, there's just too many cards."
"And that, my dear Carter, would be the excuse only you can give!" Newkirk looked up at Doc. "Doc, you got something against my uniforms or something?"
Doc shot Hogan a confused look then sincerely asked Newkirk, "No, why do you ask?"
Newkirk held the Gestapo uniform jacket up for him to see. The collar was ripped almost totally off the jacket and two buttons were missing. "I can repair the collar, but the buttons are a different matter. It's not that easy getting original German issue buttons, you know."
"You might find them in the cooler," Hogan informed him smiling. "They may have fallen off there."
"Sorry, Corporal. Uniforms and I don't gel very well," Doc said, apologetically.
"Must have had a hard time adjusting to the one you're wearing," Hogan added, joining in.
"It broke me in," Doc muttered, looking into his cup, embarrassed.
All of a sudden Sergeant Schultz barged into their barracks with no introduction.
Newkirk grabbed the German uniform he was repairing in one fluid motion, but not before Schultz saw it. "Was ist los?" he asked walking to the common table. He could make out the German insignias. "Was ist los?" he yelled, disturbed. "Colonel Hogan, what is Newkirk doing with a German uniform? Pleeeeeese, please, Colonel Hogan," he begged, panicking.
Hogan made his way to Schultz side, patting him reassuringly on the arm, "He's repairing it, Schultz."
Schultz rolled his eyes in exasperation. "I know he is repairing it, but why is he doing it?"
"Practice," Newkirk informed him, slowing taking his seat and resuming his stitching of the collar. "After the war I thought I'd open up my own boutique. You know, uniforms and such. Maybe in Hammelburg."
"Colonel Hogan!" Schultz squealed in obvious distress.
"I come from a long line of tailors, I do," Newkirk defended himself, continuing with his stitching.
"Colonel Hogan. This is not allowed…" Schultz leaned closer towards Newkirk until his face was over the collar he was stitching. He stared at Newkirk, then stared at the collar, then at Newkirk again. "Jolly joker!" he exclaimed triumphantly to a bewildered Newkirk. "Your shop will close in two days."
Newkirk was visibly offended. "Got something against an Englishman opening up a boutique in Germany?"
Schultz stood tall, immensely pleased with himself. "No," he said emphatically, "but, the Gestapo may take offence at being choked! We Germans cut out collars on the cross of the fabric." Newkirk looked dumbfounded. Schultz ran his fingers round the very large collar surrounding his ample neck. "I have it on very good authority."
"What do you bleeding well think this is?" Newkirk demanded, holding up the collar he was stitching.
Schultz leaned across. He smugly held the collar end to end and pulled. There was no give in the fabric. "A choker," he concluded, proudly.
"Blimey!" Newkirk took the collar, half attached to the uniform, from him, and holding it end to end, pulled. There was no give. "I must have missed it." He looked up at Doc apologetically. Doc absentmindedly ran his fingers inside the collar of his own uniform shirt, breathing a sigh of relief when they fit comfortably inside.
Suddenly Hogan heard the familiar sound of the tunnel being accessed. "Schultz, did you want anything?" Hogan asked quickly.
"Colonel Hogan, I only came in to ask if Le Beau could spare some leftovers, maybe, hmmm?"
"Not a problem, Schultz. It's not ready yet, but when it is, we'll call you."
Hogan immediately handed him his rifle and deftly steered him out of the barracks. Martin promptly stood watch at the door. He could hear Schultz muttering outside. "Opening a shop in Hammelburg… Next he'll want to live there!"
The tunnel door opened and Kinch stumbled out, almost falling over himself.
Colonel Hogan felt a fool for not noticing that his second in command was probably exhausted after spending so many nights at the radio. He was just about to mention it when Kinch looked at him, holding out the message. If Hogan didn't know better, he could swear Kinch had been weeping.
"I'm sorry," Kinch whispered.
Hogan hesitantly took the message from him and read it. He felt the colour immediately drain from his face. He looked to Doc for help. Doc, who was laughing at the teasing Carter was getting, looked at Hogan, concerned, then reached out for the message.
Hogan watched Newkirk. He didn't want to say it. He wanted to lie. He could lie. He was the senior officer of this camp and these were his men, his responsibility. There was time enough after the war for everyone to suffer heartache.
Newkirk's eyes met his.
"London thought we'd want to know," Hogan began. He felt an almighty tightening in his chest and his eyes burned. He blinked furiously.
Newkirk's eyes never left the Colonel's. He had seen that look before, in the basement when they both first saw their girls. Suddenly an awful thought raced through Newkirk's mind. A knot formed in his stomach. He scrunched the German uniform beneath his fingers so tightly that his knuckles turned white.
"Marie never regained consciousness," Hogan whispered.
A silence descended the barracks.
Newkirk immediately stood and smashed his hand fiercely against the tunnel access panel on the bunk. "I need buttons…" he muttered and swiftly descended the tunnel stairs.
Carter rose to join him, but Hogan lay his hand firmly on his shoulder. Slowly resuming his seat, Carter looked at his Colonel imploringly. Hogan just shook his head. He didn't trust himself to say anything. The tightening in his chest was rising to his throat, effectively choking him. He wanted to cry out. He didn't expect this. No one expected this.
Carter looked to Le Beau, but Le Beau's eyes were downcast, his face hidden from view. Finally, in resignation, Carter lay his head in his hands in abject sorrow.
Doc read and re-read the message then crumpled it up, threw it in the stove and left without a word.
To Fear The Past
It was well into the morning when Jeanine walked into the Hauserhoff.
The elderly bartender rearranged the glasses for the second time that morning, growing more anxious with every minute that his contact was late. It was already ten minutes past the time he should have been contacted and now all he saw was this female walk into his Biergarten.
Jeanine smiled at the bartender as she approached, then made herself comfortable on a stool at the bar.
"Quite brisk this morning, isn't it?" Jeanine said simply.
He stared at her. He was furious. He didn't have to answer. Why did they send a woman?
"Brisk enough!" he finally spat out. "You should not have come. They should have sent someone else."
"Like who? A man?" Jeanine questioned angrily.
"Yes. I had enough problems with the last two women that were sent. I don’t need any more!" He was holding a glass while growling at her and with the final statement his hand crushed the glass. Jeanine leapt from her stool and rushed to his aid, quickly tending to his hand. He watched, dumbfounded as she removed the glass shards and wrapped a napkin around his hand. It was the same thing that Celeste would have done for him. Marie would not. She would be too busy berating his clumsiness. He watched her. "You are not safe," he whispered fearfully.
"You sent the message of their whereabouts." Jeanine guessed.
He nodded once, then unable to meet her eyes, returned to his duties.
Jeanine lay a hand on his shoulder, sympathetically. "Thank you. They are safe."
He stared at her, unbelieving. "I didn't know how – I only saw her use it the one time and," he turned back to cleaning his bar. "I had to do something. I was very careful with my words." He looked back at her, "I checked every word. I was very careful."
"You did well. Like I said, they're on their way home."
Jeanine didn't have the heart to tell him that it was his message, so word perfect, that alerted London that the transmitter was in enemy hands. All operatives were instructed to send their messages misspelt. When a word perfect message was received, a red flag was raised at headquarters. For that very reason, Jeanine's mission was classified unofficial. She could very easily have been walking into a trap. As it stood, Colonel Hogan and his men risked that possibility and discovered the horror that would haunt their nights for a long time.
"My name is Dieter," he announced warmly.
"You are here for the transmitter?" he asked.
"That too, but first I just wanted to talk to you about Celeste and Marie."
He took her arm, now a little more relaxed and steered her towards a table. "Sit, sit. I will bring something and we will talk. Just you and I. We will talk."
Suddenly a commotion on the stairs of the Hauserhoff made Dieter's blood run cold. They were early. He rushed back behind the bar and grabbed a large apron. "Quickly! Quickly! Put this on. If they ask, you work for me! Please hurry!"
Jeanine donned the apron, staring at the stairs; horrified as four German officers loudly descended the stairs. "At this hour?" she whispered to Dieter.
"Herr Hauptmann does not like to drink alone. It is rumoured that bombing destroyed a lot of his stores. When he is not trigger happy, he is drunk."
Jeanine froze as the four officers reached the final rung of the stairs then made their way to a table not far from where she stood.
"Dieter!" one called out. "We are thirsty this morning!"
Dieter ran to them, ushering them to a table in a far corner. From what Jeanine was able to witness, they were already close to being drunk.
As a precaution, Jeanine kept her back to the Germans, hastily wiping down tables Dieter had unfortunately sat them within line of the stairs, effectively cutting off her means of escape.
Their conversation grey louder as the beer kept coming.
"You are fortunate that everyone believes the Americans bombed farming houses!" one German said, his voice carrying more than the others.
"Do you realise how much we lost, Hans?" another admonished.
"I don't understand," another began, "if it was coincidental, there may have been one or two hits but not four of our stores. It is too much of a coincidence for me."
Then one with a deep raspy voice spoke over the others. "We can find out how later. At the moment, let our Major Hochstetter believe that it was an American blunder."
"Drink, gentlemen." Dieter said, replenishing all their glasses of beer.
The deep voiced German watched Jeanine clean the tables, admiringly, "Why don't you have your new fräulein clear and serve our drinks, Dieter? She's sure to be a lovelier sight than you, old man."
They all laughed loudly, downing their drinks.
Jeanine glanced back nervously, then joined Dieter and with her head bowed began clearing the table, careful not to make eye contact with any of them.
Suddenly the deep voiced German grabbed her chin, forcing her head from side to side. Blind panic seized Jeanine. "I know you!" he exclaimed.
Bile instantly rose from the churning of her stomach. She also knew this German!
"I definitely know you!" he repeated applying pressure to her chin.
"No. No, it is an impossibility," Dieter quickly interfered.
"I know you very well," he smirked, his bloated features dimpling. "Tell me," he mocked, drawing his face so close to hers that she could smell the beer on his breath, "How is your mother? Oh, that's right, I shot her, didn't I?"
Jeanine attacked, throwing herself on him and digging her nails into his face. Instantly the officers at the table rose, shocked.
"Lutz!" one cried out.
Hauptmann Lutz Metzer immediately grabbed Jeanine by the hair and threw her to the ground. Jeanine landed heavily, smashing her face against the chair of another table, leaving her dazed. Metzer grabbed the napkin and dabbed at the now bleeding scratches on his face. He raised his hand, motioning to his friends to remain seated. "Sit down, sit down. This is nothing," he said, laughing it off, giving them the impression that it was a comical matter, and at the same time sliding his chair roughly across the floor until its feet were almost rubbing against Jeanine's face.
Jeanine slowly rose to her knees, only to double over in pain. Again he grabbed her hair, forcing her to look at the damage she had done to his face, then when she thought he would strike her again, he sniggered, "A woman can change very little in two years," he continued, enjoying the reaction his humiliation could instil in her. He pulled harder on her hair, drawing her closer to him, then whispered so she alone could hear, "but then, the major change was from me!" he laughed scornfully.
Jeanine's entire body shook with rage. She lashed out, attempting to attack whatever part of his body she could. Metzer's group laughed, cheering on this Captain of theirs that was trying to tame this local peasant woman. Metzer laughed at Jeanine's outrage and hysterical waving of her hands, holding her at bay by her hair. Without warning her hand struck him. Suddenly, Jeanine felt a force hit her, then knew nothing.
"What do you want to do? Take her in for questioning?" one of the group asked, passing a glass of beer to Metzer and still laughing.
Metzer stared spellbound at the inert body at his feet, then prodded it with his boot until he heard a shallow groan. "No." he said, a little too quickly.
The group stopped laughing and stared at him.
He laughed uncomfortably. "I will question her myself first, then if there is need, I can bring her in for formal questioning. Let's drink! Bring more beer!" he yelled out, then picked up a napkin and dabbed at his scratches. "Fiery little thing…" He forcefully laughed, glancing briefly at the body at his feet, then toasted with his friends as they all joined him.
Dieter brought more beer to the table. His hands were shaking, spilling some of the beer before it got to the tables. It was history repeating itself. They should not have sent another woman.
"I do not have a Major Overmier on my staff!" Hochstetter screeched. "This man was an impostor!"
"A very good impostor, wouldn't you say, Major?" General Burkhalter smirked with disdain, "To interrogate the prisoner in Klink's cooler, he would also have to have very good knowledge of this camp."
"Maybe he has taken the Captain to Hammelburg for interrogation," Klink added quietly.
"Why would he do that? The Captain gave him vital information on plans of attack and he ignored him. What would you do?" the General asked addressing Major Hochstetter again.
Hochstetter fidgeted uncomfortably then headed for the door, "Believe me, General, I will get to the bottom of this."
"You do that Major. You do that!" the General smirked. Finally he had something worthwhile on the Gestapo Major. "Klink! Get me some of that schnapps!"
"Of course, Herr General. Of course, and if I may say, I never did trust that man!" Klink stated.
"Get the schnapps, Klink and shut up!"
"Yes, General. The schnapps."
Corporal Newkirk squatted beside the emergency access tunnel, waiting for the German patrol to pass. When the patrol marched by, Newkirk waited a little longer then quickly opened the hatch and descended.
Hogan was anxiously awaiting him. "What did Dieter have for us?"
"Hauptmann Lutz Metzer, a regular at the Hauserhoff. Always drinks there with three others. However, once a month Metzer meets with a local. The same local that met with Celeste the day before she and Marie disappeared."
"Damn! Does he know his name?"
"What do we know about this Captain Metzer?" Hogan asked.
"Dieter said there is a rumour that the farmhouses that were bombed belonged to him and three other officers. He made a point of fact that Celeste made a play for the Hauptmann when she was informed of his racketeering, but when he ignored her, made a play for his contact."
"So, our Captain and his friends are lining their own coffers."
Newkirk looked uncomfortable. "Dieter ah – he had more information for us, sir." Newkirk couldn't look at his Colonel. When he heard the information he couldn't believe it and now he had to pass it on. "Jeanine's been taken by this Captain and held in his room. Dieter believes there was some history there and that it's not an interrogation, but he overheard the others boasting that when he's finished with her, she'll be taken in for questioning."
Hogan froze. Then suddenly, he slammed his hand against the tunnel wall, sending dust particles flying around.
"I'm sorry." Newkirk muttered, wringing his black hat, without realising it.
Hogan turned to him. Newkirk couldn't miss the panic etched on the Colonel's face.
"She – she's still alive. We can get her out," Newkirk quickly informed him.
Hogan composed himself, embarrassed at his display. "We move tonight. Get Carter."
Newkirk perked up immediately. "Yes, sir."
At the foot of the bed, a figure lay huddled in a foetal position.
Jeanine crawled to the edge of the bed, using it as support to pull herself up. She stood, stooped, but on her own two feet. She hurt all over.
From the vantage point of the bed, she surveyed her surroundings, cringing when sharp movements sent pain through her side.
It was too spacious for a hotel room. She rose and walked across the room to a door slightly concealed by panelling but left slightly ajar. When she opened it she saw the ornately furnished bathroom. Without meaning to she gazed at her reflection in the mirror, absently touching the bruising forming on her face. She'd seen better days, she thought. Her eyes brimmed with tears and then burned. She'd definitely seen better days.
Jeanine walked to the open window and peered out. It was a big drop, but if she had to, she could jump. Peering out once again she spotted two patrol guards. She could still attempt a jump at night, however the more she thought about it the more unlikely it would be. Running on broken legs was not feasible.
Jeanine hugged herself, distressed. She knew him. She was told he was dead and now she had become his prisoner. Mounting confusion was instantaneously replaced with anger and loathing. She had to do something. Ideally, she wanted to kill him. Realistically, she could cause more harm than good if she failed, and once he started interrogating her, Jeanine knew, she could get a lot of people killed.
The glass on the table next to the ashtray didn't escape her scrutiny. In frustration she threw the glass against the wall. It shattered, sending shards of glass to the ground.
She silently berated herself. She should have handled the situation better, waiting until the time was right and then served her revenge. As it stood now, she was a liability, a risk to everything and everyone she held dear. Tears fell freely, unable to assuage herself that she wasn't partly to blame for the predicament she had gotten herself into.
She picked up a large shard of glass and closed her hand around it, blinking furiously. Colonel Hogan and his men were instrumental in helping her and her girls. Now, now she could be their greatest problem. She couldn't let herself be interrogated.
Jeanine tested the shard for sharpness on her finger. Blood immediately stained her finger and ran down to stain the open palm of her hand. Almost transfixed, she stared at the blood, then the shard. She recalled the Colonel putting his arm around her and demanding that she get some sleep. At that time she felt she couldn't cope any longer with the anguish she felt over what happened to her girls. How could she face him if she was to break down in interrogation and tell them all she knew? How could she face herself?
She stared at her open palm, passing the shard from one hand to the other. Tears poured down her face until she was hiccuping and sputtering. She hurt all over. From her crying she began coughing spasmodically. A common trait, as her mother often told her. The women in her family were unable to have a good cry without going into a coughing fit within minutes.
Then suddenly, an idea dawned on her. Jeanine rushed to the mirror, quickly examining her face. She looked gaunt, her eyes almost blood shot and as her idea began taking shape, she smiled.
Quickly, Jeanine smudged the ash in the tray underneath her eyes until they looked hollow. Next, she brought the shard to her mouth and painfully cut the inside of her lip deep enough for blood to pool and escape out of each side of her mouth. Finally she forced herself to cough, over and over until the spasm took over and she couldn't stop even if she tried. Dropping to her knees, Jeanine hugged herself and forced the coughing again, sputtering blood into her hands.
The door was flung open, with the guard rushing in brandishing his rifle at her.
"What is going on here?" Captain Metzer bellowed from behind the guard.
Jeanine continued coughing, now certain that if she kept it going any longer she could effectively add vomiting to it!
"I heard coughing. It went on and on…" the guard stuttered, scared, "I thought she was sick."
"She is sick, you fool. Didn't they tell you anything? When they start coughing up blood like that… Get rid of her!" he demanded.
"We'll take her from here, Hauptmann. As I mentioned earlier, Major Hochstetter did ask me to deliver her to him immediately and I can only thank you that you have tracked her down for us," Major Overmier said from behind the Captain. He motioned to his guards. "My men can take her off your hands, Herr Hauptmann."
Captain Metzer held a handkerchief over his nose, disgusted. "As I explained to you, Major. She is nothing. It is infectious, you know."
Jeanine was coughing so much that she couldn't hear. Now doubled over in genuine pain, she froze when two pairs of black boots stood at either side of her and someone tried to help her up.
Before her the Captain was talking to someone, his back to her. She still had the shard of glass hidden in her hand. Anger and loathing grew within her, her hand instinctively tightening around the glass shard. He stood a short distance before her, totally absorbed in explaining himself to his superiors no less. Bile rose in her throat. It was her only chance. It had to be now. Jeanine lunged, but couldn't move forward. She was caught. Strong arms wrapped around her middle. She kicked back at the leg of whoever it was that had her pinned to him, but he didn't budge. She screamed, flailing her arms and kicking widely.
Hogan witnessed the commotion with concern. Jeanine was hysterical. He watched as Newkirk and Carter took control of the situation and quickly marched out. "Let us leave that for Major Hochstetter to decide," he curtly said to the Captain, cutting him off. "Heil Hitler, Captain."
"Heil Hitler," Captain Metzer saluted.
Captain Metzer watched them leave then turned around and surveyed the room before him, deliberately stepping on the small blood stains on the carpeted floor. He ground the stains into the carpet with the toes of his boot, muttering to himself, "Common street trash, so that is what two years have done to you…"
Hogan followed his men quickly outside to Klink's staff car. He watched Carter get into the driver's seat and Newkirk into the backseat with a now unconscious Jeanine on his lap. "If she'd looked at me, she wouldn't have had to whack me so much!" Newkirk complained.
"The state she's worked herself into, I don't believe it would have made much difference. We'll get her home soon and get Doc to take a look at her." Hogan said, worried sick.
"All that coughing she did, didn't help, either," Newkirk added.
"Maybe, but it was enough to unnerve the Captain," Hogan said.
Newkirk looked at her, in his arms, scared. He wasn't seeing her. A familiar knot formed in his throat. He nervously cleared his throat. "Ah, Gov'nor – ah – you know – how do we know she's just passed out?"
Carter looked back at Newkirk, startled. He couldn't go through that again.
"We'll be back at camp soon. She's a lot stronger than she looks. That little display in there may have saved her life, and ours." Hogan looked toward Carter, "Go round the block a few times if you have to. I need to do a little spying. Dieter believes the man Metzer's been talking to will show in about an hour."
In the Hauserhoff, Hogan stood silently behind a curtained area at the back of the bar watching all the evening patrons descend the stairs.
From his vantage point, Hogan observed Captain Metzer and concluded that he didn't look like someone who'd lost someone important; instead he came across relieved, drinking and glancing at his watch constantly. Hogan knew the feeling. It was past the allotted hour that his contact was meant to call on him.
All of a sudden, Hogan felt a rush of anger build from the pit of his stomach. He watched, careful that the curtains remained as closed as possible and still able to give him a clear view. A man casually walked down the stairs and after briefly scanning the room, joined Metzer at the table in the far corner. Hogan watched on. Metzer called out for more beer, slapping the man on the back happily. When the beers arrived, they both clicked their glasses and downed their drink, absorbed in their own merriment.
Colonel Hogan had seen enough. Straightening his uniform and lowering his hat so that it covered most of his face, Hogan cut between the now crowded tables, carefully giving the impression that he was a normal patron leaving for the night. However, before departing, Hogan glanced once more at the offending table inhabited by Captain Metzer and Nicolas of the Underground .
"What the hell were you doing?" Hogan yelled.
Jeanine sat on the bunk, cringing every time Doc wrapped an extra bandaged around what he'd bluntly informed her were two broken ribs. It wasn't as if she didn't expect Colonel Hogan to admonish her, she'd just hoped he'd leave it a little longer.
Hogan was livid. "Do you have any idea what you came close to?"
She opened her mouth to say something but he cut her off, continuing, "A Gestapo Captain! Of all the idiotic, stupid… if you were one of my men I would personally …"
"Ouch!" she cried, as Doc tightened the bandage too tight. She glared at Doc. He ignored her and kept bandaging, tighter and she knew that was deliberate. "It wasn't exactly what I set out to do," she muttered, still glaring at Doc.
"Did you or did you not tell me that all you had to do was find the location of the transmitter?" Hogan questioned, coming to stand directly before her.
"I did." Jeanine muttered, deliberately avoiding eye contact. She felt like the proverbially scolded school kid. She tasted blood. Every time she opened her mouth the self-inflicted lesion inside her lip would open up again and blood would pool in her mouth. She was going to keep her answers short, if not for the bleeding lip, as much as for the anger she was provoking in the Colonel before her.
"You lunged at a Gestapo Captain! What the hell did you think you were doing?" Hogan admonished, leaning so close to her he saw the trickle of blood from the side of her mouth. Alarmed, he squatted before her, grabbing a piece of bandage from across the bed and wiping her lip. "How did this happen?" he asked, uneasy.
Jeanine clutched his hand, his reaction unnerving her "It's all right," she whispered, "self-inflicted."
"As were the ribs?" Doc asked, finally washing his hands.
"Bruyere women have a problem with coughing," she quickly explained.
"Coughing alone didn't do that to your ribs. They had help," Doc admonished. Hogan looked at her solemnly.
Jeanine shrugged her shoulders, trying to dismiss the entire horrid escapade. It didn't work. Now if everyone would leave her alone…
Hogan took her hands in his, enveloping them. He didn't have to do that, she thought. She liked it better when he was berating her. This she couldn't handle. She stared at her hands, firmly secured, protected, comforted, just like the comfort and protection he and his men gave her and her girls from the minute they met.
"What happened?" Hogan asked, simply.
If she could lie… "He knew me." she finally whispered. "I thought he was dead. They promised me he was dead," she repeated. "I was about to ask Dieter about Celeste's movements when they all came in," she continued, now opting to keep her eyes downcast, not trusting her emotions. "I pretended to be one of his girls, as Celeste would have done, but he recognised me and taunted me in front of his friends."
"So what happened to your training? You should have been able to deal with that!" Hogan admonished.
Now Jeanine faced him. Humiliation and grief filled her so completely that tears fell unhindered. Hogan could have kicked himself. He really didn't want to be so harsh. She'd been through so much. "I'm sorry," he whispered, squeezing her hands when the first tear fell.
Jeanine nodded. "No. I am. I owe you an explanation. Two years ago an ambitious German Garrison entered a small insignificant French village. To prove their virility, these Germans killed every man, woman and child they could find. Of course, if they found them hiding in their home, so much more the atrocity they would put these poor villagers through." She took a deep breath, attempting to control her emotions. Every part of Jeanine's body hurt. Now her throat hurt, too.
Hogan felt a chill run through his body. How often had he and his men heard of the slaughter of innocents? It didn't cross his mind that Jeanine would have been anywhere near such a thing.
"Their excuse was that there was rumour of a resistance movement. My – my –" Jeanine attempted to free her hands from his, but he held them tightly, possessively. He wanted to hold all of her, to protect her from this wound that was forced open.
She felt someone lay their hand sympathetically on her shoulder. It made her feel worse. The knot in her throat was so big she just wanted to wail. "My grandmother, my mother and I were taken from our home and made to stand outside. One of the guards was paying too much attention to me so my mother and grandmother pushed me behind them, to protect me," she stuttered. Tremors racked her entire body as the brutal memory took hold. "He – Metzer shot them in the head, and laughed as he dragged me back into our house," she coughed, hiccupping intermittently until the coughing spasm began and she had to grab her ribs from the pain it was inflicting. She couldn't stop. The more she thought about it, the more she coughed. She doubled over.
Doc grabbed more bandages. The few he'd wrapped around her weren't supportive enough. Hogan immediately removed his jacket and sat beside her, wrapping his arms around her chest, effectively forcing her to remain upright against him. She jerked violently as pain took hold and slammed her head into Hogan's jaw. Hogan winced but didn't release her.
"Hold her still!" Doc yelled as he began the bandaging again. "I need her still!"
It was awkward. The way the Colonel was holding her, Doc was having trouble winding the bandages around and this time he needed to make sure they were tight enough. Jeanine clutched Hogan's arms with both hands, her nails digging into them. He wasn’t sure what was making him wince more, the nails digging into his arm or the knock to his jaw.
"It … hurts!" Jeanine stammered.
"You're telling me!" Hogan cringed, wondering when his own blood was going to start coming through his shirt.
"You have broken ribs. They hurt!" Doc said a little too abruptly.
By the time Doc completed the bandaging, Jeanine had fallen into an exhaustive sleep, sagging against Hogan, who still had his arms protectively around her.
"Tell me you're organising for her to go home," Doc said, running his fingers through his hair in frustration.
Hogan reluctantly released her. "I will. Her mission was compromised the minute she was recognised anyway. Until this Gestapo is out of the way, she can't be anywhere near here."
Doc returned to the basin and washed his hands then absently sorted some of the utensils on the small table.
Hogan watched him. He knew his Doc well enough to know when he was going through his own private hell. This wasn't easy for anyone, and the message of Marie's passing made it all the more agonising. "Thanks, Doc," he finally said.
Doc didn't turn around. When Newkirk brought Jeanine's unconscious body to him, he felt blind panic in the pit of his stomach. When she confessed to the atrocities that befell her family, he felt the same terror. He had had enough of terror. He had had enough of death. He wanted this war to end.
Hogan watched over Jeanine a little longer. She was going to be livid when he told her she'd be going home. He knew her reaction. However, as he mentioned to Doc, her mission was compromised. If she continued now, it could cost her her life. He wasn't prepared to risk that, not with her or anyone else. He understood this would be a major blow to her, and he was certain for a long time she'd imagine all manner of ways to return this favour.
He smiled to himself. The thought of her seething behind her desk in London was comforting.
As Hogan adjusted the blanket around her, his hand brushed against the neckline of her blouse. Dried blood stained the inside and outside of this blouse, giving the impression of more lacerations, but on closer inspection he could see her coughing had triggered the blood flow. Relieved, he stared down at her, his mind made up. There was no way around it. She was going home. Gold stars for her dedication and inventiveness, but he wanted to sleep at night knowing that she was safe. She was definitely going home, immediately!
He left the tunnel to see Kinch about an urgent message to London.
Making his way down the tunnel he also made a mental note to get a meeting organised with his men. They had a job to do. If London were embarking on sending more field agents, he and his men needed to find out what happened to Celeste and Marie and get to the bottom of the relationship between one Gestapo Captain and one member of the Underground.
L'Honneur, L'Amour, La Mort
“But Colonel, Pierre needs to know that he has a traître in his team," Le Beau insisted, removing the pot from the stove, ready to serve.
Hogan joined his men. “"We need to know how much of a traitor first, and to do that we have to draw him out. I just haven't figured out how yet."
"Witnessing 'im 'aving a charming time with a Gestapo Captain won't be enough for Pierre," Newkirk said sarcastically. He grabbed a card from the deck before him.
Carter took a card, returned it to the deck, then picked it up again. "You sure you want it," Newkirk nagged, "or would you like to wait until Le Beau spills dinner over them?"
Le Beau brought the saucepan and ladle very close to Newkirk. “You were supposed to be finished," he complained.
Carter's brow creased in intense concentration. This hand had him stymied. "Well – maybe if I take – no –"
Le Beau looked at Carter's hand, then looked at Newkirk's hand. He reached over Newkirk's shoulder, picked a card and threw it down on the table. Carter immediately slammed down his hand and jubilantly cried out, "I win!"
Newkirk jumped up, indignant. "What'd you do that for?" he yelled at Le Beau.
Le Beau shrugged his shoulders. "Dinner's getting cold."
Meanwhile, Hogan was slowly discovering the beginning of an idea forming. "Nicolas found the Hauserhoff a comfortable enough meeting place for his clandestine meetings with the Gestapo Captain Metzer," he confidently said. "What's to say we can't have our own French agent meet his own Gestapo there, too?"
"You will not find a Frenchman that will betray his countrymen," Le Beau proudly announced, filling up Carter's plate.
"What's Nicolas then, English?" Newkirk criticised.
Le Beau stared at his friend, offended. "He is not French!"
Hogan was convinced it could work. "Newkirk, I need a Gestapo Captain's uniform for Carter."
"Yes, sir," Newkirk agreed, confused. "Why?” He added quickly, "Sir."
Hogan rested his hand on Le Beau's shoulder. "So our French agent here can have a very long conversation with him at the Hauserhoff tonight."
"Me? What if someone sees me?" Le Beau asked uneasy.
"That's the general idea," Hogan said, smiling. "I want Nicolas to witness a Gestapo Captain conversing with a civilian. When Le Beau calls on Pierre to pass on some information, introducing himself as a member of the resistance …"
"He'll have me shot!" Le Beau cried out horrified.
"What if he recognises me and approaches the table?" Carter asked concerned.
"Never seen you," Newkirk added confidently. "Only person this Nicolas is likely to remember is me."
That somehow did little to convince Carter. "Why you?" he asked.
"Because Newkirk and I met him and Pierre," Hogan explained
"Yeah, and I was ready to deck 'im, " Newkirk said, hitting his fist.
Kinch stumbled out of the tunnel as they were eating and handed Hogan a message.
"Just came in, sir," Kinch said, eagerly taking his place at the table. He didn't realise he was famished until the aroma hit him.
Hogan read the message, then said, "We're going to have to visit the Hauserhoff another night. We have a major pick up tonight."
"Klink hasn't doubled the guards or anything like that so that shouldn't be a problem," Newkirk informed him. "Do we know if the Underground will be helping out?"
"Not enough time to alert them, but keep a lookout just in case they do join us and Nicolas makes an appearance," Hogan ordered.
Doc barged in, bringing a gust of wind from outside. He quickly closed the door and approached Hogan, shaking his head when Le Beau motioned towards the pot in his hands. Doc didn't have much of an appetite, especially since early morning.
"I… I was wondering if I could have a word with you, Colonel," Doc said quietly.
Hogan was aware something was wrong before Doc spoke. Doc was supposed to be watching Jeanine. Hogan quietly excused himself and went to his office, the Doc following, tormented.
Once inside the office, Doc closed the door behind him, making certain that his back was to it. Hogan didn't give him much time. "What's going on?" he demanded, dreading the answer.
Doc straightened, then began nervously rubbing his arms. "She's gone."
Hogan's blood ran cold. It couldn't be. Not again! He couldn't deal with this. "How long?" Hogan asked through gritted teeth.
"Five, six hours." Doc said softly. "Kinda hoped she'd just stepped out when I checked this morning, you know, for some privacy. Then when I checked again and she wasn't back I searched the tunnels and…I thought she needed some privacy."
"She's not after privacy," Hogan said, mostly to himself. "She's after something a lot more lethal." Damn, he thought to himself.
Doc stammered, "Colonel, I … I also believe…" He ran his gloved hands through his hair. "She's taken my pistol."
Finding nice clothes in war time was not easy. Jeanine scurried in and out of any abode she found unlocked, searching until she found anything that she could use, including clothes. The skirt and simple blouse, embroidered with daisies around the neckline was perfect. She ran her fingers over the pattern. Someone had taken a long time to perfect this work, she knew the time it took. She had learned the art under the patient tutelage of two very special women.
Finally, dressed as a more than passable young woman she made her way into the exclusive hotel, smiling at all the guards before her, careful that the bruised side of her face was hidden, and making her way to his room.
The guard stood at attention in front of the door to Herr Hauptman's room.
"Herr Hauptman asked me to meet him inside," she whispered to the young guard, lowering the neckline of her bodice a little. The guard blushed. She smiled seductively. "He did say he wouldn't keep me waiting long," she leaned closer to him, "and asked me not to take too long, if you understand…" The guard opened the door immediately and let her in. What harm could she cause, he reasoned to himself. She was a woman and he was a man. Herr Hauptman would most definitely reward him later that evening, of that he was certain.
Inside the room, Jeanine looked for a place to hide until the right time. She thought of the bathroom then, seeing the weight and length of the drapes, opted to position herself behind them. Once she was confident they fell the same as the others, she positioned herself so that she could watch the door. Holding the pistol securely in her hand, she watched and waited.
A long time later, she heard the door open.
"Nein. Nein, Frederick. Wir fahren morgen fort. Ich bin müde."
Hauptmann Lutz Metzer entered his room and slammed the door behind him, jamming his coat end in it. He staggered forward, felt the pull from his coat and without any hesitation, tore it off, allowing it to fall on the floor.
He staggered to the cabinet and poured himself a brandy. He was not drunk, he reasoned, just mildly inebriated. He stared at the half full glass he'd just poured then filled it. "Half is not an option," he sniggered, then laughed to himself at his own private joke and downed the entire contents in one motion.
Jeanine emerged from behind the curtain, standing only a few feet away from him, the pistol aimed at his back.
Metzer poured himself another drink. He turned, squinted, then smiled. "The Major finished so soon?"
Jeanine cocked her pistol. Now that he'd turned around, she could aim straight for the organ that mimicked his heart!
"Do you really believe that I would cower before you just because you hold a pistol? I know you, remember. You are incapable of hurting another human being. You – You could not even fight me!" he laughed mockingly, staggering from the drink.
Jeanine fired. Metzer fell, face forward, blood immediately pooling beneath him.
"Herr Hauptmann! Herr Hauptmann!" the guard called out knocking on the door.
Jeanine returned behind the curtain and quickly opened the window. The jump would not kill her, but she could be badly hurt.
The door was flung open. The guard raced in, immediately stumbling over the coat that was caught in the door jam and falling close to the body. He screeched in terror as his face came close to the now pallid face of Herr Hauptmann.
The last coherent thought that entered Jeanine's mind was how loud the sound of bone striking stone sounded.
Four teams of two gathered beneath the shelter of trees in the woods just outside the wire. Hogan motioned for them to spread out. Dressed in black from head to toe, they all quickly merged into the darkness.
In no time all eyes were on the formation of bombers infiltrating the night skies, moonlight aiding the vision of the men hidden in the bushes. Small shapes emerged from the formation, dropping at an alarming rate. From his vantage point, Hogan watched, mentally counting how many items were being parachuted down. He stood transfixed when it dawned on him that along with the packages that were being dropped, he'd counted ten personnel. "Let's move it!" he whispered, concerned. "Get everyone and everything to the cover of these trees. Go. And make it quick!"
When they returned, he quickly motioned for Newkirk and Carter to take up the rear as they cautiously made their way back to the tunnel.
Newkirk felt uneasy. They were moving too many men. He kept checking behind him, worried that a guard would suddenly appear.
When they reached the tunnel entrance, he breathed a welcomed sigh of relief.
Both Newkirk and Carter supervised the group as they descended the tunnel steps, the Colonel leading the way. Absentmindedly, Newkirk massaged a kink in his neck as he watched the final person make his way down the tunnel. He just knew he was going to get a lovely headache from all this tonight and wasn't exactly looking forward to it. Carter stood transfixed, staring out to the bushes.
Newkirk nudged him, "What are you waiting for?"
"I thought I saw something – but – maybe," Carter innocently explained.
"Come on, if it was something they'd have been on top of us by now," Newkirk assured him. "Get going. I'm right behind you."
Newkirk watched Carter descend then, just to assuage his senses, gave a final look around then descended.
As the tunnel entrance closed, one large overhanging bush nearby rustled. Hidden by the cover of darkness, a silhouette was momentarily illuminated by the moonlight. It swiftly dropped to all fours and crawled around the bushes making its way in the opposite direction.
When Newkirk reached the final rung of the ladder in the tunnel, he jumped down bumping into someone.
"Begging your pardon …" he stopped short when he found himself looking straight into the eyes of a petite brunette young woman. "Blimey!" he exclaimed.
"Yeah," Carter agreed, staring up at another young woman with rich auburn hair, brown eyes and easily a foot taller than him.
"Blimey!" Newkirk repeated to himself as he and Carter joined the Colonel and Le Beau at the head of the group.
Kinch rose from the radio when he saw the gradual procession of people make their way into the tunnel. Each held what resembled small pieces of luggage, and he noted they were definitely not military.
"Get word to London, Kinch. Tell them all packages have arrived safely," Hogan instructed.
Kinch immediately returned to his radio. "Yes, sir," he said. Another woman from the group stood beside him watching. Kinch glanced at her, returned to his transmitting, then glanced at her again.
Hogan watched the quiet commotion before him. He counted six women and four men and an assorted array of luggage, which he'd noted these men and women had taken possession of and were eagerly inspecting for any damage.
Newkirk surveyed the tunnel, bewildered, "I thought this operation was set up to get people out, not bring people in?" he whispered to no one in particular.
A short-statured man made his way towards Hogan. "Am I addressing Colonel Robert Hogan?" he formally asked, staring at Hogan.
"Yes," Hogan said.
"My name's Peppin, sir. My thanks for your assistance in getting us here. I believe this will answer any questions you may have," Peppin said, handing Hogan an envelope.
Hogan took the envelope, opened it and after scanning the message gave it to Kinch to decode.
"All going as planned, Colonel, we do not expect to be an inconvenience to you for too long," Peppin assured him.
"You're not. You might find our living conditions a little cramped for the time being, but other than that –" Hogan said, then stopped as Kinch gave him the decoded orders. "You're all Special Operations?" he shrieked
"We are really sorry if all this has come as a shock to you, sir, but -" Peppin apologised.
Hogan was shocked. This was something he didn't expect, not now, "and these orders say we need to help you get to all these places; ten to be exact," Hogan continued reading.
"Yes, sir. We understand it may be a big ask, but London Intelligence was under the impression that you will be able to co-ordinate with the local resistance groups to get us there. They are mostly isolated areas," Peppin advised, a little taken aback by Hogan's reaction.
"That'll be dandy!" Newkirk exclaimed
Hogan stared at Peppin and at the group before him. They definitely couldn't have picked a worse time. Finally he said, "We'll co-ordinate with them. In the meantime it's imperative that you keep all your people down here." Hogan demanded, at the same time wondering how he was going to pull this off.
"Yes, sir," Peppin agreed, a little confused at the reaction from the Colonel before him. His information was that these people would be able to grant them immediate assistance.
"It's a short-wave Morse transceiver that could send and receive messages," Adrienne explained to Kinch, leaning over him as he sat at his station admiring the unit in her suitcase. "We have estimated that it would take the Germans around 30 minutes to discover where the transceiver was being used, that is why the co-ordinates that your Colonel has been given are for generally isolated areas."
Peppin noticed the Colonel watching Adrienne explain the transceiver to his radioman. "We already have a few agents in the field and the intelligence they gathered has enabled this contingent to move forward." Peppin proudly boasted.
For a brief second Hogan did not see Adrienne but someone else before him. "Your agents were successful in accomplishing much," Hogan finally said.
Adrienne beamed. "You speak as one who has crossed their path, Colonel."
"Perhaps," Hogan simply said. He looked around him. Under normal circumstances he would move them a few at a time with the help of the Underground and not even think about it, but not tonight. This was one time he was unsure of anyone's safety and it was now paramount that he discovered exactly why Nicolas was talking to that Gestapo. If these people needed to be moved out he wanted to know he could trust everyone in the Underground.
"Peppin. Get all your people settled. As soon as something can be arranged, we'll let you know," Hogan concluded, then left the tunnel, his men following, except of course, Kinch.
Making his way up the ladder he heard Adrienne saying, "Yes, we speak French, German and English,"
He smiled to himself.
Pain sliced through every nerve ending of her body. Unwavering, it had no beginning and no end. Nausea filled her as she felt herself being lifted and lowered roughly. Hands clawed over her, causing the pain to increase at an alarming rate. Jeanine screamed until oblivion claimed her.
A gruff voice bellowed in the darkness, "She's passed out."
"Thank the heavenly mother," a soft female voice whispered.
"I can't save it."
"Francois, please," the female voice begged.
Francois stood, confused at the sight before him. From the corner of his eye he watched the elderly female wring her hands in worry. "Go woman! Listen to me!" he demanded angrily.
"Now, Francois. I'll hold her down," Maurice ordered.
Francois looked down at the unconscious young woman that was brought to him. Her right leg was badly damaged with the bone breaking skin. Blood was seeping into all the bandaging they had used bringing her to him. He could not mend this. He didn't have the equipment. He didn't have the skills, and - when he felt her pulse, she didn't have the time.
Mariette hovered nearby. "Please, Francois," she begged again.
"I said leave, woman. Now!" Francois yelled.
The middle-aged woman reluctantly left, glancing back with tears in her eyes. She felt so old. She would hear the screams. She knew that. She always did.
Francois watched and waited until the door was firmly shut behind her, then looked towards the still form on the bed and nodded to Maurice.
Mariette paced the length of the room above the basement where Francois worked. She folded and unfolded the laundry on the kitchen table. She paced again. Each time she heard the screams she would stop, face the aged crucifix on the cracked wall and say a silent prayer. This had been her ritual so many times before. This time - this time she did not expect this woman to be brought here. She was so young, young enough to be her daughter.
Exhausted, she sank into the rickety chair at the kitchen table and cried.
After a long lapse of time, Mariette heard the door crash open. She rose with a start. How much time had elapsed? How long did she sleep in that chair?
Francois stood in the doorway, wiping his hands.
"I could use something to drink!" he growled.
Mariette immediately poured wine into a glass and handed it to him. Francois took the glass from her, deliberately touching her hand. "She will live."
Mariette nodded. Tears filled her eyes, but she blinked furiously and busied herself preparing to serve the cold dinner.
"Do not bother. I'm not really hungry tonight," Francois said, taking the two bottles of wine on the kitchen bench and making himself comfortable at the table. He poured himself another glass and drank it.
Mariette quietly sat at the table across from him. She knew very well what would happen. She watched him manoeuvre the bottles closer. She had witnessed that before. This time, she would not rise and remove a bottle. This time she would not scold him. She watched and waited. When he finished his second glass she quietly asked, "So, she has lost the leg?"
"Oui. Just below the knee. It could not be saved." He said abruptly. He filled the glass again. His eyes met hers. Tonight she was not scolding him for his drinking. He raised his glass, mockingly, then quickly skulled it. His intention was to severely anaesthetise himself. "She is lucky that is all that has happened. She could have lost her life. Then again, if that was her intention, she was very selfish!"
"Do not say that, Francois! You cannot know the reasons behind it. You do not know what she may have gone through," Mariette defended.
"The same that we all go through every day. How many of us fight to live just one more day, to survive in this hell?"
Mariette bowed her head, defeated. "Sometimes it is the will of God. Maybe this young woman could fight no more."
"The people who brought her to us say she jumped from that window. She was not pushed. If taking her life is what she wants, when she awakes, I will gladly advise her on ways that will make the next time successful!"
She immediately made her way to his side. She lay her hands on his shoulders, then slowly brushed her fingers through his hair, the way she always did when he was younger. "Francois," she whispered soothingly, "please, do not be so angry. These days you are always so angry," and she planted a kiss on his forehead. She squeezed his shoulders. "Goodnight, my son," she finally whispered. "Tomorrow, we will both see what God has in store for us." She left him quickly before he saw that she was unable to stop the flow of tears that fell unbidden. She knew very well that not everyone had the strength to survive. He knew as well. Why would he not forgive? She did not want to forget. She did not want him to forget. She just wanted him to forgive.
Francois watched her leave then grabbed the bottle to refill his glass. His eyes caught the crucifix on the wall. In anger he filled his glass then held it up, "Yes, let's see what you bring tomorrow and how well I serve you," he mocked then emptied that glass and staggered outside.
In Hogan's office, Carter stood at attention and sucked in his gut. "It's still a little snug around the middle," he complained to Newkirk who was adjusting the belt of the German uniform that Carter was supposed to wear that evening.
Hogan and Le Beau walked into Hogan's office almost colliding with Carter and Newkirk. "Are you ready?" Hogan anxiously asked.
Newkirk was holding one end of the uniform belt in his hand, carefully counting the holes on it. "One more adjustment, sir," Newkirk said. He grabbed a spoke from Hogan's desk and deftly stabbed a hole through it, then securely fastened it.
Carter breathed a sigh of relief. Now it felt comfortable.
"Next time Le Beau asks you if you'd like a second serving of dinner, you might consider saying no," Newkirk chastised.
Carter cringed. "You didn't take the measurements correctly," he retorted.
Hogan inspected the uniform. He was pleased. It was effective. "All right, let's make a move. Remember, all you both need to do is allow yourselves to be seen. Stay a few hours, have a few beers and then leave separately."
"What if he's not there?" Le Beau asked concerned.
"He will be. Dieter said he's been going over and sitting at the same corner table for the last few days waiting to meet up with Captain Metzer."
"What if this Captain shows up with him and they join us? What am I going to say to him? He's Gestapo!" Carter asked worried.
"Don't worry. If he hasn't shown for two days, he probably won't show." Hogan said, a weird feeling crossing him as he said that. When Dieter told him that Metzer hadn't shown up for two days he immediately suspected Jeanine. When Dieter confirmed that Metzer also missed his meeting with Nicolas, he feared for Jeanine.
Carter stood at the foot of the stairs and surveyed the crowd before him. The Hauserhoff was full. A thin film of smoke clouded the room and the smell of beer over powered anything else. Dieter saw Carter and immediately approached him.
"Captain, please follow me, I have your table reserved, just as you requested," he said quickly.
Carter looked over Dieter's head, surveying the room and slapping his hand with his German issue gloves. "Oh, that's all right. I didn't reserve a table," Carter informed him.
"You may have forgotten, Captain. It's this way," Dieter said, desperately trying to catch his eye and motioning to his right. Carter watched him, dumbfounded. Dieter motioned to the right again.
"Oh!" Carter exclaimed, realisation suddenly hitting him. "Oh! Of course!"
Carter followed as Dieter manoeuvred around the crowded tables until he came to one that was almost in the centre of the room and definitely visible from all angles.
Carter took his seat, beginning to feel a little anxious. Moments later he watched as Dieter met Le Beau at the foot of the stairs and escorted him to the same table.
As Le Beau took his seat, Dieter quickly wiped it down and whispered, "I will bring you some beer."
"Danke," Carter and Le Beau said in unison.
Le Beau watched him leave. "He's nervous," he told Carter.
"He's nervous? Look where he's put us. There's no way anyone can miss us here," Carter pointed out.
"That's the general idea. If he put us in a darkened corner then maybe Nicolas would not see us," Le Beau said.
As the evening wore on they began to feel a little anxious that no one was approaching them. They were careful with their speech and consumption of the beer that Dieter was very nicely providing.
"How long do you think we should stay?" Carter finally asked after two hours had passed and he'd finished his third glass of beer. He could see that quite a few of the patrons where leaving, and he didn't feel comfortable being one of only a small group left.
Le Beau didn't miss the steady exit of patrons either. "I think another hour, maybe. I'll leave first and then you follow as we discussed. When we get back to camp we'll ask the Colonel what he wants to do, whether we need to come here again another night."
Carter nodded then plainly stated, "I should have brought Newkirk's cards."
"We're supposed to be exchanging important information!" Le Beau informed him, sotto voce.
"I know, but there's only so much that I can tell you that you don't already know," Carter innocently explained raising the beer glass.
Le Beau grabbed the glass before it reached Carter's lips and lowered it firmly. "Maybe you shouldn't be drinking any more."
Carter looked at him, reluctantly released his hold on the glass and clasped his hands on the table before him. He cocked his head one way and another, confused, then sat back in his chair, opting to finally put his hands in his coat pocket. There really wasn't much more that he could talk to Le Beau about, he thought. He was all talked out.
Some time later Le Beau quietly left.
Carter remained seated, mentally giving Le Beau enough time before he followed. He stared at the glass of beer still before him. No, he'd best make his way back to camp.
"Herr Hauptmann!" someone called.
Carter stood, ready to leave, only to be confronted by a Gestapo Major.
A Gestapo Major stood before Carter. "Pardon me for this intrusion, Herr Hauptmann, but I wanted to ask if you would do me a favour?"
"Yes," Carter said quickly. "If I can, that is."
"I was wondering if you could join us for a game of cards. We meet regularly for our game, amongst other things, but tonight, again, one of our team has been unavoidably detailed and since we have conducted and completed all our business, we feel that a good solid game of cards could end the night quite favourably. Unfortunately, we are one player short. You do play, don't you, Herr Hauptmann?" the Major asked.
"Yes. Yes I do," Carter said enthused.
"Good. Then you will join us. Come." The Major escorted Carter to his table where his two other companions waited.
From behind the bar Dieter watched and worried.
Le Beau stood at the edge of the bunk, waiting for it to be accessed.
Hogan came out of his office. "Anything yet?" he asked his men.
"Non, mon Colonel," Le Beau answered worried.
"I don't like it. Even if he took the other route to avoid being seen, he should have been here by now," Newkirk said, just as worried.
"I know, and it's not like Carter to go off on his own unless something has happened," Hogan added, immediately regretting saying aloud what they all thought.
Le Beau fidgeted constantly. "Maybe if I had remained and he had left before me, then … then maybe this would not have happened," Le Beau explained.
"And maybe it'd be Carter waiting for you," Hogan told him.
"Do you want me to go out, sir?" Newkirk asked. "You know, just have a look around and such?"
Just then the access panel was activated and the bunk rose. Carter staggered out, catching his foot on the bunk and falling heavily forward. Hogan, who was standing nearby caught him before he hit the floor. The stench of alcohol struck him. "Phew!" Hogan exclaimed. "I know exactly where you've been."
Carter looked up at his Colonel and smiled contently, "Hello, Colonel. Have you seen Le Beau?"
"Right here!" Le Beau answered crossly. "Where you should have been hours ago! Where were you?"
Hogan helped Carter stand on his feet then held onto his sleeve, just in case.
Carter looked down at Le Beau, blinked then smiled broadly. "I was invited to play cards with some Gestapo Majors - oh, and Captains - and one was me." He blinked again, hiccuped and staggered.
"You did what?" Newkirk asked, dumbfounded.
"Played cards," Carter repeated and hiccuped again. He turned to Hogan. "The one who won got to drink the beer." He explained, beaming, "I won." Then he staggered and pitched forward.
Newkirk immediately caught him.
Hogan stared at his Sergeant, not knowing whether to applaud him or reprimand him. "Put him to bed. Tomorrow we'll find out what happened," he decided. It was too late at night and sleep was the best for all, he surmised.
Mumbling in French, Le Beau held Carter upright while Newkirk attempted to devest him of his German uniform. Suddenly, as Newkirk removed the coat, an envelope fell to the ground.
"What's this?" Le Beau asked, balancing his hold on Carter and leaning over to pick it up.
On his way to his office, Hogan stopped short and turned back. Le Beau handed the envelope to him, alarmed.
Hogan stared at the white envelope in his hands.
In strong, bold, black penmanship, the envelope was clearly addressed to Major Overmier.
One Gestapo Too Many
Night noise surrounded Francois as he smoked his third cigarette for the evening. Mixed with all the wine he had consumed, it made for a potent combination.
He found darkness comforting; daylight brought with it too many horrors.
"You must be more careful. Curfew is for everyone," a curt voice sounded behind him.
Francois inhaled deeply then threw the half smoked cigarette angrily onto the cobblestones, grinding it out with his worn shoes. He deliberately took his time addressing the voice behind him, but as he turned he grimaced at the reflection of the streetlights bouncing off shiny long black boots. "Nice boots," he said, sarcastically. "I was wondering when you were going to show."
"What can you tell me?" Daniel asked anxiously.
Francois faced him, unable to mask his torment. "She lives. Whatever her crime was, she has paid for it with her right leg."
"A shame. Very well. I will be in touch," Daniel stated then departed.
Francois rushed after him, annoyed. "Wait! What am I supposed to do with her?" he demanded, but when he attempted to follow, he noticed the German patrol on duty. "Maudit!" he muttered to himself. What was he going to do with the young woman in his basement? Opening the front door to his home he heard his mother call out. What was he going to tell his mother?
A few blocks away, the second change of the German patrols that evening reached their assigned corner. Daniel adjusted his German officer's jacket and carefully secured his belt and gun holster. He glanced down at his black boots and smirked at the recollection of Francois' sarcasm. The patrol marched out of eyesight. It was now or never. After a final check of his uniform, he descended the steps leading to the planned rendezvous.
Hogan sat at the table nursing an empty cup of coffee that had been refilled three times. His men were in similar positions, between copious amounts of coffee and cigarettes. At the far end of the table, Carter cradled his head in his hands, moaning incessantly, while Newkirk lamented the unfortunate discovery of the final cigarette in his beloved emergency supply. "Blimey," he complained.
Holding the coffee pot in his hand, Le Beau peeked outside to savour the first flush of morning and take a deep rejuvenating breath. He then continued on his way to fill the endless coffee cups at the common room table.
Suddenly, Carter raced outside, leaving the barracks door wide open. Newkirk chuckled, "Exit number four. This time ol' Schultzy is really going to be mad."
Hogan smiled into his cup, hoping no one would see it. It really was the fourth time that the young sergeant was forced to make a dramatic exit. "Le Beau, keep some coffee in that pot for Carter," Hogan requested, through sips of coffee. After all, it was the least they could do.
Kinch rubbed his arms vigorously, freezing from the cold wind the open door invited. "Have you decided what you're going to do about that invitation for Major Overmier?" he asked, concerned.
"We don't have much choice but to keep the rendezvous. The only way I, or Major Overmier, for that matter, could have been spotted, would have been when Carter, Newkirk and I convinced Captain Metzer that Major Hochstetter wanted Jeanine and we were taking her to him." Hogan said.
Newkirk didn't particularly like where this conversation was heading. He still had sleepless nights. "What if this is all a ploy for this Major or Captain or whatever he is, to have us shot for impersonating German officers?"
Hogan stared at Newkirk with mock offence, "I'd like to go to this meeting thinking that I've been invited to a game of cards and a glass of beer like Carter was."
"Oh, of course. Whatever was I thinking?" Newkirk said sarcastically.
Le Beau peeked out the barracks door again to check on Carter. He was torn between relief and distress when he witnessed Carter back-tracking and Schultz aiming the rifle at him and demanding, "What is wrong with you? This is the third time I have –"
"Fourth actually," Carter interrupted, walking backwards, and rubbing his temples. "My head and stomach are keeping count."
Schultz's features softened. "Carter. You know regulations. Any prisoner outside will be shot. You don't want to get shot, do you?"
Carter backed into the barracks, bumping into Le Beau. "Wouldn't be such a bad idea," Schultz heard him mutter. Schultz was speechless. Carter wanted to get shot? Why would Carter want to get shot? He thought Carter liked Stalag 13. He shook his head sadly. He was going to have to have a word with Colonel Hogan. What was the use of having a prisoner of war camp when the prisoners wanted to get shot?
Carter stumbled back inside but before he could resume his seat Le Beau handed him a hot cup of coffee. Carter accepted it gratefully, trying to focus on the conversation at the table; a conversation that revolved around him, somehow. "What note?" he finally asked.
Newkirk leaned across and sniffed the contents of Carter's cup.
"It's coffee!" Le Beau declared, offended.
Carter was now more confused than ever. Then he recalled the card game he joined in at the Hauserhoff. "I'm really sorry," he apologised, looking at them all in turn. "Colonel, when I was asked to join Major Yager for a card game, I couldn't just leave. It would have been so obvious."
Hogan patted Carter on the shoulder, "That's fine, Andrew. Any one of us would have done the same. What you may not have realised was that one of the players decided to drop a little note in your pocket. A message of a rendezvous time and date for Major Overmier."
"They couldn't have! I would have known, Colonel," Carter insisted. "Major Yager was seated next to me," he continued explaining as some clarity returned. "He kept leaning across and filling my glass when we won, and man, did we keep winning!" he recalled enthusiastically for a moment until he felt his head begin to pound again.
Newkirk stubbed out his last cigarette. "I'm not surprised," he added sarcastically.
"That's all we did. Really," Carter emphatically declared, looking at all before him. Then, when no one said anything, he felt so self conscious, he returned to looking at his coffee cup. He lifted it to take a drink only to see the coffee swirl endlessly before him, on and on and - "I don't think I feel so well…" he groaned. He put down the cup and without a moment's hesitation rushed outside again.
Newkirk looked at Le Beau, smiling broadly, "Exit number five. I'll take that payment now if you please."
Le Beau reached into his pocket and threw a packet of cigarettes on the table before Newkirk. "You should be ashamed of yourself, betting on another man's misfortune," he criticized.
"Ain’t nothing misfortunate about it," Newkirk chuckled.
"Le Beau's right. You should be ashamed of yourself," Hogan admonished.
Newkirk was crushed. "How else is a man to get a decent supply of cigarettes?"
"Help Carter sober up. I want you both ready by tonight," Hogan ordered, rising and heading for his office. "Let's keep this rendezvous and see what this Major Yager has in store for us." Then as an after thought, he threw over his shoulder, "And I don't want any heavy drinking, no matter who's paying or winning!"
At the Hauserhoff, Dieter escorted Hogan, Carter and Newkirk to a table in a darkened corner. Hogan sat with his back to the wall giving him full view of the entrance. Dieter quickly informed them that the group that played cards with Carter frequented the Hauserhoff each evening at the same late time, and that when they arrived he would signal them.
An officer staggered up the stairs to leave for the night, bouncing from one side of the stair railing to the other. Dieter watched then sent one of his staff to aid the officer out of the Hauserhoff. He had to be careful. His place was inspected almost every week by the Gestapo, especially if there were accidents to German officers on his premises.
Sometime close to midnight when most of the patrons were leaving, Hogan and Dieter saw a lone officer make his way down the steps, carefully avoiding the retiring drunken officers finally leaving the premises. Dieter gave a quick nod to Hogan who immediately straightened, alert. One quick glance at his men told him they also saw Dieter's signal.
Major Yager stood at the foot of the stairs. His above average height and stature exuded a dominating presence. The Gestapo uniform added to it. Briefly surveying the room he called out to Dieter. Hogan watched as they spoke then made their way towards him.
"Major," Yager saluted. Hogan mimicked the motions of a German salute, barely. He did not rise, preferring to take the antagonistic approach. Major Yager stood at attention for a few moments then taking his seat, proceeded to meticulously remove his gloves, fold them, and place them one on top of the other in his upturned hat. Hogan recognised the action. It was a repetitive German signal used when contact was established and no immediate danger was detected. So much for his silent antagonistic approach. Two officers approached the table. Carter and Newkirk stood. "Please," Yager held up his hand, never breaking eye contact with Hogan. "Please instruct your men to remain seated." With a nod from Hogan, Carter and Newkirk resumed their seats. "We are all here for the same reason, believe me," Yager explained. "Major Overmier, I am Major Yager. My associates are Captain Ehrlichmann and Captain Muller."
"I am a very busy man, Major Yager. Please tell me why you found it necessary to send an invitation to meet with you. I would have thought that you would have approached me yourself," Hogan said curtly.
Yager drank the beer that Dieter placed before him. He deliberately took his time answering. Then, placing the empty glass on the table he whispered, "You are not an easy man to track, Major. Believe me, I tried. Major Hochstetter has also made many attempts to track you down, to no avail. "
"Well, now that you have found me, I'm sure you can tell the Major all about it," Hogan tested.
Hogan noticed Captain Ehrlichmann suddenly become very nervous, "Er spielt uns. Wir müssen gehen, bevor er zu spät ist," Captain Ehrlichmann whispered urgently to Captain Muller. Hogan understood what was said - 'He plays us. We must leave before it is too late.' Before what was too late? Obviously the whispering was for Captain Muller alone, hence the unmistakable glare from Major Yager to his Captain.
"Who are you?" Hogan asked.
Major Yager was still glaring at his Captain. This was not how he wanted to introduce himself or his officers to these three men. "We are officers of the Abwehr," he admitted.
Newkirk whistled, "Blimey! Military Intelligence."
"Please do not be alarmed," Captain Muller added quickly. "You and your men have, unintentionally of course, possibly saved us from execution. We wanted to set up this meeting to ask for your further assistance and believe that we may be of paramount assistance to you."
Hogan was not impressed. "That still does not tell me whether what you have to say will be to my benefit or detriment."
"You are correct, of course," Yager agreed, reluctantly.
Captain Ehrlichmann stared at Hogan, then firmly but quietly said, "Not all of us approve of the direction Germany is being taken. Too many lives are being lost. There are times that we find ourselves in a position to be able to assist …"
Hogan hazarded a guess, "You were being blackmailed."
Yager smiled. He liked this man before him and it had been a long time since he talked genuinely to a man that he admired. He hoped he would not be proven wrong. "Very good. You had the opportunity of meeting our blackmailer, Herr Hauptmann Lutz Metzer."
"It was ingenious to have the fräulein return and shoot him," Captain Muller praised. "We are indebted to you for this action alone. However, we have since come across a problem that we cannot deal with alone -"
Hogan didn't hear anything more that Captain Muller had said. His fräulein? He was talking about Jeanine. He had to be talking about Jeanine. The pistol she took from Doc. And what happened to her. He had the Underground search for her for so long and nothing. Now, this Major was thanking them for doing them a favour. Panic was rising within him. What if the next comment these men made was to pass on their commiserations? He wanted more information, more details. He wanted to ask them how they knew what they did. Instead he asked tautly, "What makes you think we can help?"
"We believe you are tied to the Resistance movement. We can give you the information you require to avert a disaster. More than that we cannot help," Yager confided.
Newkirk was growing more uncomfortable with the comments from these men. "Ah, if you'll be so kind. Just one question. If Metzer was a blackmailer, what makes you so certain that he didn't have others in it with him? I mean, it seems to us that you have that much in-house fighting that the occasional knife in the back is a pre-requisite for advancement. No criticism intended of course."
Captain Muller straightened, "His ego. His own self-importance. And, he had one fault which allowed him his privacy. He did not interact well with anyone, unless he had to. For reasons I will explain, we considered him – someone to avoid, at all costs," he revealed.
"All that tells us is that he’s Gestapo material," Hogan quietly said, taking a sip of his beer. He didn't miss the small nod from Yager to Ehrlichmann.
Captain Ehrlichmann looked decidedly uncomfortable. He was silently given an order. He looked at the group before him then began, "Metzer enjoyed torturing prisoners. In the last six months Metzer was becoming adept at discovering downed airmen. You could say that every time there was an air raid, he would somehow have one of these men in for interrogation," He stopped long enough to take a sip of his beer.
Hogan was having trouble stomaching this sudden revelation. His mind was reeling with the recollection of the uniforms he and Newkirk had discovered in that torture chamber basement where they discovered Celeste and Marie.
"He was also successful in amassing quite a supply of black market goods. We just didn't know where his storage facilities were housed, just that they existed," Captain Ehrlichmann continued. "I decided to follow him one evening, after a particularly successful air raid, to an isolated farmhouse. I left it at that. The next day as I expected, an airman was in interrogation. When I saw these men at Headquarters – the torture they obviously endured – for mercy's sake, I prayed they would be shot."
"You bleeding…" Newkirk hissed, shocked.
Ehrlichmann bowed his head. "I am sorry. No offence was intended. Obviously you do not believe in mercy killings."
"I also followed Metzer and it is because of what I witnessed and have witnessed since that I asked the assistance of Major Yager and Captain Ehrlichmann," Captain Muller added. "These airmen were tortured before Metzer took possession of them, of that we are certain. He did not want confessions. He was more interested in the art of torture during interrogation of prisoners. To be seen as brutal and unyielding did no harm to his reputation or his promotions."
"How did he find out about you?" Hogan asked Captain Ehrlichmann, hoarsely.
With a fleeting look towards Major Yager, Captain Ehrlichmann sat back in his chair and observed the men before him. "I was entrusted with the bodies of these airmen," he began, softly. "Four were alive. I knew of a home where they could be treated until assistance could be organised for them to return home. Metzer discovered that it was due to my incompetence that these airmen escaped. Fortunately, he did not know where."
Hogan stared at Ehrlichmann. His story could be checked out. However, going by gut instinct told him that he could believe him – just. "And you two?" Hogan asked.
Yager sat back in his chair, "He had us followed and kept a dossier. When he felt he'd compiled enough for charges of treason against the Third Reich, he approached us and informed us that he was what stood between life and death."
"What better way to appease a monster, than to bring him into your social circle?" Newkirk stated, sarcastically.
Captain Muller stared at him, offended. "We did not bring him into ours! He brought us into his!"
Major Yager lay his hand on his captain's arm, effectively silencing him. "We met each evening to pass on any information about the movement of weapons and such. As mentioned, he was also into black marketeering and he was interested in was building his own supply for after the war. The torturing of airmen was his personal interest, not ours. We only supplied information on the movement of our own arsenals," Yager stated, deliberately staring at Hogan. "You must understand, we could not dispose of him ourselves, so, as we have mentioned earlier, your young fräulein succeeded where we could not. We are only sorry that she met the fate that she did. Jumping from his hotel window was not the way I would have chosen to leave his hotel room. If only we were able to …"
Hogan blanched. The panic he felt earlier now assaulted his senses. She couldn't have! First they tell him she shot the Captain, and now that she jumped out of a window. What floor was she on? Where was she now? Did she have any idea what she was doing to him?
Captain Ehrlichmann leaned towards the group, concerned. "The reason we have asked you here, Major, is that we have received word that permission has been given from the Fuhrer's camp to test the effects of a chemical created in 1939."
"Do you know what it's called?" Carter asked, worried.
Captain Ehrlichmann removed a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and handed it to Carter. "We believe it goes by the name Sarin."
Carter passed the paper to an ashen-faced Hogan. "Nerve agent, sir. Hitler has always been against chemical warfare in case it was used against his people. I don't understand why he would resurrect it now."
"Hitler didn't give the order. A very ambitious General by the name of Field Marshal Fleischer has given the word for a container of it to be transported to France where he will test it on some of the isolated villages." Yager informed them, his disgust evident.
"Do you know how many people can be killed? The wind alone will carry it everywhere!" Carter exclaimed, horrified. "You can't do that! That's not civilised! You just can't do that!"
Major Yager was pleased with the reaction he was receiving from these three men. They would do. They would do very nicely. "Field Marshall Fleischer will accompany the scientist and one container by train. It will pass through Hammelberg in four days."
"We can't very well blow it up, can we?" Newkirk queried
Hogan absently rubbed his temples. Four days. If what they were saying was true, they had four days. "You're telling me that what we need to do is neutralise one container, one general and one scientist?"
The three Abwehr officers glanced at each other then Yager nodded. They did not want to be a part of this problem. They merely wanted to pass the information on.
"Say we do take this on, answer me one thing. Why is the welfare of a French village of such concern to you German officers?"
"It is my French village, Colonel Hogan." Captain Ehrlichmann said, extending his hand in a handshake to a visibly shocked Colonel Hogan. Hogan took his hand, debating whether or not to interrogate him on what he knew about him and more importantly, about their whole operation.
Captain Ehrilchmann smiled warmly at the handshake. "For whatever you can do, I thank you," he finally said.
"Bleeding Hell!" Newkirk exclaimed.
Carter stood, dumbfounded, accepting the outstretched hand of Captain Muller in a handshake himself. "Well I'll be…"
Yager, however, saluted a half German salute and left. Hogan didn’t return the salute, instead he picked up his beer, deciding to remain calm, mentally recalling all their names so he could do some investigating of his own.
"You do know that you have a Gestapo agent working in your Underground, don't you?" Yager threw over his shoulder, a few steps from the table.
Now Hogan smiled. He raised his glass, "We do, but thanks for the clarification, Major."
Hogan's room was getting too small for his pacing, and the tunnels were getting too crowded with the guests from London.
Kinch knocked and entered, immediately passing a message to the Colonel. "They're waiting on your answer, sir."
Hogan stopped his pacing, enough to read the message. "Tell them it can be done and call the men for a meeting in my office."
A short time later, Newkirk, Kinch, Carter and Le Beau made themselves comfortable in Hogan's room. Since returning from their meeting with the German officers, they'd talked of nothing else and waited anxiously for any orders.
"All right," Hogan began, "London has confirmed that our three German officers are indeed with the Abwehr and have been instrumental in helping a lot of our people. They went as far as stating that many agents that have come before the Gestapo have been helped to escape after being interviewed by these three men along with others assisting them."
Newkirk wasn't totally convinced. "What about these airmen that that Captain was going on about?"
"Three airmen were aided back to England. Upon their arrival they relayed to London that the officer responsible for their escape was a Captain Ehrlichmann. The fourth airman didn't make it out of France." Hogan continued, pacing with his arms folded across his chest. "London's also aware of the chemical being produced, but like us, it was confident that Hitler would not use it. That one of his Field Marshals would take it upon himself to use it did not occur to them. As Carter explained, once released it won't choose the nationality before it kills and nerve gas is not a very nice way to go."
"I told you it's uncivilised. Killing your own kind for an experiment just isn't American!" Carter exclaimed, sitting on Hogan's bunk.
Standing next to the bunk, Newkirk glared at him, "Ain't you been listening? The Field Marshal's a bleeding German, remember? He ain't killing his own kind!"
"All I can say it its uncivilised. Once they start using chemicals in war – well - it's just not civilised." Carter argued, pointedly glaring back at Newkirk.
Hogan placed a reassuring hand on Carter's shoulder. "We know that, Carter. That's why London have asked if we can take on the mission of confiscating the container of sarin and at the same time eliminating the scientist and Field Marshal."
"Should I hazard a guess at the method of elimination that London office would have in store for them?" Newkirk asked, enthused.
"No trip to London. We deal with it here," Hogan informed.
Le Beau took a seat quietly next to Carter, "What do we do about Nicolas?”
Hogan hadn't forgotten. No matter how many times he thought about it, he always came to the same conclusion, that they had to bring out into the open now. "We can't move the operatives until the Underground is secure and that's not going to happen until this Nicolas is out of the way."
"Do we know whether he is the same Gestapo agent the Major warned us about?" Newkirk asked,
"I don't know, but I'd hate to think we have two. We move tonight." Hogan looked towards Carter and joked, "You won't be asked to join a card game tonight, unfortunately."
"That's okay, sir. I'd have to refuse anyway. I don't think I can drink another beer for quite awhile," Carter innocently explained.
Newkirk opened his mouth to comment but Le Beau discreetly shook his head.
"We don't have much time. Le Beau, you, Martin and Thomas will be met by the Underground tonight. They'll be informed that you three have broken out of Stalag 13 and are to be given safe passage home. Let's see how Nicolas reacts when he sees three prisoners before him."
Le Beau didn't feel comfortable but knew they all had no choice. "What do we do if he reports us to the guards and we are arrested?"
"Tell them you're all from Stalag 13. Demand to speak to Kommandant Klink. Once the Kommandant hears that his perfect record of no escapes is at risk, he'll be more than happy to get you back and unfortunately, introduce you to the cooler for a month." Hogan smiled.
But for some reason, Le Beau still felt uneasy, "What if this Nicolas just decides it's too much trouble to call the guards and he shoots us?"
Newkirk put his arm around Le Beau's shoulder. "Well, that's where ol' Newkirk comes in. From the time you three leave here, I'll be following your every step. Didn’t honestly think I'd let you make it home without taking me with you, did you?" he said reassuringly, then looked up at Hogan for a little more confirmation, "Ain't that so, gov'nor?"
"Perfect. Whichever way this Nicolas moves, we should be ready for him. All right. Everyone get some sleep. We move tonight," Hogan ordered, opening the door for them to return to their bunks.
Kinch remained behind.
Hogan looked at him anxiously. "What was the rest of the message from London?"
Kinch tensed visibly. "London conveyed a message for Jeanine. They asked that she report to Headquarters immediately."
Hogan felt like he was being kicked in the guts. "Tell them we're not in contact at the moment. That she's on assignment for the Underground, but we'll get word as soon as possible," he said quickly, well aware that he was lying to London.
"Yes, sir," Kinch rose to leave.
"Kinch," Hogan called out to him before he opened the door, "ask London to double check these officers in Abewhr again. We have four days to meet that train. A lot can happen in four days."
"Yes, sir." Kinch left, closing the door behind him.
Hogan resumed pacing. London wanted her to report in. They weren't the only ones. He also wanted her to report in and never report out. Someone must have seen something. If they knew she jumped then someone must have aided her. After this mission he was going to have another word to Pierre. The Underground was doing a damned poor job of locating her!
He opened his barracks room window and stared out. Daylight already. Another night gone without proper sleep. Soon Schultz would awaken everyone for roll call. He walked out of his office and slammed his door. Newkirk, already half asleep jumped up, groggy, to see the barracks door open and slam shut. He then lay back on his bunk and covered his head with his blanket.
Le Beau lay on his back, staring at the slats of wood supporting the weight on the bunk above him. He was mentally and physically exhausted, but he didn't want to sleep. For two nights he had the same dream. It was not good and it was all about him. He recalled his grand-mère reciting dreams to his mere and being adamant that to dream three times was a prophecy. No. He did not want to sleep now, not until this mission was complete. This prophecy he did not want to come true.
"I don't need to tell you to be careful," Hogan ordered his men, his concern evident.
Martin, Thomas and Le Beau were ready to move out. Newkirk, dressed in all black, hovered nearby. Le Beau watched Newkirk strap on a gun belt. "You really have to wear that?" he asked alarmed.
Newkirk looked up from testing the pistol before holstering it. "I really have to wear it," he whispered. "Come on. Let’s move it."
Hogan and Kinch watched them climb up the tunnel ladder. Again Hogan tried to convince himself this was the only way. They had no time left. They had to move the operatives out.
In the enveloping darkness, they all made their way to the rendezvous point, Newkirk keeping a safe distance behind until they made contact. He recognised Pierre before anyone else and Nicolas with him against a cluster of overhanging trees. Newkirk whistled to Le Beau then fell back, hopeful that he wasn't spotted yet.
Pierre approached the group, hesitantly, "You come at a bad time," he whispered. "When we received word that you had broken out of Stalag 13, we debated if this was such a good idea."
"Why?" Le Beau asked, "There is more risk than normal?"
"You are the risk!" Nicolas spat out, standing before Le Beau. "We have enough to do without having to worry about you three."
"Listen," Martin began, standing between Le Beau and Nicolas, "If you didn't feel you could help us, you could have mentioned it earlier. As it stands, we don't have much of a choice and neither do you, so ease off," Martin warned, pushing him away from Le Beau.
Pierre intervened, "Please. Your transport will not be ready until tomorrow night. In the meantime you will be hidden in a safe house. Please, please, do not leave this house."
"Oui," Le Beau promised. Thomas and Martin nodded. Nicolas fell back as they moved on. He was interested in the little Frenchman. He recognised the Frenchman from the Hauserhoff. He smirked. What would Pierre have to say if he told him that the Frenchman was a double agent? Personally, he disliked double agents. They were neither for you nor against you. They played the game to their advantage and only to their advantage. Nicolas was no double agent. He played the game the only way he knew how, the German way.
"What do you think?" Martin quietly asked Le Beau as they walked a few steps behind Pierre.
"He dislikes me enough to make me think that he suspects I am a traitor." Le Beau spat out.
Thomas joined him. "He does at that."
"Being in their halfway house is the perfect opportunity for them to try something. Let's hope we have enough time to see it coming." Le Beau asked.
Before they could discuss it further, Pierre led the way through scrubland to a lone cottage camouflaged by endless trees and shrubs. Pierre pushed against the door, almost unhinging it, then stood aside, allowing all to enter. Le Beau quickly glanced at Martin. An unhinged door. If anyone wanted to come in, it would be no problem at all.
The cottage was small, only one large room partitioned by different pieces of furniture. Quaint -- almost.
"You will remain here tonight. Tomorrow, we move you," Pierre instructed. "Again, I must tell you, please do not leave this cottage."
They watched Pierre and Nicolas leave.
Martin threw himself on the bed. "Man, it's got a mattress. I haven't felt a mattress under me for so long." he sighed.
Thomas was uneasy. "I don't know whether to say I do or don't like it. If it all goes to plan we may actually be on our way home tomorrow."
"And where is that a bad thing?" Martin asked from his comfortable position on the bed.
Le Beau looked around, curious. He never recalled the Underground mentioning this safe house. He never recalled any of the people that were sent to the Underground being left unaided for any period of time. There was always a member of the Underground with them in case something happened.
Something was not right. Nicolas had the perfect opportunity to strike now if he wanted to. He could say he was looking after them and strike. He was angry enough and he was suspicious of Le Beau. "I do not recall any mention of this safe-house," Le Beau finally said out loud. Martin sat up. Thomas made his way to a window to peer out.
Suddenly the door flung open and a Gestapo officer stood at attention, armed. "Perhaps because it is not, gentlemen."
Le Beau reacted instantly. "Don't shoot! Don't shoot! We give up! We're from Stalag 13. You can call Kommandant Klink," he yelled, waving his hands in the air.
"Who said anything about taking prisoners?" the officer laughed. He levelled the gun at Le Beau, smiling. "This is so much neater and bringing you back to Stalag 13 will cause so much paperwork."
The sound of gunfire reverberated through the cottage. Le Beau gasped, ashen and confused. He felt nothing. He patted himself down. No gunshot wound.
The Gestapo officer pitched forward, then crashed to the floor. Newkirk rushed in, his pistol drawn and obviously fired. "Are you all right?" he asked Le Beau, terrified.
"Yes." Le Beau answered, shocked. "I'm all right, really," he repeated.
All of a sudden a shadow fell over Newkirk. Le Beau was the first to see it. "Watch out!" he yelled, in horror, but not before another shot rang out. Newkirk, who had turned at the sound of Le Beau's voice, felt the impact of the bullet as it struck him. He fell back, a red stain immediately growing at his side. Le Beau raced to him, his heart pounding. "No," he begged, "Pour l'amour de Dieu!" he screamed. He removed his jacket and padded it against the wound.
"Bleeding hell that hurts!" Newkirk yelled in obvious distress.
Nicolas stepped into the room, clucking his tongue and holding his pistol before him. "I still cannot figure you out. You dine with Gestapo Captains then anguish over a dead Englishman. So, which one are you, the German collaborator or the French Prisoner of War?"
"Which one are you?" Le Beau asked, applying pressure to the wound and silently praying that he was successful in staunching the blood loss. "Murderer or monster?"
"Coward," a voice sounded behind Nicolas. Le Beau did not recognise him. The man, dressed in full black held his pistol to Nicolas' head. "Shall I now dispose of you, my friend, as you wished to dispose of these gentlemen? Or would you like to accompany us all back the way we came and hope that we can make it before daylight?"
"Who are you?" Nicolas spat out, not daring to move.
"My name is Francois, and unlike you, I am a Frenchman!"
After shouting every English curse he knew, Newkirk succumbed to the effects of the sedative that Doc had administered.
Hogan stood back and observed as Doc and the man that carried him in, the one called Francois, frantically worked to remove the bullet in his side and hopefully save his life. That they were able to bring him back to camp still conscious was a miracle in itself.
When Doc finally dropped the bullet into the tin dish, Hogan heard his own deep breath. "Doc can take it from here, Francois. Please join me outside. I need to tell my men that their friend will be fine. Won't he, Doc?"
Doc smiled at Hogan. "I'll have him up in no time. But I would appreciate it if you'd ban him from guns, at least until I get my second breath."
"No problem, Doc," Hogan agreed. When he opened his office door, his men fell all over themselves scurrying out of the way from listening in. Hogan smiled. He didn't expect anything less. "He's going to be all right," he happily informed them.
A resounding cheer filled the barracks. Carter hit Le Beau on the back in jubilation. Le Beau jerked forward from the slap but did not cheer. He swallowed his tears instead. Hogan walked up to him and put his arm around his shoulders, drawing him near. Since returning, Le Beau had not moved from his position at the door of his office.
Le Beau looked up at his Colonel. He wanted to tell him how scared he was, how it happened so quickly that he did not believe it even as he was seeing it. Instead, he stared down at his blood-soaked clothes and his stained hands.
"Go change. He's going to be all right," Hogan softly told him.
Le Beau nodded and left.
Hogan sat at the common room table. "Francois, take a seat. Carter, if there's any coffee left…"
"This is a Prisoner of War camp?" Francois asked, confused.
"We prefer to call it home," Hogan joked.
All the men in the barracks made themselves comfortable around the room within hearing range of their Colonel and Francois. Francois glanced around the room, beginning to feel quite intimidated. He removed the dark hat he still wore and held it in his hands, giving his hands something to do. Carter placed the coffee before him. "Merci," he whispered, wrapping his hands around the cup. Shortly thereafter Le Beau joined them. Carter handed him a cup as well, patting him on the back as he walked away.
"I am pleased your friend will make it," Francois said to Le Beau with conviction.
Hogan wrapped his hands around his own coffee cup and leaned forward, narrowing the space between himself and Francois, deliberately. "My men are fortunate that you were there. Now, to get directly to the point, who are you?"
Francois stopped sipping his coffee. "Now? Now, I do not know. Before the war I was a priest."
Hogan laughed. He didn't mean to, but with all the pent up tension within him and the sleepless nights, this was the last thing he expected anyone to say. Embarrassed, he quickly composed himself. "For a priest, you handle a gun very well," Hogan said, then added as an afterthought, "maybe that is why we have been so fortunate tonight."
"The war has a way of making anyone multi skilled," he said with a hint of melancholy in his voice. He continued drinking his coffee, well aware that all eyes were on him. "I reside with my mother not far from here," he began. "The cottage where your people were being held belongs to our family. My grandmother lived there until her death four months ago. Since her death I have been visiting and maintaining it as my mother wishes. It was not until a month ago that I discovered that it was being used by German officers for their slaughter."
Hogan felt sick. "How many have been killed there?"
"I cannot tell you. I received word that the Underground had a Gestapo agent within its ranks so I watched the cottage more carefully and narrowed it down to two people, the one they call Pierre and the one called Nicolas. It was only a few days ago that I discovered it was Nicolas. I have only seen the one officer. When Nicolas has prisoners to dispose of, his routine is to have them stay within the cottage and this officer takes them from there. In the morning Nicolas then reports to the Underground that they are safely on their way."
Hogan sat back, shocked. How many people had been compromised? "You don't know how long this has been going on?"
Francois became nervous. He looked around the barracks at all the faces looking at him. "As I told you, Colonel, a month ago was the first time I saw anything amiss."
"You knew we were from Stalag 13, how?" Le Beau quietly asked.
Francois hesitated then answered sotto voce, "I have been watching you."
"Didn't I say I could feel someone watching us a few nights ago? I did say it! See?" Carter exclaimed.
Hogan emptied his own cup, although the coffee was beginning to taste quite bitter. Going by his instincts, he knew there was more to this man than he was telling. The fact that he had been watching them, so close to Stalag 13, did not sit well. "I'm intrigued how a priest goes from preaching to wielding a gun," Hogan asked.
Francois momentarily closed his eyes, as if attempting to garnish strength for what he was about to disclose. "Circumstances forced me to carry a gun and wield a scalpel, and unfortunately, a lot more." When someone coughed uncomfortably, Francois scanned the room. He so wanted to believe they understood the torment he held within him. Instead, he resumed staring at the now remaining cold coffee before him. "I had a sister," he began. "She was young, in the prime of her life. One night the Gestapo forcefully took her. When she was returned, a week later, she was a shell of her former self. I was called from my Church to aid her." He looked up, surprised to see the anguish reflected in the Colonel's eyes.
"You were able to help her, no?" Le Beau asked anxiously.
Francois swallowed hard. "By the time I arrived, she had hung herself in her own bedroom."
Everyone muttered a curse.
"I'm sorry," Hogan muttered, almost inaudibly. Would the horror never abate?
Francois nodded, grief tightening within his chest. He took a breath. "So you see, Colonel, circumstances and anger sometimes dictate the path. And Fate, she likes to play games. Recently a young woman was brought to me. She was so much like my sister that when I was informed she threw herself out of a hotel window, I was convinced she had also attempted suicide. A petite, attractive young woman – "
In shock, Hogan didn't hear any more. The only thing he could think about was how coincidental it would be if he was talking about his Jeanine. "She's alive?" he asked, hoarsely.
"She is alive, however her injuries were severe and unfortunately it was necessary to amputate her lower right leg, but – "
Hogan blanched. "Who brought her to you?"
Francois noted the distress in his voice. "A man that I trust with my life, Colonel. Captain Daniel Ehrlichmann, my brother." He saw Hogan flinch, but quickly continued. "My real name is Franz. Only my mother calls me Francois. I consider myself a Frenchman. My mother is French," he explained, hoping to get a little understanding for what he was saying. "My father was German."
Jeanine panicked. No matter how many times she tried to talk herself into remaining calm, opening her eyes and being met with darkness and assaulted with the stench of mould only fed the very fear she fought to contain. This time, this day, slivers of light penetrated the darkness enough for her to make out enough of her surroundings to assuage some of her fear.
From where she lay, in an old but sturdy bed, she was able to see the door leading out of what looked to her like either an underground cellar or basement. Half of it was stocked with packages and crates. However, in the corner, not too far from her bed, she spied an old pair of crutches. She gasped, involuntarily. The gut wrenching anguish she experienced when she realised her leg had been amputated still remained with her along with the pain vibrating through her body. She understood perfectly well how her injury happened, yet she was surprised that she was even alive. Her last coherent thought was of her leg smashing into the sidewalk. She accepted that it was her own fault for confronting Metzer by herself and having no escape plan.
In her heart she knew that she was lucky to be alive, however it still did not diminish the hollowness she felt in the pit of her stomach or the nausea that assaulted her senses every time she moved.
Taking stock of her surroundings, Jeanine decided she'd grab the crutches. After what seemed like insurmountable time and energy, not to mention pain, Jeanine had manoeuvred herself in the bed to within arms reach of the crutches. She leaned across, grabbed hold but just as she turned, she was assaulted by shooting pain so severe she jerked violently and fell from the bed to the dirt floor with a heavy thump.
Face down, she spat out the dirt she almost swallowed.
She wasn't going to cry.
She told herself she was frustrated, hungry, hurt and cold, but she was definitely not going to cry.
Attempting to rise, using her arms to lift herself up, she let out an involuntary whimper when unable to support her weight she collapsed, again with her face in the dirt.
This was not happening, she told herself. She was a trained operative. She should be able to perform one simple duty such as getting up off a dirt floor. She tried to lift herself up again. Again her muscles gave way and again she found herself kissing the ground. Deflated and frustrated, she lay there, mentally berating herself.
There was no way she was going to cry.
Suddenly strong arms lifted her. Jeanine stared, dumbfounded, into the eyes of Colonel Hogan. Instantly she wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his chest, crying uncontrollably. Hogan squeezed her to him protectively. "Let's get you home."
Within the confines of the emergency tunnel underneath barracks two, Hogan paced, agitatedly folding and unfolding his arms in a futile attempt to contain the anger that burned within him.
Nothing had prepared Hogan for the sight of Jeanine lying on that dirt floor of Francois' basement, and nothing had prepared him for the tightness in his chest as he held her through her heart wrenching sobs that eventually whittled away to whimpers.
It should never have come to this. She was safe, in their compound and ready to return to London. As far as he knew, her mission was complete and if not, he didn't understand why she had to risk her life in an attempt to exact revenge. She wasn't alone in this war. She could have come to him. It wasn't her personal war to wage.
Doc didn't miss Hogan's restlessness or his peering over his shoulder as he examined Jeanine. "If you're contemplating a suitable reprimand, you're wasting your time," Doc told him.
Hogan stepped back from his close proximity to Doc. "Reprimand wasn't exactly what I had in mind," he declared tightly, folding his arms.
Doc darted a quick look at him, before resuming his examination. "I know," he said, deliberately softening his voice. He had been watching the Colonel from the moment he brought Jeanine into the tunnel and waited for such a time as this, when the tension and anxiety within the Colonel would manifest itself and demand release, as it did now, in his constant pacing, and restless fidgeting.
Again, Hogan unfolded and refolded his arms, staring at Jeanine on the bed for so long that her features blended into those of another: Marie. His stomach lurched. What if she really wasn't sedated? What if she never woke up? His head hurt. He pinched the bridge of his nose to ward off some of the growing ache. "How long are you going to sedate her?" he asked Doc a little too abruptly.
Suddenly, Doc stiffened. Hogan didn't miss it.
"When's the next scheduled rendezvous with the submarine?" Doc asked, answering his question with a question.
Hogan stared at him, a little piqued. "Tomorrow night," he informed him. "I had Kinch radio ahead."
Doc pointedly arranged the threadbare blanket around Jeanine, deliberately avoiding looking directly at the Colonel. "Then she'll remain sedated until she's on English soil!" he stated firmly.
Hogan pinched the bridge of his nose again, this time grinning, just a little. "This wouldn't have anything to do with her taking your pistol and sneaking out, would it?" he asked, the sudden amusement in his voice unmistakable. Doc silently continued his examination. "You know, I didn't notice you ask for a replacement once you found out she'd swiped yours."
"I tolerate guns just as much as uniforms," he grumbled as he turned to face the Colonel. At the change of Doc's tone, Hogan immediately dropped his smile. "Which, by the way, you seemed to have forgotten to divest yourself of," Doc continued.
Hogan looked down at the Gestapo Major's uniform with all its regalia that he still wore. It was the only way that Francois could get him into his part of town safely, the only way he could reach Jeanine. He usually changed immediately when he returned back to camp. He began unbuttoning the German coat he wore as he made his way to where his own uniform lay. "Dislike of guns, abhorrence of uniforms – how did you make it through basic training?" Hogan threw back at Doc as he changed.
"I complained a lot." Hogan heard. Then there was quiet. Hogan hastily shoved his arms through the sleeves of his brown leather jacket and returned to Doc's side. Doc had unbandaged Jeanine's amputated leg wound and was redressing it. Hogan gasped. He noticed the slight tremors in Doc's hands as he painstakingly redressed it. "If I'd watched her more closely that day – maybe sedated her – this would never have happened," Doc cursed.
Hogan lay a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "She would have found a way. This was personal. If anything, I should have been able to see it coming and I didn't. Her mission was to trace the transmitter not to execute a member of the Gestapo."
Doc stopped his dressing and looked at the Colonel, his eyes revealing his anguish. "I want her home, in London. I want her in rehabilitation – hating us for keeping her sedated and whisking her away like this."
Hogan lowered his head and made out that he was zipping up his jacket. He wanted the same thing. "Tomorrow night, Doc," he muttered, barely above a whisper.
He stood watching Doc for a while, then with the silence that descended around them, he decided to leave Doc and Jeanine and make his way to the ladder leading up to the barracks and his men, but as he climbed up the rungs of the ladder, Doc joined him. Hogan immediately saw the blood smeared on Doc's hands. He again reminded himself that Jeanine was sedated; that she was alive.
"Losing Marie was enough, Colonel," Doc stammered, then returned to Jeanine.
White knuckled hands clenched the rungs of the ladder in fierce distress. Losing Marie was more than enough. Hogan quickly made his way up the ladder. He had work to do.
"Achtung! Achtung! Raus! Raus!" Schultz shouted before he had the barracks door fully opened. Everyone was still sound asleep. "Achtung! Achtung! Raus! Raus!" he repeated with annoyance. No one was moving. This was not acceptable behaviour. He marched around the barracks but no-one moved. When he reached the bunks where Kinch and LeBeau slept, Schultz leaned close to the sleeping LeBeau on the top bunk and deliberately yelled in his ear. "Raus!"
Le Beau jumped up with a start, immediately covering his ears with his hands. "What did you do that for?" he demanded.
Hogan immediately came out of his office, fully dressed and heading straight for the loud Sergeant. "Schultz, do you realise you make enough noise to wake everybody up?" Hogan complained.
"I'm terribly sorry, Colonel Hogan, but it's roll call and you know how the Kommandant gets when I don't have you all in formation outside," Schultz explained.
Hogan casually took the guard’s elbow, steering him back through the barracks door. "We know that, Schultz, more than you think, but, you see, what with the cold and all, it's really getting harder to get up in the morning, and until the Kommandant sees the futility of these early morning roll calls, well, I'm just going to have to ask you to be just a little more considerate and give us a little more time to get ready."
"But Colonel Hogan! I can't possibly tell the Kommandant –"
Hogan shut the door in Schultz's face. Behind him, Kinch, Carter and Le Beau had scrambled to help Newkirk rise from one of the lower bunks. Kinch immediately placed a supportive arm around Newkirk, who was cursing his lack of strength. When his legs suddenly gave way beneath him, he found his other arm wrapped around Le Beau's shoulders.
Newkirk manoeuvred himself, with the assistance of his friends, to a passable upright position and looked at his Colonel, with an enigmatic smile. "No problem at all. Only take me a minute, gov'nor." He risked removing his arms from around Kinch and Le Beau's shoulders and stood without assistance, barely. "Always wanted a war wound to brag to all the birds back home," he joked to his concerned comrades. Before he succeeded in falling on his face, Hogan took his arm and helped him walk very slowly outside to the roll call, his men very close and alert behind them.
Outside, standing in the regulation two line formation, all the men of barracks two shifted their weight from one foot to the next, constantly breathing into freezing hands. It was cold and getting colder with every minute they stood outside. Hogan zipped up his jacket and moved closer to the stooped form of Newkirk. His arms were crossed firmly around himself instead of in his pockets as was his usual practice. Le Beau, at his usual place at Newkirk's left, moved closer Newkirk, alerting Kinch and Carter. Newkirk glanced at his young French friend and rested one arm heavily on his shoulder.
Schultz, looking all rugged up and warmer than the prisoners, marched leisurely up and down the line, counting in German, becoming momentarily distracted, then resuming the tedious counting again.
"If you don't hurry up with that counting, we'll all die of frostbite!" someone yelled from the group.
"Who said that?" Schultz demanded to know, marching up and down scowling at all the men in formation. When he reached the end and all eyes remained firmly fixed ahead, he resumed counting but could not recall what number he had previously reached. "Where was I?" he muttered to himself.
"Russia," Newkirk nervously called out. "Or Russia's here, what with all this cold," he muttered, shifting more and more of his weight onto Le Beau.
Hogan had to get the roll call over. Either Newkirk was going to collapse or Newkirk and Le Beau were going to collapse. "Schultz!" Hogan called out. "You know we're all here."
Schultz reached the end of the line for the second time that night. "…acht, neun, zen, elf, zwölf, dreizehn - Colonel Hogan! You make me lose my place! I have to count all the men and report-"
"Repooooooort!" Klink bellowed making his way down the steps of his office to come face to face with a nervous Schultz.
"Next time try counting in English, we have fewer numbers," Hogan whispered to him as the Kommandant approached them.
"What is taking so long?" Klink yelled at Schultz, his teeth chattering from the cold.
Schultz glanced once more at the formation then faced his Kommandant, "All present and accounted for, Herr Kommandant!" he reported, pumping himself up to full bearing and secretly crossing his fingers behind his back.
"And it took you that long to tell me! Don't you know what the temperature has dropped to?" Klink complained
Schultz looked from the smirk on Hogan's face to his Kommandant, "Yes, Herr Kommandant."
Klink nodded impatiently, holding tightly to the riding crop under his arm, "Dismiss the prisoners, Schultz," he ordered and rushed back inside.
Schultz watched his Kommandant leave and backed up until he was close to Colonel Hogan. "They are all here, are they not, Colonel Hogan?" Schultz quietly asked.
Hogan nodded to the men who immediately circled Newkirk, helping him back into the barracks. "Give or take a few," he quickly answered Schultz before joining his men.
"Pleeeeeeeeease, Colonel Hogan. Please do not tell me that!" he called out, watching the mass exodus of prisoners returning to their barracks. "Colonel Hogan!" he called out, but there was no one but himself left standing in the icy cold wind and he didn't recall dismissing them.
Two figures clad in dark clothing made their way through the tunnel until they joined Doc, who was overseeing the departure of Jeanine.
"We need to move," Hogan informed Doc, rubbing his hands over his face, spreading the dirt evenly over it.
Carter swiftly secured the utility belt around his waist, removing the pistol from the holster and checking it.
Doc stooped over Jeanine, examining her for the umpteenth time.
"Doc, we need to move now," Hogan quietly repeated. "We don't have much time."
Doc picked her up. "I want to come, too," he whispered, as he placed her in the Colonel's arms. "Please," he begged.
Hogan nodded, knowingly. "Five minutes, Doc. That's all the time you've got to get ready."
Later that week, in the very early hours, Le Beau stumbled out of the tunnel bunk almost falling in his haste to get to Colonel Hogan's quarters. Half the prisoners were still in bed asleep. Newkirk peered from under his blanket. "Where's the bleeding fire?" he cursed, groggily. Like everyone else, he was certain he hadn't slept a full night in over two months.
"Mon Colonel!" Le Beau called out, at the same time knocking on the door. "There's a message for the Colonel!" he explained to Newkirk.
"Well make it a silent one!" Newkirk retorted and covered his head with the blanket.
Le Beau looked at him, confused, then turned to knock on the door again, only to hit a fully dressed Colonel Hogan in the chest. Hogan looked down at Le Beau. Le Beau sheepishly looked up. "Ah, Kinch said…"
"I know. Urgent message from London," he finished for him and made his way to the tunnel entrance.
But as Hogan descended the ladder leading to the tunnel he noticed his entire team crowded around waiting to join him.
"Always nice to know what London has in store for us first thing in the morning," Newkirk explained still only half awake.
Hogan stopped his descent. "Wouldn't have anything to do with our past mission, would it?"
"Nothing of the sort." Newkirk confirmed. "Risking our neck for all those people and such. Getting shot in the line of duty and all," he shook his head, "never crossed our minds, gov'nor. Did it, chaps?"
Le Beau and Carter shook their head vigorously, "Of course not, Colonel," Carter added.
"Definitely not," Le Beau agreed.
Hogan smiled again. "Very well, come on." He looked out at the other men half awake, "Martin," he called out, "keep watch."
"Yes sir," Martin agreed, jumping from his bunk to stand watch by the barracks door.
Hogan gave his men one final look, then continued his descent. Silently he hoped London's message to him wasn't going to be some sort of reprimand. His men did a good job and gave more than one hundred percent. London's recognition of that wouldn't go astray. Now that they were following him to the radio room, he couldn't fabricate any recognition from London either.
"Did you have a nice nap?" Kinch asked sarcastically as Hogan and the men joined him in the tunnel.
"Same as you did, I'm sure. What have you got?" Hogan quickly asked, preparing himself.
"Not what, who. Commander Davidson, Special Operations, sir," Kinch informed him. "He's, ah, been waiting quite a while."
Hogan took a deep breath then said, "Okay, tell him I'm here."
Hogan watched as Kinch began transmitting. He didn't have to turn around to know that his men were standing quietly behind him, waiting. The reply to Kinch's message was immediate and once Kinch decoded the message, he passed it onto the Colonel.
"The Commander wishes to pass on congratulations to Papa Bear and all his men on the success of the mission. Confirmation has been received by London that all the operatives are in place thanks to the ingenuity and risks taken by Papa Bear and his team," Hogan read out to his team proudly.
Le Beau, Carter and Newkirk let out simultaneous squeals of delight with jubilant back slapping. All of a sudden Newkirk grimaced when the exuberant slapping hit too close to his wound. He still awoke at night in a cold sweat when in his dreams he relived the shooting.
Hogan noticed his pained look. "When are you seeing Doc again?" he immediately asked, concerned.
Newkirk fidgeted uncomfortably. "Aw, come on, gov'nor. If he was practicing back 'ome, I'd have his licence, I would."
"When?" Hogan demanded to know.
Newkirk lowered his eyes and muttered, "Yesterday."
"That's what I thought. Make sure you see him once this transmission is over. Unless he gives the okay, you're sitting out further missions," Hogan ordered.
"Yes, sir," Newkirk muttered again, barely audible.
The sound of another message being received immediately caught Kinch's attention. Hogan leaned across and read over Kinch's shoulder as he decoded it. He smiled, then attempted to contain the overwhelming feeling of relief that up until then eluded him. When Kinch finished decoding the message he held the piece of paper up to the Colonel, smiling just as broadly.
"London will be sending the second group of operatives directly to us within the next few weeks," Hogan read out aloud. "The Commander states that he has received the official report of the entire mission and again relays his congratulations to the entire team."
"See, now that's what I call gratitude. We're all out 'ere doing our job and all that and London takes the time to send us a small thank you from home. I call that right royal British, I do!" Newkirk exclaimed with pride.
"What's this 'right royal British'? It's a thank you for a job well done! We deserve it!" Le Beau added.
"You all do," Hogan agreed. "This has been a particularly difficult mission and you all pulled it off. You should all be proud of yourselves. My congratulations as well."
Le Beau beamed, "Thank you mon Colonel."
"Thank you, sir," Carter and Newkirk said in unison.
Hogan watched as they made their way back up the ladder to the barracks, then returned his attention to the message clipped on the board before him and continued reading. The rest of the message was intended specifically for him.
"Shall I give him an answer?" Kinch asked, laughter unmistakable in his voice.
Hogan glared at Kinch briefly then returned to his message, reading it for a second time: Captain Jeanine Bruyere recovering well. Please do the honours of supplying one old codger with the unofficial report of the entire mission.
"Tell the Commander," he began, then stopped. The unofficial report? He would love a copy of Jeanine's official report, especially her explanation of being taken prisoner and interrogated by Gestapo, which weren't Gestapo. "Tell the Commander it will be my pleasure to supply him with the unofficial report -," he said as he made his way up the rungs of the ladder leading back up to the barracks, "when he supplies me with the official word that the war has ended!"
Now Kinch laughed out loud. "Yes, sir, " he said and began transmitting immediately. Unofficial report, Kinch thought to himself. If London had the unofficial reports of all their missions…
Lying on the top bunk in his quarters with one arm thrown carelessly over his forehead, Hogan stared into the darkness. The sense of relief that washed over him when he read that message from London was palpable. Jeanine was safe, finally, in London. And she was a Captain. Something he never recalled her disclosing.
He smiled to himself as memories spontaneously flooded his mind.
Memories of the mock interrogation and Jeanine's blackmail attempt to get assistance in locating her operatives. Memories of her bidding him adieu when she left to locate the transmitter. Memories of Doc joining them for the rendezvous with the submarine to escort her back home. Doc was true to his word. He did keep her sedated all that time and left instructions for the submarine personnel as well to follow through until she was in London. Hogan had no doubt her anger would aid her recovery, if for nothing more than to return to action – but hopefully not within the confines of Stalag 13.
He smiled to himself; anger was a great motivator.
And in the darkness, sleep finally claimed Robert Hogan.
Courageous men and women volunteered for service with Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the United States' Office of Strategic Services (OSS). They parachuted behind enemy lines, often alone, with orders to cause mayhem. Arrest resulted in torture and sometimes in execution.
In April 1942, Winston Churchill gave his approval for women in the SOE to be sent into Europe. It was argued that women would be less conspicuous than men. In countries such as France women were expected to be out and around whereas they were suspicious of men on the streets. Women were used as couriers and wireless operators.
Each wireless operator was instructed to always spell certain words incorrectly. The reason for this was that if the Germans captured the operator and code books and tried to use the transceiver to trap other agents, the SOE in London would be able to discover what had happened and would warn all its agents in the field.
SOE agents were taught that once captured they must try to stay silent when interrogated by the Gestapo for 48 hours. During that time all the people who had been in contact with the arrested agent were supposed to move house and cover their tracks.
The Germans were very frightened of tuberculosis (TB). Agents used to bite their lip and spit blood, pretending to have TB.
It is estimated that around 200 agents lost their lives.
William MacKenzie, The Secret History of SOE
Russell Miller, Behind the Lines
Virginia Hall, an amputee who wore a wooden leg, worked for the French as an agent and trained with the OSS. Disguised as an elderly milk maid she performed many espionage duties in France. Virginia was hunted by the Gestapo who circulated a wanted poster with the warning, "the woman with the limp is one of the most valuable Allied agents in France and we must find and destroy her".
Author's sincere gratitude to Linda Groundwater for all her editing, advice and encouragement allowing this story to happen!
Vichyssoise – French. Potato Soup served cold.
Text and original characters copyright 2005 by Teresa Strati
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.