2007 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
2007 Papa Bear Awards - Second Place
Best Original Character - Schmidt
2007 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character - Hogan
2007 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Most Unique Story
Snow blanketed the camp, creating a soft yet unbearably cold dome over the prisoners as well as their German guards. Although it was only November, the pre-season frosty mix foretold of harsher weather to follow as the once brisk and almost cheery autumn days gave way to the clutches of winter’s angry grasp. Wind howled through the cracks and crevices of the barracks as ghosts would, and what little shelter the rotting wall planks provided, the meager assortment of blankets did little else to keep the men in each of the buildings warm.
A minuscule amount of heat from the coal stove in the center of barracks two aided in delivering relief, but it wasn’t enough to keep some men from complaining, others from catching cold, and still others, from becoming dangerously sick.
Colonel Robert Hogan, of the U.S. Army Air Force and the senior prisoner of war at Stalag 13, had watched helplessly over the past several days as many of his fellow inmates were struck down with physical ailments from the unrelenting arctic temperatures. Twice he had demanded to Colonel Wilhelm Klink, kommandant of the camp, that those who were ailing be given proper medical treatment, and twice, Klink had denied his requests. Incapable of convincing London to send the needed supplies and unable to venture far enough out of camp in the storm if they had, Hogan resigned to making a third attempt at Klink later that afternoon.
Appearing from his private quarters, himself bundled in a ragged blanket, he approached LeBeau, who was attempting to cook a meal on the stove. Upon seeing Hogan emerge from his quarters, the short yet fiery French corporal retrieved a metal plate and poured some of the edible mixture onto it.
Pulling a face, the colonel groaned at the mystery meal. “LeBeau, you’re slipping. Are you trying to feed us or poison us?”
“If you don’t like what I cook, mon Col-un-el, there’s plenty of dog food in the kennels,” the Frenchman replied lightly. He was just as unhappy to be preparing the less-than-adequate entrees as his comrades were to be eating them.
“Louis, that ain’t no way to be talking to an officer,” a muffled English voice from beneath a pile of blankets sounded. Popping his head out from under them, Corporal Peter Newkirk looked up at Hogan and LeBeau, and added, “Here, I’ll take a spot o’ that, if you don’t mind.”
Without hesitation, Hogan handed Newkirk his plate and said with relief, “Here. Help yourself.” Wrapping the blanket more tightly around his shoulders, he then asked, “Where’s Kinch?”
“Down in the tunnel, Sir,” Sergeant Andrew Carter, who had been sitting at the table picking at LeBeau’s concoction, explained. “He’s trying London again for medical supplies.”
Hogan gave his young sergeant a nod and approved the action. Frowning, he asked, “How are Burke and Morris?”
Silence descended on the room, and finally, Newkirk said, “Not well, Sir. Another few hours, a day at the most for Morris, unless we can get him some attention.”
Hogan felt his face flush with anger. “They still in hut number three?”
Carter nodded, “Yessir.”
Instantly, the colonel threw the blanket off his shoulders, pulled his bomber jacket collar up to cover his neck, and headed for the door.
“You’re not going to try Klink again, are you?” LeBeau asked, worry crossing his face.
“He’s right, Sir,” Newkirk added. “You nearly got yourself tossed in the cooler yesterday...bleedin’ kraut. We can’t afford to have you catching your death of cold in there.”
Hogan turned and shouted, “I’m not gonna sit back and watch those two men die! If I can get them some help, then dammit, I’m gonna do it, no matter what it takes!”
Slamming the door behind him, Hogan exited his barracks and began trekking across the snow-covered compound. The only other beings out on this frigid afternoon were the guards unlucky enough to be on duty. And as usual, Sergeant Hans Schultz was one of them.
“Halt!” The boisterous voice was swallowed up by the powdery snow around them. “Who...goes...there?”
“I’m not in the mood, Schultz,” Hogan barked as he pushed past the heavy sergeant and continued advancing to Klink’s office.
“Colonel Hogan, Kommandant Klink has given orders not to be disturbed.”
“Oh, I don’t plan to disturb him. I plan to annoy him.”
The colonel stopped dead in his tracks and his shoulders went limp; snow danced on the nape of his exposed neck, and sleet stung his face. “Schultz, I don’t know about you, but I’m cold. Let’s talk about this inside.” Reaching into his breast coat pocket, Hogan withdrew a chocolate bar. “Been saving this for a special occasion, but, well, there’s no time like the present.” He began unwrapping the treat as Schultz watched, his eyes never once moving from the candy bar.
“It could be a special occasion...Colonel...Hogan. Special enough...to share?”
Breaking off a small portion of the chocolate bar, the colonel popped it into his mouth and said, “Oh, I don’t know, Schultz. Been saving this one since September. And there haven’t been any Red Cross deliveries lately...this storm and all. Unless...”
Closing his eyes and groaning, Schultz whimpered, “Ten minutes, Colonel...Hogan?”
“Ten minutes? Schultz! That’s hardly enough time to annoy old Blood ‘n Guts!”
Fingering the airspace above the exposed candy bar, Schultz said meekly, “Fifteen? Please, Colonel Hogan?”
Grimacing, the sergeant of the guard barked, “Twenty minutes, and not one second more!”
“Deal,” Hogan returned, shoving the chocolate bar into Schultz’s eager hand as he hurried up the steps and disappeared into the kommandant’s office. Not paying any attention to Hilda, he marched past her and banged on Klink’s door. Without waiting for a reply, he barged inside, where he found Klink pouring over documents at his desk.
“Colonel Hogan! Out! I have not sent for you yet, and I’m expecting visitors!”
“I don’t care who you’re expecting, Klink!” Hogan yelled back. “Two of my men are near death, and if they don’t receive medical attention now, they’re not gonna survive the night. I demand...” Stopping mid-stream, a thought hit Hogan. He stood back from Klink’s desk and surveyed him carefully. “Wait a second. What do you mean, you hadn’t sent for me yet?”
Klink rose from his chair and moved around to the front of his desk. “Well, you are here now, so it does save me the trouble of having to send for you. There are two Gestapo officers from Berlin on their way. They will be here any minute. They are coming to see you.”
“Me!? What does anyone want to see me for?”
Klink slapped his hands against his sides and remarked with disgust, “I have no idea, Berlin doesn’t tell me anything. But it is a matter of top national security, so you had better be on your best behavior, or so help me, Hogan, you will be living in the cooler indefinitely!”
“Yeah, whatever. About those medical supplies...”
“Oh, Hogan, you know I can’t do anything for your men,” Klink said, sounding somewhat apologetic. “I am sorry, but I cannot help them.”
“You mean you don’t want to help them,” Hogan huffed under his breath. “C’mon Kommandant. What’ll it take? You can take rations away from me if you have to.”
“I said I was sorry about your men! Another word from you, and...”
The door to Klink’s office opened, and Hilda entered timidly. “The two officers from Berlin are here to see you, Sir.”
“Excellent!” Klink exploded with pleasure. “Send them in!”
“Ja wohl, Herr Kommandant,” Hilda answered obediently.
No sooner had she uttered the words, and two husky men in Gestapo uniforms entered Klink’s office. Each was outfitted in the best winter clothing money could buy, and they seemed to tower over Hogan and Klink. Both ignored Klink’s outstretched handshake greeting altogether, which would have amused Hogan had they not taken such a keen interest in him. Staring at Hogan as though he were an exhibit at the World’s Fair, they dissected the American colonel with their eyes; they felt his body frame by touching his shoulders; they took his hands, and removing his gloves, inspected them; they extended his arms and measured them; they felt his stomach and rib cage through his clothing. As they began moving downward to his legs, Hogan jumped away in irritation and a hint of fear.
“Hey! That’s enough! Not on a first date!” he blurted, his own eyes darting back and forth between the two Gestapo officers and Klink.
“Ja, ist gut,” one of the officers finally offered. “Klink, you are dismissed.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa....,” Hogan interrupted. “What’s good? And Kommandant, you’re not gonna let them interrogate one of your prisoners? In your own camp?”
“Ah,” Klink started. “Colonel Hogan is right, uh, Major Schmidt...?”
“I am Schmidt. And this is Herr Major Steiner.”
“Ah, yes. And this is my senior prisoner of war, and you may proceed to interrogate this man, but only in my presence.”
Schmidt tossed Hogan’s gloves into the waste basket by Klink’s desk. “He is not to be interrogated. And he will not be needing those any longer.” Then to Klink, he repeated, “I said, you are dismissed. If I say it again, we will not be needing you any longer.”
“Uh, I’d like to argue those points,” Hogan said under his breath as he looked with concern at his leather gloves now resting in the trash. He then observed as Klink, who, with as much arrogance as he could muster, gathered his riding crop, hat, and overcoat; saluted; mumbled “Heil Hitler;” and slipped out of his office.
“You may argue all you wish,” Schmidt said as he wandered around the room aimlessly. “It will be good...practice.”
“Practice for what?”
Without acknowledging Hogan’s question, Schmidt ordered, “Remove your coat.”
“No,” came the defiant remark.
Schmidt grinned. “Major Steiner and I know all about you, Herr Colonel. We have only to conduct one more little test to prove to Berlin what we already know.”
“Test? Sorry, I was never any good at tests.”
“This test is not for you. Bitte, Herr Colonel. Remove your coat, or we will remove it for you.”
While the colonel had trained himself never to look at the microphone buried in the picture of Hitler, he found himself quickly doing so and wondering if his men might have, by chance, seen the officers arrive and were now listening in on the coffee pot. Catching himself, he returned his gaze to the men standing before him, and reluctantly, he unzipped his jacket. Once off, the chill of Klink’s barely heated office began its assault on his body.
“Now what?” he asked, holding his jacket over his folded arms, unwilling to let them have it without a small fight.
“You will place it on the desk, bitte,” Schmidt remarked absently. “Scarf and hat, too.”
Hogan was furious. “What is this about?”
“On the table, Colonel.”
Locking eyes with Schmidt, Hogan fished his wallet out of his coat pocket and threw the bomber jacket onto Klink’s desk, along with his officer’s cap and white scarf. Major Steiner immediately retrieved the items and examined them carefully.
“Insignia,” Schmidt continued, absently. “And wallet.”
Unsure which emotion was about to overtake him, fear or anger, Hogan said, “If you’re going to kill me, then I have a right to know why.”
Schmidt grinned. “Steiner, take the colonel’s belongings and fix him in the chair.”
“Hang on, I don’t need fixing,” Hogan said in a panic as he took a step back from Schmidt.
“Sit, please, Herr Colonel,” Steiner said in a voice so hushed, Hogan could hardly hear him. From his pocket, Steiner withdrew two sets of handcuffs. “In the chair.”
With little else to do but obey, the colonel eased himself into the chair in front of Klink’s desk, and watched dismally as the major restrained his wrists to the arms of the seat.
“Nice. Are ya happy now?” Hogan spat as he tugged at the cuffs, realizing he was sinking deeper and deeper into a pit of serious trouble.
“Steiner, bring in our guest.”
“All this for company? I’d have freshened up for the occasion had you...”
Hogan’s sarcasm was cut short by a swift blow to his jaw. Before he had time to recover, he felt Schmidt lodging a handkerchief into his mouth, which the major then tied into place with the colonel’s own scarf. Choking on the gag and feelings of nausea sweeping through him, Hogan’s eyes burned with fire. What did they know? Why had they not arrested him? What was their game? What would become of his men? Were they going to kill him?
As all these thoughts penetrated his mind, Steiner returned to Klink’s office. A man, who was shrouded in a heavy overcoat and whose face was concealed beneath a black hood, entered behind him. Upon shedding the coat, Hogan realized that he was dressed in an American Army Air Force officer’s uniform, and as he grew nearer to where the colonel was detained, he revealed his identity. Hogan’s eyes grew wide with shock and so much hatred, he could not comprehend it all.
Standing before him was the mirror image of himself.
“Colonel Hogan, I would like you to meet Heinrich Linderman. He speaks very little English, but you know each other, ja?”
“Sure, we’re old pals.”
The voice sliced through Hogan like a knife. It was his voice, only he wasn’t talking. He tensed and tugged at his cuffed wrists, watching in horror as the scene unfolded before him. A growing sense of dread filled the colonel as he began to understand Schmidt’s cryptic plan. He suddenly prayed his men were not listening. And yet, he remorsefully knew that they were.
“Insolence!” Schmidt bellowed to the faux Hogan, each of them smiling at each other. “Herr Linderman has accompanied me with the sole purpose of identifying you. Several months ago, he witnessed you in Hammelburg. Dressed in civilian clothes. And escorting a young Fraulein on a date, no less. Is that not right, Herr Linderman?”
Steiner, who had been quietly standing by the wall, barked, “Ja, that ist correct!”
Hogan snapped his head to the left, and breathing heavily, immediately knew why Steiner had spoken so softly earlier. They knew the office was bugged. They were trying to make whoever might be listening believe Hogan was being interrogated. And they were going to replace him with the hopes of uncovering their entire operation!
The imposter known as Linderman strolled nonchalantly to Klink’s desk, where he began donning Hogan’s jacket and hat. Slyly grinning at the colonel, he opened the wallet and began rifling through its contents. Some German Marks, some American dollar bills including a twenty-dollar note, a U.S. Army Air Force card with his serial number and blood type inscribed on it, slips of paper with inconsequential scribbles, a few photographs of girls. Replacing the items into the wallet, he then tucked it back into the breast pocket of the bomber jacket. He stood before Hogan, arms folded neatly across his chest, smirking...and looking eerily familiar.
“Major,” Linderman began, speaking directly to Hogan as if portraying him on a stage, “My rights under the Geneva Convention prohibit you or any of your bloodhounds from conducting an interrogation without proof. I’ve been a model prisoner here for the past two years. Klink’s the fiercest kommandant of them all. I wouldn’t get two feet out the front gate without his guards catching me. And I don’t want my men to get hurt! Ask the kraut...er, the kommandant, yourself!”
The speech was so perfect, Hogan could have recited the words himself, and practically had on various occasions. If the men were indeed listening, he was certain they would no doubt believe that this was their very own commanding officer challenging the Nazis to his rights. Perspiration formed on his brow, and for the first time since the snow had started to fall a few days prior, he was sweating.
Schmidt responded to Linderman’s defense by approaching him. Hesitating for a brief moment while the two men shared an unspoken communication, he struck the fake Hogan as hard as he could across his face.
“That will teach you respect for the Third Reich!”
Holding his jaw, Linderman stood and met Schmidt eye-to-eye, and with a grin, said, “I suppose your next step is to take me to Berlin?”
“Of course not, dear Colonel. We wouldn’t dream of removing you from this escape-proof camp. Not with what we know. Steiner! Release the colonel.”
For a split second, Hogan’s heart leapt but fell just as quickly when he saw the major made no motion to walk in his direction. Instead, he merely jiggled a set of keys before slipping them back into his pocket.
“Thanks, for nothing,” Linderman played along, and reaching into the trash can, he fished out the pair of gloves. “I’ll take these back, if you don’t mind. It’s chilly out there, ya know.”
“By all means,” Schmidt added. “Now that we’ve searched your coat and wallet, you may have those as well. Return to your barracks, Colonel. But we will be watching you.”
“Well, you’re gonna be bored, then, ‘cause there ain’t much to watch.”
Silently, the two men saluted each other, and Linderman was about to leave when he stopped and turned abruptly. Sauntering over to Hogan, who glared up at him, he leaned over the colonel’s shoulder and hissed quietly into his ear, “It’s all over pal. You’re finished.” He then gave the colonel a cocky wink and retreated from the room.
“Steiner,” Major Schmidt remarked casually. The major approached without uttering a word, and Schmidt continued, “Escort the pretty Fraulein out of the office, bitte. Give her the afternoon off. And see to it that Klink remains in his quarters for the next hour.”
Clicking his heels, Steiner nodded and exited the room.
The office was empty with the exception of Schmidt and Hogan. The colonel followed the major’s every move with frightened yet determined eyes.
“You will be leaving soon,” Schmidt sighed. “This will help you to relax.”
From his coat pocket, the major retrieved a black case, where upon opening it, he removed a syringe. At the sight of it, Hogan began to pant into the gag and squirm in his seat.
“Oh, now, do not worry, Herr Linderman. I know you are not fond of medicine. But these pills are only to ease your nerves. This has been a taxing trip for you. You will be back home in Berlin in no time.”
Schmidt approached with the syringe, and grabbing Hogan’s right shoulder and holding it still, he plunged the tip of the needle deep into the colonel’s muscle.
Closing his eyes, Hogan instantly felt the effects of the drug. Trying to fight it, he finally relaxed as his senses gave way to an almost blissful darkness where he was surrounded by the emptiness of a black abyss.
Linderman hurried out of Klink’s office and dodged quickly across the compound to Hogan’s barracks. He knew his way around Stalag 13 quite well, as he had been in the camp on a regular basis prior to the plastic surgery. During those times, he had posed as one of the guards, an inconspicuous private who patrolled the woods during the night and the main gate during the day, but during the times in between, he occupied himself with studying Hogan. Every word, every nuance, every pose, every gesture, everything. As a guard, he knew Hogan would never let any secrets slip to him, despite his suspicions that Sergeant Schultz knew more than he admitted. But now, all that had changed. It was only a matter of time before he would discover the truth about Hogan and his operation. He had nearly arrived at the door to his barracks when he spied Schultz trotting around the corner, huffing and puffing clouds of carbon dioxide into the sub-zero air.
The first test.
“Colonel Hogan,” Schultz panted as he met Linderman at the barracks door.
“Yeah, Schultz? What is it?”
Chuckling, Schultz said, “Danke, Colonel. That was very nice of you to share.”
Furrowing his brow in typical Hogan fashion, Linderman contemplated what to say next. Obviously, Hogan had bestowed upon Schultz some sort of reward for a favor, and the way to earn a favor from Schultz was usually through food. Thinking quickly, Linderman said, “Well, good. I’m glad to see the chocolate didn’t go to waste.” He patted Schultz’s belly, and the guard smiled.
“Ja! Anytime you feel like sharing, Colonel, I will be around!”
Linderman snickered, “You’re always a round, Schultz!”
“Jolly joker,” the guard snorted and catching a chill, went on his way.
Staring after Schultz and satisfied that he had the role down pat, Linderman readied himself for the ultimate test. Taking a deep breath, he entered the barracks.
As expected, Hogan’s men flocked around him. It was not the first time he had been inside the ragged building, since as a guard, he had inspected Hogan’s barracks more often than any other German soldier in the camp. He knew every nook and cranny of Hogan’s barracks. Every official nook and cranny, that was.
“Blimey, you sure showed them!” Newkirk blurted.
So they could hear.
“I’ll get the First Aid Kit,” LeBeau said, and he scurried to their supply cabinet and fetched the small, metal box containing gauze, rubbing alcohol, and adhesive tape.
“You ok, Sir?” Sergeant Kinchloe asked.
Linderman stiffened. He had no use for Negroes, and while he knew Hogan held a close comradery with this Black American, it was going to be a challenge for him to stifle his own feelings of hate and disgust toward this man.
“Yeah, I guess,” Linderman said, taking a seat at the wooden table and looking down at it.
“Those stinking krauts,” Newkirk growled. “Let me have a go at ‘em, Sir. I’ll take care of ‘em.”
“Newkirk, they just questioned me. It could of been worse. Now, let’s just all forget it, huh?”
“Forget it!” Carter exploded. “After what they did to you? Why, they could come back, and, and, why, then we could all be next!”
Linderman turned his head slowly and looked up at the young American. There was such an innocence about this one, it was almost a pity to exploit that innocence. And yet, his heart leapt at the chance. He was fooling them!
“Relax, Carter. They’re not coming back. Not for awhile, anyway. That nut Linderman was a fruitloop. They were trying to calm his nerves when I left. I don’t think he saw anything but is just trying to make points with these two goons, for whatever reason.”
“What about Klink?” Newkirk asked as LeBeau gently touched an alcohol swab to the gash on Linderman’s chin, causing him to wince.
“What about him?”
“Did he agree to give you the medicine?” Kinch finished. “I still got a no from London. Weather’s too rough to chance it. Be another couple days at least.”
Linderman bit his lip, preventing a grin from forming. He had just learned more in the past five minutes than all of German intelligence had been able to uncover in the past two years.
“Colonel?” Newkirk pushed. “Mate? They must’ve landed a good one on ya.”
Shaking his head, Linderman said, “No, I didn’t get anywhere with Klink. Didn’t really get a chance.” He winced again as the Frenchman continued to dab the alcohol swab onto his wound, until finally, he yelled, “LeBeau? Are ya done?”
“Oui. Sorry, Colonel.”
“Look, if you fellahs don’t mind, I’m gonna go lie down for a bit.” Rising from the table, he scrutinized their reactions, which all seemed to be that of genuine concern. “If Klink calls for me, tell him I’m on leave in Paris.”
The men chuckled, and Linderman strode to the door to Hogan’s private quarters. He was about to enter when Carter asked boyishly, “They kept your scarf?”
Panicking for a brief second, Linderman felt his exposed neck and remembered the scarf’s present whereabouts. “Yeah,” he answered bluntly. Without saying another word, he entered Hogan’s quarters and gently closed the door behind him.
Klink paced the confines of his living quarters. It had been only twenty minutes since Major Steiner had escorted him away from his office, and he was feeling hugely frustrated at the situation. He was also having concerns for his senior prisoner of war, which intensified as the minutes ticked on. While he admitted to having his fair share of differences with Hogan, and at times, he toyed with the idea of tossing the American officer in the cooler for a day or two when he became too disrespectful, he also feared the two Gestapo officers sent from Berlin to interrogate him.
Peering out the window, the camp kommandant noticed that the snow had started for fall in thicker and heavier clumps. Hopefully, it meant the temperatures would begin to rise, and the storm would soon cease. Through the heavy flakes, he witnessed Schultz plowing across the camp in his direction, and within moments, the sergeant was knocking on his door.
“Alright, alright, alright! I’m coming!” Klink sneered with displeasure. “Schultz! Come in, come in, hurry up! You’re letting out all the heat!”
“But, I just got here, Herr...”
“Never mind! What have you found out?”
A look of confusion swept over Schultz’s face. “Found out?”
“Yes, yes! About Hogan! Where are they taking him? What are they doing to him?”
“Taking him? They are not taking him anywhere, Herr Kommandant.”
It was Klink’s turn to react with confusion. “Schultz, don’t be a Dummkopf. Of course they are taking him somewhere. They didn’t come all the way from Berlin to not question him or take him back with them!”
“Nein, he is still here. I just saw him returning to his barracks. I was thanking him for the chocol...”
Stomping his foot, Klink snarled, “Schultz, what have I told you about stealing from the prisoners?”
Joyfully, the sergeant replied, “Oh, I didn’t steal it, Herr Kommandant! He gave it to me! Because I let him into your office to annoy you...”
Shaking his fist and in a semi-threatening tone that had all the resonance of a mother hen, Klink warned, “Schultz, so help me, one of these days...”
Schultz and Klink turned to face the door, and to their surprise they saw Schmidt and Steiner had permitted themselves entrance.
“Ah, Herr Majors, what can I do for you?” Klink bounced over to them, and Schultz rolled his eyes.
“We would like to stay here a few days. Monitor and observe your Colonel Hogan. Steiner?”
The major stepped up next to Schmidt and handed him an envelope, which Schmidt then handed to Klink.
“What is this?” the kommandant asked, turning the paper over in his hands.
“It is a three-day pass. Your work here at this exemplar camp have been noted. Please pack and leave tonight. Major Steiner and myself will oversee the details of running your camp while you are away.”
Klink frowned. Despite the fact that he had just been rewarded with a pass and recognition from Berlin, it felt wrong. Furthermore, he wasn’t keen on leaving the SS in charge while he was away.
“Danke, Herr Major. I will find a Luftwaffe officer who can assist you,” he boldly remarked. Yet, Schmidt merely grinned.
“That will not be necessary, Herr Colonel. Now, we will leave you to your packing. Heil Hitler.”
The men gave their round of salutes, and the majors left Klink and Schultz alone.
“Why would they ask me to go on a three-day leave? Now? In the middle of a snow storm?” Klink pondered.
“To go skiing, Herr Kommandant?”
“Oh, shut up, Schultz,” Klink moaned. Then, “You say Hogan has returned to his barracks?”
“Ja, wohl, I saw him myself.”
“Good. Bring him here. Maybe he can figure a way out of this mess. He had better...it certainly involves him!”
Hogan’s head hurt, he was freezing. and at the moment, he was unsure of where he was. With great care, he squinted his eyes open and looked around. He was lying on his back in a solitary confinement cell in the cooler. Raising his arms, he saw his wrists were now joined together by one set of handcuffs. To his enormous relief, the gag had been removed.
Pulling himself upright, a rush of blood to his head caused him to sway with dizziness, and he shut his eyes tightly and massaged them. After the feeling passed, he gazed solemnly around the cell. “I gotta get outta here,” he said aloud, and without delay, he began searching the cell to see if it was one that contained a tunnel entrance. He swept the dirt and grime around the floor, seeking the floor panel opening, but to his despair, he found only that it had been reinforced and cemented shut. “Of course,” he muttered. “The cave in two months ago. We sealed this one up.”
The sound of keys unlocking the door caused him to spin around, and he saw Schmidt enter the cell.
“Looking for a way to escape, Herr Colonel? I thought nobody ever escaped from Stalag 13.”
“Nobody ever does,” Hogan volleyed. “What do you want?”
Schmidt snickered. “I’ve already gotten what I want. You.”
“Me?” Hogan shot back in feigned surprise. “You’re wasting your time, Major.”
“Am I? At this very minute, you are in your barracks, with your men, learning all about your operation. Nobody even knows the real Colonel Hogan is in here, in a cell, awaiting his execution. And here you will remain for three days, after which, I should have learned all I need to know to arrest every Underground agent in the area and as far north as Berlin and Hamburg, not to mention snare an assortment of Allied military plans. I will keep the real Colonel Hogan here for these three days just in case we need him. Then you will return home to London, the sole survivor of a horrific and deadly explosion at Stalag 13. There, you will infiltrate the Allied High Command. And the real Colonel Hogan will be disposed of properly.”
“You’re nuttier than ole crazy eyes if you think you can pull that off,” the colonel stated with as much courage as he could garner. “My men will never buy it, and your phony will be wishing he were on the next train to Stalingrad.”
“But they already have bought it, Herr Colonel,” Schmidt snarled. “They are taking good care of you. Such a shame they all have to die.”
“You snake,” the colonel said as he stepped toward the major, who drew a gun, stopping Hogan in his tracks.
“I can kill you at any time. Don’t make me kill you now. It would greatly inconvenience me.”
“I’ll make such a commotion in here, and don’t think I won’t. Whether I die or not, my men’ll hear me, and then they’ll take care of my so-called counterpart.”
Schmidt sighed. “As it is, your days of food and drink are over. It is up to you if you wish to be bound and gagged for these remaining three days as well.” The major walked to the far side of the cell, where a scrap of dirty clothing had rested undisturbed for who knew how long. Bending down and picking up the cloth, he ripped a section of the material into a long strip. With a wicked grin, he then rolled a portion of it into a tight wad, after which he examined his creation with maniacal intensity. “Well?”
Trying to ignore the weight of the major’s threats and the disgusting ball of filth, Hogan said, “And Klink? What if he finds me in here? Or Schultz. They’re the toughest soldiers in all of Germany.”
“I think you are mistaken, and I do believe you give them too much credit. For your own means, perhaps? But no matter. They are both completely unaware. Klink is about to be on his way on a coincidental three-day pass. And Schultz is so stupid he wouldn’t recognize his own mother in a crowd.”
“He would if she smelled of sauerbraten.”
Walking toward Hogan until the two men were nose-to-nose, Schmidt added, “You can joke all you like. But the real joke is on you because, you see, you no longer exist.” Placing the rag in Hogan’s cuffed hands and tapping them lightly, the major clicked his heels and bowed before striding arrogantly away. With the sound of a heavy groan, the cell door closed shut, locking Hogan inside with nothing more than his disturbing thoughts and feelings of dread for company.
Linderman maneuvered his way around Hogan’s office, running his hand slowly down the worn wooden desk, then along the bunk, and finally, over to window pane. Opening the shutter and cracking it ajar, he peered outside. It wasn’t the view, but rather, the point of view, that enthralled him. He was standing in Hogan’s private quarters, privy to all knowledge! Schultz had suspected nothing, and the coup de gras was that neither had Hogan’s men. Tossing the officer’s cap onto the desk, he opened Hogan’s locker. Studying himself in the dirty, cracked mirror, he himself could hardly believe the uncanny image staring back at him.
Having been chosen for the assignment for two reasons, Linderman had accepted with great pleasure and eagerness. It was the chance of a lifetime – to play the grandest role of deception for Hitler and Germany. Many men had been planted in this camp, posing as Allied prisoners of war, hoping to gain the trust of the fellow inmates, and most importantly, of Colonel Hogan. All had failed despite Major Wolfgang Hochstetter’s continuous attempts at uncovering what he suspected to be true: that a band of Underground saboteurs was operating right from this very camp.
In the spring of that year, Major Schmidt concocted a brilliant scheme. Infiltrate the camp with one of their own in the form of Colonel Robert E. Hogan. Captain Linderman, an average flyer in the Luftwaffe, had been injured in an air battle. Unable to return to the skies, he was given an array of duties to perform in Berlin. It was there that Schmidt came to know Linderman in passing. After a few meetings, it began to dawn on Schmidt that Linderman bore a striking resemblance to the captured American officer.
They set to work. After growing a beard and disguising himself for several months as a guard, Linderman then underwent minor plastic surgery to bring the clone of Colonel Hogan to life. The German plastic surgeon who had performed the operations had been a genius. Linderman and Hogan could have been twins.
Moving away from the locker, Linderman climbed up to the top bunk and stretched out on it. Under the flat pillow was a small leather pouch. With imposing curiosity, he popped the snap open and began removing documents from it. He smirked as he read through the various love letters from different women back in America, then a letter from Hogan’s father, and another from his cousin. None of them interested Linderman, but as a small, brown book fell into his lap, he raised his eyebrows. Flipping through it, he recognized it as a current code book for broadcasting to units in that particular sector of the country. There were also recognition codes, and codes for alerting someone of danger if one were unable to speak truthfully.
“Isn’t this interesting...,” Linderman mumbled, enthralled with his discovery. “What else are we gonna find?”
A knock at the door startled him, and he slipped the book back into the pouch and shoved it back under the pillow.
“Yeah,” he called out.
The door creaked open, and Carter entered his quarters with Schultz.
“Colonel Hogan, Kommandant Klink wants to see you,” the guard ordered.
Sighing, Linderman hopped down from the top bunk and said, “What for, Schultz? Can’t he see I’ve had a bad day?”
“That is why he wants to see you. He thinks maybe...you can...help?”
Linderman glanced at Carter and then responded, “Help? Help with what? What does he think I can do?” Laughing sarcastically, he added, “Next thing you’ll tell me is he wants me to get rid of Schmidt!”
“Uh, I think that’s what he wants, Sir,” Carter interrupted.
“Please, Colonel Hogan? Kommandant Klink has orders to be sent away on leave tonight, but he does not want to go. He thinks there is something...unusual about Schmidt.”
Furrowing his brow, Linderman asked, “Why? What doesn’t he like about him. Well, except the obvious.”
“He thinks there is going to be monkey business if he is away from the camp.”
Nodding, Lindermann said, “So he thinks Schmidt and his buddy are gonna take over the joint, huh? Ok, then, lead on. I’ll see what I can do.”
Schultz’s face brightened. “Oh, thank you Herr Colonel!”
Grinning, Linderman said, “Aw, don’t mention it.” Then to Carter, he continued, “Mind the store, huh?”
“You got it boy, er...”
Grabbing the officer’s cap from the desk, Linderman shook his head in fake disappointment. “You’ll never be able to break that, will ya, son? Alright Schultz, after you.”
Carter stood in the center of Hogan’s quarters momentarily perplexed and taken aback. Wrinkling his nose, he said softly, “Son?”
“Carter? What’s up?” Newkirk said as he appeared by his side while Linderman and Schultz left the building. “You look like you’re about to toss your lunch.”
“The colonel just called me son,” the sergeant relayed.
“Ain’t nothin’ strange about that. We’re all family, right?”
Carter fidgeted and shrugged his shoulders. “I - I don’t know. It just sounded funny, that’s all. He’s never done that before.”
“Aw, Andrew, you’re balmy. Come on, let’s go have a roundah gin. Get our minds off this bleeding cold weather and the krauts.”
“Yeah, I guess...”
Newkirk led the young sergeant out of Hogan’s quarters, and Carter resigned his unsettled feelings to the fact that he was cold and on edge. In the security of his fellow comrades and a friendly yet fierce game of gin, he soon forgot what had made him so uneasy in the first place.
As the afternoon cascaded into evening, and as the colors of the day turned from bleary grey to light purple, the temperatures plummeted to even greater depths. Inside the walls of the solitary confinement cell, Hogan was estimating that had there been a thermostat, it wouldn’t even be registering. His hands still clasped together, he couldn’t even wrap his arms around his frame for warmth, and the thin blankets typically provided were denied him. His shoulders were crunched together as tightly as he could make them, and his entire body shivered. At times, he would pace the small cell up and back to warm him, but as time went on, his feet began to grow numb. He knew that if he spent the night in this cell without a coat or a blanket or any way of getting warm, he could possibly freeze to death.
High above him, he saw the bars of the cell window. It helped none that snow was blowing in through them, creating a tiny snow drift on the window sill.
He tried to focus past the unbearable elements. There had to be a way out. Staring down at his cuffed wrists, he concluded that the first step was to free his hands. With the frigid temperatures, he hoped that his wrists had shrunk enough to allow his hands to slip out of the metal rings; unfortunately, they had not. Schmidt had locked them on the tightest setting, and without damaging his hands or dislocating his fingers, it was useless to even try.
Wondering if he might be able to pick the locks, Hogan scoured the room for something, anything, that he could use. If Newkirk could only get in there, he’d have been able to free him in seconds. Glancing down, he noticed that while they had taken his collar insignia, they had forgotten to remove his Air Force pilot’s wings still pinned to his shirt. A grin appearing on his troubled countenance, his shaky fingers unfastened the two pin backings, which dropped to the floor.
“I hope I learned enough by watching ya, Newkirk,” Hogan whispered as he began twisting the tip of the wings into the keyhole of the left cuff. Carefully and deliberately, he directed the metal back and forth, his wrists pinching under their thick, silver restraints. He continued working at it for fifteen minutes, until finally, his wrists chaffed and raw, and his fingers cramped, he gave up.
Slumping down onto the bunk, he rested his head in his knees, which he encircled with his arms. “Not that it would’ve done any good, anyway. I’m still stuck in here,” he moaned as he glanced up at the window. Instantly, another thought struck him. Standing up on the bunk, he inched his way over to the open window and peered out. Darkness was beginning to fall, but the spotlights illuminated the snow so brilliantly that it appeared much brighter than usual at this time of day. Trying the bars, he found them to be secured tightly into the cement wall, and he laughed.
“That would have been too easy,” the colonel said, almost with a touch of hope. And yet, there might be a way. Climbing down from the bunk, he paced the cell feverishly. He knew what he wanted to do, but he had no way of doing it.
Or did he?
In the corner was the rag that Schmidt had shoved in his hands. Picking it up, he brushed it off as best he could, and when he was done, there was a section clean enough on which he could write a message.
But with what?
Taking his Air Force wings from his pocket, he jammed the point of the pin into his right index finger, causing it to bleed profusely. Quickly, he scribbled a message onto the cloth:
It’s not me. Real P.B. in cooler.
He wrapped the material around the pin, and hurrying to the window, he climbed up onto the bunk. If he could throw it hard enough and far enough, it would clear the fence. Praying hard and taking precise aim, he tossed the ball of cloth and pin into the compound, where it landed just outside the barbed wire perimeter of the cooler.
Taking a deep breath that was drenched in relief, he stepped down off the bunk and collapsed down onto it. He could only pray that the piece of cloth would soon be discovered, and by the right person. For the moment, all he could do was wait.
“You wanted to see me, Kommandant?”
Klink had finished packing and was preparing to embark on his ordered furlough. Yet, he looked more like he was preparing for a march to his death.
“Good, Hogan, please come in.”
Linderman surveyed Klink’s quarters. Having only been a private, he had never once stepped foot in the kommandant’s living area.
“So, I hear you’ve got a little problem,” Linderman began, wondering if his banter would measure up to Hogan’s.
Turning to face Linderman, Klink shouted, “It is you who has the problem! What have you done this time, Hogan?” Shaking his finger at the pretend colonel, Klink said, “The only reason they’re here is because of you!”
“Me!” Linderman began. “What’d I do? I haven’t escaped, right?”
“And I haven’t let any of my men escape, right?”
“Yes, yes, that’s true, too.”
Linderman strolled to the liquor decanter and poured himself a shot of bourbon. “And have I ever lied to you? I mean about anything big?”
“No...no you haven’t.”
Downing the shot, he said, “So why would I start now?”
“Then why are they here?” Klink insisted. “They claim to have someone who could identify you in town. Ho-gaan. When did you go into town? I want straight answers!”
Pouring himself another shot, Linderman also poured a second for Klink. “And I’m gonna give ‘em to ya. It was two months ago, remember? You let Schultz come with me to the supply depot.”
Klink looked absently at the floor. “No, I don’t remember...”
“Of course you do! And,” Linderman chuckled, “Schultz took the wrong road, and we got a flat tire?”
“Oh, maybe....a flat tire?”
Linderman poured another shot of liquor into Klink’s glass. “A flat tire.”
“But the girl! This Heinrich Linderman says you were with a Fraulein! On a date! Hogan, how do you explain this?”
“Easy. See, there’s this cute girl, Gretchen, at the supply depot. She helps her uncle with the milk orders. Anyway, she hands out a lot more than milk, if you catch my drift.” Linderman nudged the kommandant with his elbow and winked, chuckling like a schoolboy.
“Kommandant, you’re a man..I think.”
“And I’m a man...and from one man to another, there’s only one reason why I’m looking to go to the supply depot.”
“So this is where you think Herr Linderman saw you?”
Snickering, the fake colonel replied, “If this Linderfellow were standing here right now, he’d tell you the same thing himself. Now, anything else? Or am I free to go?”
“Wait, your request from earlier.”
“My what?” Linderman asked blankly, the bourbon beginning to take hold.
“Earlier today. Before the Gestapo majors arrived. I have decided to grant your request.”
“Oh, that’s good, whatever it was.”
Dumbfounded, Klink stared at his senior prisoner of war. “Hogan, this afternoon, you were ready to sacrifice your own rations for this request, and now you don’t even remember what it was?”
Linderman froze, realizing his blunder. His mind raced as he searched his memory for the key phrase the Black prisoner had noted about the request. In a flash, it came to him. “Oh, right! Right! Good! Medical supplies for my men! Yes, and it’s a good thing, too, or the Geneva Convention would have gotten my report on that!”
“Hogan, are you feeling alright?”
“How’s that?” Linderman asked, suddenly wanting to conclude the meeting with this fool and return to the barracks for the night, where more secrets were waiting to be divulged to him.
Studying the man before him, Klink said, “You don’t look well...you aren’t yourself.”
Laughing, Linderman said, “Well, if I’m not myself, then I must be somebody else!” Strutting to the door, he turned and saluted Klink. “Have fun, wherever you’re going. See ya in three days, Tiger!”
As Linderman closed the door behind him, a perplexed Wilhelm Klink slowly lowered his salute and stood in the center of his quarters, stunned. “There’s something funny going on around here, and I’m going to find out what,” he uttered as he shook his head slowly from side to side in deep contemplation.
The imposter who was quickly tricking everyone into believing he was Colonel Hogan trotted across the snow-covered compound. Instead of heading straight for the barracks as he had previously thought he would, he detoured in the direction of the cooler. It wasn’t quite time for all prisoners to be restricted to the barracks, so his detour went largely unnoticed.
The early evening was quiet and not a sound was audible in the soft, translucent setting. Linderman was curious, and he wanted to see Hogan again. He yearned to see the look on his face when he, as victor, would stand before the cocky American saw, now stripped down to nothing except the shirt on his back, and left with no recourse and no salvation.
But, there would be no seeing the colonel tonight. It would be far too suspicious. He could, however, stroll the area nearest to where the American was being held – to nobody’s knowledge except his own. As he rounded the corner, he paused just outside the fence and looked up at the barred windows, wondering behind which set of metal rods contained the infamous prisoner. He stood there for a few moments before succumbing to the brutal temperatures, and he started to turn to leave. Casting his eyes to the ground, a small object caught his eye in the snow. Cocking his head to the side, he bent over and plucked the small item from the snow drift. It was an Air Force officer’s pin wrapped in cloth.
Glancing around and seeing he was still being ignored by the guards, he studied the material. Upon reading the cryptic message, he knew exactly who had written it and from where it had come. Jerking his head up to the cell windows, he caught the sight of movement. Smiling wildly, Linderman turned and made a path to the camp’s guest quarters, Hogan’s plea for help concealed safely in the colonel’s own jacket pocket.
“Oh, shit...,” Hogan panted repeatedly as he ducked from the window and hid against the side of the cell wall. Of all the people who could have possibly found his message, this had been the worst. Sliding down onto the bunk and pulling his knees tightly against his chest, he shook all over, from top to bottom. His mind raced to find a plan on how to avoid the now inevitable consequences. At that moment, Linderman was on his way to deliver the message to Schmidt, and God only knew what Schmidt was going to do to him.
After only five minutes, the colonel heard the sound of footsteps and then eventually keys in his cell door. Just as he had envisioned, Schmidt stood before him. And he was angry.
“Um...hi?” Hogan offered meekly. “Can I get ya something? Coffee? Tea? An apology?”
“I warned you, but you did not listen!” Schmidt bellowed.
Wincing, the colonel wondered if the major himself would do the job of drawing attention for him.
“We will have to do something about your air mail. Steiner!”
The second major appeared like magic from behind Schmidt and stood at attention. Hogan wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw a hint of irritation from Steiner.
“Securely fix the colonel to the bunk.”
“Ja wohl, Herr Major.” Steiner said, and he turned and ran out of the cell.
“Now there’s what I call following orders,” Hogan laughed, knowing he was in too deep to even care at that point what ramifications his sarcasm would bring.
Schmidt approached the colonel and instead of inflicting any physical pain, he simply stated, “Major Steiner is retrieving the rope. And fortunately for you, I am in a good mood, for this is all I will have him do tonight.”
“Gee. Lucky me.”
“Our plan is going perfectly, Herr Colonel. You may not want to believe it, but your men are easily fooled. They are putty in our hands. We have already discovered a great many things.”
Steiner returned with a long section of cord and after dragging the colonel to the floor, he began weaving it tightly around Hogan’s arms, wrists, waist, and finally, the legs of the bunk.
“You really get your kicks outta this, don’t ya,” Hogan muttered sadly. Things were looking worse and worse by the minute.
“We will leave you for the night, Herr Colonel. And, as it is now dark outside, Steiner!”
The major again appeared at Schmidt’s side.
“The lights. We don’t want any nosey neighbors, do we?”
With the flick of a switch, the room was enveloped in blackness, with only the occasional flashes from the searchlights invading the cell.
“Auf Wiedersehen, Herr Colonel.”
Hogan heard the door close and lock, and he began to struggle with the ropes. He was at least thankful Schmidt hadn’t made good on his promise to gag him again. But the restraints were tighter than he could possibly stand, and the floor was growing harder and colder by the second.
“God Almighty,” he panted, panic seeping into his voice. “How am I gonna get outta this? How am I gonna get outta this!?” Resting his neck against the side of the bunk, he prayed for an answer or a miracle. He knew without one or the other, neither he nor his men were going to make it out alive.
“Hogan!” the camp kommandant’s call echoed into the night, stopping Linderman in the center of the compound. Hesitating, he turned to face Klink, trying to hide his increasing annoyance with the Luftwaffe colonel.
“Ye-ess?” he asked with a slight edge of frustration.
“Where were you just now? You left my quarters ten minutes ago.”
Rolling his eyes, Linderman said, “I decided to take a walk. And I’m going home now. Ok?”
Klink was not buying it. “Ho-gaaan. I saw you leave Schmidt’s quarters. You are up to something. What is going on?”
Letting out a long sigh, Linderman said, “He called for me just as I was leaving your quarters. If you don’t get that kraut off my back, Klink, I will escape.”
“I’ll have you shot first. What did he say? Did he mention me?”
“You got a great way of asking for stuff. And he didn’t say much of anything. really,” Linderman let out a soft laugh. “Said he’d throw me in the cooler if I didn’t cooperate, though. Like that would work.”
“Don’t tempt me,” Klink challenged. “Anything else?”
“Nothing. Just your usual Nazi butcher interrogation. Are we gonna stand out here all night and freeze to death? And don’t you have to get going to your big date in town?”
Klink looked down at the ground. “Yes, yes. I have a car waiting, but...”
“And no buts! You’ll still have a nice, safe, happy POW camp to come home to.”
Linderman saluted the kommandant, who gave a sluggish, indifferent, half salute in return, never once moving his gaze from the icy ground.
Shrugging his shoulders, Linderman continued toward Hogan’s barracks, where, after casting a sly glance behind him, he entered the building.
However, Klink remained standing alone, his feet planted firmly in the tundra next to the barracks, snow fluttering down from the heavens all around him and on top of him. In the distance, patrolling the area near the cooler, he spotted Schultz, and snapping to life, he hurried over to him. Nearing his sergeant, he noticed his obese guard stopped his patrol march and came to attention, saluting his commanding officer. After Klink returned the military obligation, he stood quietly next to Schultz.
“Herr Kommandant, it is cold outside. You will catch your death if you don’t get out of this nasty weather.”
“Schultz, did you think Hogan was acting strangely today?”
“I do not believe so.”
“Now, be truthful. Does he or does he not seem...different to you?”
Schultz gave the question a moment’s thought and said, “Nein. The chocolate bar he gave me tasted just as good today as it did yesterday.”
“Dummkopf! I am not talking about his food! I’m talking about him!” Klink voice rose over the crystalized fence that encompassed the cooler and drifted its way into Hogan’s cell.
The American colonel strained his ears to listen. He could hear his own Laurel and Hardy as plain as day, and they couldn’t have been more than just a few yards from his window. To his amazement, Laurel seemed to be figuring things out. Excitement built inside of him, and he yelled as loudly as he could, “Colonel Klink! Schultz! I’m in here! Hurry!”
Looking up at the window and tensing, he listened and waited. Had they heard him? Had anyone else?
“But the food is always so...,” Schultz had started to answer when Hogan’s voice drifted out into the compound.
Hushing Schultz, Klink said, “Shhh! Wait! Did you hear that?” The kommandant, his nose in the air as if he were a bloodhound on the trail of a fox, entered through the closed gate and walked around to the side of the cooler from where the sound had originated. Schultz followed closely behind, creeping with his gun aimed, ready to strike.
“It came from right over here. Did you not hear it, Schultz?”
“Nein, I heard nothing...”
“Can ya hear this, Schultz?” Hogan shouted again from inside the cell.
“Hogan?” Klink asked as he and Schultz stared at each other in disbelief. “Hogan, if this is another one of your tricks...I just saw you go into your barracks! I want answers, and I want them now!”
“If you don’t get in here soon, you won’t get to hear ‘em,” Hogan answered in a panic, knowing that if Schmidt were nearby, it would be disastrous. “Hurry!”
Hustling past Schultz, Klink rounded the corner to the cooler, and as he did so, he did a double take. Linderman was standing just outside the gate.
“Colonel Klink?” Linderman asked. “What are you doing? I was looking for Schultz...I had promised him one more of these.”
“You did?” Schultz asked, confused.
“Don’t you remember?” Chucking a candy bar in Schultz’s direction, the guard caught it and smiled.
“It is all coming back to me!” Schultz exclaimed, happy with his prize.
“Hogan, I just heard you in the cooler.” Klink stated angrily. “I demand an explanation!”
“I have had it tonight with your games! Now, I want to know what you were doing in the cooler just now!”
Linderman examined the kommandant, and removing the glove from his hand, felt his forehead. “Are you feeling ok, Sir? Oh, boy, I think you have a fever...and you don’t look well.”
“Don’t change the subject!”
“No, no, wait. Schultz, don’t you see it?”
Schultz, who had begun nibbling at the chocolate treasure, waddled over and looked at Klink. “I see...,” he hesitated, and then finished, “nothing.”
“Snow deafness. Sister illness to snow blindness,” Linderman began. “I’m sorry, Sir. But it happens to the best of us. Causes you to hear things. Have you been under a lot of pressure lately?”
“And you’re eager to get these three days over with, right?”
“Yes, yes...” Klink again found himself staring at the snowy ground before him. It was almost as if he were in a trance. Snapping his head up, he broke the spell. “No! Now, I heard something, and it came from in there,” he pointed to the cooler, “and it sounded exactly like you!”
Spinning on his heel, he raced to the side of the cooler and pointed up to the window.
“There. That cell there. What were you doing in there?”
Inside the cold, dark cell, Hogan felt his heart plummet. “You’ve gotta be kidding,” he muttered softly. “Klink...no, Klink...shut up, Klink....”
“Really,” Linderman said with concern. “It’s worse than I thought. Schultz, get a doctor, quick. I can only hope we’re not too...”
“Arrest him, Klink!” the voice from inside warned. “He’s gonna kill you at the end of three days if you don’t!” He prayed he had made the right decision; yet, it was the only decision left for him to make.
Klink looked up at Linderman and shouted, “Ah- HA! Schultz, escort Colonel Hogan into the cooler. Schultz? Schultz!”
Dropping the rest of the chocolate into the snow drift, the sergeant snapped to attention and huffed, “Ja wohl!” Then, to Linderman, he said, “You, come!”
Linderman’s shoulders fell, and letting out a sigh, and he tried to plot his next course of action as Klink and Schultz led him toward the cooler doors. As much as he wanted to see Hogan face to face, he did not, most certainly, wish to see him under these conditions. And then, as Schultz tugged open the heavy door, Major Schmidt appeared behind them.
“May I ask what it is that you three are doing?” Schmidt stated calmly.
Linderman whipped around, and the corners of his mouth turned up briefly, his eyes twinkling at the sight of the major.
“Ah, Major Schmidt. I have uncovered an escape attempt.”
“Your prisoners escape into the cooler, Colonel?” Schmidt asked, his eyebrows raised.
“Uh, no, haha...,” Klink stammered, trying to explain. “You see, it is a diversion. In a plot to kill me!”
Schultz quickly looked to the heavens and mumbled, “Oh, boy.”
“A diversion?” the major asked. “What kind of diversion?”
“This man,” he pointed to Linderman, “has someone in there that sounds like it could be his twin brother.”
Linderman and Schmidt exchanged rapid glances. “Is that so. And what did this twin brother say?”
“He warned me that this man would kill me in three days!”
Again, the imposter and the major cast each other knowing looks, and Schmidt said, “I see. Colonel, could it be that perhaps the man in the cooler is my prisoner?”
“What, what, what? I was not told you were keeping a prisoner! Schultz! Why was I not notified of this?”
Before Schultz could answer, Schmidt said, “He did not know, either. Nobody knows. It is a highly guarded secret, Colonel. No one must know of this man’s whereabouts.”
Leaning toward Schmidt, Klink asked, “Who is he?”
“One of the most dangerous men in all of Germany. In three days, it is he who will be executed. Not you. Now, I believe you have a staff car waiting?”
Nodding and finding himself agreeing with the major, Klink muttered, “Ja, ja. I suppose. But, Herr Major..”
“Then, to your car, Colonel. Enjoy your stay in town, and we will see you back in three days, ja?”
“Ja...Hogan, you! Back to your barracks and stay there!” Klink bellowed, spun away from the group, and marched away to his private quarters, Schultz scurrying closely behind.
“Major,” Linderman said as he, too, saluted briefly and walked away from the cooler. He knew what would happen next, and he was certain it was going to be a long night for one Colonel Robert E. Hogan.
Schmidt waited until each of the three men was out of sight, and slapping his leather glovese repeatedly into the palm of his hand, he entered the building.
The footsteps echoing through the cooler and toward the cell shot ripples of terror through Hogan, and this time, when the door opened and the lights flickered to life, Schmidt looked demonic. He entered the cramped cell and towered over the colonel, who gazed helplessly up at him.
“The trouble with you is, you never knock,” Hogan said, finding a trickle of courage left in his soul. He waited for the reaction, which he anticipated to be one of immense pain. But instead, the major merely circled him.
“I may have to kill you sooner than I thought,” he remarked slowly. “That is unfortunate, as we did hope to keep you alive as long as possible for the duration. But your actions...,” his voice trailed off, pondering his dilemma. “I shall decide in the morning what to do. Perhaps, after some consideration, you may become...more willing to cooperate. Hm?” Reaching into his coat pocket, he withdrew yet another syringe, this one much larger than the one before.
“What are you, a walking drug store?” Hogan said, shivering from both the cold and from fear, but determined to not let this animal steal from him the only weapon he had left...his edge.
But it was just enough to push Schmidt over his edge. Grabbing Hogan by the neck, he pushed the colonel’s head into the bunk, where he held him fast.
“One more word from you, just one more word, and not only will I gag you, but the gag will be soaked in some of the most vile liquid I can find in this camp and lodged so deep into your throat that you will choke on your own vomit. Do you understand?”
Burning with silent hatred and disgust at the man in the cell with him, Hogan felt Schmidt locate the vein in his neck, and then, the prick of a needle that followed. Instantly, a steady stream of cold fire traveled into him, a substance so powerful that the colonel swayed almost immediately. Stars and ribbons and wild patterns flashed before him, and he crunched into himself, willing these disturbing sensations to cease. His trembling became more fierce, and it felt like he was about to have a seizure.
“Oh, God, what was that?” he managed through sudden coughing spells. “Make it stop....no more! No more!”
“Good night, Herr Colonel. Maybe you will think twice before you disobey me again.”
Hogan never heard the door to the cell close, so rabid was his condition. Sweat poured over him, and no matter how hard he tried, he could not get it – whatever it was – to stop. His stomach knotted and cramped, his skin prickled, his head pounded, his entire being felt inflamed, he felt his throat tighten, and he shook so violently from the spasms that he didn’t think he would ever sit still again. When his eyes were open, his vision was blurry and he saw double; when they were closed, fireworks erupted into the darkness. And yet, he could not scream. Every time he tried, nothing came out except short gasps for breath.
Pressing his head into the bunk’s mattress as far as it would go, he grinded his teeth and took each minute as it came...praying that each minute would either put an end to this new suffering...or to him.
“I don’t want anyone going near the cooler,” Linderman ordered, and his command was met inquisitive stares. Having been in and out of his barracks so frequently in the past hour, Linderman realized that Hogan’s men were curious and had grown understandably frustrated with his erratic behavior. And not only had he been acting mysteriously, he had also ordered them not to ask questions or to follow him, but to remain in the barracks until he informed them otherwise.
However, now that Klink was about to be on his way to Hammelburg for the next three days, and Hogan was indisposed, he and Schmidt would have free reign over the camp and its occupants. Their plan was proceeding nicely. In fact, things were going so well that Linderman was confident that the need to keep the real Hogan alive for the entire three days was not necessary. He had the part down, and because Hogan had been such a pro at twisting a conversation in any direction he pleased to meet his needs, Linderman believed he had passed enough tests that he could do just as well when the time came. Besides, it was becoming increasingly apparent that keeping the colonel alive would only hamper their progress. This last brush with Klink and Schultz only proved that the sooner there was only one living, breathing Colonel Hogan, the better.
“What’s going on, Colonel,” Kinch asked, and the rest of the men leaned forward in eager anticipation.
“They’re holding a member of the Underground in there, but we can’t get to him. At least not above ground.”
“Why is that?” LeBeau asked.
Casting a sideways glance at the French corporal, Linderman said, “It’s rigged with mines. Don’t ask me when they did it, but the entire area surrounding the cooler is booby-trapped.”
“Well, we can use the tunnel to get him out,” Newkirk advised, taking a sip of coffee. “Who is he?”
Linderman moved his eyes slowly in Newkirk’s direction at the mention of the word “tunnel,” and he resisted the urge to smile. Instead, he replied, “I’m not sure...Schmidt wouldn’t say. All he does say is that this guy has an appointment with the firing squad in three days.”
“In three days!” Carter blurted. “We can’t let ‘em do that!”
“Easy, Carter. Of course we can’t. I’ll go up through the tunnel myself and see who it is. Try and talk to him...see what he knows and why he’s so important. I don’t want any of you following me, and that’s an order. Is that clear?”
A round of “Yessirs” followed, and Linderman nodded in approval.
“Good. In case something goes wrong, I don’t want any of you to get hurt.”
“What about you, Sir? You’re the only gov’ner we got,” the Englishman said with genuine worry.
The irony of Newkirk’s statement swept through Linderman, and he couldn’t help but permit himself to grin. These saps really had no clue that their real colonel was trapped in the cooler, that there were no mines or dangerous booby-traps, and that he was about to unearth one of the largest Underground operations in all of Germany.
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me. Kinch? Any word from London?” The words rolled off Linderman’s tongue as if he had been saying them for years.
“No, Sir. Nothing more except what I told you before.”
“Ok, then, you come with me, and we’ll try ‘em again. The rest of you sit tight.” Linderman paused and waited, hoping the Black man would move first. He was not disappointed. Kinch immediately strode across the room to the bunk by the far wall. With two taps into the top wooden plank, the bunk sprang to life, revealing the hidden entrance way into the ground.
Caught by surprise, Linderman gaped at the brilliance of it, but he quickly caught his reaction. Clearing his throat, he rose from the table and walked toward the hole in the floor. Trying not to look conspicuously virgin in his descent into the tunnel, he climbed over the beams and disappeared beneath the floor.
Once at the bottom, he couldn’t believe what he saw, and he struggled to conceal his shock. It was not just a tunnel, it was a network of intricate communications systems, printing presses, wardrobes, storage facilities, dark rooms, and chemistry labs. A complex series of passageways branched out from the main center, and he figured he would need a map to navigate them. His eyes grew wide and his jaw hung open despite his efforts, and the Black sergeant took notice.
“Uh, Sir? Are you alright?”
Coughing, Linderman regrouped and said, “Oh, yeah. Why?”
Sergeant Kinchloe frowned. Carter had shared with him his uneasy feelings about their colonel, and while the radio man had also detected a subtle change in their commanding officer, he had not grown suspicious of it until now.
“Oh, nothing. You must be beat, what, with all that Nazi junk they put you through today.”
Slipping around to the area where the main communications receivers were, Linderman remarked casually but still in awe of his surroundings, “Nah, I’ll get over it.”
Kinch took his seat at the switchboard, and after plugging a few connections in, began tapping a morse code. Linderman stood over him, and it looked no different to Kinch than any other time Hogan had taken the same stance. But instead of the serious look the colonel would always give his sergeant whenever Kinch made contact with London, the radio man now observed something a little different. Linderman was not only ignoring Kinch, he was looking wildly around the room. Kinch knew, just by watching him, that there was much more going on than what the colonel was telling them.
After the message was sent, a few minutes passed, and automatically, the sound of a return morse code ensued, and Kinch jotted the message down onto a tablet of paper. Once he had finished scribbling the message, he handed it to Linderman. But instead of the reaction Kinch normally would have received, Linderman only stared at the paper, his brow knitting together and a frown forming. Then, seconds later, Linderman said, “My head’s killing me...the code...I can’t, uh, just...what’s it say?”
Kinch slowly took the paper back from his colonel and with caution, read, “No go for drop tonight, as before. Will try tomorrow. Out.”
“Ok, thanks,” Linderman said, rubbing his temples and feigning soreness in them. “I’m gonna check this guy in the cooler out, and I’ll be right up.”
Rising slowly from his seat, the Black sergeant answered, “Uh, sure. We’ll, uh...we’ll wait up for ya.” He moved away from Linderman and climbed back up the ladder steps, leaving the fake colonel alone in the tunnel.
The moment he heard the bunk close, Linderman grinned broadly. He looked around, scrutinizing his position within the maze of underground pathways. There was only one problem...which one led to the cooler? Staring up at the ceiling, he tried to get his bearings as to where he was in relation to the camp above him.
“The main door’s there....that would be in the direction of Klink’s quarters...the back of the camp...away from camp....cooler?” Without any choice except to follow the tunnel blindly, Linderman chose his course and started his trek. The path he had chosen was dimly lit with gasoline lanterns, and the ground was damp and moist with dew. A chill traveled through him as he wondered if he should not just put an end to the charade tonight. Kill Hogan and dispose of his body beneath the snow, where he wouldn’t be found until spring.
Eventually, the tunnel came to an end, and a ladder leading up was before him. Carefully, he climbed the boards, which creaked beneath his weight. As he reached the top, he pushed on the ceiling, and to his surprise, it gave way. He slid the heavy tile away from the opening and poked his head up out of the floor. Looking around, he noticed that he was in an empty cell, and the door was wide open.
He was inside the cooler!
“Fantastic,” he whispered as he pulled himself up out of the hole in the floor.
The building was frigid inside, and he wondered how anyone could survive being in this dreadful place. He resolved to only observe the colonel at this time, and perhaps the next day, after a discussion with Schmidt, he would be permitted to complete the task. Now, he wanted merely to mock him.
With the exception of Hogan, no other prisoners occupied the cooler on this night. Linderman worked his way down the hall until he came to a solid door that was closed. Unsnapping the right pocket of the bomber jacket, he withdrew the key that Schmidt had given him should he ever have the need to interrogate Hogan directly. Inserting the metal piece into the lock, he turned the key and a loud scrape was heard. The door heaved open, and Linderman peered into the cell. Although dark, the searchlights provided enough illumination to see all he needed to see.
Huddled in the far corner and tied to the bunk, contorted and semi-conscious, the real Colonel Hogan struggled with the effects from the drug – which had been nothing more than pure caffeine. Few people actually knew how energizing the chemical was once stripped down to its pure form. Injected intravenously and fast-acting, just the right amount would not cause death, but would instead bring great pain in the form of severe convulsions as it stimulated the central nervous system to hyperexcitability. Schmidt had made sure to inject just the right amount.
Linderman’s eyes sparkled with wild anticipation as he boldly stepped into the cell, approached the colonel, and leaned over him. It all seemed very surreal to him, and he reflected on his days as a guard at the camp. It was almost impossible to believe that this pathetic excuse for an officer – for a human being – had up until that morning marched around the camp as if he were the one in charge.
Sensing a presence near to him, Hogan stuttered, “W-who’s there?”
Smirking, the pretend Hogan knelt down beside him and placed his hand on his predecessor’s forehead, moving the hair that had matted to it off to the side. “There, there, Colonel. I’m here. I’ve come to take your place. You’ll never have to worry about anything ever again.”
Hogan squeezed his eyes tightly shut, trying to comprehend what was being said to him and who was saying it. The voice was so familiar, but the words were not making sense. He tried to talk, but nothing that sounded like discernable language would come.
“I’ll speak with Schmidt tomorrow...see if we can’t move up your date. There’s no reason to keep you like this.”
With great difficulty, Hogan choked, “Date?”
“Uh huh,” Linderman said, sounding so much like Hogan he gave a start, but then regrouped and continued. “Me an’ the boys...we’ll be just fine after you’re gone.”
“Like hell we will,” a firm voice from behind Linderman boomed. Just as he attempted to stand, a heavy object cracked against the back of his neck, and he dropped to the ground, unconscious.
Sergeant Kinchloe tossed the plank to the side and dragged the limp body of the imposter away from Hogan as Corporal Newkirk rushed to their officer’s side.
“Blimey, he’s in a state,” the Englishman said to Kinch after a hasty examination. Then to Hogan, “Hang on, mate. This’ll just take a sec.”
Newkirk took out his pocket knife and sliced through the ropes that confined Hogan, and as the cords loosened, Kinch grabbed his shoulders and hoisted him up from the floor. Yet, the colonel shook violently, and unable to determine who was holding him, tried to fight his way free. Falling back to the floor, Hogan and Kinch landed with a thud.
“Don’t make me slug you, too,” Kinch said under his breath as Hogan’s involuntary muscle spasms continued. “I don’t want a court martial at this point in the war.”
Putting his face in his hands, the colonel said shakily, “K-Kinch?”
“I ain’t Santa Claus,” the Black sergeant joked lightly. Then, “Peter, the cuffs.”
Quickly, Newkirk inserted a thin piece of metal into the lock, and in record time, the metal rings released their tight grip on Hogan’s wrists.
“W-where were you an h-hour ago?” Hogan managed, gasping for air.
“Sir, try to walk. The tunnel’s only a few feet out your cell door,” Newkirk commanded as Hogan moved his head up and down and tried very hard to focus.
Slowly and deliberately, they shuffled to the door and down the hall to the cell that held their tunnel entrance. Worried that Linderman would awaken, Kinch said, “Can you two make it the rest of the way?”
“No worries. Right gov’ner?”
Again nodding as best he could but not able to speak, Hogan agreed.
Kinch darted back to the cell, where he ripped the colonel’s hat and jacket off the imposter. Lugging him to the bunk, he snapped Linderman’s wrists together with the handcuffs, and then with the longer section of the rope, he secured him tightly in place. Seeing the snow on the window sill, he reached up and grabbed an armful of it, after which he strategically and hurriedly began to wet Linderman’s hair, shirt, and neck to imitate perspiration.
“There...they’ll never know the difference...,” Kinch said thoughtfully. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a pill bottle and removing two capsules from the container, he placed them in Linderman’s mouth. Tilting the fake colonel’s head back, he forced him to swallow the two pills by massaging the throat muscles to coax them down.
“You’ll sleep for twenty-four hours at least,” Kinch chuckled, and with all the strength of his boxing days, he landed a blow so hard across Linerman’s jaw he momentarily worried that he had broken the man’s neck. His business in the cooler then complete, the sergeant ran out the door, closing and locking it behind him. Sprinting to the tunnel entrance, he slipped down inside and covered the opening, and jogging through the passageway, he soon caught up with Hogan and Newkirk.
“All in a day’s work, huh Sir?” Kinch asked with a toothy grin.
Shivering but beginning to feel safe again, Hogan once more nodded slowly. And this time, he found that he was able to smile.
Once again in his private quarters, Klink stormed to his bed chamber and threw his snow-covered officer’s cap down on the mattress and peeled off his gloves. Schultz, who had timidly followed him in, stood in the doorway.
“What are you going to do, Herr Kommandant?” he asked.
“I will tell you what I am not going to do. I am not going to leave this camp! I don’t know what’s going on, Schultz, but I plan to find out!”
“How are you going to do that?”
Sneering, Klink replied, “I am going to visit with Schmidt’s prisoner myself and see what this has to do with Hogan! There is funny business going on here, Schultz, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it! Nothing gets by Colonel Klink!”
Snapping to attention, the sergeant acknowledged, “You are absolutely correct, Herr Kommandant!”
“Thank you, Schultz. Now, do you have the keys to the cooler?”
Placing his hand on his leather belt, Schultz affirmed, “Ja wohl, they are right here.”
“Excellent. Now, we will slip in tonight, after the major is asleep, and see who this prisoner is. Hmph! Dangerous man in all of Germany! I should have been notified of this arrangement!”
“What about your leave, Herr Kommandant?”
“Ah, yes. I have given that some thought. Schultz, I want you to take the car and drive it out the main gate. Leave it parked in the woods a mile up the road, and then walk back to camp.”
“Walk...back...to...camp? Walk...in the...snow?”
Stomping his foot, Klink said, “Schultz! The fresh air and exercise will do you good!”
“Yes, yes, now hurry. Before Schmidt sees that I have not yet left.”
Growing impatient, Klink added, “If you don’t go now, you will be exercising in the snow indefinitely...at the Eastern Front.”
“Exercise?” Schultz again muttered as he saluted and waddled out the door.
Alone in his quarters, Klink began unpacking his suitcase. Talking to himself, he mumbled, “Now, we shall see who is in charge of this camp!”
“Louis! Andrew! Give us a hand!” Newkirk shouted from the bottom of the tunnel.
The two soldiers ran to the bunk, and as they helped ease Hogan out of the entrance, they couldn’t believe their eyes.
“Holy cow! What happened?” Carter asked as the small group huddled protectively around the colonel and wrapped blankets around his shoulders. Guiding him into his quarters, they delicately positioned him on the lower bunk and covered him with as many blankets as they could find.
“They’ve got a double,” Kinch explained.
“An exact ruddy clone of him,” Newkirk elaborated as LeBeau and Carter shook their heads in bewilderment and fear.
“How long...I mean, when did he...?” Carter asked.
“T-today,” Hogan stammered, his eyes sealed tightly shut and trying desperately to get warm under the blankets. Thankfully, the convulsions had calmed, but he remained frozen to the core, and occasional after-effects of the drug continued to wreck havoc on his being. “SS brought him.”
“Linderman?” LeBeau asked, taking a seat on the bunk next to the colonel, wiping his forehead with a cloth, and Hogan nodded.
“Where is he now?” Carter followed.
“He traded down, so to speak,” Kinch answered with a grin. “He’s sitting in the cooler, looking very much like Colonel Hogan.”
“K-kinch...you can’t let him t-talk. They’ve g-got plans to kill us all in three days.”
“Oh, he won’t do much talking, Sir,” the Black sergeant reassured Hogan. “He’s pretty doped up and will be for awhile.”
Hogan shivered under the blankets and concentrated on what was being relayed to him. “C-can’t chance it. Gotta kill him.”
“But, if we do that, they’ll know you escaped,” Carter said. “What then?”
“He’s right, Sir,” the English corporal admitted. “We have to keep him alive and them thinking it’s you for as long as possible, or they’ll tear this place apart.”
“Can we keep him on ice that long?” Kinch asked.
“Oui, it can be done. Just keep slipping him those little pills, Kinch.”
“Too obvious,” the colonel advised, and they solemnly agreed. “K-keep an eye on things tonight. M-make sure you let me know if Schmidt g-goes into the cooler.” Hogan winced suddenly and fought off an onslaught of residual tremors, and LeBeau tried to steady him.
“And if he does?” Carter said quietly.
Squinting up at his men, Hogan replied weakly, “Then y-you’ve got to stall him if he comes over here t-til I come outta this.”
The men glanced around the room at each other.
“Stall the Gestapo?” Newkirk blurted.
“We’ll take care of it, Sir,” Kinch reassured the colonel despite the rest of the group’s apprehensiveness.
“Ok, g-good,” Hogan whispered into his pillow, feelings of nausea overtaking him. He wondered how much longer this drug’s effects would last, and he tried to will them to stop.
“I’ll go start keeping watch,” Carter said, and he slipped out of Hogan’s quarters and into the main room.
“Colonel,” LeBeau started. “Is there anything...?”
Shaking his head, Hogan responded, “Thanks, Louis...no...just m-make sure Schmidt doesn’t find out that I’m me...”
The men nodded, and one by one, they left Hogan alone to combat the physical demons that had yet to relinquish their hold on him.
Inside the guest quarters at Stalag 13, Schmidt lounged on the velvet couch. A bottle of whiskey from the well-stocked liquor cabinet rested on the end table next to him, and he swirled the amber liquid around in his glass before downing the shot. The sound of snoring from the bedroom traveled through the living space as Steiner slept. Although it was only seven o’clock in the evening, they had left Berlin early that morning, and Major Steiner had driven the entire course of the trip. It bothered Schmidt little that his major needed the rest. He had done well today. They all had.
Schmidt thought of the colonel, resting rather uncomfortably in the cooler just around the corner from the guest quarters. He mused at the letters “PB” and concluded that they could only mean one thing: Papa Bear. They were so close! Linderman was working on the men in the barracks, and while he had not supplied Schmidt with any information, he had resisted doing so for good reason. Unless it was a matter of dire urgency, there could be no contact.
The call for help had, unfortunately, been reason enough for Linderman to speak with the major. Schmidt had known from the outset that Hogan was going to be difficult, he just didn’t realize how resourceful the American officer was. Yet, killing him now would be too soon. He had to wait only a short while longer. Thinking of how he would perform the act aroused and delighted the major. There were so many ways! When the time would come, he would choose the way that would prove most entertaining.
Closing his eyes briefly, Schmidt’s thoughts turned to Klink. He could not fathom how such a fool could have landed one of the most comfortable jobs in all of World War II. What were his connections? Surely there had to be some reason why an utter nincompoop like this Colonel Klink was the Kommandant of a Luftstalag. Schmidt also had trouble believing he had managed to attain the rank of colonel on his own. Snorting, he poured another shot of whiskey and swallowed it, allowing it to cascade down his throat and warm him from the inside out.
He had heard Klink’s staff car start not long ago, and watching from the window, he saw it pass through the main gate, where it disappeared into the whiteness of the blizzard. Another complication out of his way.
Schmidt yawned and placed the empty glass onto the table. Soon, he would have all the answers he needed to give to Berlin. Snickering, he envisioned himself receiving the medal of honor for his work in uncovering the ring of conspirators. Shortly thereafter, with his Hogan firmly in place in London and Stalag 13 dismantled, he would become a supreme force in the Third Reich, second to no one except the Fuhrer himself. And his first obligation as such would be to dismantle all prisoner of war camps throughout the Axis nations. The Geneva Convention was soon to become a thing of the past, as feeding and sheltering the captured enemy was draining the war effort. But not for much longer. It was only a matter of time.
Schultz drove the staff car slowly down the snow-covered road. It was so deep, that at times, he thought he would get stuck in a drift. Instead, the car would sputter and groan, but it continued to advance. Finally, after he had traveled about a kilometer, he pulled the car over and climbed out. The night was quiet and the crystalized forest looked enchanted. It also felt bitterly glacial.
As promised, he started hiking on his journey back to camp, hoping he wouldn’t turn into a snowman by the time he arrived.
The door closed with a loud “clang” behind him. Colonel Wilhelm Klink entered the cooler and cautiously crept his way through the corridors until he came to a door that was closed and locked. Taking the keys that Schultz had given him, he tried two before he found the correct one. Turning the handle, he pushed the door open, and stared inside.
There, he saw a man, unconscious and bound to the legs of the bunk. Inching forward, he knew that if he were discovered in this cell, he himself would be sharing the cooler with this man. But his curiosity had gotten the better of him, and he was disturbed by having heard this man’s voice earlier. It had been Hogan, and yet, he had just witnessed Hogan march off to his barracks an hour before.
Or had he? Nearing the prisoner, he knelt beside him, and lifting the man’s chin, the kommandant’s eyes grew wide, and his mouth hung open.
“Donnerwetter!” he exclaimed. “Hogan! What have they done to you?”
Gently returning Linderman’s head to its original position, Klink retreated from the cell and firmly locked the door behind him. Pondering the situation, he resolved to rescue his senior prisoner of war. Despite their differences, he was well aware of the barbaric techniques for which SS men such as Majors Schmidt and Steiner were known. And, if Hogan had, in fact, gotten himself into trouble, Klink knew he might find himself standing beside him in front of the same firing squad.
Squinting his eyes as he emerged from the cooler, he looked off into the distance at Hogan’s barracks, and he knew instantly what he was going to do.
In the darkness of his private officer’s quarters, Hogan, wrapped in blankets and curled in a tight ball, tried to ignore the jittery sensations that continued to plague him. While they were not nearly as vicious as they had been, the shaking had yet to cease, and the fire behind his eyes was unbearable. Through the door, he could hear his men talking in low voices, but he could not understand what they were saying. He hoped they were figuring a way to kill the man in the cooler who had attempted to steal his identity and had nearly succeeded.
The door to his room creaked open, and a small portion of light slithered in, behind which a shadow, and then Carter.
“Sir? I’m sorry, Sir, but...well, you said you wanted to know.”
Peeling his eyelids away from his eyes, Hogan looked up at his sergeant, pain erupting from under his brow.
“Carter? It’s ok. What is it?” he whispered hoarsely.
Pulling a chair next to the bunk, Carter said, “Someone just came out of the cooler.”
The colonel felt himself tense. “Schmidt.”
“Uh, no Sir. It was Klink. And...he’s headed this way.”
Hogan remembered the conversation he had through the window. “Oh, no,” he mumbled. “Carter, you can’t let him in here.”
“He’ll wanna see you, Sir.”
“He’ll think I’m Linderman.”
“So tell him you’re not!” Carter said, a little too loudly, and Hogan winced. “Oh, sorry Sir,” he then said in a softer tone.
“Carter, he’s already been fooled by Linderman. He won’t buy anything I tell him right now.”
“But look at you! He would have to know!”
“He’ll think it’s part of the scheme,” Hogan argued, clenching his jaw and knitting his brow together in a pained expression. “He just saw me in the cooler tied up and out cold. What would you think?”
The door to the barracks opened, and they heard Klink enter with his demands to see the colonel.
“Carter?” the colonel said in a hushed panic, agonizingly pushing himself up on his elbow. “The only way you could have gotten me out of the cooler is through the tunnel. Do you understand? He can’t know that you rescued me.”
“Sir...I can’t. He...I...he...”
Hogan’s door opened, and Klink marched into the room. Flicking on the light, Hogan reacted by cowering from the brightness and shutting his eyes.
“What is wrong with him?” Klink asked the American sergeant sternly.
“He’s sick, Sir,” Carter explained, as Newkirk, LeBeau, and Kinch stood nervously in the doorway.”
“He was perfectly healthy two hours ago,” the kommandant remarked confidently. “Perhaps it is snow deafness?”
Hogan had no idea what Klink was rambling on about, and he didn’t care. All he did care about was getting the kommandant out of his barracks. Without opening his eyes, he muttered, “What, Klink?”
“That’s Colonel Klink to you.”
“Fine, Colonel,” Hogan said as forcefully as he could, shaking off a chill.
The kommandant stared at the man he believed was charading as Hogan and gaped at him. “Remarkable,” he said suddenly, catching the men off-guard.
“What’s so remarkable about being sick?” Hogan spat, squinting up at Klink.
“Nothing at all, Hogan. In fact, I think it would be in your men’s best interests if they didn’t share the same barracks for the night.”
While Klink knew Hogan’s men would want their real colonel back with them, the less they knew, the better. And, if they did know this man was an imposter, they might kill him, which, if Hogan had been right, would spell disaster.
“But you can’t do that!” Carter shouted.
“Hogan, order your men to gather their belongings. They are moving to barracks four, where they will are to be confined. You will remain here.”
The men shot each other concerned looks, and Hogan couldn’t believe his ears. They were all thinking the same thing: There was no tunnel under barracks four.
“Colonel, you can’t...,” Hogan began, starting to repeat Carter’s words.
“I can, and I have!” Klink interrupted him. “If you are sick, I don’t want there to be an epidemic spread throughout the camp. You will be quarantined until this sickness has passed. While you may be unconcerned for your men’s well being, I am not.”
Not sure what Klink meant by the last remark, but certain it had to do with Linderman, Hogan attempted to protest, but was overtaken by a brief muscle spasm.
“I have never seen this type of illness come on so quickly, Hogan,” Klink taunted him. “The rest of you, gather your belongings. You will all leave now.”
Worry and cold perspiration drenched the colonel, and before Carter left his side, he said quickly, “It’ll be ok, Sir...”
Yet, it was all the young sergeant could utter before Klink nudged him to move away and out the door. One by one, the prisoners collected their blankets and whatever else they could grab and filed out the door escorted by Klink, and leaving Hogan behind in the barracks alone.
Ten minutes after the last man had left the colonel’s hut and been deposited into barracks four, Klink returned. He again joined Hogan in his quarters, where he sat down and studied the man before him. It seemed the colonel’s symptoms – or so-called symptoms – had started to ease, and he appeared to be sleeping more comfortably.
“Hogan? Hogan, wake up.”
The colonel stirred, and he rubbed his hand over his face. “What...,” he grunted. “Don’t you have a pass or something to go on?”
“I’m onto your little game, Hogan,” Klink said majestically. “If that is your real name.”
Groaning, Hogan said, “Klink, do I look like I’m having fun here? What I’d really like to do is get some sleep.”
“Who is in the cooler? Why does he look like you? I want answers, and I want them now!”
Hogan stalled. Convincing Klink he was the real Hogan would mean explaining how he escaped in this condition from the locked cell, a trick even Harry Houdini would have found impossible without help. Exposing the tunnel under the cooler would expose their whole operation. And yet, not convincing him might prove even more dangerous.
Huffing, the colonel resorted to indifference. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. A guy in the cooler? Who looks like me?”
“Yes! And do you know what I think?”
“I can’t wait.”
“I think that he is the real Colonel Hogan, and that you are a member of the Gestapo, sent by Berlin, to check on me!”
Hogan slowly brought himself to a sitting position. He hated feeling so vulnerable while lying on the bunk before the kommandant, but as he sat upright, his head spun, and he had to grab onto the bunk to prevent himself from falling over. After a moment, he glanced up at Klink from behind sagging eyes. “Well, if that’s what you think,” he said reluctantly and waited for the colonel’s response.
“Ah-ha! So you admit it!”
“I’m not admitting anything except I’m sick and need sleep.”
“I have an idea,” Klink stated, and Hogan braced himself. “What if you were to trade places with the man in the cooler while we figure out just who’s who?”
“What?” Hogan choked. “You can’t be serious.”
“Unless, as the real Hogan, Hogan, you wish to tell me how you escaped?”
“Not really,” he sighed. “Look, Colonel, I’m not about to trade places with anybody.” Hesitating, Hogan added, “Schmidt would have your head before he allowed you to do that, anyway. As long as good ole Schmitty’s around, I’m as safe as a bug in a rug.”
Klink’s eyes darted up, now convinced that the man before him was most definitely not Hogan. “We’ll see about that! You fooled your men, and you fooled Schultz! But you can’t fool Colonel Klink! I’m taking you to the cooler, whoever you are, and we’ll see what Schmitty has to say when I call General Burkhalter!”
Surprised that Klink had not crumbled at the thought of Schmidt’s wrath and racking his brain for a solution, Hogan managed, “I think you’re making a big mistake. Schmidt’s gonna be angry about this.”
“I’d be making a bigger mistake if I did not put you in the cooler where you belong!” Rising, Klink ordered him to stand.
“I don’t think I can,” the colonel said seriously.
“You did not seem to have a problem earlier. On your feet.”
“I’m not kidding,” Hogan pleaded, his legs feeling like deadweight beneath him as he sat on the bunk.
“If you do not stand this second, I will order the guards to haul you out!”
“Oh, brother,” Hogan said under his breath but fearing the outcome all the same. Why was it Klink always managed to do the right thing at the wrong time?
The American officer was dragging himself to his feet when the door to the barracks opened, and soon after, he watched in horror as Major Schmidt entered the room. Clutching the frame of his bunk, he quickly slid his hands under the blanket that was still wrapped around him to hide his chaffed wrists, and he crunched his shoulder into his neck where the needle had delivered its strong punch. When the enormous Gestapo major towered over both he and Klink, he silently prayed that Schmidt now found Linderman standing before him.
“What is going on here?” Schmidt asked. “What are you doing to this prisoner?”
“Ah, Major Schmidt...,” Klink started. “I have uncovered a plot...”
“Is this all you do, Klink? Uncover plots that lead nowhere? And why are you still here? Where is your staff car?”
“Oh, ah, yes. My, uh, staff car.”
“I was wondering, too,” Hogan chirped, giving the major a small grin and hoping it was enough. He also hoped the muscle spasms would resist rearing their ugly head.
Completely confused, Klink looked from Hogan back to Schmidt, but he could not find the words to explain away any of his current predicament.
“Klink,” the major stated. “I will let you stay the night, but first thing in the morning, I want you to be on your way to Hammelburg. Is that clear?”
“Ja wohl! Danke, Herr Major!” Klink erupted, relieved that the major had no plans to arrest him.
“As for you, Colonel,” Schmidt said. “Why do you look so...distressed? Are you ill?”
Concentrating very hard on his answer and trying to quell the remaining shakes that fluttered through him, Hogan replied, “Oh, no, Sir. But he is a brutal interrogator. Just brutal! My men fear him so much that they all retreated to barracks four when they heard he was coming. If you hadn’t shown up when you did, who knows what torture this man would have inflicted upon me! I think, uh, my men could come back now?”
“Ja,” the major agreed. “By all means. Klink!”
“Ja, ja! I shall see to it that Hogan’s men are returned to the barracks, now that he is feeling better,” he sneered in Hogan’s direction.
“Oh, good!” the American colonel grinned, beginning to not just feel better, but feel much better. He watched Klink salute the major, share a round of “Heil Hitlers,” and trot out of the barracks. Alone now with Schmidt, Hogan felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle, and he fought off the skin-crawling sensation of being face-to-face with the major.
“You are alright, Linderman?”
Nodding carefully and doing everything in his power to keep the remaining tremors from being visible, his dark, brown eyes met the major’s, and Hogan answered, “Never better.” He then returned a smirk so sly and cunning that he couldn’t help but revel in its irony.
The moment Hogan heard the door to his barracks close, he collapsed onto his bottom bunk, overwhelmed and in awe of the turn of events. Linderman, sitting in the cell, looking like him, Schmidt thinking it was him, could very well be executed within the next twenty-four hours. All they had to do was keep him drugged and prevent Schmidt from growing suspicious, and Linderman was ancient history.
Klink, however, was going to be a problem. If he found half a chance, he’d swap him for Linderman once Schmidt’s back was turned, and with Linderman aware, it wouldn’t take long for him to report his findings to Schmidt. Hogan would have to do double time to stay one step ahead of the iron eagle and three steps ahead of the Gestapo.
The sound of an army of men stomping through the front door of the barracks caused him to smile. Within seconds, his men exploded into his quarters, and they looked upon him with worry and anxiety. Before any of them could ask, Hogan gave them the proof they needed.
Kinch smiled and said, “That’s it. That’s the emergency code word for the week, direct from London.”
“Oui, nobody would have known that except the real Colonel Hogan,” LeBeau confirmed.
“What’d they do, Sir,” Newkirk asked.
“They bought it. And more importantly, Schmidt really bought it. He thinks I’m Linderman.”
The men exhaled sighs of relief as they cast nervous glances at each other.
“You can say that again,” Hogan joked lightly. “For a second, I thought we were in some big trouble. We still are, but not quite as bad now.”
“You got that right, boy,” Carter giggled. “Why, we’ll show them!”
“What do you have planned, Colonel?” LeBeau asked, rubbing his hands together for warmth but also in excitement.
Laboriously, Hogan dragged himself from the bunk and shuffled over to his locker, where upon gazing at his scruffy appearance in the mirror, he studied the needlemark in his neck. Wincing at the sight of it, he suddenly worried if Schmidt had also seen it and was simply playing with him. Pushing the disturbing thought out of his mind, he quipped lightly, “Looks like Dracula got me.” Then, turning to his men, he added, “Let me get cleaned up and have some time alone to think. I’ll be out in a bit.”
Assenting to their officer’s request, the men started retreating from Hogan’s quarters.
“Hang on,” he said thoughtfully. “How’d you know? What was his slipup?”
The men all began talking at once, Carter detailing the incident about the fake colonel referring to the young sergeant as ‘son;’ Kinch going on about his reaction in the tunnel; Newkirk explaining how he had discovered the code book lying carelessly on the colonel’s top bunk, a portion of it visible from under the pillow; and LeBeau saying how Linderman wished he could have had one of LeBeau’s crepe Suzettes instead of the unsavory meal being served to him.
The colonel chuckled. “Louis, you’re a great chef, but I hate crepe Suzette, even when you make it.”
“Oui, I know,” the small Frenchman said triumphantly. “I never thought I’d see the day when I was happy to know you disliked something I cooked!”
“Alright. Give me a few minutes, and we’ll get to work. There’s something else connected to all this...something bigger. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble. When was the last time the SS felt they needed to prove anything? We’ve got to get to the bottom of it before we and God knows who else wind up at the bottom instead.”
“What about Klink?” Carter asked.
“He’s right, Sir,” Newkirk affirmed. “The bleedin’ kraut’s gonna louse things up.”
Fighting off what he hoped were the last of his seizure-like symptoms, Hogan said, “No, he’s not. We’re gonna give him a whole new problem to louse up.” His words were confident, and it was just the right amount of reassurance his men needed. They exited his quarters content and satisfied that with their real colonel back in command, they had already won.
Now, all Hogan had to do was convince himself.
Schmidt closed the door to the guest quarters and stood still in the doorway for several minutes. The snoring coming from Steiner’s room was louder than ever, and it was starting to irritate the major. Checking his watch, he saw it was only after nine o’clock. He stroked his chin, disturbed.
Hogan had escaped, but how?
One thing he did know for certain, the security code he and Linderman had agreed upon had worked, as Hogan had failed to use it with Schmidt just then in his barracks. An unspoken signal between the two men, Linderman and Schmidt had agreed that as a safety measure, and because it was nearly impossible to tell the two men apart, Linderman would always give a quick tug on his ear to signal that it was, in fact, Linderman, to whom the major was speaking. When this did not occur, Schmidt began combing the colonel with his eyes, and he was astonished to see that Hogan had purposely hidden his hands beneath the blanket and had attempted to subtly cover the mark made by the syringe. Even more startling were the minute vibrations and jerking motions that ordinarily would have been dismissed as shivers from the extreme cold temperatures, but which the major immediately diagnosed as minor by-products of the colonel’s caffeine-induced state.
Strolling across the room to the whiskey decanter, Schmidt poured himself a healthy glass full and swallowed it down. His dilemma now was whether or not to arrest Hogan as a spy, for it was plainly obvious that without some sort of connections, no man could have escaped the cell in which Hogan had been imprisoned. Or should he wait...wait until the American colonel made his move, and then strike? The element of surprise was often the deciding factor of a battle’s victor, and so Schmidt opted to allow Linderman to remain in the cell, under his careful observation, until the time was right.
He also had another worry. Hogan’s men now were well aware of Linderman and would stop at nothing to protect their dear colonel. While he hated to admit it, his best chance in thwarting their plans would be to involve the camp kommandant, who, amazingly enough, had started to solve the mystery before anyone else had. Perhaps he could use that to his advantage. Perhaps the time was now.
Hastening to the door, he quickly exited his quarters and advanced to the cooler. It was time.
“Hey!” Carter shouted in a whisper from the main door.
The group of men gathered around the wooden table in the center of the room jerked their heads around and ceased talking. Hogan, now back in his brown leather bomber jacket and feeling ninety-nine percent back to normal, turned from the head of the table where he had been leaning and dodged to his sergeant’s side.
“What is it?” he asked impatiently.
“Schmidt just went into the cooler. He was in a hurry, too.”
Looking anxiously around the table at his men, Hogan said, “Ok, that’s bad.”
“Why, Colonel?” LeBeau inquired. “So he’s going in to check on ‘you.’ Linderman can’t talk.”
Feelings of grave concern creeping into him, the colonel answered sternly, “That’s not what I’m worried about. The only times he came into that cell were the times he was angry.” Pausing for a moment, he added, “I think he knows.”
“But how?” Newkirk blurted.
“I don’t know! It could’ve been anything...he could’ve seen something in me he didn’t like...or maybe...” Hogan’s voice trailed off as he remembered the code they themselves had exchanged, and a horrific thought entered his mind. “A code. They must’ve had a code between them,” he said under his breath, staring blankly at the floor and shaking his head. “That’s it. That’s gotta be it.” He was starting to panic.
“Never thought of that,” Kinch agreed dismally.
“What will we do?” LeBeau asked quickly.
Before Hogan could answer, Carter shouted, “He’s coming out!”
Those who had been seated rose as the colonel spun around, a cold sweat breaking out all over him.
“Carter? What’s he doing?” the colonel asked frantically, trying to think of something, anything that would work. On this short notice and still somewhat dull from the drug, Hogan was having great trouble finding a solution.
“Standing outside the door to the cooler. Looking this way. Here he comes!”
Hogan doused the light and ordered, “Alright, everyone in your bunks. Now! You, too, Andrew!”
“What about you, Sir?” the Englishman said in a panic.
“Newkirk, now! None of you saw me!”
Hogan bolted into his quarters, and shoving his footlocker in front of the door, he stood motionless in the center of the room, petrified with fear. Glancing around, he spied his gloves, which he snatched from the desk, and grabbing his officer’s cap, he lunged for the window. Peeking outside, the snow stung his cheeks, and he waited for a brief second. But when he heard the door to his barracks explode open and Schmidt storm inside, he threw himself out of the window and into the snow bank. Reaching in, he snatched the wooden planks that covered his window and crashed them into each other, just moments before he heard the door to his quarters open.
Dodging the spotlight, he ducked, and then, swimming through the snow, he crouched along the far side of the barracks, stopping after he rounded the corner. Peering around, he saw the shutters to his quarters open. The silhouette outlining Schmidt’s raven profile could be seen against the blanched elements, and Hogan knew his trail had been spotted. He would be easily tracked in the fresh, wintery precipitation.
Slamming back against the wall of the barracks and away from sight, Hogan squinted through the snowflakes. He had to run, but any barracks he chose would bring consequences for the men inside. He wanted desperately to find a tunnel entrance, but in this storm, his footprints would be a dead giveaway. He absolutely could not risk it.
Hearing the door to his barracks close, he ran, as hard and as fast as his legs would carry him and as much as the snow would allow him, into the frozen periphery of Stalag 13.
In no time, Hogan heard the distinct sound of a second set of footsteps crunching in the snow. He listened for it to be followed by yelling or gunfire, but surprisingly, he did not hear either. Instead, he discerned only the reserved tracking of his pursuer. Continuing onward, he tried to focus on the course before him rather than the hunter who stalked him. Stealing a look over his shoulder, he saw the ominous shadow of the Gestapo major approaching, and he pushed himself to move faster.
Slipping behind barracks six, Hogan leaned against the side of the structure and panted crystalized bursts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. His rest was only momentary, and once again, he rushed through the snow drifts, determined not to let Schmidt recapture him, but also painfully aware that he was leaving an easy trail for the major to follow.
He worked his way around to barracks eight, where as he passed by the front of it, the door opened, and he felt a hand grab his elbow. Before he realized what was happening, he found himself being pulled inside. Looking wildly at the men who had handled him in such a fashion, he realized suddenly that Newkirk was standing before him, wearing an American officer’s crush cap and leather bomber jacket – exactly like his own. Comprehension descended on him like the freezing precipitation outside.
“Newkirk, no! I can’t, I won’t let you!” Hogan insisted in a quiet panic as he broke free from the men who were holding him. But as the colonel lunged for the door, the men again clutched him, and he watched in horror as his corporal prepared to take his place in the chase.
“No time for that now, Sir,” the Englishman said as he slid out the door and vanished into the night.
For a second time, Hogan writhed free of the two prisoners who had held him, and the group fell silent. The colonel strained his ears, and soon enough, he heard it – the sound of Schmidt approaching the door to barracks eight. Holding his breath, he tucked himself in the crevice behind the door, so that if it were to open, he would be concealed from sight.
The sound grew nearer, and Hogan pressed his forehead into the wall, waiting. As he feared, the footsteps came to a stop at the door. None of the men dared to move or even breathe. Seconds seemed like hours, and they anticipated the worst. Finally, the sound of Schmidt’s pursuit returned, and as the major’s trudging grew fainter, the colonel allowed himself to exhale slowly and soundlessly.
He darted to the sink immediately, where he pushed it to the side, revealing the barracks’ tunnel entrance. Jumping down into it, he ordered, “Move this back in place and stay low. You didn’t see anything, understand?”
A round of nods and hushed “yessirs” drifted through the room.
Without saying another word, Hogan hopped down the steps and into the tunnel, where he sprinted toward his barracks. It wouldn’t take long for Schmidt to catch up to Newkirk, and if he did, God help them all.
“How the bleedin’ hell does he stay warm in this coat?” Newkirk mumbled under his breath as he serpentined his way around the compound. He had decided to lead Schmidt through the maze of barracks, and after five minutes, he was already beginning to feel the debilitating effects of the pre-season storm. Bunching the collar up around his neck and worrying that his toes were starting to turn blue, he rounded a corner and ran smack into the brick wall known as Major Schmidt.
“Blimey! You oughta be more careful!” the Englishman blurted, both in surprise and trepidation. Somehow, Schmidt had doubled back and cut him off.
“Who are you? Where is Hogan? And why are you wearing an American officer’s uniform? You are obviously British.”
“Well, I, uh you see, I enjoy taking brisk walks on nights like this,” Newkirk attempted.
“In the colonel’s outerwear?”
“Uh, yessir, I do. Uh, he lets us, I mean, it gives us something to shoot for...says we’re officer material, we all are...uh, good morale booster, he says.”
“And what does he say when his men are in trouble?”
“Trouble, Sir?” Newkirk stammered.
“Ja. Trouble. Let us ask him, shall we? Find out what he says about you being...in trouble.”
Taking Newkirk by the scruff of the leather jacket, Schmidt practically lifted him off the ground and dragged him in the direction of Hogan’s barracks. Upon arriving, he thrust the Englishman into the room, where he fell to the floor. Carter and Kinch watched the scene unfold, knowing full well that Hogan had emerged just moments before from the tunnel and was currently in his quarters figuring out a plan that included help from LeBeau.
“Where is your colonel?” Schmidt asked with a calmness that was wrapped in evil.
“I-I don’t know, Sir,” Carter replied nervously. “You s-saw for yourself. He escaped.”
Schmidt grinned. “Is that so.” Removing his sidearm, he aimed the weapon at Newkirk and repeated the question, “Where is your colonel?”
Carter and Kinch shot each other terrified looks as Newkirk stared at the floor trembling. One way or another, Schmidt was going to win this round.
The sound of gunfire startled everyone in the barracks, and Carter cried out, “No!” But the bullet missed Newkirk and lodged into the floor board.
“Colonel Hogan!” the major called out. “I know you are in here! The next shot will be more accurate, I promise!”
The men in the main room of the barracks held their breaths. They then watched helplessly as the door to Hogan’s quarters opened slowly, and a worn yet angry colonel appeared, LeBeau at his side.
“Let him go, Schmidt,” Hogan stated forcefully. “It’s me you want. Not him.”
A victorious expression danced across the major’s countenance, and he affirmed, “Ja, it is you I want, and you I now have...again...in my possession.”
“So let him go.”
Schmidt cast his gaze down to Newkirk and chuckled. “I knew you were going to be a worthy adversary, Hogan. I just did not know how worthy. Tell me, Herr Colonel, by what means do you wish me to kill this man.”
“Not by any means. Let...him...go.”
“If I did not need you alive, I would kill you and all your men right now. But as it is...”
“...You still need something from me,” Hogan finished.
“Ja. It is stupid, really. See, my Colonel Hogan needs to know more than books and papers and tunnels. Your operation here is finished, Hogan. But mine is just beginning. To infiltrate London, my Colonel Hogan needs to know information...and codes. Every code, in fact. Codes that aren’t even written on paper, but are tightly vaulted,” Schmidt explained, and then with a gloved fingertip, poked Hogan’s temple, “in here. And you will give them to him.”
“I doubt it,” Hogan snarled.
Ignoring the colonel’s insubordination, Schmidt continued, “You will teach him everything he wants to know, which is everything you know. Or one by one, your men will die. Shall we begin with this man?” Schmidt cocked the revolver and placed the tip of it against the back of Newkirk’s head, causing the English corporal to quiver and shut his eyes tight, and the American colonel to take a step forward.
“No,” Hogan begged. “Don’t...”
“Then you agree?”
Hogan did the only thing he knew would buy him time and save Newkirk’s life. He stalled by saying, “Ok, you win. I’ll cooperate.”
Again, a vicious smile crossed the major’s face. “Wunderbar! You will join me in my quarters with my Colonel Hogan, where we will continue our discussion. And your men will find themselves at home in the cooler as a precaution. Any attempt at a rescue, and I will kill you all. Is that clear?”
“Crystal,” the colonel replied, shooting glances around the barracks at his men. A thought struck him...Klink. Where was the kommandant? And where was Schultz? Had the major killed them already? And if not, how much did he know?
“Gut. You, man,” Schmidt tossed a set of cuffs at Kinch. “Fix your colonel so he stays put while I transport you to the cooler.”
Hogan saw that Kinch was about to protest, and he knew it would only make matters worse. He walked over toward his Black sergeant, and placing a hand on his shoulder, reassured him, “It’s ok.” Taking the metal rings from the sergeant, he reluctantly clasped one around his left wrist, and then, embracing the beam of the bunk next to him, he finished the task by doing the same to his right. Frowning at Schmidt, he challenged, “Never ask a man to do something you won’t do yourself.”
Oblivious to the colonel’s sarcasm and giving the cuffs a quick pinch, Schmidt tightened them so that no air cushioned the colonel’s skin, causing Hogan to grimace. “Just making sure,” he said. “I shall return for you shortly.”
Schmidt ordered Newkirk to rise from the floor, and in single file, the major led them out of the barracks. Before closing the door behind him, he said to Hogan, “Do not worry, dear Colonel. It will all be over soon. Cooperate, and I promise you a swift and painless death. Fail to do so, and I have plenty of ways of entertaining myself.” Slapping the colonel on the cheek lightly, which was more a show of disrespect than it was a way to inflict discomfort, Schmidt exited the building. Hogan rested his head against the beam of the bunk, and he wondered if this were, indeed, their final stand at Stalag 13.
Linderman, now fully awake thanks to one of Schmidt’s antidotes, sat leisurely in the camp’s guest quarters. Contemplating how the next few hours would play out, he relished the opportunity to question Hogan directly. The major had promised him the ability to use whatever means necessary to pluck the information from Hogan’s locked mind, and he planned to do so, even if the colonel cooperated. He was most eager to repay Hogan for what his men had done to him.
Shortly after Schmidt had begun his hunt for the colonel, Linderman saw Steiner appear from the bedroom. He gathered his coat and prepared to assist the major in the pursuit. Linderman could hardly have cared. As long as he didn’t end up back in that cooler and Hogan was apprehended, he had no cares or worries. Once in London, his new life would begin, and he looked upon that with such eagerness he could almost taste it.
Lounging on the couch, he sipped a glass of bourbon, waiting patiently for both Hogan and his time to come.
The wooden door to the barracks burst open, and a cold swirl of air circulated through the already frigid building. Hogan compacted his shoulders and leaned into the beam to protect himself from the blast of arctic weather. Hearing the door slam, he looked through the beams of the bunk and to his shock, he saw Major Steiner standing in the doorway, not Schmidt.
“He sent you to do the dirty work, huh?” Hogan smirked, sensing there had been a level of animosity between the two men and deciding to play on it.
Without warning, Steiner charged across the room to the bunk like a wild animal, and the colonel shrunk away as far as the cuffs would allow him. Shielding his face with his arms and closing his eyes, he prepared himself for the retaliation.
Yet, nothing happened. Timidly peeking out from behind his raised arm, he saw Steiner was merely standing before him.
“Colonel Hogan, there isn’t much time,” Steiner said quickly. “I am here to help.”
The colonel’s eyes grew wide with disbelief, and he shook his head, letting out a short laugh. “Yeah, and I’m the kaiser. If you think I’m falling for that, you’re off your rocker.”
“You must believe me.”
“Why,” Hogan returned. “So I can tell you what they want to know, just in case it doesn’t work with Linderman? No thanks.”
“Stubborn fool,” Steiner hissed. “In a very short time, your double is going to be on his way to London, and Schmidt will have swept this camp clean of anyone who knew about it. Including me.” Hesitating, he added, “I know what he plans to do.”
Tilting his head to the side, Hogan squinted at the major. “Alright, you’ve got my attention, sort of. What’s his game?”
“Germany is losing the war, Herr Colonel. And is running out of money. Major Schmidt’s plan is two-fold. First is the obvious – planting your double in London gives Germany her edge. You are Papa Bear, no? Papa Bear has access to nearly every top secret document the Allies have.”
“You know a lot,” Hogan sighed, hoping against hope that Steiner was on the level with him.
“Part two of his plan is more sinister. Within a few weeks of your double succeeding in London, he figures he will have attained great admiration from the High Command and from Hitler himself.”
“He plans to dismantle all prisoner of war camps. And he’s starting right here, with Stalag 13.”
Hogan knitted his brow tightly together. “Dismantle? As in...?”
“It takes money, Herr Colonel, to feed and shelter and guard you. The savings would be astronomical. With his new Hogan in London and these new cost savings in place, the tide could change for Germany. It could win the war.”
Swaying, the colonel grabbed onto the bunk. “That’s his plan. When he said he’d kill all of us, he truly meant all of us.”
“Ja. He did.”
“But why’d you let it go this far?” Hogan shouted. “You could’ve come to me sooner! Now it could be too late!”
“You would not have believed me.”
Casting Steiner a worried look, Hogan admitted, “No, I probably wouldn’t have.”
“Schmidt will come for you soon. He will take you to his quarters, where Linderman is waiting. Together, they will interrogate you. You must not break.”
“Well, do something!” Hogan said in a panic. “You’re in good with Schmidt! Tell him he’s got the wrong guy! Anything!”
“I will remove your men from the cooler, and together, we will think of something. But now, I must go, before Schmidt returns.”
“Hang on! Wait!”
But Steiner did not wait. He silently withdrew from the building and shuffled across the compound, meticulously planning for the evening’s events.
One hour had passed. During that time, Schmidt had secured Hogan’s men in the cooler, each alone in a solitary confinement cell and cuffed to a bunk. That project finished, Schmidt returned for Hogan, whom he extracted from the barracks and hauled across the snow-covered grounds. Once inside the guest quarters, Hogan came eye-to-eye with Linderman, and the eerie feelings he had experienced earlier on their first encounter crept into him.
“Well, here we are again,” Linderman quipped as he circled his prototype.
Hogan stood upright, his back erect and his eyes alert, watching himself in awe. While he was petrified of the situation, he couldn’t help but study how perfectly Linderman was playing the part. To test the waters, Hogan answered, “Somewhat of a style stealer, huh? I hate to admit it, but whatever look you were going for, you missed.”
Linderman’s back hand flew up and collided with Hogan’s jaw, and the colonel caught himself from falling. His wrists still cuffed, he brought his hands up to his chin where they surveyed the damage. The imposter was about to land a second blow when Schmidt prevented him.
“Not all at once,” the major sneered, and Linderman backed down. “Where is Major Steiner?”
Hogan tried not to look too interested, and yet, he was burning with curiosity. Where was Steiner? Was he freeing his men? What were they planning? How long would it take?
“He was outside with you,” Linderman answered. “Didn’t you see him?”
“Funny how snow eats people,” Hogan joked, but when he saw Linderma coming at him again, he dodged to the left and missed being struck.
“Can we do something about him?” Linderman asked impatiently. “Before I literally kill myself?”
“Ja, we can,” Schmidt said eagerly. “Colonel, sit bitte, in the chair there.”
Taking a deep breath, Hogan started to move toward the chair. He was about to take a seat, when there was a knock at the door. His eyes darted from Linderman to Schmidt, wondering if this was the start of Steiner’s plan.
“One word out of you, Hogan,” Schmidt warned, “and I’ll cut out your tongue.” Turning abruptly from the colonel, the major strode to the door in the outer room.
“Ah, Herr Major!”
Hogan didn’t have to strain his ears, he knew right away who it was. Under his breath, he mumbled, “Klink,” to which he was met with Linderman’s hand on his shoulder forcing him down into the chair.
“Herr Colonel,” Schmidt started. “Wos ist los? Why are you not in bed? Asleep?”
“Ah, you see, Herr Major, I have been thinking.”
“Dangerous for you, especially at night!” the major teased.
Klink looked at him with brief confusion. However, not allowing it to prevent him from discovering the truth, the kommandant continued. “I was thinking about your prisoner, in the cooler, the one who sounded like Hogan.”
“Ja? What about him, Klink?”
“Ah, well, I was wondering...”
“Shut up, Klink,” Hogan whispered, and the moment the words were uttered, he felt Linderman’s hand over his mouth.
“You really do have a death wish, don’t ya, chum?” Linderman growled.
“What were you wondering, Herr Colonel?” Hogan heard Schmidt ask in the outer room.
Taking the chance, Hogan bit Linderman’s finger as hard as he could. The fake Hogan screamed and yanked his hand away, and the colonel shot up out of the chair.
Hearing the outburst coming from the back room and knowing full well it was his senior prisoner of war, Klink bellowed, “Hogan!” He pushed past Schmidt and hurried inside. When the camp kommandant of Stalag 13 entered, he nearly fainted at the sight. Although he had suspected that the Gestapo had created a double of the colonel, seeing two Hogans in the room was enough to make his head spin. One was quite enough as far as he was concerned. Clutching the door frame and gaping at the two men before him, one bound in cuffs and looking tattered, and the other looking cleaner and fresher, but both looking identical, he gasped, “Ach du lieber! There are two of them!”
Sergeant Schultz moved through the snow like a Tiger tank, creating a path wide enough for a small vehicle to follow him. It had taken him nearly three hours to walk the short distance of a kilometer back to the camp, and he was exhausted. He approached the camp, and upon seeing the guards on duty, Privates Grueber and Richter, he called out to them in German to open the gate.
As he entered, he saw in the distance a line of prisoners moving across the compound and toward the cooler, with Major Schmidt pushing them from behind. Peering into the night, he saw that the formation of men was comprised of Newkirk, LeBeau, Carter, and Kinchloe.
“This is trouble. I should have stayed with the car,” he huffed into the cold air. Waddling onward, he detoured away from the major’s line of sight and came to a rest against the side of the kommandant’s office. Panting and wheezing from the strenuous exercise that he was unused to performing, he wiped his brow with the back of his gloved hand. Leaning into his rifle, he snuck a peek around the corner just in time to see the Gestapo major direct the prisoners into the cooler.
“Oh, boy,” he puffed. “What a time for me to not see nothing.”
Klink stalked into the room, unable to tear his eyes from either of the two Hogans. First, he’d look at one, then at the other, then back to the first, in dumbfounded amazement. His mouth hung open, and his monocle popped out of his eye and fell to the floor.
Hogan chuckled for a brief moment. If he had to go, he might as well go laughing hysterically at Klink’s complete befuddlement at the situation.
“You’ll catch a lot of flies that way,” Linderman said, stealing Hogan’s punchline, to which the American colonel cast his clone a dark glance but said nothing.
Snapping his jaw closed, the kommandant shouted, “Hogan!” and stomped his foot.
Both Hogans answered innocently and in unison, “Yes?” but then immediately shot menacing looks at one another.
Klink raised his hand to his head, and closing his eyes, he swayed.
Watching in sheer delight at the exchange before him, Schmidt asked Klink, “Why, Colonel? Do you not feel well?”
“No,” Klink moaned. Then jerking his head up, he hollered at Schmidt, “There are two of them! Two! I don’t care that one of them is a Gestapo agent sent here to evaluate me! I have had enough trouble with just one! And now there are two! ”
“Soon, there will only be one again,” Schmidt answered calmly but with a wicked undertone. “And soon, there will be no use for your services here at this camp.”
“What?” Klink asked, alert now that he sensed his own danger. “Why? I am a model kommandant! There has never been a successful escape! What could this double Hogan have seen?”
Hogan took a deep breath. Whatever happened next would determine the fate of their operation at Stalag 13, should they even manage to survive the current predicament. From the corner of his eye, he caught Linderman snicker, and at that moment, he decided that regardless of whatever happened to him, he had to prevent Klink from learning the truth.
Judging by the distance between himself and Klink, Hogan figured it would take crucial timing. Glancing down at his joined wrists, he hesitated for a second.
“Pal, I’d hate to tell ya what you’ve been missing over the years,” Linderman mocked Klink and winked at his counterpart.
Hogan bit the inside of his lip and shook his head slightly, but remained quiet.
“What, Hogan? Er, whoever you are...I demand that you tell me!” Klink exploded, angered over the insinuation that there had been something going on for years in his camp, and that it had alluded him.
Striding toward Klink as only Hogan could have done, Linderman started to explain. “Ya see, Kommandant, it’s like this. I know you’re a dud, and the major knows you’re a dud. But the bigger question is, do you know you’re a dud?”
“A dud?!” Klink’s voice reached a decibel level that Hogan thought would shatter the glass in the window panes and crack the mirror that hung in the hallway.
“Uh, yeah,” Linderman continued. “You may think you’re the model kommandant, but your senior POW over there,” he nodded toward Hogan, “He ain’t so model.”
Schmidt grinned as he saw Hogan tense. It was better than he could have imagined! Not only would he get to kill the American colonel, but he was being permitted the sheer joy of watching him squirm while Linderman laid out in plain detail the facts he had discovered.
Looking over to Hogan, who stood quietly with his eyes cast down, Klink stated with keen interest, “Please explain.”
“My pleasure!” the fake Hogan exclaimed, happy to oblige. “It’s simple. Your Colonel Hogan is a spy.”
Clenching his jaw and keeping his gaze on the floor, Hogan waited.
“A what!? He is nothing of the sort!” the kommandant shouted. “He wouldn’t know how to be a spy if he tried! The only thing he’s ever been interested in is hot water and white bread! Isn’t that right, Hogan?”
Cold sweat poured over the colonel. He had to do it, and he had to do it soon.
“Hogan! I want answers!” Klink roared. “Why do these men think you are a spy?”
“Are you gonna tell him, buddy, or should I?” Linderman taunted.
Hogan raised his head. Moving his eyes back and forth between Klink and Linderman, he paused, and then, he took a step toward them. Letting out a phony laugh, he said, “You’re gonna believe this fruitcake? He can’t even get the uniform right!”
Linderman snarled at Hogan but refrained from attacking him. “Tell the good kommandant what you’ve got cooking beneath this camp, Hogan,” he ordered.
“And not only can’t he get the uniform right, but he’s all wrong! His walk’s off, he’s given me a Boston accent, and sorry, pal, but I don’t like crepe Suzette! I’m more of a quiche Lorraine man myself.”
“Tell him, now!” Linderman screamed, and it was exactly what Hogan was hoping he would do.
“You want me to tell him?” Hogan shot back, louder than Linderman.
“I’ll tell him when the time’s right!”
“Tell him, now!”
With as much strength as he could, he slammed his joined wrists into the side of Klink’s face. If had been playing baseball, he would have hit a home run. The kommandant went flying across the room and crashed against the side of the wall. Unconscious.
A brief moment of initial shock fell on the room, and Hogan looked up at both Schmidt and Linderman, who stared at Klink lying helplessly against the wall. Although he had protected the operation and kept their secret safe, he wasn’t so sure he would fare as well. The two men turned their heads slowly and looked at the colonel.
“Oh, no...,” he quivered when he saw the fire erupt in Schmidt’s eyes. Taking a step backwards, and then another, he began backing away in a full gallop when he saw both Schmidt and Limderman dart after him. When his own back smacked into the wall on the far side of the room, he crunched into himself, anticipating the worst.
Schmidt and Linderman each grabbed him by an arm, and though Hogan struggled, he could not rip himself free from their grasp. Dragging him across the room, they threw the colonel into the chair, which nearly toppled over when he landed in it.
Both the major and the imposter were in a rage, and Hogan honestly thought they were going to kill him right then and there. Instead, Schmidt dismissed Linderman from the room, and before the clone shut the door behind him, he gave the colonel a grin so evil Hogan thought he himself would never have been able create such a terrifying expression. Returning his attention to Schmidt and trying not to tremble, Hogan watched the major with a ferocious intensity.
“You are I are going to play a little game,” Schmidt began as he pulled a suitcase out from beneath the bed and opened it.
An assortment of needles, instruments, handcuffs, and other things that Hogan had no idea what they were, nor did he even want to know, were displayed before him. Observing wildly as the major clasped his ankles into cuffs and secured each around the legs of the chair, he sat pathetically waiting for the inevitable.
“This game is easy. A child could play it.”
Hogan didn’t think it was going to be easy at all.
“I will ask you a question. You will give me an answer.” Schmidt plucked a long needle from the suitcase. Filling it with a clear liquid, he held it in front of Hogan’s distraught face and added, “Believe it or not, Herr Colonel, this needle will become your friend. For we will start with extreme misery. For every correct answer you give me, you will receive an injection, which will remove the pain. Are you ready?”
Clamping his eyes tightly shut, Hogan waited for the cruel interrogation to finally begin.
Within seconds of being confined in his cell, Newkirk had picked the lock on his ankle cuff as well as the lock on the cell door. In a cockney accent, he smiled down at the thin stick of metal and said, “Piece of cake.” Jogging to the next cell over, he tapped lightly on the door and asked, “Andrew? Mate?”
“Yeah! Newkirk! In here!” the voice from behind the heavy door answered.
“Right!” Sliding the thin metal strip into the lock, Newkirk again performed his magic trick. Opening the door, the young sergeant stood eagerly by his bunk.
“Well, it took ya long enough. How long’d you expect me to wait like this?” Carter asked.
Unhooking the sergeant from the bunk, Newkirk remarked, “Andrew, you can’t rush the master!”
Moving their way down the cell block, Kinch and LeBeau were also soon freed, and the four men found themselves standing in the center of the cooler, unsure of what to do next.
“They said they’d kill us if we tried to rescue him,” LeBeau started.
“Well, we sure ain’t gonna just sit here and do nothing,” Kinch added.
Carter shuffled his feet. “I’m with you, Kinch. I got some dynamite and some explosives and all I need is a little match and boy, this whole place would go sky high!” Growing so excited that his rendition of explosive noises began to erupt from deep within him, Carter’s eyes bulged and his cheeks turned red.
Rolling his eyes and silencing Carter by hitting him on the shoulder, Newkirk complained, “Andrew, do you want to bring them all back over here? Will you knock it off!?”
“I-I just wanna help,” he said remorsefully.
The thick voice from behind startled the men, and they spun around in the direction from where it originated. Seeing the Gestapo major, they raised their hands in surrender.
“You need not do that,” the major said. “I am here to help you.”
Slowly and shakily, the men lowered their hands. Kinch was the first to speak.
“I have already talked to your colonel. He is aware of who I am. They are going to kill him tonight and possibly have already started. We must hurry.”
“And do what?” Carter asked.
“Oui, there is nothing we can do without causing Colonel Hogan more harm,” LeBeau finished.
“Nein,” Steiner countered. “If you listen to me and do exactly what I tell you, there is much we can do. Follow me, and say nothing.”
Not knowing whether they could trust the major, but not having much choice in the matter, Hogan’s four comrades filed out of the cooler and back out into the snow.
If Hogan thought his troubles in the cooler were bad, he had been wrong. Things had gotten much, much worse. Schmidt had “fixed” the colonel so tightly to the chair that he thought he would suffocate, the ropes were so unyielding against his chest. As though he were a patient in a doctor’s office, his left arm had been exposed, his naked inner arm lying vulnerable and awaiting Schmidt’s “treatment.” A tourniquet had been tied above his elbow, and he studied the innocent vein that was soon to be violated. On the table beside him was an array of syringes ranging from all sizes and containing every color of the rainbow. The ones holding the black fluid scared him the most.
Schmidt worked effortlessly in preparation of the procedure. Whistling as he moved from the bed to the table to the chair that held the colonel, he said nothing but continued the task at hand. He was, without a doubt, enjoying his work.
Next to the syringes, the major placed a large glass, and from the suitcase, he withdrew a bottle that contained a clear liquid. Pouring a small portion of it into the glass, he looked at Hogan and smiled pleasantly.
“Do you know what this is, Herr Colonel?”
Swallowing hard, Hogan answered, “I’m sure you’ll tell me.”
The major chuckled. “I have heard you enjoy painting.”
“And paint thinner is something you would know a great deal about. This is a combination of three commonly used household ingredients. Lye, paint thinner, and vinegar. Do you know what happens when we mix these three components together?”
“After you consume this cocktail, you will experience drowsiness, nausea, headache, vomiting, loss of reflexes, and eventually, loss of consciousness. If I give you just a touch, you will experience euphoria. If I give you more, you will experience death.”
Hogan writhed in the chair and tried to free himself, but this only caused the major greater joy.
Picking up one of the syringes, he placed it on the colonel’s lap and said, “This syringe contains the antidote. Should we begin with a little? Or a lot?”
“How ‘bout none?” Hogan retorted bravely, still squirming.
“But what fun would there be in that?” Yanking Hogan by his hair, he pulled his head back, and forcing the glass to his lips, he managed to get some of the liquid into the colonel’s mouth. Before he could spit, Schmidt pinched Hogan’s nostrils shut and held his jaw up.
Instantly, Hogan felt some of the liquid travel down his throat, and he gagged. Twisting in his seat, he felt his stomach lurch. To his horror, he saw Schmidt put the glass back to his lips and start the process over. Again, the liquid cascaded down his throat. Finally, Schmidt released his hold on the colonel and stepped back to watch.
Coughing, Hogan looked weakly up at Schmidt, his eyes red. “I’m not gonna tell you anything, ya know,” he choked.
Schmidt grinned. “Then you are in for a long night.”
It was midnight.
The only way Hogan was able to discern this was that the clock in the outer room was chiming. Despite the heavy sedation that was overtaking him, he was still somewhat aware of his surroundings, of Schmidt, of the instruments on the table beside him, and of the fact that his entire being felt was if it were weighted down with bricks.
Regardless of how much he tried to shrink away whenever Schmidt drew near, Hogan found it impossible, and after awhile, he stopped trying altogether. His vision was blurred and his head ached, and he watched as Schmidt approached, this time with a scalpel, and placed the razor-sharp edge of the knife onto the skin of his inner left arm. When the major made the incision, pain erupted through him; yet, he could barely breathe let alone scream or call out. What he saw next made his stomach churn and his heart pound. Schmidt had taken the artery and had lifted it up gently, under which he had slipped a small, flat object to hold it in place. To Hogan, however, it was not in place but desperately out of place. The burning that escalated from his arm and the sight of his own blood trickling down onto the floor made him whimper, but he was not able to do much else.
“I think you are wanting to talk now, eh?” Schmidt said triumphantly.
Hogan looked down at his own artery, pulsating in plain sight. He thought about his men and what would become of them after the major finished him off. Then his mind wandered to Steiner. Where was he? Why had he not come? Had that been part of the plan as well? And Klink, unconscious and oblivious; perhaps he was in the best position of all of them.
“Well, Herr Colonel? We’ll start with something easy. What is the recognition code for today? Or for the week? How often does London assign you an emergency code? A code that only you would know?”
Shaking his head quickly, Hogan tried to comprehend what the major was asking him. Surely Schmidt must have known that giving him such a drug might actually prevent him from being coherent enough to answer the questions. He knew somewhere there had been a question about a code, but he couldn’t pinpoint what the major wanted. Looking helplessly and lethargically up at him, Hogan remained silent, knowing it was what Schmidt wanted.
“Still you will not talk?”
Trembling, Hogan panicked. He couldn’t talk even if he wanted to. His eyelids were growing laden, and he forced himself not to give into the sedation. However, his head began to droop lower into his chest, and the tingling in his muscles seemed far away.
A prick on his lower left arm near his wrist startled him, and he peeked out at the major, who had inserted a needle into his vein. Another evil concoction traveled through him, and through the haze he wondered if Schmidt were killing him. If he had finally resigned on trying to wean information from him.
A few minutes passed, and Hogan began to feel his senses returning. Within five minutes, he was able to voluntarily move his hands, although they were limited in their scope of movement, and his breathing became less shallow and more normal. He inhaled deeply several times, his chest still impeded by the ropes that restrained him. Finally, he swallowed, then immediately choked. Spitting the disgusting aftertaste of the liquid onto the floor, he eventually locked stares with Schmidt.
“What are you doing to me?” he asked weakly, giving a frail tug on his right arm.
Ignoring Hogan’s question, Schmidt stated, “You are allergic to insect venom I have been told.”
“Bee stings. Did you know, Colonel Hogan, that on average, 40 people will die every year from a simple little bee sting?”
“Is that right. I guess it’s true you learn something new every day,” Hogan struggled, his edge, though aching, still in tact.
“Fire ants are wicked creatures as well. You yourself had an encounter with fire ants when you were twelve, did you not? Stumbled onto an ant hill. Had to be hospitalized for two days after they stopped the swelling. You nearly died.”
The colonel frowned, vividly recalling the camping trip his family had taken out west. He had, in fact, wandered off the camp ground path, and so doing, learned why certain sections of the camp had been restricted. Had his brother not found him when he did, the stings from the fire ants would have generated enough venom to close his throat and suffocate him. He would not have survived. He was, at that moment, almost wishing he hadn’t. Studying the major with contempt, he started, “How’d you know...”
“I know everything about you. Everything except what London doesn’t want you to tell me.” Pulling a clear, lidded jar from the suitcase, Schmidt brought it over to Hogan and held it before him. Inside was a swarm of angry, hungry fire ants.
Pushing back into the chair, Hogan panted in horror at the sight of the jar’s inhabitants, speechless.
“Are you afraid, Colonel?”
Hogan didn’t have to answer that question. He wasn’t afraid; he was terrified. His arm throbbed in pain, and he suddenly became acutely aware of what the major intended to do. “Oh, God, no...no...please, no...,” he murmured, writhing from Schmidt. Looking frantically in all directions, he saw the major place the jar on his legs, and he tried to escape out from under it. Schmidt then retrieved two handkerchiefs from his pocket; one he bunched into a tight ball, and the other he twisted into a long strip.
“This is going to hurt tremendously, so we’ll want to stifle you a bit.” He forced Hogan’s mouth open and lodged the wadded cloth in as far as it would go, after which, he tied the second piece tightly over it. Donning a pair of latex gloves, the major picked up the jar and unscrewed the lid carefully.
As he placed the open end of the glass container over Hogan’s left arm, Schmidt’s eyes gleamed with ferocious excitement. Instantly, a dozen or more fire ants found their way into the open wound the major had made for them, where they began their attack on the colonel’s flesh.
And into the gag, Hogan screamed.
“Welcome back, Kommandant.”
The voice was familiar to Klink, and as he slowly opened his eyes, he discovered that he was in his own bed, in his own quarters, and Hogan was beside him. His head was killing him, and when he inspected his forehead gingerly with his fingertips, he felt it had been bandaged. Cringing at the tenderness beneath the gauze, he squinted up at his senior prisoner of war.
“Colonel Hogan? What has happened? I can’t remember a thing.”
Sitting beside the bed and exhibiting concern, Linderman said, “Concussion. I was afraid of that. You took a nasty spill. You don’t remember?”
Shaking his head no, Klink then sighed. “The last thing I remember is Hilda announcing the Gestapo majors were here.”
“Really?” Linderman answered in surprise. “You don’t remember anything since then?”
Klink shrugged his shoulders and replied dismally, “No. Nothing. Hogan, do you think I’m going to be alright? I have read about cases of amnesia. Sometimes it takes years for people to regain their memories!”
Rolling his eyes, Linderman said, “Well, I’m sure you won’t have to wait that long.”
“Tell me,” Klink began. “What happened? How did this awful injury occur?”
“Well, after you saw the majors to the guest quarters, you slipped on a patch of ice, and you hit your head on the corner of the building. Schultz left camp to get a doctor, but with the storm...well...he hasn’t returned yet. I hate to say it, Sir, but we’re fearing the worst.”
Klink’s eyes grew wide and he drew his hands up to his mouth in a gasp. “Hogan! No, not...”
“Yes, I’m afraid so. A few of the guards volunteered to go out and look for him, but...ah. It’s not worth talking about now, in your weakened condition. I’m sure he’s fine. Probably having a few beers at the Hoffbrau.”
“Do you think so? Oh, Hogan, I could never live with myself if anything happened to that big, stupid, lovable oaf.”
“I’m sure of it,” Linderman answered reassuringly. “Now, get some sleep, and I promise you, come morning, everything will be much better.” Rising and walking to the door, he stopped short, turned, and asked, “Colonel?”
“Yes, Hogan, what is it?”
“I think for safety’s sake, you should stay put tonight. Not overdo it. We can’t have you falling again.”
“Ahhh-haaa, so you can make your escape!” Klink shouted and then winced, placing his hand to his temple.
“Colonel, you have my word! There’ll be no escape! Besides, we wouldn’t get ten feet from the fence in this weather, and if we did, we’d be frozen icicles out there in no time. No thanks! I’m just thinking of your well being.”
Contemplating the advice, Klink agreed. “Yes, you’re right Hogan. I just wish I could remember what happened! And why I don’t even recall falling!”
Linderman toyed with the idea of telling Klink everything that he had uncovered since that afternoon, but it was late, and he did not wish to overstep the major’s authority. He also thought it would give him good practice. Even though Klink was a fool, he was enjoying the banter that Hogan had perfected to a science. Besides, it hardly mattered; the kommandant would be dead in a day or so, anyway.
“Ah, don’t worry, Sir. Look at it this way. Amnesia is a great way of forgetting all your problems.”
“Oh. Well, thank you, Hogan. You’ve been most helpful. I’ll see to it that you and your men are rewarded when I’m feeling better.”
“If you remember,” Linderman joked, to which he received Klink’s characteristic “humph!” in return. Continuing, he added, “Good night, Sir. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Closing the door behind him, the fake Hogan trotted out the door and down the steps, and he marched directly toward Hogan’s barracks, sitting vulnerable and unprotected in the center of the camp.
Somewhere deep in the recesses of Hogan’s mind, he knew there would be an eventual peace. For ten minutes, Schmidt allowed the fire ants to burrow into his arm, and as they did so, the rash began to appear, first locally around the open wound, and then it began to travel. It journeyed up his arm, across his shoulders, and soon, it crept toward his neck. Hogan felt his throat begin to tighten as he gasped for air. Tears emerged from the corners of his eyes as he sensed the swelling around his tongue, on his cheeks, under his eyes, and in his jaw. If he didn’t get a shot of epinephrin quickly, he wouldn’t be telling anybody anything ever again.
“Will you tell me the code, Herr Colonel?”
Scared out of his mind and just wanting the pain and itching and the swelling to stop, Hogan nodded. He hated himself for it, but he also figured he could gain some time, even if it were just a little time. A little time might be all that his men needed.
“Are you sure? If you fail to tell me, I can put them right back in there.”
Nodding again, Hogan watched as the major smiled and plucked a syringe from the table. Before administering the friendly healing drug, he took a bottle of alcohol and emptied it onto Hogan’s left arm, which caused the colonel to yet again scream in agony into the gag. The lethal insects, stunned by the poisonous liquid, were washed away, and the wound was cleansed of their presence. Then, Hogan felt the pinch of the needle into his wrist, a sensation that was fast becoming a welcomed one, and he waited for the salvation of its effects. Resting his head back into the chair, he finally felt his throat open and the air begin passing with greater ease through his nostrils. The rash was still visible and it burned, and his face was still puffy, but within the hour, he knew things would return to normal, the venom having lost its anaphylactic battle to the antihistamine.
His eyes were still closed when he felt Schmidt remove the gag. Coughing the moment it was removed from his throat, he expelled a series of dry heaves during which he vomited nothing solid but instead minute amounts of bile tinged with blood. Shaking violently from the recent ordeal and from the perspiration that had drenched him during it, he opened his eyes to see Schmidt standing before him. He was holding the jar of fire ants.
“The code, Herr Colonel.”
Saying nothing and returning his gaze to the floor, he knew before the night was over, he was going to die. But before he would be granted that final luxury, the major was going to continue to bring him to the brink of death only to revive him time and again, until the game grew old and it became more of a burden than entertainment.
“Herr Colonel?” Schmidt began unscrewing the lid with his gloved hand, the insects inside hungry to make their own escape from their glass prison. Turning Hogan’s face back into his direction, he snapped one fire ant from the jar, and tightly closing the lid, he held it wriggling above the colonel’s right cheek.
Bitter loathing and vengeful malice toward Schmidt engulfed the colonel, but it was nothing compared to what he felt toward himself when he heard his faraway voice utter the word, “Iris.”
Linderman was about to enter Hogan’s barracks, when he stopped short, his eye having caught movement off to his left. Pivoting, he saw Schultz in the snowy distance observing him from behind the building.
“He knows something,” Linderman mumbled, not catching the irony of the statement.
Disturbed that his inspection of Hogan’s barracks and eclipsed tunnel system would once again have to be postponed, Linderman dropped his shoulders and headed begrudgingly in Schultz’s direction. Nearing the corner from where he had spotted the hefty sergeant, Linderman ducked to the right and came up along the side of Klink’s office where he had last seen Schultz hovering.
“Schu-ultz,” he sang out, coaxing the guard to reveal himself. In a musical half-step up, he continued, “Schu-uuulz. I’ve got your fav-rite. Choc-late with al-monds.”
Linderman advanced to the edge of the building and peered around. Schultz was gone. Looking casually around, he saw no sign of him; yet, he could see that a clear path had been worn in the snow, plainly detailing his whereabouts. Cocking his head and letting out a quick breath of irritation, Linderman knew his only option was to follow it. Rounding the corner, he tracked Schultz toward the kommandant’s quarters, where the trail ended at the front door. Turning the knob and slipping inside, he scanned the room quickly. To his surprise, it was what he heard that gave him cause for alarm, for coming from Klink’s bedchamber were voices...several voices. Listening quietly, he advanced cautiously to the closed door, and he discovered that in addition to Klink and Schultz, he also heard Hogan’s men...and Major Steiner.
Wide-eyed and giving a soft chuckle, Linderman slid back to the main door, and as silently as he had entered, he retreated from Klink’s quarters. He hurried through the snow, having one quick visit to make before he would finally get his opportunity to comb through Hogan’s barracks.
Squeezing the insect between his thumb and forefinger, Major Schmidt also squeezed the life from the diminutive yet lethal bug. For effect, he dropped it into Hogan’s lap, and he watched with delicious enjoyment as his captive audience squirmed in response to seeing it land on his leg.
Hogan eyed the major with overwhelming apprehension and anxiety, and when he witnessed yet another needle being prepared, his face contorted, and panic unlike any other flooded him. Despite his body’s tattered weariness, he tugged as aggressively as he could on the cuffs and ropes, but he found this only resulted in causing Schmidt even greater pleasure. His efforts wasted, he eventually became still, noticing that the only outcome had been the chafed irritation of his wrists and the profuse bleeding of his damaged arm.
Once he had settled, Schmidt returned to his side, and kneeling in front of Hogan, he asked, “You have been a naughty boy, Herr Colonel.”
“I told you what you wanted to know! What now?!” he yelled, his tone unable to conceal the terror behind it. The thought of once again being forced to the brink of death by way of excruciating pain was beginning to take its hold on him. While he had always prepared mentally for and worried about this day ever since being stationed at Stalag 13, he also always thought he could out-maneuver the Nazis enough to actually prevent it from happening. It was severely obvious to him now how wrong he had been.
“It is not enough, though, is it?” Schmidt answered calmly, rising to his feet.
“What isn’t enough? I gave you the code word! It’s what you wanted!”
“Ah, but I know you.” Running his fingertips lightly over the colonel’s face, enough to gently stimulate the rash but not enough to quench its desire to be soothed, he explained, “You gave that code word up too easily. Way too easily. Do you know what I think?”
The colonel refused to answer, not wanting to believe that the major could know him this well.
“You see, you had ample time alone in your barracks with your men.”
“No...,” Hogan faltered, scared beyond rational thought. He knew where this was going, and it wasn’t promising.
“And in such a short amount of time, you could have changed the recognition code.”
“You’re wrong,” the colonel mumbled, knowing in his gut that it was useless.
“While it was iris at eight o’clock this evening, it ceased to be iris the moment you proved your identity. Am I right, Herr Colonel?”
Hogan cast his blank gaze downward. He couldn’t believe it. Just as the major suspected, he had changed the recognition code, and then had ordered Kinch to radio London to alert them of the change. Kinch was to tell them nothing more, as Hogan would make any further transmissions directly to the High Command himself. But Schmidt had found him out before he had the chance. Now, with his men locked in the cooler, Klink unconscious, Schultz probably dead in the storm, and a questionable SS major who claimed to be on his side but who had yet to prove it, Hogan realized he was all alone. His mind started spinning in circles, and he tried to comprehend the situation in its entirety. Stalag 13 was doomed, and their operation was over, not to mention their lives. It seemed Papa Bear had no more tricks up his sleeve.
“Your silence tells me I am correct in my assumption. And for that,” Schmidt sighed, “I will have to punish you.”
Staring hopelessly ahead, Hogan tried to block it out...he had to block it all out. Name, rank, serial number....name, rank, serial number...name rank serial number, he repeated to himself mutely. He kept as his one and final goal to deny Schmidt access to his mind. While he would be unable to save himself, and more regrettably, his men, he could not allow his evil twin loose in London. He chose an item in the distance, a serene painting on the wall of a river running between two mountains, and he vowed never to remove his eyes from it. No matter what happened.
Schmidt seemed to realize his fierce resolve, and he inserted himself between the painting and the colonel. “What is so interesting on that wall? Nothing? Everything? This you will find more interesting.”
Onto his lap fell a photograph taken of him and his men at some point during their captivity at Stalag 13. Newkirk, Kinch, LeBeau, and Carter, standing in formation behind and beside him. “Would you rather look at this photograph? Instead of that dull picture on Klink’s wall? It is a very nice portrait of you and your men, is it not?”
“Yes, it’s lovely,” he said in a small voice, a touch of sarcasm shining through, as he studied the different hues of purple the artist had used. Every muscle was tense; every fiber shook.
Snorting, the major said, “It is time for you to watch your men die.”
Hogan jolted and had not even recovered from the statement when the next word out of Schmidt’s mouth paralyzed him.
Hogan’s eyes shot from the painting to the door, which exploded open. But it was not Steiner who entered; instead, it was Linderman. The clone strutted into the room briskly, gave a curt smile to Hogan, and then whispered into Schmidt’s ear.
Pulling away and gaping at Linderman, who stood, hands in his back pockets and chin out, Schmidt screeched, “I will kill him myself!” Thrusting the needle into Linderman’s hands, he darted from the room abruptly and unexpectedly, the door crashing closed behind him.
The colonel sat motionless in the chair and observed the ghost of himself, holding the syringe, and appearing very much in control. It was now Linderman’s turn at the interrogation, and a chill ran down Hogan’s spine when he studied the twisted image of himself prowling before him.
Staring at the piece of medical equipment that had been planted on him and tilting his head, Linderman glanced down at Hogan. “Gee, do ya think we should let this go to waste? Wonder what it is?”
Hogan yanked so hard at his wrists he thought they would break. When Linderman circled around to his back, he tugged even harder.
“Maybe,” Linderman said, “we’ll put it...here.” Jabbing the needle near Hogan’s neck, he laughed as the colonel flinched when the tip of it pricked his skin. “Or, maybe...we’ll put it here. Or...here.” Laughing loudly, he added, “Hey, this is fun!” Returning to view Hogan from the front, Linderman placed the tip of the syringe onto Hogan’s bare and abused arm, and smiling devilishly, he said caustically, “How...‘bout...here?”
Hogan shut his eyes and waited, not knowing what horrific effects this dosage of unknown hell would bring to his aching body.
It was then that he heard the door once again open, and believing it to be Schmidt, he kept his eyes sealed tightly closed, shivering from fear and resigned to his fate. But instead of the major’s wrath, it was the sound of gunfire that ripped through the guest quarters. His eyes flew open in time to see Linderman fall back, a bullet having landed in his shoulder.
And to his utter amazement, Newkirk and Carter were standing in the doorway.
“Oh, God,” Hogan huffed in excitement, a burst of adrenalin rushing through him as he pulled as hard as he could on his arms. “Hurry!”
The two men dodged toward him. Carter held Linderman at gunpoint while Newkirk went to work immediately on Hogan’s restraints.
“Hold still, Sir,” the Englishman advised as Hogan impatiently and in a frenzy struggled to free himself from the ropes and cuffs that bound him. “Sir, I can’t if you keep...Sir...stop...hold still!”
“You’ll never get out alive,” Linderman sang from beneath Carter’s pistol. He almost didn’t seem to care that a bullet had nestled in his shoulder, and instead he enjoyed watching Hogan frantically rotate his wrists in the attempt to hurry his liberation process, but which actually only complicated and hindered it.
“Y-you just hush up, you,” Carter managed, a bit frightened at the state in which they had found their colonel, and rather unnerved that he was holding an exact duplicate of him at gunpoint. “Or...I-I’ll put you in a rocket so big you’ll land on the moon!”
Finally free, Hogan wiggled out from under the cords that had been wrapped around his chest. With great care, he took the long, bone-like structure wedged under his artery and slid it carefully out from under it, biting his lower lip and wincing as he did so. At least Schmidt had not gotten to do whatever he had intended to do with the colonel’s blood vessel, and he shivered at the thought.
“Sir? Are you...,” Newkirk started, having been watching the colonel grimly, but Hogan cut him off.
“I’m fine. Let’s just get outta here,” Hogan said gruffly, still somewhat groggy but anxious to get his men and himself out of that building. Motioning to Linderman, he added, “And bring him along.” As he rose from the chair, he felt his legs crumple beneath him, and crashing to the floor, he realized that everything from his waist down had gone numb. Sparkles and star bursts appeared in his eyes, and suddenly lightheaded, he slouched next to the piece of furniture as Newkirk rushed to his side and helped him back to his feet.
“Easy gov’ner. Here, take my arm,” he said, supporting Hogan’s weight onto his shoulder.
The flashes beginning to recede, Hogan glanced at Linderman, who was laughing maniacally but still restricted under Carter’s surveillance. To the colonel, he seemed to look less and less like himself with each passing second.
“Schmidt will have heard the gunfire,” he said to his men. “We gotta go.”
“Where’re we going?” Carter asked.
“The one place Schmidt won’t know to look.”
Before Hogan could answer, Linderman said, “I’m gonna kill you, ya know. There can only be one of us. And it’s gonna be me.”
Knowing they didn’t have much time, Hogan ignored his double’s remark and instead, grabbed the cuffs off the floor. Pulling away from Newkirk, he bent over Linderman, and with shaky hands, he started to snap them around his clone’s wrists. As he did so, Linderman reached up and snatched Hogan’s left wrist. Catching Hogan by surprise, he twisted it, causing the colonel to yelp in agony as blood gushed from his open wound.
“Hey!” Carter shouted and instinctively forced Linderman to remove his grip from the colonel. Hogan slid backwards and away from his double, where he watched as Newkirk completed the task of joining Linderman’s wrists together.
Trying to fight off the piercing distress emanating from his laceration, Hogan said with as much authority as he could muster, “Let’s see how you like being in the hot seat for a change.”
Linderman smiled at the colonel, almost daring him to continue.
But Hogan did not. Clutching Newkirk’s arm for support, he rose to his feet and limped to the table, where he snatched the jar of fire ants and ordered gravely, “Let’s go.”
They didn’t have to go far. The tunnel entrance under the stove in the main room of the guest quarters glided open, and one by one, each of the men lowered themselves down into it, disappearing without a trace beneath the surface of Stalag 13.
When Hogan’s feet hit the floor of the tunnel, the rest of him did as well. Falling to the ground, he caught himself on the ladder step, but it wasn’t enough to prevent him from collapsing beneath the weight of his frame. A wave of tremors cascaded through him, and though he was momentarily safe underground, with his men surrounding him, and Linderman in their custody, he still feared the madman on the loose above them. He knew Schmidt would stop at nothing to find him, and if that happened, there would be no reprieve.
“Colonel Hogan? Sir?” LeBeau appeared beside him and offered his shoulder.
Swallowing hard and giving a small nod, Hogan leaned on his French corporal. In the distance, he saw Newkirk and Carter haul Linderman to one of the tunnel’s alcoves and begin securing him tightly into a chair. Turning away from the scene, he asked LeBeau, “Where’s Kinch? And, water?”
Directing Hogan around a corner, LeBeau said, “Oui, mon Colonel. And Kinch is in the radio room. He’s been contacting London.”
“How’d you...you were in the...what about Steiner?” Hogan stammered, his mind and body on sensory overload and still fighting the effects of the drug and venom cocktails that Schmidt had given him. He felt his muscles starting to relax, and with it, came the sudden and strong desire to sleep. But he could not chance it nor allow it.
“It’s all ok, Sir,” LeBeau continued as he helped the colonel through the tunnel and into the radio room, and handed him a glass of water, which Hogan sipped slowly. “Major Steiner got us out. He’s here, in the tunnel....just in the other room with Schultz and Klink.”
Hogan had been about to sit down on one of the wooden benches, and upon hearing the last sentence, he nearly toppled over onto it. Positively certain that he had misunderstood in his impaired condition, he shook his head, and looking at LeBeau with great concern, he asked, “He’s in the what and where with who and who?”
“We couldn’t leave them up there, Colonel,” the Frenchman continued. “We saw Linderman leave Klink’s quarters and knew he was headed to inform Schmidt about Steiner.”
Trying to comprehend the new situation, Hogan massaged his hot eyes and said, “Let me get this straight. You brought Klink and Schultz down here, into the tunnel?” Pausing for a second, he blurted, “Klink!? Is in the tunnel?!”
“There was no other way, Sir,” Kinch offered from behind the radio controls.
“What were you doing discussing this with those two gooney birds, anyway?” Hogan yelled, momentarily jump-starting into overdrive.
“It was a bit of a bugger,” Newkirk chirped from behind as he reached past LeBeau and found another section of cord. “Old Schultz spotted us going into and coming out of the cooler. It was his idea to get Klink to help, but of course, the old iron eagle was a bit rusty, even for him. Had a big gash on his forehead...”
“Yeah, I know. I’m the one who put it there,” Hogan said, grimacing as he recalled the grand slam attack on the kommandant. While he had waited years for such an opportunity, he had paid for it in the end. “But you didn’t have to bring ‘em down here. What were ya thinking?”
“Couldn’t chance leaving ‘em up there, especially with all that Schmidt knows. But don’t worry. We gave ‘em each a little sleeping pill. By the time they wake up, they’ll think they never left Kansas.”
“And what I wouldn’t give for a tornado to sweep us all outta here right now,” Hogan sighed, leaning all his weight onto the wall behind him. “You do realize that Schmidt’s eventually gonna find us down here?” Glancing down at the gaping hole in his arm, he gave a start at exactly how much blood was on him, and taking a deep breath, he swayed.
“We plan to get back up there before he does, Sir,” Kinch stated firmly.
Clumsily, Hogan reached for a for a First Aid kit on one of the shelves above his head. With his jacket still on but rolled up tight around his shoulder, he eased out of it carefully and began treating the wound, but with great difficulty. Stopping after only a few moments, Carter moved next to him and began cleaning it gently for him.
“He’ll go on a killing spree, if he hasn’t started already,” Hogan continued, preventing himself from watching what Carter was doing and trying to ignore the renewed stinging that was born from the sergeant’s efforts. “We’ve got to do something...and soon.”
“He can’t go on a killing spree if he can’t find anybody,” the French corporal offered, grinning and shoving his hands in his pockets.
“Huh?” Darting his eyes around the room, he asked, “What do ya mean?”
“They’re all down here, Sir,” Kinch finished. “Underneath huts seven through ten.”
“Who? The prisoners?” Hogan panicked. “They’re all down here? He’ll blast this place wide open!”
“Y-you’re going to need a few stitches, Sir,” Carter interrupted humbly. “And a lot more than a few.”
Casting a quick glance down at his arm, the colonel saw just how long of an incision Schmidt had carved into his flesh. A red line at least five inches long had been etched into him, the knife having cut right through the muscle. Left without proper medical treatment, it would most likely become infected.
“Just dump some whisky all over it and bandage it up, ok Carter?” Hogan said roughly, his throat still sore and his head still pounding. There was no time for stitching it, and while pouring straight alcohol into the gash wasn’t exactly on the top of his wish list, it might preclude any micro-organisms from taking up residence in it.
“Whiskey? Are you sure?” the sergeant asked with his youthful innocence. “That’s gonna hurt!”
“Carter?” Hogan said pleadingly. “Just do it, ok?”
“Whatsamatter? Got a booboo?”
The words echoed through the corridors of the tunnel, and Hogan and his men exchanged glances. Sliding off the bench as Carter moved past him to get the whiskey, the colonel shuffled into the section of the tunnel from where the voice had come. Seated in a chair and tightly bound in place, Linderman sat, grinning mischievously.
Hogan looked down at the physical likeness of himself, while his double stared back at him, his eyes glimmering with malevolence.
“What’d they promise you? Money? Power?” the colonel asked quietly. “Don’t you know that you’re nothing more than a pawn to them? What’s gonna happen if you keep screwing up?”
Chuckling and riveting his eyes on Hogan, the imposter said, “But you’re the screw up! You said it yourself, Colonel. Schmidt’s up there, running around, looking everywhere for you. And what do you think he’s gonna do when he finds you? Have a game of chess?” Linderman laughed out right. “Guess again, chum. You’re history the second he finds you.”
“Newkirk?” Hogan called out, and the Englishman trotted over to his side.
“Find the dirtiest, filthiest, most disgusting scrap of cloth you can find down here. And gag this son of a bitch.”
“With pleasure, Sir.”
Hogan gave Linderman one last look of contempt before turning his back on him and moving away.
“Colonel,” Linderman shouted, and Hogan paused but refused to turn around. “Colonel, when Schmidt does find you, it’s gonna make everything that’s happened to you so far seem like paradise.”
Giving a sideways glance to his right, the colonel hesitated before opting to offer no reaction. Instead, he made a silent retreat, for deep within the unsettled chambers of his wounded soul, he knew Linderman was right.
Time seemed to stand still in the catacombs beneath Stalag 13. Yet, the men busied themselves with activities to keep their minds off the menace that lurked just a few feet above them. They tended to the other prisoners, making sure they were not overly uncomfortable, even though given the cramped circumstances, comfort was in short supply. They took turns guarding Linderman, who sat with such a reserved patience, they began to second guess their actions when around him. Finally, each took a turn at checking on their kommandant and his sergeant of the guard, who were both sleeping soundly in a section of the tunnel that normally housed escaping members of the Underground or prisoners from other stalags or defecting elite German informants.
Colonel Hogan, however, was not sleeping soundly. While he was trying to rest and regain some of his strength, he was discovering that after the events of the day and evening, he was having extreme difficulty finding relief. His arm throbbed wildly, and despite the fact that Carter had done an adequate job of doctoring the wound, the ache was so intense that at times, he could barely endure it.
Then, there were the ants...that is, the memory of them. As he drifted in and out of his semi-conscious yet fitful state, the bizarre sensation of hundreds and sometimes thousands of red fire ants crawling all over him would swarm in his mind. More than once, he jerked himself awake and flew up from the make-shift cot, perceiving himself covered with insects, but only to find there were none. Certain that the drugs that had been pumped into him weren’t helping his hallucinogenic state, he eventually gave up trying to sleep altogether. Glancing down at his watch, which was positioned strategically above his bandaged wrist, he noticed it was after three o’clock in the morning. Sliding off the cot, he shuffled into the radio room, where Kinch was busy translating a message, and where Newkirk had found himself at ease with a cup of strong coffee.
Seeing their commanding officer limping toward them, the English corporal rose and offered Hogan his seat. “Colonel? You alright, mate? You need your sleep, if you’re to be any good tomorrow against Schmidt.”
Rubbing his eyes and then massaging his forehead, Hogan agreed, “Yeah, I know. Let me know when you find me some, huh?” Pausing, he then asked Kinch, “What’s going on?”
The Black sergeant let out a long sigh. “Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is London’s now aware of Linderman and Schmidt’s plans. Even if, God help us, they do get outta here, they won’t be able to get very far in London.”
Hogan permitted a small smile. “That’s good news. So, what’s the bad news?”
“They’re not entirely convinced you’re you, Sir.”
“They’re crackers. Of course he’s our gov’ner!” Newkirk snipped. But then, looking at Hogan suspiciously, he added, “You are our gov’ner, right?” He then gave Kinch an uneasy sideways glance, and the two men began inspecting the colonel.
Irritated, Hogan huffed, “You’re kidding. Do ya think Schmidt would have done all this to his own man?” Looking back and forth between his two men, he suddenly realized that were he in their position, he would be sharing their concerns. What frightened him more was the memory of Schmidt striking Linderman in Klink’s office earlier that day. Yes, Schmidt would have done this to his own man. Frantically, he said, “Look, ask me anything. The name of the first girl I dated. The first ballgame I went to! The day I sprained my ankle when I fell off my bike!”
“Hey,” Carter said, appearing from behind. “What’s up? Why all the shouting?”
“Nothin’, mate,” Newkirk said, keeping an eye on Hogan. “We’re just trying to make sure we got the right colonel, is all.”
“Newkirk,” Hogan started, but Kinch interrupted him.
“He’s right, Sir. If they went to all this trouble, they’re bound to know every last detail about the real Colonel Hogan. I think for everybody’s sake, you should go back and rest. Newkirk will keep guard.”
Frustrated and yet with some understanding, Hogan countered, “You don’t see it’s me? That monster sits over there, full of hate and contempt, and you’re questioning me? Pick a code, any code! And I gave you the new one when we got down here, not to mention our own private one!” Without missing a beat, he added, “And, ask me about any of the missions we’ve been on! How would he know about them!?”
“That’s just it, Sir. We’re not sure. London’s concerned that security’s been breached on their end as well, so any codes given out in the last twenty-four hours are suspect,” Kinch explained almost inaudibly while Carter pulled a gun from his coat pocket and raised on the colonel. “And with all them drugs Schmidt’s been pushing...well, he might have...you...uh, could have...” Unable to say the words, Kinch was relieved when his English compatriot rescued him.
“I think for now, it’s best, Sir, that you...come with me.”
“What’s best...,” Hogan said under his breath and shaking his head in dismay. “Alright. If that’s what you think.” Rising gingerly from his seat, he gave Newkirk a bitter look before adding, “He said he was gonna kill me. And the first chance he gets, he’s gonna make good on that promise. Would the real Colonel Hogan say that?”
“Well, he would if he knew you were the double,” Carter said slowly as he reached over to the table, locating a section of rope. “Just til we know for sure...Sir,” he added sheepishly.
“Carter, no...,” Hogan whispered, his heart dropping. “It’s me...”
“Which is exactly what Linderman would want us to believe,” Kinch responded. “Please don’t make this harder, Sir.”
Nodding his head and realizing his men were only doing what they felt was necessary, he slumped his shoulders, and putting his arms out listlessly before him, Hogan said, “Ok. But if we have to run, you’d damn well better cut me loose...fast.”
“Oh, you got it, boy!” Carter answered enthusiastically as he handed the gun to Newkirk and began weaving the rope around, under, and between the colonel’s wrists, securing them tightly together. “You see, I’ll make these knots so that you can’t get out of ‘em, but I won’t have any problem at all if I need to untie them. I can have you out in a jiff! Why, this is the first thing they teach you in Boy Scouts in Bull Frog, North Dakota. See, I always thought it would be useful to know how to tie knots like these, c-cause you never know when this situation might come up.”
“Carter, shut up!” Hogan snapped, overwhelmingly annoyed with the fact that his men didn’t trust him and that his conjoined wrists were beginning to again feel the pressure of the gnawing restraints. “And hey! Not so tight!”
“Oh...Sorry Sir,” the young sergeant said. “B-but we can’t take chances.”
“Any way we can tie him up?” Hogan asked, and Newkirk and Kinch expelled nervous laughs. It sure sounded like their colonel, but at that moment, how could they know for sure?
“This way, Sir. I’ll keep you comp’ny,” Newkirk said as he indicated to the left.
“I think I know my way,” Hogan mumbled in icy agitation, and the pair disappeared into the dark maze of passages, leaving Carter and Kinch behind in the radio room.
“What do you think, Kinch? Do you think it’s Colonel Hogan?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Then why’d we tie him up, for heaven’s sake?” Carter blurted.
Staring down at the telegraph machine, Kinch answered quietly, “Because I have been known to be wrong...”
Linderman could hear every word from his solitary location deep within the tunnel system, and ripples of sheer delight traveled through him. While the short Frenchman leaned against the support beam a few feet in front of him, keeping both an eye and a revolver aimed in his direction, the fake Hogan knew that if he played his cards right, he might be able to turn the tables in his direction.
After listening to the colonel’s men deduce that their own Colonel Hogan could, in fact, be the wrong Colonel Hogan, Linderman started formulating a plan. Surely, if they suspected that Hogan was fake, then they must also suspect that he himself were real.
Sitting patiently, he waited, until finally, as he had hoped, the Black man and the young, naive American approached him. They stood before him, and as the short Frenchman, who now showed concern, arrived at their side, he couldn’t help but smile.
“Spooky, ain’t it?” Kinch said quietly before adding, “Sir?”
Linderman felt himself smile under the gag. Were they really considering the possibility that Major Schmidt used such brutal tactics on his own man!? Nodding slowly, he hoped their next step would be to remove the gag.
“What do we do?” Carter asked.
“What do you mean, ‘what do we do?’” LeBeau shot back angrily. “He is lucky we haven’t killed him yet!”
Linderman surged with hatred inside. After he disposed of Hogan, the little guy was next.
“Louis,” Kinch started, “this might not be Linderman.”
“What? C’est un ridiculous.”
“Can’t chance it,” he continued. “Gotta know.” Kinch leaned over and untied the cloth around Linderman’s head, and as he did so, the double choked once the vile material was dislodged from his mouth.
“God, Almighty, Kinch,” Linderman said between coughs. “It took you guys long enough!”
“We want your side. Why were you about to give Colonel Hogan a shot up in the guest quarters?” Carter shouted impatiently.
Linderman squinted at the young flyer. “Huh? What are you talking about?” he answered weakly. “All I remember is waking up in here a few minutes ago.”
“He was sleeping for some time,” LeBeau confirmed, and Linderman tried not to show his pleasure.
“I’m telling ya,” Linderman explained, “that kraut gave me a shot of something nasty...made my head spin. I know I was out of it for awhile. How’d I get down here, anyway? And where’s Linderman?”
“Not so fast, buddy,” Carter warned. “What’s the code?”
“And it had better be the right one,” LeBeau finished.
“Butterfly,” Linderman answered confidently, and the men exchanged glances.
“London’s right about one thing, security has been breached,” Kinch said with a heavy sigh. Then to Linderman, he asked, “Now, what’s our code?”
Panicking for a second, Linderman quickly searched his mind for the word Hogan would have used in a crisis...it might not even be a word at all. In fact...
Raising his joined hands to his right ear, he gave two small tugs and waited.
“That’s impossible,” Kinch said in disbelief. “How could they both know it?”
“Don’t tell me Linderman did the same thing?” the phony chuffed. “I don’t belie...unless...”
“Unless what, Colonel,” LeBeau asked, forgetting that only a few minutes ago, he had been ready to shoot the imposter.
“Well, before I went out altogether, the major...he...it was horrible. I remember...that has to be it. Sodium pentothal. I remember saying things I shouldn’t have been.” Casting his eyes down, he muttered, “If I get outta this, I’ll be facing a court martial.”
“B-but up in the guest quarters!” Carter yelled. “You didn’t sound like you, Sir!”
Taking a deep breath, Linderman shook his head and said in mock despair, “I can’t imagine, Carter...I - I don’t remember anything more. What did I say?”
“W-well, you were flipping out, boy....er, Sir...and if I didn’t know better, I’d have sworn you were Linderman.”
“He still may be, Carter,” Kinch reminded him. “We haven’t proven anything yet except London’s got a spy working with Schmidt, and Hogan and Linderman share some of the same traits, including their choices of codes.”
“Uh, Kinch, tell me,” Linderman interrupted. “Did your other Hogan...was he, uh, reluctant to be restrained?”
“Yeah, a little. Why?”
“Look, I know what you fellahs are feeling. This is bad stuff, and I sure don’t like having to sit here all tied up and all, but you have to do what’s best for you and this operation. Until you’re sure I am who I say I am, you do what you have to do.”
The men glanced around the alcove at one another, and Linderman sensed their confusion. Building on it, he continued.
“And I know what Schmidt’s capable of. For God’s sake, he tortured that man – his own man! I - don’t even want to think what he’d do to me...or any of you.” Allowing his voice to trail off, he looked down at the ground. Not daring to sneak a peek up at them, he tensed, waiting for their reaction.
“I think we have been fooled, mez amis,” LeBeau said quietly.
“You ain’t kidding,” Kinch added.
“Now what?” Carter followed. “We can’t leave him tied up like this!”
“And what do we do with the other one?” the Black sergeant asked.
Raising his head slowly, Linderman answered gruffly, “We kill him.”
Hogan rested as best as he could on the cot, his hands rubbing his temples and his eyes alternately. Occasionally, he would press his arm into his leg to help stop the tremendous aching and burning that erupted every few seconds from the wound, and he began to wonder if an infection had started to take hold deep within the crater in his arm. Carter had not done badly in bandaging the wound, but it was a far cry from being medically sound. Dizzy and lightheaded from the drugs and the loss of blood, he placed the back of his hands on his forehead and found it to be red-hot to the touch, perspiration having formed on his brow. His day from Hell was finally catching up to him, and without having to guess, he knew his body temperature had escalated way above normal.
Just a few feet away from him, Newkirk stood guard, never once lowering the pistol. While Hogan understood his men’s reasons behind their actions, he loathed what they were doing to him. Hadn’t they come to know each other well enough over the course of the past two years? Couldn’t they just tell it was him? Linderman, although resembling Hogan in just about every way possible, was stiff. His answers and reactions were too perfect, as though they had been rehearsed. He could see it. Why couldn’t they?
“Newkirk,” he heard himself calling out, and within a few seconds, his English corporal hurried over to him.
“Right, Sir.” Disappearing around the corner for a brief moment, Newkirk re-emerged with a coffee cup filled with the clear, cool liquid, and he handed it to the colonel, who took it with both hands.
After taking a few sips, Hogan asked, “Is there any penicillin left over from that drop a week ago? I think I’m coming down with a fever.”
“I think so, Sir. Thought you’d have had your fill of shots, though!” Newkirk quipped as he again disappeared and then reappeared almost instantly with a small box that contained several syringes. “Won’t take but a second.”
“Great. Thanks.” Hogan watched as the corporal prepared the needle, and he felt himself tense inside. Trying to fend off the weird remembrances of Schmidt’s assortment of potions, he said, “Hurry it up, huh?”
“Right.” Raising the colonel’s shirt, Newkirk found a section in his lower back and quickly injected the antibiotic into Hogan.
Sliding himself backwards on the bunk and leaning his head against the wall, Hogan observed Newkirk, who went about closing the medical supply kit and replacing it on the shelf around the corner. Softly, he asked, “Do you think Linderman could have known about that drop? I mean, the one last week. Where you just got the penicillin from.”
Newkirk stood speechless in front of the colonel and pondered the question. After serious thought, he said, “Well, it’s possible, Sir.”
“Newkirk!” Hogan yelled in complete frustration, causing his temples to throb and his head to spin. “Look, just untie me, ok?”
“I’m sorry, Sir. But, I can’t,” Newkirk stammered. “It’s not that we don’t trust you. We don’t trust him.”
In desperation, Hogan remarked half to himself, “If Tiger were here, she’d know which was which.”
Just as Newkirk was about to answer, a noise from above caught both of their attention, and they cast their eyes upward and then to each other. Scraping...metal hitting stone and dirt. Someone was coming through the ceiling.
The fear of God swept through Hogan as he said, “We gotta go. Now!”
“They’ll be on us in minutes!” Newkirk shouted in a whisper.
“Get the rest of the prisoners, and get ‘em up above ground. Hide ‘em in the rec hall. Anything! Go! Now!”
Reaching for his pocket knife, Newkirk ran to Hogan to cut the ropes, but as he did so, the first pieces of dirt began crumbling above their heads.
“Newkirk, there’s no time! Go, go, go!”
The Englishman ran in the direction of huts seven through ten, as Hogan stumbled his way toward the radio room and where Linderman was being held. When he turned the corner, his jaw fell. Linderman and his other three men were gone. Spinning in a circle, he looked frenetically around, but no one was there.
The sound of digging was getting louder, and at the rate pebbles were raining from the ceiling, Schmidt would crash through any second. Taking a few steps toward the adjoining tunnel, he heard the sound of a gun cocking to his left, and he spun around in time to see Kinch taking aim. Carter, LeBeau, and Linderman were beside him.
“Do it, Kinch,” Linderman said quickly. “Hurry. We don’t have much time.”
“Where’s Newkirk?” Carter shouted at Hogan.
“Carter! It’s me!” the colonel yelled back, wavering and trying to keep himself from falling over.
“Filthy Bosch. Newkirk’s probably dead,” LeBeau snarled.
“What!?” Hogan panted in a full panic. “No! He’s not! He just...”
“Kill him, Kinch,” Linderman hissed again. “Do it now, or it’ll be too late.”
“Kinch, no! Listen! Who...who was up with you all night when you found out your brother had been killed? Don’t do this!”
Linderman sneered at Hogan. “He’s lying, Kinch. Your dad has a letter...the one you wrote home...where you told your dad how much you respected me, as your commanding officer. Don’t trust him.”
“Kinch...,” Hogan pleaded.
“It is hard, Sir...,” the Black sergeant uttered to Linderman, “to kill...you.”
“But it’s not me,” the imposter cooed. “Don’t think of him as me.”
“Linderman, you rotten...,” Hogan growled through clenched teeth and taking a step backward.
“He’s gonna run,” Carter said with worry.
The scraping sound in the other room ceased, and the room grew quiet. For a moment, nobody knew what would happen next. The five men held their stance until Kinch, who was trembling at the thought of firing the weapon on someone who bore such a resemblance to the colonel, squeezed the trigger.
Anticipating the move, Hogan had already jumped to the side, causing the bullet to miss him by inches. With the last bit of remaining strength left in him, he turned and sprinted as fast as he could away from his men and the malevolent clone who was corroding their minds.
The tunnel twisted and turned, and he heard his men giving chase behind him. Soon, he arrived at a dead end, with nowhere to go except up. “The cooler,” he said grimly and gasping for breath. Without any time to reconsider or retreat, he hoisted himself up the ladder and through the opening in the floor of the solitary confinement cell. Just as he was pulling his legs out of the hole, he caught a glimpse of LeBeau, and he rolled away from the opening as another round of gunfire ripped past him. Crashing the floor panel back down, he scanned the cell for something to keep it from being reopened. Finding nothing and seeing the floor begin to move, he pushed himself away from the panel, and struggling to his feet, he stumbled out the door and into the greyish-green corridor.
His hands still tightly fastened, Hogan realized his strength was nearly depleted. He needed to find a place to hide, or it wouldn’t be long before his weary legs would crumble beneath him, sealing his fate. He forced himself further and onward, until he came to a closed door on the far side of the building. With extreme difficulty and in severe pain, Hogan fumbled with the door handle and eventually yanked the door open. Peering inside, he discovered it was a small storage room. Casting a quick look over his shoulder and hearing muffled sounds behind him, he slipped inside and quickly shut the door. He inched his way deeper into the room, where he found a small area that he could squeeze himself into. Kneeling down into the corner, he cleared a spot and wedged his aching body into the crevice, piling boxes, other containers, and assorted papers on top of and around him.
Just as he had pulled the last box in place, the door opened, and light trickled into the room. Hardly breathing, he heard footsteps approaching, and he froze. Peeking through the cracks between the boxes, he saw Carter’s foot right next to his arm.
“He’s not here, fellahs,” he heard Carter yell. It felt like he was in an alternate universe.
“Are ya sure?” Kinch answered. “Maybe he doubled back. And we gotta get back down in the tunnel. Schmidt gave up digging, but it won’t take him long to start up again. Maybe we can strengthen that ceiling before he does.”
Hogan heard Kinch’s footsteps recede in the distance; yet, Carter’s feet remained clearly visible and planted. Hogan bit his bottom lip and trembled, waiting for his sergeant to either leave or unearth him. But he did neither. Instead, he shuffled around the room, as if he were waiting for the colonel to reveal himself on his own. Then, rotating abruptly, Carter bent over and knocked one of the boxes away, making Hogan clearly visible.
Seeing his target hiding in amongst the cardboard and papers, the sergeant aimed his weapon.
“Andrew,” Hogan said hoarsely. “Don’t.”
“Give me one good reason why not.”
“Because as much as we’re like family, I’ve never referred to you as ‘son.’”
Comprehension dawned on Carter, and the spell Linderman had cast on him was broken. “Colonel Hogan?” he asked boyishly, as if waking from a dream.
Relief poured through Hogan’s tired soul, and he felt his entire being buckle under the weight of it. “Yes...Carter, yes.”
Immediately pushing the rest of the boxes and makeshift fort away from Hogan, Carter asked, “Well, why didn’t you say something?”
Rolling his eyes, the colonel replied frailly, “I’m gonna forget you said that. Get your knife.”
“Yessir,” the sergeant said, eager to restore his colonel’s faith in him. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew his army blade and sliced through the ropes, instantly freeing Hogan of the painful restraints.
“Carter, listen to me, and listen real good. I think Newkirk knows who I am. And if the others and Linderman find out, he’ll be in danger. You’ve got to warn him.”
“But what about you?”
“If Linderman finds me, it’s all over. As long as he thinks I’m alive and on the run, you’ll all be safe. The second he finds me, he will kill me, and the rest of you are right behind. Understand?”
“Yeah, but Sir, where will you...”
“I’m staying right here. Keep Schmidt and Linderman as far away from this storage room as possible, ok? I’ll think of something. And if you get the chance...”
Nodding, Hogan gently touched his wrists, and then looking directly at his sergeant, he answered, “Don’t even think twice, Carter. Fire the clip.”
The door to the storage room closed softly, and darkness invaded the tiny, cell-like chamber. In the distance, Hogan heard Carter’s footsteps fade, and while slightly more hopeful of the situation now that his sergeant was finally aware of his true identity, he was not feeling very hopeful about his worsening physical condition. Tucked neatly away in the corner of the room, Carter had located an old blanket, which managed to make the floor a tad more comfortable. Meticulously arranging the boxes and other items around the colonel, Carter had also strengthened his cardboard fort to purposely deter anyone who may enter from caring too much to see what was concealed behind it. With any luck, neither Schmidt nor Linderman would get that far.
Luck, however, hadn’t been on Hogan’s side all night.
Shivering and chilled to the core, and with no way of getting warm despite his spiking fever, Hogan curled himself into a tight ball and leaned into the corner. He wondered how long he would have to hide there, in that room, in that corner, in that state. His left arm, which for the most part had gone untreated, oozed and bled through the bandages, and the pain seemed to intensify by the minute. His mind didn’t want to think. All he wanted to do was get warm, get better, stop shaking, stop hurting.
But he had to think. Every moment he remained in the storage room with Linderman on the prowl was another moment that Linderman gained his men’s trust.
Feeling the bandages on his wrists, he trembled at the thought of being restrained and what Schmidt would do if he found him.
And then....ants...They were everywhere! Crawling all over him! Down his back! In his clothes! Stinging...biting! He felt his throat swelling, and his breathing became erratic.
“Stop...get ‘em off....get ‘em off!” he shouted in his delirium, kicking the boxes away and rubbing his arms, chest, neck, and legs in a frenzy. For several minutes, he flailed uncontrollably and unwittingly, clutching the post of the shelving unit next to him, until finally, his mind began to relax and the panic attack ebbed from him. Wheezing, he pushed the side of his face into the concrete wall beside him, and the coolness of the cinder blocks offered a minor treatment to his burning forehead and cheek.
He felt himself drifting from reality...away from the cooler...away from Stalag 13...away from Linderman and Schmidt...and he escaped into a world that offered him neither safety nor pain.
Someone was moving him. Where was he going?
He did not recognize it.
Was he walking? Or were people carrying him?
He heard himself mumbling strange ramblings, words he wasn’t sure he should be saying. Was he betraying London?
The stab of a needle.
“No...please no...no more needles...please,” he heard himself beg.
Darkness. And then finally...Sleep.
Hogan’s eyes popped open. He was still in the storage room, and it was still pitch black. He had no idea what time it was or how long he had been in there. He was soaked to the skin from perspiration, his body ached, and his head pounded. Wanting to move but afraid to do so, he eventually willed himself to stand. His legs felt like dead weights beneath him, and he gradually pulled himself up from the floor. Wobbly and with unsteady footing, he slid each step to the front of the room toward the door. Upon reaching it, he felt for the handle, and doing so, he slowly turned the knob. The door creaked open, and brilliant sunshine spilled into the room from the brightly lit cooler, and Hogan shut his eyes immediately. It was morning. And he felt as though he was suffering from the worst hangover of his life.
“Oh, God, how long have I been out?” he asked aloud. “And what’s happened while I was?”
Running a shaky hand through his damp hair, he looked at his watch, which read eight-thirty.
“Four hours. Anything could have happened in four hours,” he said, breathing heavily. Still desperately weak, he realized he had no choice but to investigate. What if his men were dead? Why had Carter not returned? Was Linderman still alive? Where was Schmidt?
The voice to his left startled him, and he grabbed a hold of the doorframe as his legs crumpled from the sudden adrenalin rush. Terrified to think what hell was about to befall him, he carefully turned his head and focused his vision on the man standing next to him.
“Carter?” he asked, his fear subsiding at the sight of his sergeant.
“Colonel, really, you shouldn’t be out here. Schmidt’s looking everywhere for you. He basically destroyed our barracks, but he never found the tunnel. A-and Linderman has his own search going with LeBeau and Kinch.”
“Newkirk?” Hogan asked, trying to catch his breath.
“Got him all tied up in your quarters. Linderman’s convinced Kinch and LeBeau that he’s not to be trusted. Boy, Newkirk sure was mad, too. Took a swing at Kinch, but well, Kinch is a better boxer...knocked Newkirk flat on his back.”
“Remind me to have a few words with those two when this is all over,” Hogan groaned in despair. “And you?”
“I-I’ve been pretending to help in the search. Playing it up. But I did find time to sneak in here and gave you some more medicine. Did it help?”
Looking at Carter, Hogan smiled. “That was you? I thought I was dreaming.”
The young sergeant grinned innocently and shoved his hands deep inside his coat pockets. “Aw, well, I’m not exactly a doctor, mind you, but I do know a little about pharmacology. When I get home to North Dakota, I have it all arranged to set up my own pharmacy and ...”
“Alright, Carter,” Hogan sighed. “Let’s figure out what we’re gonna do. I’m not much better, but I guess whatever you gave me did help a little. First thing we gotta do is get Newkirk out of my quarters and over here. Can you do that?”
“Well, it won’t be easy. They’ve got someone at the window and at the door. Malcolm Flood would have trouble busting out of your office right now.”
Furrowing his brow and trying to think, Hogan said, “Ok, then you’ll need a diversion.”
Looking back into the storage room, the colonel flipped on the light and scanned the contents of the chamber. Finding the blanket, stained with his blood, he handed it to Carter. Then, easing out of his leather jacket, he dropped it on top of the blanket in the sergeant’s arms.
“Throw these over by the blind spot by the fence. And draw everyone over there. Make sure everyone’s out of the barracks. I’ll come up through the tunnel when everyone runs over to you. And...gimmee your coat.”
“Hey! I’ll freeze!”
“Carter! You’ve got spares down in the tunnel!”
“Oh, yeah...right. Ok.” The sergeant slipped out of his coat and caught the chill of the frigid air.
Sliding into the cozy bombardier coat, lined with lamb’s wool and a hundred times warmer than his officer’s jacket, Hogan admired the fit and commented, “I may have to get me one of these.” Then, checking his watch, he said, “At exactly nine-fifteen. Not a minute before. Ok?”
Carter synchronized his watch to the colonel’s and nodded. “Nine-fifteen. Got it.”
“Ok, good. And Carter?”
“No screw ups. Everything depends on this.”
“You got it, boy....you can depend on me.”
Giving Carter a pained expression immediately followed by a quick wink, Hogan added, “Well, maybe it’ll work anyway.”
The time was 9:10, and it had been twenty minutes since Carter had resubmerged beneath the floor panel of the cell, leaving Hogan alone in the cooler. During that time, the colonel had forced himself to stay awake by “washing” his face with the powdery snow that lined the open windows. The histamine-induced rash had nearly vanished, and the ice cold snow on his skin eased the few bumps that remained but did little else to ease his other ailments. Still queasy and flushed, he remembered the other men who had been stricken with the flu-like symptoms and for whom he had never gotten a chance to get help.
“Burke and Morris,” he said under his breath, wondering if they had survived the night. The last thing he knew was they had been unlikely to survive the hour. Cursing himself for not pushing Klink harder and a lot sooner, he checked his watch again and saw it was 9:12. Removing the floor panel carefully and silently, he slipped down into the tunnel.
Descending the ladder, he surveyed the area around him. He only had three minutes to get to the ladder leading up to his barracks, and he hoped to God Carter would be successful in getting everyone out of the building.
The tunnel was eerily quiet. Creeping along, Hogan saw that everything was in disarray. What had happened here? Carter had claimed Schmidt had not found their network of tunnels, and yet, it had been ransacked...as if they had been looking for something...or someone.
“Can’t imagine who,” he whispered aloud to himself. Fending off a chill, he continued forward until he arrived at the familiar ladder. Checking his watch, it read 9:14. One minute.
He waited. Seconds seemed like hours.
Then he heard it. Commotion. Shouting. Doors slamming. Footsteps above his head. Then, nothing. Taking a deep breath, he reached for the device that activated the opening.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Hogan whipped around and froze, his heart pounding. Standing before him was Major Steiner, who was holding him at gunpoint.
“I knew it was too good to be true,” Hogan lamented, dropping his shoulders and casting his eyes to the ground.
“It is for your own good, Herr Colonel,” Steiner explained. “If you go up there, they would be on you in a matter of minutes. Herr Linderman has corrupted the minds of your men. They are thinking and acting like fools, and will kill you on sight.”
“They’re really gonna get it when this is over,” the colonel sighed, trying to make light of the matter. Yet, Steiner continued.
“Furthermore, the kommandant of this camp and his guard have been warped by Linderman’s thinking as well. Colonel Klink now believes that Linderman – you – must be arrested for treason.”
Resting against the dirt wall, Hogan asked, “Last I knew, they were both sleeping like babies down here. How’d he pull that one off? Especially with Schmidt lurking around.”
“How did you, as you say, pull off the impossible all these years? He simply convinced Schmidt that they were still needed. Who better to find a man than with the aid of one who has never had a successful escape?”
Hogan gave a look of disgust. For once, he hated his ability of always being able to get the kommandant to conform to his way of thinking.
“And lucky for you, Schmidt is greedy,” Steiner added. “He has not informed your kommandant or anyone of what he has so far discovered. He wishes to reap all the glory, and will not risk Klink exposing you or your operation. He will use Klink until he no longer needs him, after which, Klink will be disposed of.”
Shaking his head, Hogan asked, “What about you? Where do you fit in?”
“I am a dead man, Herr Colonel. And with Herr Linderman in your shoes, he only must find the right time when nobody is watching. But until he does, I will help you as much as I can.”
The sound of footsteps re-entering the barracks above their heads caused both men to cast their eyes upward, and Hogan realized he had missed his window of opportunity to rescue Newkirk.
“They will be down momentarily. You must go.”
“But I’ve got a man up there who does believe I’m me, and he’s in trouble,” the colonel insisted. “I can’t leave him.”
“Herr Colonel,” Steiner said, placing emphasis on each word, “did you not consider the possibility that Linderman would use your man as bait? To lure you out? Surely, you would not abandon one of your own, regardless of the danger. He would then kill you both.”
“But my men would see through that!” Hogan shouted. “They’d never let that happen! They know Newkirk’s on the level!”
“And he has allied himself with someone they believe is evil. They will do as Linderman says and keep him from assisting you because they believe it is the right thing to do.”
“What about him?”
“He’s on my side. What if they find him out?”
“You had better pray for all of your sakes they do not.”
The sounds above grew louder, and Steiner reached forward and took Hogan’s arm. The motion of the bunk opening startled both men, and together, they ran away from it, through the tunnel, and into the darkness. Rounding a corner, Hogan felt his knees give way, and he tumbled forward.
“Colonel, get up!” Steiner whispered as he lifted Hogan’s tired body up from the floor. In the far room, he heard Kinch and Linderman talking, and he dragged the colonel out of the corridor and into a connecting section.
Hogan gazed up at the major, discerning at that moment just how weak he truly was. No food since the previous morning, Schmidt’s assortment of concoctions still coursing through him in various amounts, severe blood loss, sickness now infesting what healthy cells remained in his body...and his penicillin not quite yet kicking in, he knew he was in trouble. Seated on the floor and propped up against the slimy wall of the tunnel, he muttered helplessly, “Don’t let them find me.”
Without hesitation, Steiner reached up and doused the gas lantern that illuminated the alcove. And they waited.
Colonel Wilhelm Klink sat in his office, his head bandaged and himself still suffering from memory loss, but otherwise, healthy and none the more worse for wear. Occasionally, he would receive a minor flashback of something, and not understanding what it was, he attributed it to segments of a dream. Hogan, after all, had explained to him that in his condition, he might recall bits and pieces of bizarre dreams.
Yet the minute he saw Major Schmidt, he immediately remembered Major Steiner and the double Hogan. And from what Hogan had told him, Steiner was a traitor to the Third Reich and was to be shot the moment he was apprehended. Linderman was his partner in this operation, which Klink at first had difficulty believing until Hogan explained the reasons why.
Hogan relayed the facts as he claimed Linderman had told to him. Linderman was no Gestapo agent, which was what Schmidt believed. He was really a spy for London, and his mission here was to take Hogan’s place at Stalag 13, after which, Hogan would be smuggled out of camp and returned home. Once Linderman had succeeded in doing so, he would feed any information that came his way through to Steiner, who would pass it along to the Underground. Hogan, fully admitting to being a coward, was appalled at the idea of someone using his likeness to pass along information, even if it were to London, and even if it meant he could go home. Also loyal to his men, he didn’t like the idea of a stranger just coming in and overseeing them. He believed he had a responsibility to them, and ally or no ally, Linderman had to go.
The kommandant had found the entire thing exhausting to comprehend, and his head swam with this new information and the scraps of memories from the day before. Why did he remember Hogan being in the cooler? Why did he have the feeling Hogan had attacked him? And why did he get the feeling there was something else? That Hogan was keeping something from him?
Dreams, Hogan had translated. Nothing more than dreams from the head injury. Semi-comfortable in that explanation, all Klink now cared about was that Linderman and Steiner were enemies of the Reich, and therefore, would be dealt with in the most efficient and effective way.
But they had disappeared into thin air. Schmidt was enraged, incessant that Linderman be found. He showed more hostility to Linderman than he did toward Steiner, but as long as that hostility was aimed away from Klink and the camp, then the kommandant felt no immediate threat. All he wished was for these two men to be captured and shot, and then, perhaps, things could get back to normal.
Therefore, to aid in the hunt, Klink ordered every guard to search the grounds, the barracks, the buildings, the woods...everywhere...in the effort to locate Linderman and Steiner. But like ghosts, the two traitors had vanished with the night.
A knock on the door disturbed his reverie, and he answered in a paltry tone, “Come in, come in.”
The door to his office swung open, and Linderman entered the room. Saluting briefly, he asked, “Got a minute, Kommandant?”
Klink sighed. While he was grateful to Hogan for what he had shared with him, he wasn’t in the mood to bargain with his senior prisoner of war. “What is it, Hogan? Can’t you see I’ve got a million things to do today? And with Major Schmidt running around, nothing will get done until those two men are caught.”
“That’s just what I wanna talk to ya about. He’s been in my barracks three times already this morning. There’s nothing there! And it’s against the Geneva Convention to violate the privacy of prisoners!”
“I’m sorry, Hogan, but there is nothing I can do. Dismissed.”
“Nothing you can do!? Keep your people under control, will ya? This war is complicated enough!”
“My people!? May I remind you that these traitors are your people, and were it not for them, Major Schmidt would not be bothering you!”
Linderman peered over the kommandant’s shoulder and pretended to take interest in the paperwork he was completing. “Uh, whatcha doing?”
Tossing the pencil down onto the desk, Klink said despairingly, “Endless amounts of paperwork, which, if you don’t leave this instant, I’ll force you to do it for me!”
“I’m afraid that would fall under cruel and inhuman punishment,” Linderman quipped, enjoying the toy banter. “By the way, you forgot to dot your I there.”
“Out!” Klink bellowed, pointing a finger to the door.
Linderman was just about to exit Klink’s office, when the sound of barking dogs and sirens alerted him.
“Donnewetter! Out of my way!” Klink shouted as he exploded up from his chair and pushed past Linderman and out the door, to which Linderman scurried close behind. Out onto the front steps they both charged, and off in the distance, they witnessed a group of prisoners along with Klink’s guards gathered around the side fence. Major Schmidt was also among the group of men, his black SS overcoat easily visible in the sea of grey and white.
“They have found something!” Klink said as he trampled down the wooden steps and into the snow, Linderman at his heels. Goose-stepping across the snowy compound, Klink arrived at the fence, and Schmidt approached, holding the blanket and leather jacket.
“Colonel Klink. Our man is close by.”
“Hey! That’s my coat!” Linderman yelped at the sight of Hogan’s bomber jacket.
“It is now evidence!” Schmidt returned as Linderman resisted the urge to grin.
“Our man, Herr Major? You mean..haha..our men,” Klink reminded Schmidt.
“Ja, ja. Men. They must have climbed the fence and made for the woods.”
Linderman tilted his head and studied the scene as Klink protested the impossibility of anyone jumping the fence. “Uh, Major?”
“Not now, Hogan,” Klink spat.
“But, I don’t think they jumped the fence, Sir.”
“You don’t?” Schmidt asked Linderman. “Why?”
“Don’t you see it?”
Klink shook his fists at Linderman, “Hogan, if you don’t stop talking in riddles, I’ll throw you in the cooler. Tell the major what you see!”
“Klink, he is right,” Schmidt said slowly.
“Whaaat?” the kommandant whined. “I see nothing but snow and ice and a mud and dirt all over the place!”
“On this side of the fence,” Linderman pointed out. “Look at the other side.”
Klink glanced up to view the exterior boundary; the snow was pure and white and peacefully tranquil. Not a footprint to be seen.
“Unless these men sprouted wings and flew into the woods, I believe they are still inside the camp,” the major said, deep in thought.
Leaving the major and the kommandant to discuss their new-found evidence, Linderman hurried toward his barracks, also pondering the situation. Meeting up with Kinch, he whispered, “He’s down in the tunnel.”
“Can’t be,” the Black sergeant said in disbelief. “We turned it upside down. He ain’t there.”
“Well, he’s gotta be. We search again.”
Disappearing into the barracks, the two men headed for the bunk, and tapping twice on the wooden beam, the hatch opened, and they climbed down into the tunnel.
Huddled next to the impediment of soil and fighting to stay awake, Hogan heard Linderman and Kinch nearing their undetected spot in the tunnel. It wouldn’t take much for them to be exposed...the simple re-ignition of the gas lamp. Shivering from fear and the chills brought on by his increasing body temperature, the colonel pulled his legs into himself and waited for their impending revelation. If Linderman’s aim was to find him, this time, he probably would. Beside him, he felt the reassuring presence of Major Steiner, who had wrapped a blanket around him in the attempt to quell his shaking. Holding onto his shoulders, the major also tried to calm his fears.
Then, Linderman entered the dark room.
“Kinch? I need a match. This one’s gone out.”
Hogan held his breath, and his muscles quaked. He felt Steiner press harder into his shoulders, and he thought he would pass out from fright.
“Just a second, Colonel,” Hogan heard Kinch answer. “I think there’s something here.”
Wracking his mind, the colonel tried to think what Kinch might have found. He couldn’t have left anything on his way through the tunnel, could he?
“What is it?” Linderman answered and walked away from the opening to the small area.
Hogan strained his ears to hear what was being said. And when he heard Kinch’s words, despair fell upon him.
“An empty penicillin needle. Someone’s been giving our boy penicillin shots.”
“Carter’s been down here the most, hasn’t he,” Linderman replied. “Kinch, I hate to say it, but I think Andrew’s turned on us.”
“Newkirk...and Carter?” Kinch said, shocked at the prospect.
“We’ll have to keep him confined with Newkirk til this thing gets sorted out.”
“Nooo,” Hogan moaned, shaking his head into the dirt, as Steiner pressed so hard on him that he nearly suffocated.
“C’mon, Kinch,” Linderman continued. “We’ll take care of Carter first, then come back down here. He can’t have gone far in his condition.”
“Yessir. But...Carter? I don’t buy it, Sir.”
The colonel’s heart leapt. Kinch was smart....he could figure this out.
“You don’t have to buy it. It’s an order. Understand? The last thing I want is this phony messing with all of your minds to try and help him. He’s a pro at this. He and Schmidt both.”
“But you said yourself...Schmidt thinks Linderman’s a traitor now,” Kinch countered.
Caught up in the web of deceit, Linderman fished for the answer that would be most plausible. It didn’t have to hold for long, so it almost didn’t matter what he said. “Look, Linderman and Schmidt are thick as thieves. I would lay you odds that the tales they’re spinning to Klink are just to keep that dingbat outta the way.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Kinch said hesitantly.
“Good. Now, I want you to find Carter and bring him to my quarters. He can keep Newkirk company for a little while. Ok?”
When the sergeant didn’t answer, Linderman continued.
“It’s for their own good, Kinch. We don’t want them getting hurt, right?”
“Ok, then. Are we clear?”
Linderman smiled. “I’ll see you up there in a minute. I want to check one more thing.”
Kinch retreated to the ladder, and Linderman spun around, retracing his steps to the darkened area of the tunnel where Steiner and Hogan were hiding. On his way, he lifted a gas lantern from its post and carried it with him. Shining it into the blackness, he peered into the room.
But he found nothing.
Looking from the left to the right, and cocking his head and knitting his brow, Linderman frowned. “I was sure I heard something...,” he said in a hushed voice.
Returning the room to its empty lightlessness, he followed Kinch’s steps back to the ladder under Hogan’s barracks. Giving one last look over his shoulder, he climbed the stairs out of the tunnel, closing the bunk behind him.
Deep inside the maze of passageways, and a few steps out of the room and around the corner, firmly pressed into the wall and out of sight, Hogan trembled with relief. His only remaining ally – a former Gestapo major – held him upright against the dirt structure, preventing him from falling and permitting him one last glimmer of hope.
Linderman had no sooner closed the tunnel entrance in the bunk when Schultz waddled into the barracks, huffing and puffing. LeBeau, Kinch, and a few other prisoners moved to allow him a seat at the table in the center of the room.
“Ach, my poor, tired, aching feet,” the heavy guard lamented as he plopped down on the bench. “I have been walking and shoveling and patrolling and more shoveling all morning. It is enough to kill a man in my shape. And for some reason, I did not get good sleep last night.”
“Why not, Schultzy?” LeBeau asked, throwing a look in Linderman’s direction.
The sergeant of the guard’s eyes grew big and round, and he said, “I had ver-ry strange dreams. I dreamt I was...haha!...in a...tunnel!”
“A tunnel?” Linderman jumped in. “Schultz, what have we told you about eating before bedtime?”
“Schultz, who else was in your dream?” Kinch asked. “Dreams can sometimes mean you are trying to solve a problem in real life.”
Pursing his lips to the side, Schultz said, “Hm...let...me...think. You...and you...and you...and Kommandant Klink...and the Englander...and...wait a minute. Where is the Englander Newkirk?”
“Not feeling well, Schultzy,” LeBeau piped. “He might be coming down with the flu.”
“Yes, and highly contagious, too,” Linderman added. “If you want to see for yourself, be my guest...but we’ve got him quarantined, and with good reason. Can’t risk losing another man.”
“Ja, I heard about your men...Corporal Burke and Private Morris. Such a shame,” Schultz said with genuine remorse. “They were nice soldiers. Morris always let me sample his sister’s cookies that she would send to him.”
Kinch, LeBeau, and the rest of the men in the barracks said nothing, all having felt the loss of their fallen comrades. Only Linderman continued the conversation. “Right, so we wouldn’t want you to wind up like them, now, would we?”
“Nein! I take your word for it, Colonel Hogan.”
“Ok, good...anything else we can do for you, Schultz?” Linderman said, hoping to wrap up the conversation and get the guard out of his way so he could move on to more important things, like finding Carter.
“Oh, ja. Do you have any foot powder?”
“Foot powder?” LeBeau shouted. “Are you crazy?”
“Schultz, we’d love to sit here and pass the time chatting with ya, but we have work to do,” Linderman interrupted, his agitation growing.
“Which reminds me,” Schultz panted, still trying to catch his breath. “Colonel Hogan, Kommandant Klink wants to see you in his office right away.”
“Huh? I just came from the Mad Hatter’s lair. What’s he want now?”
“Official business with the Gestapo major. He is not very nice. He frightens me.”
Linderman shot a wary glance around the table and said, “Ok This shouldn’t take long. Kinch?”
The Black sergeant locked eyes with Linderman and acknowledged, “We’ll take care of it, Sir.”
“Alright. C’mon Schultz.” Linderman scuffed to the door, and giving a stern look over his shoulder to Kinch, he allowed himself to be escorted out of the building.
Silence descended on the room.
“Do you think he will be ok, Kinch?” LeBeau questioned.
“Oh, he’ll be fine. It’s us I’m worried about.”
Steiner had managed to transport Hogan to a location buried within the network of tunnels that was rarely used except in cases of extreme emergency. The colonel had given Steiner directions to the room’s whereabouts, and he was mildly convinced that this area would provide them some security, even if only a trifle. This room, Hogan relayed, had been used by affiliates of the German High Command who sought refuge from the Underground and who were smuggled out of the country through the mysterious gateway known as Stalag 13. Occasionally, when they staged mass escapes for the benefit of a diversion, higher-ranking prisoners, such as lieutenants, could vie for the use of this room. Best of all, in addition to running water piped in from lines that ran beneath the kommandant’s quarters, it held a vast supply of non-perishable food, so that a person could remain safely hidden without emerging for long stretches of time.
Lying on his back on one of the cots, Hogan was restless. His body hurt worse than he could ever remember it hurting in his life, and while he felt the urgent need to rise and continue his fight, the major gently checked him by easing him back down onto the cot.
By Hogan’s instruction, Steiner quickly discovered a First Aid kit, and he set out to begin repairing the American officer to the best of his ability. From his coat pocket, the major withdrew a metal box that when opened displayed a series of syringes. At the sight of them, Hogan groaned.
“You stick me with one of those,” he slurred, “and so help me God, I’ll kill ya.”
Steiner chuckled. “That would be quite a feat, would it not? Hold still; this will help you sleep while I mend you.”
A quick pinch in his upper right arm caused the colonel to wince briefly. Frowning, he said, “You haven’t seen me in action. I can pa...pack...a mean...punch...” Hogan’s voice trailed off as the calming drug took an almost immediate effect on him, and within minutes, his breathing became less laborious as he drifted into a deep slumber.
Opening the First Aid kit and surveying its minimal supplies, Steiner whispered, “I hope I may fix what we have nearly broken.”
Seated at the table, LeBeau watched Sergeant Kinchloe closely and with worry. “What do you mean by that, Kinch? Once we find Linderman, we do him, and it’s done.”
“That’s just the problem. I think we may already have found him.”
The door to the barracks opened, and Carter trotted inside. Shaking the snow off him, he looked up at the men and said, “Hey fellas. Anyone seen the colonel?”
Gazing suspiciously at his fellow countryman, Kinch said, “Carter, where were you just now? There was a big deal over the by fence.”
“There was? Gosh, and I missed it? I was in the latrine. What happened?”
“You have no idea?” the Black sergeant pushed.
“No....I just told you. I didn’t see it.”
“Kinch, what’s going on?” LeBeau asked, growing more apprehensive.
“Apparently, Carter’s been giving Linderman penicillin injections.”
“What!?” the young sergeant protested, a little too strongly. “I-I haven’t been giving anybody any injections! Why, of all the nerve! How could you even suggest such a thing! Sheesh!”
Digging in his pocket, Kinch placed the needle on the table. “We found this in the tunnel, Andrew. You’ve been down there the most.”
“W-well, no, I haven’t been...and I haven’t been anywhere near the cooler entrance, either!”
Shaking his head, Kinch responded, “How’d you know I found it near the cooler entrance?”
“I-I didn’t,” Carter stammered, recognizing his blunder. “It-it was just a lucky guess!”
“I’ll give him a lucky guess,” LeBeau snarled. “What do we do, Kinch? Put him in with Newkirk for now? Or wait for Colonel Hogan to come back?”
“No,” the Black sergeant answered seriously. “If we do that, the colonel may never come back.”
“But it is obvious that Linderman has gotten to him!”
“Hey! No, he hasn’t!” Carter shouted angrily. “In fact, it’s the other way around!”
“Easy Carter,” Kinch said calmly. “I know.”
“What do you know, Kinch?” the Frenchman growled. “And it better be good, or I will put you both in there, and nobody could stop me!”
“Louis, calm down. Carter? Get Newkirk out here.”
“Now you’re talking sense, boy. The colonel, he’s in bad shape.”
“Andrew? Just get Peter out here,” Kinch pressed. “We’ve only got a few minutes.”
As Carter scurried into Hogan’s quarters, LeBeau sat at the table, his arms folded tightly across his chest. “I am listening, Kinch.”
“Louis, when have we ever gone against each other like this? I mean, really gone against each other?”
“Well, that’s just it. I’ve got a bad feeling about things. Colonel Hogan would want us united. But he’s...well, he’s one by one alienating us from each other.”
“Only because he thinks Linderman’s behind it.”
“Linderman is...but not in the way we’ve been thinking.”
The door to Hogan’s office opened, and an infuriated English corporal stomped out, rubbing his wrists.
“I-I told him not to hit you again, Kinch,” Carter said sheepishly.
“But I sure would love tah,” Newkirk hissed menacingly.
Kinch sighed. “Not that I wouldn’t deserve it. You get a free shot at me later. Right now, we’re in trouble.”
“Gee, ain’t it a pity that now you figure it out,” Newkirk spat.
“Better late than never,” Carter reminded.
LeBeau turned his head away. Frustrated and with concern, he said, “I don’t understand it, You will get us killed!”
“Louis? It’s the colonel who’s down in the tunnel, not Linderman!” the Black sergeant explained carefully. “He’s had us fooled!”
“And he’s real sick, too,” Carter continued.
The door to the barracks flung open, and Linderman entered the room, taking them by surprise. The men fell conspicuously quiet as he slammed it shut and brushed snow off his sleeves. At the sight of Newkirk, his relaxed expression transformed to one of fury.
“What’s he doing out?”
“Uh...he had to...uh...go, Sir,” Carter attempted.
Seeing the young sergeant, Linderman felt his blood pressure rise. “And you.”
“I’m disappointed in you. I thought you’d know the difference between me and that phony baloney.”
“I’ve got it under control, Sir,” Kinch spoke up.
“Well, put ‘em both back in there. We can’t risk it.”
“What can’t we risk, Colonel?” the Frenchman asked suddenly, taking Linderman off guard. He was about to answer when LeBeau finished with, “That we can’t learn the truth about you?”
Linderman let out a fake laugh and said, “Oh, I get it...he’s gotten to all of you, I see.” Pulling a revolver from his inside coat pocket, he became deathly serious. “It’s a shame, really, to have to kill you all. You were beginning to grow on me.”
“Well, there ya have it...for those of you who needed proof...,” Newkirk said remorsefully.
“All of you. In Hogan’s office. Now!”
Having been standing directly in front of the door to the barracks, Linderman never saw it coming.
“Colonel Hogan, I...,” Schultz said as he thrust the door open, and in so doing, slammed the corner of it into the fake Hogan’s back, sending him reeling. The men sprung into action, Carter grabbing the hand holding the gun, and the others clutching the rest of him. With a swift blow to the back of his head, Kinch knocked Linderman unconscious, and they dropped him to the ground.
“Ach du lieber! What are you doing!?” Schultz exclaimed in disbelief.
The men stood around their hostage, and out of breath, Newkirk said, “Schultz, I believe we’ve found Linderman.”
Steiner worked diligently and without fail on the colonel’s wounds. He was taking an enormous risk by putting Hogan under for even a short amount of time, not only because of the high levels of drugs already present in his body, but moreso because if they needed to move, the colonel would have to be awake. Knowing the sedation would last only a half hour, the major hurried, concentrating on the gaping hole in the arm first. After cleaning and flushing the wound, he pinched the skin tightly together, and with the surgeon’s silk from the medical kit, he stitched the skin back together. He had not seen signs of infection, despite the damage caused by the insects, and he hoped that none would fester in the injury. Next, he removed the dirty bandages that were wrapped around his wrists, and after cleaning the sores, he reapplied fresh gauze over an antibiotic solution.
Washing Hogan’s face, he wished there were more he could do about the fever. The penicillin, while a wonder drug, would need time to work. The medicine that Hogan had so hoped to receive from London, a new experimental drug that was said to reduce the fever and restore health, had not arrived, resulting in the death of two of his men. Although penicillin had been administered to them, it had been too late. Steiner hoped that this would not be the case for the colonel.
A noise from behind startled him, and peering over his shoulder, he saw nothing. Cautiously, he retrieved his sidearm and crept to the opening of the chamber. Raising the pistol, he released the safety and slid around the corner.
He inched his way down the corridor, the gas lamps burning but casting distorted shadows that unnerved him. Again, a sound, this time to his right, caused the major to spin on his heel and take aim. Perspiration broke out on his forehead, and he breathed heavily, his eyes darting in every direction. He tried to remember not to fire at movement, just in case it might be one of the colonel’s men...and if he were to fire, to aim low so as not to cause a mortal wound.
From inside the room, he heard the colonel stir. He had to be present upon his awakening to ease him into consciousness, lest he panic and call out. Straining his ears, he heard no more threatening noises, and he began to wonder if his mind were just merely playing tricks on him. Deep underground, hardly any light, marked for death, of course he would be hearing things. Steiner laughed at himself and his paranoia.
Returning the gun to its leather holster, he rounded the corner and entered the room.
And so doing, he walked right into the blade of a knife.
Looking down at the ivory handle protruding from his stomach, Steiner pawed at the instrument of death frantically. His hands immersed in his own blood, he tried to call out, but no sound came. As he fell to the ground, his vision became blurred, and the last thing he would ever see was the frightful image of Major Schmidt towering over him.
“Schultz, you can’t tell the kommandant,” Kinch said without a second thought. “They’ve got to believe this is still the colonel.”
“Nein! I cannot! I have orders to shoot to kill!”
“If you tell him,” Newkirk blurted, “you’re signing your own death warrant! And Klink’s too!”
“I do not believe it! The man who shoots him gets a medal of honor!”
“And a proper burial!” Kinch shouted. “These guys are dirty, even for krauts! He and Schmidt ain’t on nobody’s side but their own!”
“Where, then, is Colonel Hogan?” Schultz demanded, pumping himself with mock authority. When he realized the weight of the question, his face dropped, and he asked again, this time in a cowardly tone, “Where...is...Colonel Ho-gan?”
“We don’t know, Schultz,” Carter said, hoping to lure the guard away from them so they could begin their search. “But maybe if you check out in the compound?”
“And don’t say a bleedin’ word to anyone,” Newkirk reminded him. “Or you’ll never have to worry about being transferred to the Russian Front ever again.”
Closing his eyes tightly, Schultz said, “The time has come for me to see nothing! Nothing!” Scurrying out of the barracks, the door crashed closed behind him, leaving the men alone with their prisoner.
“What’ll we do with this louse?” Newkirk asked, kicking the gun from Linderman’s hand.
“Down in the tunnel,” Kinch said ferociously. “Carter, you can make those knots as tight as you want so nobody can untie ‘em. And as soon as we find the colonel, we kill this son of a bitch.”
It was too good to be true. The American colonel was here...sedated, ill, and looking quite vulnerable. Lifting up Hogan’s arm, he ripped off the clean bandages roughly and inspected Steiner’s work.
“Not bad for a second-rate surgeon. All those years of medical schooling served him well, however briefly.”
Throwing the colonel’s arm onto his stomach, he pulled the stool up next to the cot and studied him. The question wasn’t when to kill him, it was how to kill him. And he wanted to make sure Hogan was wide awake for the duration.
Seeing the colonel’s brow wrinkle, he knew he was starting to rouse from his brief slumber. Perhaps he could hurry things along.
“Herr Colonel?” he whispered. “Are you awake, Herr Colonel?”
“Steiner?” Unable to fully comprehend the severity of his predicament, and not knowing the man beside him was not a friend, Hogan shifted on the cot and tried to open his eyes.
“Oh, Major Steiner will not be joining us. He is....indisposed indefinitely.”
The voice...he knew that voice, and it was not a pleasant one. Realization and terror jolted Hogan, and he squinted at the man sitting beside him. Still without full control of his muscles, he found all he could do was gasp for air, panic overtaking him.
“You...you’ve killed him,” he wheezed.
Schmidt smiled, and stroking the colonel’s matted hair for a moment, he answered, “Yes. Accident of war. These things happen.” Clasping a cuff around each wrist, he secured each arm to the steel posts of the cot.
“No....,” Hogan mumbled, his tone thick. Too tired to struggle, he remained lying motionless, physically unable to fight against or change what was about to happen to him.
“Do you remember, Herr Colonel, what I told you yesterday? All you had to do was behave, and none of this would happen. Alas, you did not listen. I will be patient long enough for you to fully awaken, and then, we will begin.”
One by one, Hogan’s men catapulted themselves down into the tunnel, dragging Linderman with them. No sooner did they reach the ground, and the imposter awoke. Taking them by surprise, he struck LeBeau across the face, forcing the French corporal to fall backward into Kinch. When Carter and Newkirk tried to restrain him, he broke free and jogged a few paces away.
“You’ll never catch me!” he shouted, and turned and sprinted into the darkness.
Not needing to think it over, Carter and Newkirk exploded after him through the corridor as Kinch and LeBeau rose to their feet.
“We’ve gotta find the colonel,” Kinch said, “And fast!”
“Where to you think, mon ami?”
“Head toward the cooler. That’s where Carter said he’d been hiding out. Maybe he’s in one of those alcoves down at that end. Hurry!”
Sprinting as quickly as they could, Kinch and LeBeau disappeared into the depths of their own underground maze.
Slowly, but much too soon for his liking, Hogan found himself gradually returning to reality. He thought back to twenty-four hours earlier, how his only worry at that time was getting medicine for his men and trying to keep warm. Half chuckling to himself, his big victory up until the arrival of Schmidt and Steiner had been keeping Klink from throwing him in the cooler for his belligerence.
Schmidt had vacated the room momentarily, and Hogan was certain he was fetching some sort of means to inflict pain on him. Staring blankly up at the dirt ceiling, he simply had no more tricks up his sleeve. Even if his men did find him, they were sure to finish him off by orders of the corrupt version of himself. He almost wished they would find him; their single-fire shot would be more humane and welcomed than whatever Schmidt had in store for him.
Within minutes, the major returned, stepping over the body of Major Steiner and carrying the black suitcase that Hogan remembered from a few hours before. The one that contained everything horrific imaginable.
“Ah, gut. You are awake.”
Hogan simply continued to stare. What was there to say? It was pointless to argue. The game was over. Schmidt had won.
The sudden sound of gunfire ripping through the tunnel and shouts from his men caused Hogan to jump, and he watched Schmidt turn and run to the opening of the room. Maybe the game wasn’t quite over?
Glaring up at Schmidt and trying to find any scrap of courage left in him, Hogan said, “You’re finished, Schmidt. You’ve lost. My men have figured it out, and Linderman’s probably dead by now.”
“No!” the major screamed, and charging at Hogan, he backhanded the colonel so hard across the jaw that it caused blood trickled from the corner of his mouth.
For a second, the colonel thought he was going to lose consciousness again. But shaking his head, he cleared the star bursts from his vision and shot Schmidt a vicious look.
Another round of gunfire made Hogan smile, and he knew something had happened. Something finally in his favor. It wouldn’t take long for someone to stumble on to him, and it seemed all he had to do was survive the next five minutes. But as he watched Schmidt begin to quickly prepare a syringe, the colonel’s eyes grew wide. The next five minutes were going to seem like an eternity.
“This way! He went this way!” Newkirk called out, as he and Carter dodged through the caverns beneath Stalag 13. Every so often, they’d catch a glimpse of Linderman, and they would fire off a round, to which they were met with a return of ammunition.
“Fire the clip, Newkirk!” the sergeant yelled, remembering what the colonel had told him in the cooler. “The whole thing! If you get him in sight, waste him!”
“I gotta....get him....in sight, mate!” Newkirk huffed back.
Meanwhile, LeBeau and Kinch tore through the tunnels toward the cooler, but not finding anything, they stopped short.
“Where, Kinch?” LeBeau asked frantically.
“Wait....when I was down here....Linderman went to check...,” he stopped short and thought for a moment. “I know...this way!”
Running in the opposite direction, the two men came to the section of the tunnel that they rarely used. Directly under Klink’s quarters, it was the location reserved for Germany’s most wanted. Weapons ready, they came to a stop and began creeping their way down the corridor soundlessly. Turning the corner, they saw the half-exposed lifeless body of Major Steiner, and from within the room, they heard talking.
Nodding to LeBeau, Kinch and the French corporal paused, and then, on cue, they stormed into the alcove. Upon seeing Schmidt hovering over the colonel, they both emptied their pistols into the Gestapo major, who fell directly on top of Hogan.
“Get him off, get him off!” Hogan yelled, and Kinch and LeBeau yanked the Nazi from the colonel’s belly. He slumped to the ground, dead from multiple bullet wounds to his back. In his hand he held a needle full of black liquid.
Dropping his head back onto the cot, Hogan let out the longest sigh of relief he had ever expelled in his life.
“Sir?” Kinch asked timidly, observing the colonel close his eyes and swallow hard.
Fighting back the tears he knew would come if he allowed them, Hogan cleared his throat and said with as much authority that he could, “You two just earned your stripes back. Now, get me outta this!”
LeBeau fished in the major’s pocket and found the keys to the handcuffs. Releasing the colonel’s wrists from the each leg of the cot, LeBeau helped him into a sitting position. “We’re sorry, mon Colonel. It was impossible to tell you apart.”
“I know, Louis,” Hogan groaned as he slid his legs around, his feet landing on the floor. Still woozy, he noticed for the first time the stitches and frowned. “If it weren’t for him, I’d be dead,” he said solemnly. Shaking the thought from his mind, he added, “Hand me that kit, will ya? And quickly wrap some gauze around this.”
LeBeau did as he was ordered, and Kinch rifled through Schmidt’s suitcase of horrors. “Man, did you see some of this stuff?” he remarked without thinking.
Hogan rolled his eyes. “Uh, yeah, Kinch....just...get rid of it.”
Gunfire sounded again, and this time, it was closer.
“Carter...Newkirk,” Hogan said with worry.
“Linderman’s down here, too,” LeBeau explained as he finished wrapping Hogan’s arm with the fresh gauze and tape.
“Great,” he answered sarcastically. “At least this one won’t be causing any more trouble,” he concluded, giving Schmidt a nod.
“Louis, stay with the colonel,” Kinch warned. “I’ll go try and cut him off.”
“No, now wait a second,” Hogan ordered, but the Black sergeant was already gone.
“It will be ok, mon Colonel. They will find him.”
Shivering and casting his French corporal a dark look, Hogan answered, “Let’s just hope he doesn’t find us first.”
Ten minutes passed. Then fifteen. And after twenty, Hogan began to grow restless. A randomly fired gun or a shout from one of his men would remind him that the game of hide and seek was still being played, and that Linderman was still slithering from tunnel to tunnel. The longer it took for him to be apprehended, the better his chances were of finding the pair in hiding.
LeBeau stood protectively behind the wall to the left of the doorway, guarding both directions to prevent from being taken by surprise. He had also moved the two bodies of the Gestapo majors into the room, a hefty task for the short Frenchman, as both SS men had measured nearly six and a half feet in height.
The sound of footsteps in the distance alerted both Hogan and LeBeau, and though barely able to stand, the colonel dragged himself off the cot, joining his corporal against the side of the dirt wall, while LeBeau took careful aim.
“Steady Louis,” he warned. “Aim low, just in case.”
They stood tightly together, Hogan holding onto LeBeau’s shoulders as the footsteps grew louder.
Any moment now.
LeBeau cocked the weapon.
Hogan steadied himself and supported his weight against the wall. Eyes fixed dead ahead, he waited.
“Don’t shoot, mate!”
“Newkirk!” LeBeau yelled, and easing Hogan back to the cot, he trotted out to meet the Englishman. “You’ve been hit!”
His hand covering his left elbow, Newkirk growled, “Bloody brilliant, Louis. An’ there’s a foot of snow outside! The bleedin’ twit got a hold of our ammo supply. That ain’t been us firing, it’s been him! Raving lunatic, that one. Firing at everything and...oh...” the corporal paused as he looked down and saw the two dead SS officers. “Blimey. Those two had a bit of a bum run, didn’t they?”
“How bad’s the arm?” Hogan asked, troubled by the disturbing information and trying to ignore Newkirk’s comment about Schmidt and Steiner.
“Not bad, Sir. Just a graze. Worst part is, we lost him. We think he’s surfaced.”
“What!? How could you let him get back up there?” LeBeau shouted with fire in his tone.
Inhaling deeply, the colonel added, “I have to admit, this is not good news.”
“Carter? Kinch?” LeBeau stressed. “Did they follow?”
Wincing as he dabbed alcohol on the bullet scratch, Newkirk replied, “Yeah, they did, mate.”
“We’ve gotta act fast,” Hogan warned. “If he thinks he’s going down, he’ll make sure he brings all of us down with him.”
“Oui, and especially you.”
“Alright,” Hogan moaned as he rose from the cot slowly. “Help me get back up there.”
“Are you crackers? If Klink sees you, he’ll have you shot thinking you’re Linderman!”
“And if I don’t get up there, Klink and half the German army’s gonna be coming down here, with that nut leading the way. Is that what you want?”
Exchanging worried looks, Newkirk and LeBeau resigned to their orders. Allowing Hogan to wrap an arm around each of their shoulders, the trio made their way gently through the caverns, eventually arriving at the ladder beneath their barracks.
“You sure, Sir?” Newkirk asked forebodingly. “This is going to mean trouble.”
“Newkirk, the past twenty-four hours have been nothing but trouble. And at this point, how could it get any worse?” Suddenly regretting the remark, Hogan shook his head and said, “Forget I just said that. And whatever happens up there...”
“We won’t let you outta our sight, Sir,” the Englishman reassured his commanding officer.
Nodding in approval, Hogan grabbed the ladder with his right hand, and ascended the steps into the unknown.
Peeking his head out from the opening in the floor, Linderman surveyed his surroundings. He was in one of the barracks, and some of the prisoners were standing around, unsure what to do about the sudden appearance of their apparent commanding officer. Lifting himself out of the hole, he pushed the sink back in place and straightened himself up by brushing some of the dirt from his clothes.
“Are you alright, Sir?” one of the prisoners asked.
Giving a soft smile, Linderman replied seriously, “Yeah, yeah. Uh, for your own safety, don’t let anyone up out of this entrance. That nut’s on the loose, and Carter and Kinch have him on the run.”
“Yessir,” came a round of answers, and Linderman nodded.
“Good. I’ve got to get over to see Klink. Stay inside, no matter what happens out there. Understand?”
Another round of agreement was uttered, and Linderman strode to the door. Looking out at the camp’s surroundings, nothing seemed out of order, and he mapped out a direct route to Klink’s office. A few prisoners wandered past braving the cold, and the guards marched their posts in rhythmic tandem. Stepping outside heedfully, he quickened his pace, knowing that Hogan’s men could appear at any time, and while they wouldn’t be able to use their guns, they could catch him by surprise. Wondering where Schmidt was, he continued his trek between the buildings toward the front of the camp.
Arriving at the wooden steps to Klink’s office, he threw a hasty look over his shoulder and then quickly disappeared inside. He pushed through the empty office, taking no notice of the absence of Hilda, who had not returned from her dismissal the previous day. Knocking on Klink’s door and hearing the kommandant answer from within, he gave a curt smile and entered the room.
At the same time Linderman was making his way past Hogan’s barracks, the colonel was crawling up out of bunk tunnel entrance. With the help of Newkirk and LeBeau, he managed the task without falling, but he had only gotten as far as the nearest bunk before needing to sit down and rest. His men followed suit, each taking a seat beside him.
“Sir, you ain’t gonna last five seconds out there,” the English corporal said seriously.
“I’ve got to,” Hogan answered with determination. “I’ve got to get to Klink before Linderman does.”
“But what if he does? What will we do?”LeBeau asked.
Hogan gave both men a look of grave concern. “Pray real hard that he doesn’t.”
The words were no sooner out of Hogan’s mouth, and their barracks door slammed open, colliding with the interior wall. A swirl of cold air accompanied the storm of Luftwaffe soldiers who crashed into the building. Those who had not seen Hogan seated to their left jogged into his private quarters, while those who had circled around the three prisoners and held them at bay with their rifles. At the end of the parade was the kommandant, and at his heels, Linderman.
Shaking his head in dismay, the colonel stared at the floor and said nothing.
“Arrest that man,” Klink ordered, pointing to Hogan.
Before Hogan or either of his men could protest, two guards yanked the colonel up off the bunk and holding him fast, dragged him before the kommandant. Pain erupted through Hogan’s weary body and soul, and he locked eyes with Klink.
“Colonel Klink,” he said bravely. “You’ve really got the wrong guy.”
“Silence! Herr Linderman, you are under arrest for treason against the Third Reich,” Klink stated firmly. believing to be in full control of the situation. Linderman stood behind him in quite the same fashion as Hogan had so many times, strategically placed to manipulate the kommandant by whispering ideas into Klink’s ear as a means of directing the final outcome.
“I’m not Linderman, Klink!” Hogan shouted. “Look at me! Why would Schmidt do this to his own man!?”
Leaning into the kommandant, Linderman said quietly, “He’ll say anything to save his skin. And Schmidt wanted to gain the prisoners’ trust. How better than to put him through hell?”
“Why, you...,” Newkirk started but was forced back by one of the guards.
Klink contemplated the explanation for a brief moment and said, “Ja, you do have a point. We Germans are highly creative.”
“Too creative,” Linderman said with feigned sadness. Then to Hogan, he remarked, “I feel for ya, bub. But there’s no getting past the Iron Colonel. He’ll catch ya every time.”
“Thank you, Hogan,” Klink said, puffing his chest out in authority.
Casting his eyes to the floor in mock submission, Linderman sighed. “Well, it is true, Sir. We’re no match against you.” Raising his eyes to Hogan, he added, “Too bad he didn’t get it til it was too late.”
“Colonel Klink! Don’t listen to him! Who got you out of marrying Burkhalter’s niece? Who set you up with the merry widow? Who’s saved your neck about a hundred times from the Gestapo?”
“A hundred and three by my count,” Linderman said cooly, throwing a smug look at Hogan.
“Any of those things could have been told to you at any time, Herr Linderman. And while Hogan and I are on opposite sides of the war, I will not condone this imitation of my senior prisoner of war!”
Hogan looked on helplessly, realizing that nothing he said would convince Klink of his identity. Stealing a glance toward Linderman, he saw his double grinning.
“Forget it pal, you’re history,” Linderman said. Then, turning to Klink, he added, “You do have the firing squad ready, right Colonel?”
Klink’s face dropped slightly and said, “Uh, a firing squad? Do you really think...?”
“Do you want your perfect record tarnished? He nearly got away, while under your command! Take him outside and get it over with. You don’t have to watch. And you’ll never regret it.”
Hardly able to move, Hogan tried to writhe free but was too weak. Instead, he attempted, “Klink, don’t...I mean it! You’re making the biggest mistake of your life! You’ll be right after me...”
“Silence!” the kommandant shouted. Shaking his fist at Hogan, he ordered, “Take this traitor outside...and shoot him. And I will watch.”
Hogan clenched is jaw as the guards lugged him out the door and into the center of the compound. LeBeau and Newkirk scurried behind, and several others did as well. Releasing their grip on the colonel, the guards tossed Hogan to the ground, where the colonel landed face down in the snow. Stepping back a few paces, they, along with three other soldiers, raised their weapons on him as he pushed himself up a few inches out of the frigid cushion.
“I’d make him stand, Sir,” Linderman whispered into the kommandant’s ear.
Nodding in agreement, Klink bellowed, “Linderman! You will stand for the execution!”
Hogan stared at the snow and studied the ice crystals as they sparkled in the brilliant sunshine. The sheer elegance of it touched his soul and made him embrace the moment that was upon him. He would not die curled up in front of his enemies, but standing tall, as a proud officer of the United States Army Air Force. Struggling, and with all the energy he had left in him, he pulled himself up. Tattered, torn, bloodied, and weak, he stood, his back erect, his chin out, his shoulders back. Closing his eyes, he held his breath and waited.
“Newkirk, do something,” LeBeau urged, frantic with terror.
“I know, I know!” the English corporal said, knowing they’d have to act fast, but not knowing how on earth they were going to prevent Klink from giving the next order.
As if on cue, Carter and Kinch appeared from behind the cooler, and witnessing the scene before them, they froze.
“Oh, my God,” Kinch mumbled. The two men glanced quickly at one another, and as loudly as he could, Kinch shouted, “Comrade! Comrade! Don’t shoot!” Thrusting his hands into the air, he marched, Carter following his lead, toward the colonel.
Hogan shot a tortured glance over his shoulder, and seeing Kinch and Carter advancing, worry unlike any other wrapped itself around him. They arrived beside him and instinctively placed themselves directly between the tips of the machine guns and their colonel.
“What are you doing?” Hogan panicked. “Get outta here!”
“Not a chance, Sir,” Carter whispered.
“We go together,” Kinch added.
In accordance with their fellow soldiers, LeBeau and Newkirk raised their own hands, and pushing past the guards, they arrived before Hogan, where they saluted him.
“Wouldn’t be the same without ya, Sir” Newkirk said with a wink, to which LeBeau, whose eyes were brimming, remarked, “Oui. The food here is horrible lately.”
Hogan’s tried to prevent his lower lip from quivering as he nodded and allowed them to stand with him. Shielded by the wall of unity created by his four loyal compatriots, Hogan’s gaze found its way to Klink, who was gaping at the display of allegiance.
Letting out a huff of annoyance, Linderman said coldly, “Kill ‘em all. Obviously they can’t tell the difference between me and Linderman.”
“What?! You want me to kill your men!? Are you mad?”
Neither Hogan nor his men uttered a sound, but instead, permitted Linderman to continue.
“No, but I will be if you don’t hurry up and get this over with. Order your men to fire, Klink.”
“That’s Colonel Klink to you,” the kommandant said, a small sneer forming.
Linderman shrugged, and tired of the charade, he blurted. “You won’t be for much longer.”
Hogan tensed, and feeling his legs quaking, he wasn’t sure how much longer he could stand at attention.
“What, Hogan, do you mean by that?” Klink questioned, beginning to study Linderman carefully. Before Linderman could answer, recognition flashed through him, and he exploded, “Donnerwetter! You! You are...”
Linderman instantly withdrew a pistol from his jacket’s breast pocket, and stepping away, he took direct aim at the kommandant. “Klink, you sap!” he shouted as he readied the weapon, noticing that the guards were now turning their machine guns on him. “You never could get anything right! Call off your guards, or you’ll be the first to go!”
The group of Allies huddled tightly together in the center of the compound watched in amazement, advancing into an unknown future minute by minute.
As Klink raised his hands and gave the order, Linderman pushed on. “You’re all idiots, do ya know that? Getting in the way of everything! Couldn’t just let things be! But the plans are still a go! I’ll be taking your place, Hogan, and nothing can stop me! Schmidt will make sure of that!”
Hogan bit his tongue, not wanting to give away anything, just in case. Any mention of Schmidt being dead would alert Linderman and perhaps encourage him to uncover the tunnel system and their operation. Hogan wasn’t entirely sure he hadn’t already done so, but he had a strong feeling Linderman had his own agenda and therefore had also hesitated on disclosing the information to Klink.
“Do ya hear me? Hogan?!” Linderman continued to aim the pistol squarely on Klink.
Leaning on Newkirk and Kinch for support, Hogan answered, “Put it down, Linderman. It’s over.”
“Never!” Linderman began to squeeze the trigger.
A single shot, its normally deafening roar muffled as a result of the powdery snow, startled the group, and Klink clutched his chest. But as he quickly and shakily checked his hand, he noticed there was no blood, and nor was there an ounce of pain. Looking past his trembling hand, the kommandant watched Linderman fall forward and collapse in the white, wintery landscape. Within seconds, a trickle of crimson liquid discolored the innocence of Mother Nature’s purest decor.
Silence descended on the compound, and every man – both the prisoners and the Germans – stared in bewilderment. Schultz emerged from the side of the kommandant’s office, shivering from nerves, the tip of his rifle smoking in the frigid air.
“H-Herr Kommandant,” he stammered. “I-I beg to report, Herr Kommandant, but I have shot the escaped prisoner.”
Flooding with relief, Hogan grabbed onto Kinch as he felt his knees finally give way, and the Black sergeant clutched onto him.
“Andrew, take an arm,” Kinch insisted. The young sergeant did as he was told, and they hoisted him back up.
Klink turned toward the small band of allies, and he hurried over to them at once. Seeing that Hogan was losing consciousness, he said sternly, “Take him to my quarters. Schnell, schnell!” He then pivoted around, and indicating to Linderman’s corpse, he ordered, “Remove that body from this camp.”
Unable to hide their extreme joy at the sudden turn of events, the men smiled broadly, and with great care, they started guiding Hogan in the direction of the kommandant’s quarters. As they climbed the steps and were about to enter the building, Klink saw the colonel look up at him, a small fire rekindling in his eyes.
“I want hot water and white bread for me and all my men from now til the end of the war,” Hogan said weakly but with a sly grin.
Klink, feelings of remorse and sheer stupidity overtaking him, agreed. “Request granted. Take him inside.”
Two weeks had passed.
The snow from the unseasonable storm had melted, and the inhabitants of Stalag 13 embraced a mild spell that warmed their beings and their souls. For the most part, things had gotten back to normal within the camp’s boundaries. Nobody talked much of the events that occurred during “the bad snow,” as they called it.
However, there had been one unsettling discovery shortly after Linderman had been gunned down by Schultz.
After Hogan’s men had situated their commanding officer in Klink’s quarters, they had returned to the tunnel to clean up the mess directly under where the colonel rested. Finding Steiner’s body, they removed the corpse, and with the help of the Underground, they were certain nobody would ever find him. But what troubled the men was that Schmidt was gone. Unbelieving, they searched the tunnel countless times, and each time, they came up empty. At night, they searched the woods. And during the day, they searched the camp. And every time...nothing. Schmidt had vanished into thin air, and they came to the disturbing conclusion that he must have been wearing a bullet-proof vest, one that protected him from the front and the back. Distraught over the terrifying information, they eventually broke the news to Hogan.
After spending several days and nights in a frightful state, the colonel had eventually begun to recover. By the end of the week, his temperature had returned to normal, and soon after, he felt he was ready to return to his barracks. Nothing made Hogan happier, but after learning of his men’s news, he isolated himself in his office for days, venturing out only for roll calls and little else. But soon, he did garner his mental strength, and on the two-week anniversary of “the bad snow,” he emerged from his office.
“How’s it going?” he asked, his men a little startled to see him up and about, and talking to them.
“Fine, Sir,” Kinch said, casting curious looks around the table.
“Any news from London?” Hogan continued, pouring cup of coffee and casting a sideways glance at the group seated at the table.
“Been a bit quiet today,” Newkirk offered cautiously. “Not much going on, I suppose.”
“I knitted a pair of socks,” Carter jabbered, causing the men to scowl at him. Even Hogan wrinkled his nose. “W-well, I did! My cousin Jenny sent me a ball of yarn and knitting instructions!”
“That’s great, Andrew,” the colonel sighed.
“Can I get you some soup, Colonel?” LeBeau asked, trotting to the stove and lifting up the lid on the pot.
Feeling hungry, Hogan agreed to whatever LeBeau might have cooking, and the Frenchman started spooning out some of the liquid into a cup. Placing it before the colonel, he took a seat at the table beside him.
Hogan stared at the soup and wrinkled his brow. “I never thanked you fellas. For that day. Out in the compound. What you did.”
An uneasy silence fell on the barracks. It had been the first time the colonel had mentioned that day since they had informed him of Schmidt.
“A-Anyway,” he stuttered, trying to find the words, “I don’t blame any of you for what happened, and I’ll always be grateful.” Hogan looked up and met each of their eyes.
None of the men knew what to say, but Kinch was the one who finally spoke.
“It was a bad time, but we all got through it. And now, it’s behind us, so we go on, right Sir?”
Nodding in agreement and satisfied with the answer, Hogan took a sip of the soup, which, to his delight, tasted even better than he could have imagined.
At that moment, Schultz barged into the barracks.
“Hey Schultzy,” LeBeau greeted him.
“How’s our honorary hero?” Kinch added, to which the hefty sergeant grinned. But as he fumbled in his coat pocket, he timidly announced, “Mail call!”
Prisoners attacked from every direction, and after the stampede subsided, Schultz picked himself up from the floor. “Colonel Hogan, I always leave here after mail call with footprints all over my coat!”
“Adds character to the epaulets, Schultz,” Hogan remarked, laughing softly.
Taking a peek into the pot and tasting LeBeau’s creation, Schultz oooed and ahhhed. Then, handing an envelope to Hogan, he said, “Colonel Hogan, this letter is for you.”
“Oh, ok. Thanks, Schultz,” Hogan said somewhat cheerfully as the sergeant of the guard found his way to the door and exited the building.
“Another get well card, Sir?” Carter chuckled. “Which girl this time?”
The colonel grinned slightly, liking the idea that a few of his ex-girlfriends had sent him letters and cards from back home. “Maybe,” he said with a slight sparkle, “this one’s from Pauline.” Pulling the letter out of the envelope, he unfolded the sheet of paper. But when his eyes fell on the writing, his smile disappeared.
His men took notice instantly, and Newkirk asked, “Who’s it from?”
With unsteady hands, Hogan spread the paper flat out onto the table, and the men gasped. Taped neatly onto the page were a dozen dead fire ants. On the paper, the words “Until after the war,” were scrawled in a penmanship so demonic it sent chill down Hogan’s spine and throughout his entire soul.
“Blimey,” Newkirk said in a hushed tone.
Seeing the facial reactions of the men around him, Hogan immediately crumpled up the paper and tossed it into the stove, where it flared up and then burned to an unrecognizable mass of charcoal.
“Sir, we’d never...,” Kinch started, but Hogan put his hand up to silence him.
“It’s alright, Kinch. Look, don’t you fellas worry about anything. I’ve already got some people in London and in the Pentagon working on tracking this monster. He’s sure to have a starring role in the War Crimes trials.”
They silently agreed, but in the backs of each of their minds, they wondered what would happen if Schmidt were never found. Their reveries were interrupted by Carter, who said suddenly, “Hey, who wants to go have a game of basketball? I-I don’t know about you guys, but, I feel like making some hoops.”
“Would that be basket hoops or knitting hoops?” Newkirk teased, and Carter pulled a face.
“Sounds like a fine idea to me,” Kinch affirmed.
Eagerly, Carter jumped up from the table and said, “Great! I’ll go get the ball!”
Following Carter, the men pushed each other out of the barracks talking about sports and who would get to take first shot.
“Comin’ Colonel?” Kinch asked as he held the door open, waiting for Hogan to join them.
Knowing full well what they were doing and appreciating them all the more for it, Hogan rose from the table, and forcing a smile, said, “Yeah....Yeah, I think I will.” Gliding across the room, he took the doorknob from his sergeant, and with a quick tug, shut the door to the barracks behind him. The mental door to his deepest fears, however, remained wide open, and as he found a spot beneath the hoop on the water tower, Hogan tried to push the dark thoughts from his mind. Catching the basketball and passing it over to Newkirk, the colonel knew that no amount of avoidance would permit the door leading to his anguish to ever fully close.
Text and original characters copyright 2006 by Melissa Ciesmann
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.