Hogan, Hitler and Baby Makes Three
2003 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
I do not own the Hoganís Heroes characters. The story is solely of my own imagination.
The brilliant sunshine did nothing to brighten up the place. Everywhere he looked, the camp was a drab, depressing gray. From the weathered wood of the buildings, to the rusty barbed wire of the fence, to the dusty, dirty, grassless earth of the compound, as far as the eye could see, the world was gray. Colonel Robert Hogan took a deep breath and blew out his frustration in a 'whoosh'. "I hope someone out there in the real world appreciates this", he thought, as an errant escape fantasy flitted through his mind once again. Although he had been in and out of camp so many times he could not number the trips anymore, each time he returned it was to the same dull, dreary POW camp he remembered.
Hogan had resided in Luftstalag 13, along with a thousand or so other men who were Allied prisoners of war captured by the Germans, for the past two years. The German Kommandant, Colonel Wilhelm Klink, took pride in the camp's spotless "No Escape" record. Just as Klink was proud of his contribution to the German war effort, the prisoners were proud of their offering to the Allies. The unsuspecting Klink had no idea that his camp was the hub of the sabotage and espionage network that wreaked havoc in the entire western half of Germany. Thus far, the POW's of Stalag 13, under the command of the Senior Prisoner of War Officer, United States Army Air Corps Colonel Robert E. Hogan, had assisted countless airmen to escape Nazi Germany, destroyed innumerable factories, bridges and various other structures, and passed along vital information through the vast Unde ground spy network. Going by the code name "Papa Bear", Hogan and his men had proven themselves to be an invaluable part of the Allies opposition to the German attempt at world domination.
The sound of a loud yawn in the ranks behind him brought Hogan out of his sunshine-drowsed reverie. An amused half-grin lit his face as he recognized the sound of one of the enlisted men blowing off steam by having a little fun with Sergeant Schultz, the affable, rotund Sergeant Major of the Guard. "Achtung!" Schultz yelled, then continued taking roll of the prisoners. Colonel Klink was going through another of his 'fired up' phases, and was making roll call a more frequent occurrence this week.
A muttering began in the prisoners' ranks, which quickly became a dull roar. "Schultzie, come on, you know we are all here!" Hogan recognized Corporal Louis LeBeau's French accent among the catcalls. Because of his cooking ability, the diminutive Frenchman was a favorite of the chubby guard.
"Who'd want to leave this little bit o' paradise?" Corporal Peter Newkirk couldn't resist adding. The dark-haired Englishman's voice carried well in the open air of the compound.
"You just checked us two hours ago. No one's going to leave before dinner!" Private Ed Bailey, an American prisoner famous for his appetite, yelled out, amid groans from his comrades at the thought of another bland POW camp meal.
"Achtung! There is to be no talking among the prisoners while I am coun-ting!" Schultz was becoming distracted by the heckling. "This must stop immediately!"
Hogan joined in, "Ah, Schultz, everybody's here. We're just wasting time." At their commanding officer's comments, the prisoners decided the roll call was over and began dispersing back to their barracks.
Schultz looked up, just in time to see the men's formation dissolving before his eyes, and shouted "No, Colonel Hogan. The men must stay until I have finished counting them. By orders of the Kommandant. Everybody back, back, back!"
Schultz was left standing in the dirt in front of the barracks, clipboard in hand. Shrugging his shoulders, he muttered, "I guess everybody was here."
The distant sound of a motor vehicle approaching caused Hogan to stop at the doorway to Barracks 2. He turned and watched as a staff car appeared at the gates to Stalag 13. Corporal LeBeau and Corporal Newkirk, with Sergeant Andrew Carter following along behind, passed the open doorway on the inside of the barracks, but seeing their CO's gaze riveted on the nearing vehicle, immediately ceased their chatter to join the watch. The staff car's motor was making a loud racket, and obviously had a mechanical problem of some sort. As the car came to a stop in front of the Kommandant's office, a cloud of smoke and steam began to creep from under the hood.
"What in the world-" Sergeant James Kinchloe joined the others in the doorway. "Looks like he's got a big problem." Usually a man of few words, the black sergeant broke the silence this time with his observation.
As the doors to the staff car opened, a woman with bright auburn hair emerged from the backseat of the vehicle. She was dressed in a loose-fitting cloak, and kept her back to the gawking prisoners as she waited outside the vehicle. Glancing over her shoulder as the wolf whistles carried across the compound, her eyes scanned the line of POWs before settling on the raven-haired, handsome Hogan for an instant. The opposite door had yielded a man dressed in the uniform of a Luftwaffe Major, and as he walked around the car to the woman's side, she turned back around. The driver stood at attention until he received his instructions from the Major, and then immediately raised the hood of the car to survey the damage to the car's engine.
With a curiosity that relied on his instincts, Colonel Hogan half-turned to his men, giving orders to them while still watching the visitors. "Kinch, Newkirk-go see what you can find out without being too obvious. I'll be back soon." Hogan took two steps toward the Kommandant's of ice when Carter's voice stopped him.
"What about me, sir?" Hogan turned to see Carter's hopeful gaze fixed on him, awaiting his assignment. The sergeant was a good man with explosives and chemicals, but sometimes his boyishness was out of place in a POW camp in the heart of Nazi Germany.
Looking at the young American, Hogan answered dryly, "Just hang loose, Carter. If we need to blow them up later, you'll be the first to know!" As Hogan moved away, he realized that his men were remaining stationary. He turned to see their eyes still transfixed on the woman. He had been concentrating on the situation at hand, and hadn't noticed the whistles and catcalls of his men. He thought to himself, it's been too long since we've seen any woman but Hilda. The Kommandant's secretary, Hilda was a nice-looking woman, but had been on leave from her job for over a month seeing to her elderly parents. Rolling his eyes heavenward and giving his head a small, resigned shake, Hogan grabbed the shoulders of the two men nearest him, LeBeau and Carter, and gave a small push. "Come on fellas. Show's over."
Newkirk snapped out of his daydream, exclaiming "Beggin' the colonel's pardon, but the show looks pretty good from these seats, sir!"
"Oui, colonel. Look at her hair: she is magnifique!" LeBeau breathlessly added.
Hogan glanced around, noticing then that his barracks mates had been joined by many more prisoners, and now nearly every eye in the prison camp yard was staring at the woman standing outside the Kommandant's office. He frowned, realizing that the woman's companion, the Major, would also soon realize that several hundred men's gazes were riveted on the only female within the compound. Not yet having a full grasp of the situation at hand, the last thing he wanted was to offend the visiting Kraut Major and end up having some of his men get hurt in the process. Quickly asserting his authority, Hogan snapped, "Ok, everybody go back to what you were doing. You act like you've never seen a girl before." With a meaningful glance to a couple of his senior NCO's, Hogan gave the men an unspoken order to control their subordinates, then turned back toward the Kommandant's office.
Kinchloe leaned his head under the hood alongside the German soldier, saying, "Looks like engine trouble." The sound of the American's voice startled the other man, who jumped and banged his helmet on the underside of the car's hood. The German immediately spun and reached for his sidearm. Kinchloe quickly jumped back, raising his hands in the characteristic pose of surrender. "Easy. No harm intended."
The German stood with his handgun pointed at Kinchloe's heart. Kinchloe felt his mouth go dry as he looked into the German's hatred-filled eyes. Sergeant Schultz was the lone camp guard in the immediate vicinity of the staff car. At the visiting sergeant's action, he and the prisoners had gone completely still and quiet. The American sergeant suddenly found it difficult to breathe as he stared down the barrel of the gun.
Hogan had just reached the steps to the Kommandant's office when he heard the clunk of the German driver's helmet striking the hood as he raised from examining the car's motor. Glancing over his shoulder, his eyes widened, realizing one of his men was in trouble. He knew that at many internment camps, prisoner executions were common, and viewed secretly by the German command as a valuable tool to keep the prisoners in line. But so far, Colonel Klink and his men had spared the POW's under their supervision from the shootings and murder that had become commonplace elsewhere, and Hogan wanted to keep it that way. Turning quickly back toward the front of the staff car, he approached the German sergeant with caution. Skirting to the German's left, Hogan caught a quick view of Newkirk's face, with those keen eye watching every move, ready for action if necessary. As Hogan walked slowly into the German's sight, he spoke, "I'm the senior POW officer. What's the problem, Sergeant?"
The German seemed to snap out of a trance, but didn't remove his eyes from Kinchloe. As the German placed the gun back into his holster, the Allied prisoners seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. He spoke, grating out in heavily accented English, "Keep away the Negro from my sight."
Hogan looked at the German sergeant for a moment, the thinly veiled hostility that he constantly tried to conceal bubbling just beneath the surface, threatening to erupt at any moment. In a tight voice, he said, "Kinch, back to the barracks. That goes for the rest of you men, too." The Allied prisoners turned and walked back toward their barracks, muttering as they went. Giving the German sergeant one last measuring look, Hogan turned and walked up the steps into the Kommandant's office.
As he reached the relative quiet of the inside of the building's entryway, Hogan closed the door behind him and leaned against the doorpost for a moment, trying to gather his composure over the sound of his own pounding heart. "Oh God", he breathed as he closed his eyes. Taking another deep breath, Hogan shook off the deep emotions he felt as he realized how close he had come once again to losing a member of his team, not to mention one of his best friends; a man who, like the others in his unit, had become like a brother to him. "Ok. No time to go all soft now. Let's go." And with that thought, he turned the doorknob to the Kommandant's office, removed his hat and strode purposefully into the room.
"Hello, Kommandant. I see you have guests. Hello, Major, Miss-" Hogan blinked as he noticed the red-haired woman had removed her cloak, revealing an obvious pregnancy. "Uh, err, ma'am, I mean." Hogan seldom found himself surprised by any situation, but the smart comment he had been about to make seemed out of place now. He turned to Colonel Klink and opened his mouth to speak, but barely got the word "Kommandant" out before Klink interrupted.
"Colonel Hogan, you must leave now." Colonel Klink's obvious discomfort at his unexpected guests showed in the nervous energy he was displaying. "Sergeant-" Klink yelled, as Sergeant Schultz lumbered into the room to stand behind Colonel Hogan.
"Yes, Kommandant?" Schultz asked.
Colonel Klink waved a hand to forestall the argument he knew Hogan was about to launch. "Hogan, if you have something you wish to discuss with me, it will have to wait until later. I am very, very busy right now. Schultz, escort Colonel Hogan to the barracks and see that we are not disturbed again."
Hogan closed his mouth. Glancing between the three people in the office, he realized that he would probably get nowhere here, and that arguing would possibly cause Klink to lose a bit of clout as well. Knowing there would be an opportunity to get answers later, he turned to leave. Speaking over his shoulder to the visiting couple, he said, "Nice meeting you."
The Major pointedly ignored Hogan's polite comment, but the woman, darting a glance at her companion's face, spoke, "It's nice meeting you as well, Colonel."
Hogan froze, the sound of the woman's voice startling him. She was American! His eyes searched her face for a moment, narrowing as he noticed the woman flinch at the German officer's grip on her upper arm. A tiny sound escaped the woman's throat as a flush began to creep up her cheeks. Hogan looked at the Major, then back at the woman. Although tempted to ask the woman who she was and why she was here, the ostile glint in the Major's eyes caused Hogan to swallow his questions for now. He turned and closed the office door behind him.
As he strode out into the bright sunshine once again, Hogan thought to himself, "Now this is an interesting turn of events."
Back in the barracks, Hogan took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dimness of the room. The large common room was empty except for Bailey, the American airman, who was acting as sentry. "In there, Colonel", he spoke quietly, jerking his head in the direction of Hogan's private quarters. Opening the door, Hogan saw the other men gathered around the table, coffeepot partially dismantled, listening to a speaker that was wired to a small hidden microphone in Kommandant Klink's office.
As Hogan entered, Carter looked up at him with a wide grin. "Oh, boy, Colonel, sir. You're not gonna believe this!"
Hogan's expression became concerned, as he feared the worst. He joined the men around the table, listening closely to the scene unfolding in Klink's office.
The microphone crackled a little. Damn, he thought, we need to rewire this badly. Suddenly, the connection was very clear. "Major Schmidt," Klink was saying, "She's no relation-at all?" The anxiety in his voice was apparent.
The Major replied, "Nein. She is only important to Field Marshal von Trammel for personal reasons."
"Personal reasons? Then why will she require a guard, if the Major doesn't mind my asking?" Klink's voice wobbled; he was obviously a bundle of nerves.
"Doesn't Klink know that curiosity killed the Kraut?" Newkirk observed dryly, his fingers idly twirling an unlit cigarette, as the others smiled at his comment.
On the other end of the wire, the Major snapped, "Field Marshal von Trammel's personal business is just that-PERSONAL!"
The hidden microphone crackled with static again, then cleared. In a whiny voice, Klink agreed, "Of course, Herr Major. Of course. I couldn't agree with you more." His tone brightening somewhat, the Kommandant changed the subject, "Here at Stalag 13, we always do our best to make our guests feel at home. We're not only famous for our spotless record-there has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13-but we are also known all over Germany for our hospitality! If there is anything you want or need, please do not hesitate to ask and it will be provided for you and Fraulein Hitler."
Hogan replaced the lid to the coffeepot, blinked a couple of times, then looked at his men. In a voice that was a couple of notes higher than normal, he asked, "Did he say Fraulein Hitler?"
"We couldn't believe it either when he said it, Colonel." Kinchloe said, shaking his head.
With his typical boyish observations, Carter gushed, "Yeah, she doesn't look anything like him!"
Newkirk rolled his eyes, reaching up to swat Carter's aviator cap. "Blimey, Andrew, I'm 'opin' that all the females in your family don't look exactly like you, either!"
Carter, in his innocence, gave a wide-eyed retort, "Why, no, not exactly, but we all have kinda the same color of hair, and one of my cousins on my father's side is nearly 6 feet tall! Why, she's so tall-"
"Ok, ok." Hogan interrupted, as Carter began to warm to the subject, "Let's take a look at what we know."
Newkirk wisecracked, "Absolutely nothing."
Wryly amused, Hogan quipped, "Well, we never let that stop us before." Becoming serious, he continued, "So we know the woman is American, she's important to Field Marshal von Trammel, and because of that, to Major Schmidt, but he says it's not because her name is Hitler. And we know she is expecting very soon." Hogan rubbed his chin as he thought about the puzzle in front of them, not noticing the men exchange surprised looks.
"Sir," Kinchloe ventured into the silence. "What did you say?"
Engrossed in thought, Hogan didn't answer right away. After a moment, LeBeau's curiosity got the better of him, and he rephrased Kinchloe's question. "Colonel? Did you say 'expecting'?" he asked.
"Expecting what?" Carter interjected.
Sending Carter another disgusted look, Newkirk answered, "Like in 'aving a baby, Andrew!"
Hogan looked at the men, their questions finally registering through his deep concentration. "A baby? Yes, she's expecting a baby."
At that moment, the door of the private quarters opened, and Bailey stuck his head inside. "Schultz is coming." He announced quietly.
Hogan arose, walking swiftly through the inner door, into the common room, and to the outer door. He arrived at the outer barracks door just as Schultz opened it and entered the dimly lit building. The big sergeant jumped, startled at Hogan's sudden appearance. "What is it, Schultz?" Hogan asked, secretly enjoying the other man's discomfort.
"Oh, Colonel Hogan, you mustn't always surprise me like that! I am not a young man!" Schultz exclaimed breathlessly. "Colonel Klink will see you in his office now. But he warned me to tell you-he will not answer questions about our guests."
LeBeau entered the common room, exclaiming, "But Schultzie, how can we be proper hosts if we don't know what our guests like?" Schultz obviously tightened his lips, his intention not to talk becoming clear as the prisoners began to ply him with questions that were disguised as friendly 'small talk'.
"How long are they staying, Schultz?" Hogan asked conversationally. As Schultz lifted his chin into the air, remaining silent, Hogan added, "Klink won't mind if you tell us that much. It wouldn't be revealing any military secrets to let us know how long we're going to have to be on tiptoes around Trigger-Happy Hans out there."
Schultz raised his eyebrows, closed his eyes and turned his head slightly to the left in what the prisoners recognized as a typical Schultz "I'm not talking" motion, remaining in that position until the diminutive French corporal drew a cookie beneath his upturned nose. The chubby German sergeant's eyes immediately popped open, searching for the source of the tantalizing aroma. As his eyes widened and followed the cookie's path, Schultz suddenly became more talkative.
"I only know that they will be here until another car arrives to carry them to Berlin. The Major-he is not very friendly-says we must guard the Fraulein at all times. She is very important to a Field Marshal." Schultz began to salivate as thoughts of the cookie began to overtake his mind.
As LeBeau assisted the questioning by shaking the pack of cookies for emphasis, Hogan casually asked the fat sergeant, "What's an American girl doing here, Schultz? She a special guest of Uncle Adolf?" Hogan used the American servicemen's nickname for Hitler.
Schultz opened his mouth to protest Hogan's disrespect towards the Fuhrer, then laughed deep in his belly as he realized the American was kidding with him. Though not fully understanding the jest, the German good-naturedly cried, "Oh, jolly joker, Colonel Hogan. The girl, she is not his niece!" Schultz referred o Hitler, in a roundabout way confirming what the prisoners had heard over the speaker system about the woman's identity. "She used to be in a women's POW camp. I heard the major tell the big shot she claims to be a nurse. Can I please have the cookie now, cockroach?" Schultz resorted to begging.
LeBeau teased the German with the cookie a moment longer, then allowed him to take it from his hand. Schultz stuffed it into his mouth, savoring the flavor a moment, then talked again through a mouth full of cookie crumbs. "I think the Kommandant wants a special meal for tonight. He is trying to impr ss the Major."
Newkirk observed, "The Kommandant's a colonel, what does 'e care about impressing a mere major?" As Schultz hesitated before answering, the Englishman grabbed another cookie from LeBeau and waved it around, enjoying teasing the German sergeant.
"As I said, I cannot answer any questions, I must ask you to come to the Kommandant's office at once, Colonel Hogan." Schultz had quickly eaten the second cookie, and was heading out the door.
Allowing the rotund sergeant to proceed outside a few paces ahead of him, Hogan spoke quietly to Kinchloe, "See what London knows about this situation." At Kinchloe's affirmative nod, Hogan followed Schultz into the sunlight.
"Colonel? Thanks for seeing me so quickly." Hogan announced, striding into the Kommandant's office without waiting to gain permission and making a beeline for the cigar humidor.
Reaching across the desk and pushing the humidor shut, Colonel Wilhelm Klink eyed the American colonel with disdain. Hogan had never shown his German counterpart the proper courtesy and respect that Klink knew was his due. Furthermore, the American behaved as if he were in command of the camp, instead of Klink. Although Klink knew that he was fully within his rights to demand Hogan's complete subordination, he also suspected that the American was not one he would choose to anger. A man such as Klink did not rise to the rank of colonel in Nazi Germany without having a fair understanding of whom one should cross and whom one should not. But this American-he just did not seem to have the proper military bearing, nor the regard for authority that his station demanded. As senior POW, Hogan was expected to set an example for the other men, but he did not appear to have the seriousness in his countenance that wartime should evoke. Klink imperceptibly shook his head at this thought, but then he recalled the amount of respect and genuine admiration that the other Allied prisoners seemed to bestow on Hogan. It just didn't seem to fit. "Oh, well," he thought to himself, "if all American officers are like Colonel Hogan, perhaps that is how Germany will win the war!"
Hogan began, "Kommandant, the men have a few concerns that I have been wanting to discuss with you." Sniffing his stolen stogie appreciatively, he sat down casually and waited for Klink to speak.
"Concerns? What concerns?" Klink asked warily.
Hogan answered, "Oh, just a few little minor things that we probably ought to clear up before they mushroom. Here, I've made a list." He reached into his pocket, fumbling a moment and then producing the list. As he held it in front of the Kommandant's vision, he allowed the paper to unfold, holding the top of the page suspended above his head, while the bottom dropped to the floor. The German Colonel frowned at the lengthy list, and Hogan awaited the reaction he knew would be forthcoming.
"I cannot address any demands by the prisoners right now. I have much more important things on my mind. Your "little list" will just have to wait. Now," Klink began, "Colonel Hogan, as you know, we have guests with us for a short while. I am asking that your men be on their best behavior while the Major is with us. He has asked that dinner be served at 7 o'clock this evening, and since it's not a usual occurrence for us to host someone who is so well connected as Major Schmidt, I thought it would be a good idea to have the little Frenchman prepare a special meal tonight. In fact, perhaps if they remain here another day, he could also prepare those meals, as well." Klink's eyes stared into the distance, taking on a faraway look. "Yes, that should make a fine impression on the Fiel Marshal. Yes."
Hogan lifted one dark eyebrow, pausing in his act of refolding the list. "Field Marshal? I thought you said he was a Major." The American colonel played his role well, leading Klink where he wanted him to go.
Klink responded by waving a hand in a dismissive gesture, "I'm not talking about Schmidt. He is on Field Marshal von Trammel's personal staff." A gleam came into his eyes. "If all goes well, I may finally get those stars I deserve!" Klink's voice raised several notes toward the end of the sentence, his excitement becoming apparent.
"What kind of food does he want for his wife? I don't know if LeBeau can come up with any pickles and ice cream on such short notice, Kommandant." Hogan interjected mildly, then waited to see how Klink would answer.
"Pickles? Ice Cream? Whatever for?" Klink's obvious look of puzzlement caused Hogan to grit his teeth in frustration.
Silently cursing the Kommandant's denseness, but at the same time grateful for that quality in the man, Hogan elaborated on his earlier statement. "Because she's, well, you know...and the Major will no doubt want his wife to be happy, especially in her condition. You're a man of the world, Kommandant, and you know how women can get, with their cravings and all when they are, well, you know." Hogan gave the German colonel a nod and then winked conspiratorially at him, smiling.
Klink preened under Hogan's flattery. A man of the world, indeed! "Oh, yes, of course. Women! Yes." He suddenly remembered he hadn't answered Hogan's question. "I don't think the Major is that interested in what the lady would like to have for dinner." Then, leaning toward Hogan and speaking in a whisper, he added, "She isn't his wife."
Hogan feigned astonishment, exclaiming, "Not his wife? Kommandant, surely you aren't allowing the Major to make light with Field Marshal von Trammel's wife right under your roof, are you?" Then, adding sternly, "Sir, you should be ashamed of yourself." Klink's mouth fell open at Hogan's scolding, but before he could deny the charges, Hogan continued in a helpful tone, "You should also start thinking about warmer clothing." Hogan leaned back in his chair, making a show of carefully studying the pilfered cigar.
"Oh, Hogan, she's not the Field Marshal's wife. Of course not." As Hogan's last words sank in, Klink leaned forward again in his chair, a sudden panicked look overtaking his features. "Did you say warmer clothing?"
Hogan repressed a smile, plastering a serious look on his face while silently congratulating himself on his acting ability. He whispered, "If the Major is fooling around with another man's wife, especially someone important to a Field Marshal, that equals Russian Front. And you sir," he added the coup de grace, "are an accessory." Hogan leaned casually back in his chair, crossing his legs and twirling the cigar in his fingers.
Klink's eyebrows shot up, dislodging his monocle from its resting place. His mouth formed a surprised "O" for a moment, then he recovered his composure, gesturing dismissively to Hogan, "No, it's nothing like that. The woman is a prisoner, nothing more."
"A prisoner who is very important to a high ranking German officer? I'd call that a little more than your run-of-the-mill prisoner, wouldn't you, Kommandant?" Hogan remarked casually, then assumed his command demeanor, adding quickly, "But since she's a prisoner, as you say, and an American, as the senior POW officer here at Stalag 13, it's my duty to speak with all incoming prisoners under the jurisdiction of this camp."
"Impossible." Colonel Klink looked back at the paperwork spread out on his desk. As Hogan began to argue, Klink added, "Hogan, I assure you, this does not concern you. Have the Frenchman prepare dinner to be served at 7 o'clock this evening in my quarters. Sergeant Schult will see that he has everything he requires. Dismissed!" By way of returning the Kommandant's quick salute, Hogan flicked his fingertips off the edge of his cap and exited the office.
Outside the Kommandant's building, Hogan glanced across the compound before stepping off the porch. A group of prisoners stood in the sunshine outside Barracks 8, soaking up the sunshine that was so rare in this part of Germany. A slight movement caught Hogan's eye near the corner of the command office. As he watched, the German sergeant who had driven Major Schmidt's car puffed on a cigarette and spoke quietly with one of the camp guards, a young private named Braun who was eager to impress the more important and higher-ranking sergeant. The men shared a laugh, and although their words were spoken too quietly for Hogan to hear, their meaning became clear as the sergeant pointed his hand toward the men congregated outside the barracks, forming the shape of a gun with his thumb and forefinger. A chill went up Hogan's spine, while his thoughts centered on finding a way to keep his men safe until these visitors were no longer a threat. He looked carefully at the camp guard who was enjoying the sergeant's game, vowing to remember his face. He had a feeling that the young private would soon screw up badly and need a transfer. Smiling secretly, he thought, in fact, I'm sure we can arrange it!
Entering Barracks 2, Hogan looked around quickly for his radioman and chief of operations, Sergeant Kinchloe. Not seeing him in the large common room, Hogan went straight to his personal quarters, the smaller private room at the north end of the building. Kinchloe was seated at the small desk, looking at several slips of paper in his hand, obviously awaiting his commanding officer's return.
"What do you have, Kinch?" Hogan went straight to the point, as he propped one foot on the chair rung and leaned over on his knee.
"London sent this, Colonel. Looks like our visitor is a surprise to them, too." He said as he handed Hogan the information from headquarters.
Hogan frowned as he read the communiqué. He looked over his shoulder as LeBeau, Carter and Newkirk came into the room. "What do they say about the lady, Colonel?" Carter anxiously blurted out.
Newkirk frowned, admonishing "Be patient, Andrew. The colonel's still reading the message."
Hogan read a moment longer, then with his eyes still on the message, spoke to his men. "According to London, if the lady is who she says she is, she's Miss Helen Hitler, of Michigan. She's a nurse who went missing when the unit she was with was overrun a year or so ago in France during a surprise attack. She's not military. She's affiliated with a private religious group that was assisting with a field hospital. She was presumed dead, but her body was never found. HQ says they had received no communication rom the Germans acknowledging she was captured." Hogan paused thoughtfully, considering the situation.
"Mon colonel, what about her condition?" LeBeau asked delicately. "Can we help her get to safety?"
"London says they have no knowledge of why the girl is important to the German high command. They advise us to stand down on this situation, until we receive further instructions." Hogan stood, turning to his men and changing the subject. "Klink wants a special meal for tonight. LeBeau, he wants you to serve dinner at 7 o'clock. I told him you would be happy to help him out." Hogan grinned at LeBeau's obvious distaste for the chore he was to perform. The little Frenchman loved to cook, but he considered it a form of torture to be forced to use his culinary skills for the Germans.
"Oui, Colonel." LeBeau acquiesced with a dejected look on his face.
As the Frenchman turned away, Hogan suddenly thought how much he resembled a child who was being punished. Eyes twinkling with mischief, Hogan reached out and patted LeBeau on the shoulder. "Ah, come on, it's not that bad. Besides, you can always plan a little secret surprise for their main course."
LeBeau's eyes lit up at the thought of adding something utterly repulsive to the dishes he was preparing. A little demonic chuckle escaped his throat, as the others rolled their eyes at his sudden change of mood. "Ha, I wonder what is in the varmint trap today?" LeBeau rubbed his hands together, planning the meal as he walked away, obviously back in his element. Carter followed along, describing in full detail last night's catch from the box trap that had been set out under the supply shed.
Hogan walked across the room slowly, stopping in front of the single shuttered window to gaze across the compound. When it appeared he wasn't going to speak immediately, Newkirk and Kinchloe exchanged glances.
Kinchloe broke the silence. "Sir, are you going to try to speak with her, to find out what her situation is?"
Hogan turned, taking a deep breath and wrinkling his forehead as he pushed his service cap back a few degrees. "Yeah. It'll be difficult, but we'll try to make contact tonight. If she is being held against her will, then we'll have to try and think of something."
Newkirk frowned. "But Colonel, what about our orders? London made it clear we should back off for now."
The informal relationship between the men apparent, Hogan did not take offense when the enlisted man questioned him about their instructions. He answered, "I interpreted it to mean rescue-type action. And right now, all we'll be doing is a little information gathering. Two totally different things."
Kinchloe and Newkirk exchanged another look, this time a cross between frustration and admiration for their CO. Newkirk muttered, "Just another lovely day at the Luftstalag-rake a few leaves, pick up a few cigarette butts, get court martialed for disobeying orders from Headquarters..."
Soft music from a phonograph and tantalizing aromas from LeBeau's expertly prepared feast floated across the otherwise silent compound, as Colonel Klink's dinner party progressed. A lone guard stood in the darkness outside the building, the small red glow from his cigarette seeming to be a beacon in the pitch black night. Inside the building, the wine was flowing freely as Carter, dressed in a white shirt and bow tie, served the main course. LeBeau smiled, watching through the kitchen door as the German officers took large helpings of his 'special' creation. Helen Hitler moved as if to serve herself a bit of the meat, but Carter stopped her, exclaiming, "No, ma'am. Corporal LeBeau says that this is much too rich for a lady, you know, in your condition. He made something special for you." Carter grinned shyly at the young woman, a flush creeping up his cheeks as she smi ed back at him. "I'll be right back." Carter ran to the kitchen, returning in seconds with a small plate of sliced beef.
"Why, thank you!" Helen said, as Carter sat the plate in front of her. "This does look delicious." She cut a small piece of meat, tasting it delicately. "It IS delicious! My compliments to the chef." Her lips curved into a tiny smile, a promise of dimples appearing on either side of her mouth. Her bright red hair glinted with golden highlights in the candlelight. Carter stood staring, mesmerized by her beauty.
From his vantagepoint in the doorway, LeBeau realized that Carter was hesitating too long. "Pssssst!" He whispered out from the doorway.
Carter snapped out of his trance, suddenly remembering his surroundings. 'Yes, ma'am." He mumbled, heading back to the kitchen.
Inside the little room, the prisoners could watch the Germans without being too obvious. Klink and Major Schmidt were seated at the table, along with Helen Hitler. Sergeant Schultz, while present, was not considered by the officers to be a worthy guest. He was relegated to sitting off to the side near the doorway in a straight chair, licking his fingers with gusto as a plate of hors d'oerves rapidly disappeared from the table in front of him.
Colonel Hogan, Corporal Newkirk and the chef, Corporal LeBeau awaited the right moment. Finally, as Sergeant Carter was serving dessert, Hogan nodded to Newkirk. The Englishman removed a tiny vial from his pocket, carefully dropping a small amount into the three empty glasses on the serving tray, the minute amount of clear liquid undetectable to the unsuspecting eye. The fourth glass was a tumbler filled with milk. As the Germans retired to the sofas to enjoy their after-dinner drinks and cigars, Carter poured liquor into the spiked glasses from the Kommandant's carafe. He handed the glass of milk to Helen, who accepted it with a grateful smile.
Back in the kitchen, the Allied prisoners whispered quietly among themselves, waiting to make their move. Since the drug-induced sleep could be dangerous if it became very obvious, Newkirk had been instructed to use the smallest amount of sedative possible, to preclude any suspicion on the part of Major Schmidt. Hopefully, the Major would just assume he had drifted off to sleep after such an elaborate meal. As soon as the drug kicked in, there would be a precious little time to speak with the young American woman before the Germans would start to awaken again. Suddenly, a loud snore reverberated through the room, followed immediately by the sound of breaking glass.
Hogan peered around the doorframe, quickly finding the source of the noise. Schultz sat in the chair with his legs stretched in front of him, his arms dropped to his side, and his head lolled back, snoring loudly. The other two Germans, Klink and Schmidt, had dozed also, and were reclined comfortably on opposite ends of the sofa. Helen struggled to rise from her seat in the easy chair, and Hogan noticed the broken glass at her feet. He rushed to assist her, followed by the other prisoners. "Here, let us help you, Ma'am." He said, taking her arm as she finally stood.
"Thank you. I was just going to get a cloth to clean up this mess." She indicated with a sweep of her hand the spilled milk and broken glass. At Hogan's frown, Helen added, "That fat guard's snoring startled me. I dropped my glass." Looking the American officer in the eye, she asked in a desperate voice, "Colonel, can you help me escape?"
Hogan studied the redhead through narrowed eyes. He hadn't planned for her to make the first move, and especially not to request their assistance to escape right off the bat. He answered cautiously, "What makes you think we could help you escape? We're prisoners, too, in case you hadn't noticed."
Carter frowned, blurting out, "But Colonel-"
Hogan shushed him with a quick gesture, as Newkirk clapped his hand across Carter's mouth to forestall any further potentially revealing outbursts.
"I don't know that you can, but I'm hoping that you will. You see, I've got to get away from Major Schmidt before we get to Berlin." She glanced back at the German officers nervously, as if she expected them to awaken at any moment. "Colonel, I know it's asking a lot, but I need help desperately. Both for me and my baby." At that, she unconsciously laid a hand on top of her distended belly.
Hogan noted the motion of her hand, then his eyes met hers. The crystal blue orbs were watery with unshed tears, and he felt his natural masculine protective instincts kick in. He asked quietly, "What's going on? What are you doing in Germany, and why are you so important to the Krauts?"
Helen hesitated a moment, glancing once again at the sleeping Kraut officers. She answered, "It's not me. I'm not important at all. It's my baby." She raised her chin defiantly. "I've got to get out of Germany before this baby's born. I won't let them have it!"
Hogan noticed that her hands were shaking, and her face had grown pale. He guided her to a nearby chair at the opposite end of the room from where the Germans were napping. He knelt in front of her, producing a clean handkerchief from his pocket and handing it to her. As she dabbed her eyes, the other prisoners stood in a semi-circle a small distance away, but still within listening distance.
Hogan said, "Now, why don't you start at the beginning and tell me the whole story."
Helen sniffled, and managed a tiny smile. "Okay. I'll try." She took a deep breath and began. "I volunteered to serve as a nurse with the Christian Relief Brothers and Sisters. It's a small non-denominational group. I just wanted to help because all the boys from my neighborhood were getting drafted and we, us girls, were all so worried that they would get wounded and there wouldn't be anybody there to help them. So I ended up in France helping out in a field hospital." She paused a moment to look nervously across at the Germans once more. "Did you drug them or something?" She asked, sniffling again.
Newkirk spoke up softly, "Something." He grinned, obviously proud of his handiwork.
"Hmm. Good. If I could just get a few moments of peace away from that Nazi monster, I know I would feel much, much better. But anyway," Helen got back on her subject, continuing, "We were working on a new group of wounded, some of them were pretty bad, and we were helping the regular Army doctors and nurses, bringing them their supplies and fetching things for them. All of a sudden, there were German soldiers everywhere, and bombs exploding right and left. They were inside our hospital tents, grabbing people. There were gunshots, and I think some of the wounded soldiers were trying to fight them off, you know, the ones who weren't hurt as badly. But I couldn't tell, the lights went out and it got dark. It was just chaotic. The next thing I know, I am with some of the other people-a couple of regular Army nurses and a couple of doctors- from the field hospital in the back of a truck. They took us to a building with swastikas all over it. I guess it was their headquarters. I tried to tell them that I was a Christian volunteer, not a soldier, but they didn't act like they believed me. They separated us, and I never saw the others after that. I don't know what happened to them." She frowned as the painful memories of that day came flooding back. Forcing herself to go on, she said, "They asked me my name. I told them Helen Elizabeth Hitler." Obviously accustomed to negative reactions from people regarding her surname, she hurriedly added, "It's a common enough name. It was a good name until he--" she gestured tow rd the large framed picture of Adolf Hitler on the wall, "ruined it for all of us."
Hogan asked, "So what happened then? Where've you been for the past 14 months?"
"I've been in a camp-wait! How did you know it's been 14 months?" Helen exclaimed.
Hogan answered with a slight lift of one eyebrow. "Let's just say we have our sources."
She looked up for a moment, then back down at her hands. "That camp was pretty rough. I mean, I haven't always felt-well, safe."
"Well, there is a war on, miss." Newkirk observed dryly. Hogan shot him a silencing look.
"Go on. We don't have much time before our friends wake up." Hogan encouraged her to continue her story.
"Well, I was kept in a room by myself, I guess it was in a basement. It was cold and dark and kind of damp. One of the other prisoners," Helen choked a bit on the word, "told me that they always keep the new arrivals in those cells, in solitary confinement, for a day or two. But it was longer than that. I was so scared. I was so-I was-" She broke off, struggling to regain her composure.
Hogan looked at the woman before him. Although he knew it was necessary that he hear the circumstances behind her arrival at Stalag 13, he had a pretty good idea of what came next in her story. Feeling guilty for pushing her to speak, he took pity on her, saying quietly, "Just skip the rough parts, ok?"
Helen kept her eyes lowered to the twisted handkerchief in her fingers. Trying to build her courage, she spoke to herself, "No, I can do this." Taking an audible breath, she said quietly, "I know you won't judge me, you're prisoners, too. You know that sometimes-you know that they make you do things-I mean, it's different for you because you're men, but you understand." Obviously ashamed, she kept her eyes down, whispering a soft question, "don't you?"
Hogan caught Newkirk's eye over the top of Helen's head. The smoldering rage behind the American colonel's outwardly calm façade was apparent to the men who knew him so well, and the same anger was mirrored in their faces as well. "We're not here to judge you." He murmured gently.
His words seemed to have the desired effect, and after a brief hesitation, she returned to her story. "After a while-I don't know exactly how long, but it seemed like forever, even though I know it was only days-there was a new guard assigned to the solitary cells. He was older, and he seemed nice, like somebody's grandpa. He kept the other guards away. He wouldn't let them hurt me anymore." Her voice trailed off again, then after a brief pause, she went on, "Then I met Freddie."
In the silence, Carter's voice seemed loud as he suddenly asked, "Who's Freddie?" LeBeau and Newkirk, who shared an annoyed look at the American sergeant's expense, quickly shushed him.
Helen managed a tiny smile, and answered, "Freddie was Captain Frederick von Trammel. He was an officer at the camp, and Field Marshal von Trammel's son. He came to see me one day, I was kind of a curiosity to everyone, with my name and all. 'Hey, let's go salute the Fraulein Führer!' Real funny. I was saluted by every drunken German in that camp at one time or another, all except for Freddie. Freddie wasn't like that. He seemed kind, and really uncomfortable with the whole Nazi thing. He visited me every day after that for a couple of weeks, and I started to get more food, and it was warm, not ice cold like before. And then I was brought out of the cell, and told that I was to clean the officers' quarters. I could finally get warm again. I had been freezing cold for so long. I even got to sleep in a closet in the officers quarters." She stopped for a moment, looking around at the faces of the prisoners, trying to gauge their reaction to her tale. Pressing on, she continued, "So, over the next couple of months or so, I prayed a lot. And I made a point of praying out loud so that Freddie and the Kommandant, Major Guttenheim, could hear. It didn't seem to bother Freddie, and of course the Major would do whatever Freddie wanted, since Freddie's dad was a Field Marshall. He's really important."
At that, Newkirk snorted, muttering, "That's the understatement of the 'ole bloody war, miss," causing the other men to chuckle.
Helen continued her story, "One evening, after Major Guttenheim went to bed, I was washing the supper dishes and Freddie came into the kitchen. He had a really old, worn copy of an English New Testament. He told me that some of the men had confiscated it from another prisoner. It had a woman's name written in the front cover-Rosemarie. He asked that I study with him. So I did. Every night, after everybody else went to bed, we studied. And prayed. He didn't want to be in this war anymore than I did. He couldn't stop all of the cruelty in the camp, even if his dad was a bigwig, but after we began studying, things got a lot better for the other prisoners. He tried to make sure that what happened to me didn't happen to anybody else. He had those guards transferred, the ones who were so vicious. And, then it just kind of happened. The next thing I knew, Freddie and I were standing in front of the camp chaplain."
At those words, LeBeau jumped up from his perch on the edge of the coffee table. "What? What do you mean? You married him?"
The other men, Carter and Newkirk, began speaking, also, voicing their disbelief in Helen's audacity. "Blimey, miss, you married a Kraut captain?" Newkirk's voice was incredulous.
"Boy, you've got the nerve!" Carter exclaimed.
Hogan looked over his shoulder quickly to where the three Germans still napped. Frowning, he raised one hand toward his men, asking for quiet. "Enough." With his eyebrows knitted together, concern evident, he spoke to Helen. "Are you telling us you are actually married to Field Marshal von Trammel's son?"
Helen looked around uncertainly at the men, hesitating a moment before she spoke. "Well, I was married to him. For a little while. It was a secret ceremony. Freddie even swore the chaplain to secrecy." When the mumbling began again among the prisoners, she added in her own defense, "You don't understand. He loved me, and I loved him. He wasn't like the other ones. He was good and kind. He took care of me."
As she finished her statement, the men began to grumble once more, and Hogan admonished them to quiet down. "All right, knock it off. The next man who speaks out of turn is up for a court martial." At their commanding officer's serious tone, the men quieted, but LeBeau remained standing and turned away from the scene unfolding in the room. Hogan lifted one eyebrow in LeBeau's direction, but said nothing. He knew how passionately the little Frenchman hated the Germans, and also knew that LeBeau's emotions sometimes flared but would calm down later, when he had a chance to mull over the situation.
"Please, may I call you Helen?" Hogan asked gently. At the American woman's nod, he prodded, "All right, Helen, please, continue. And remember, you don't have to defend your actions to us."
Helen gave a wan smile, and said, "Well, to make a long story short, we were married. I don't think even Major Guttenheim knew for sure. I guess he just thought we were, well, um-" she paused, seeming to have difficulty finding the right phrase.
Carter supplied one for her. "Shackin' up?"
At the young sergeant's helpful offering, everyone smiled, except for LeBeau. Helen continued, "Yes, I guess so, sergeant. Then I realized I was going to have a baby. We were very happy, but scared. Freddie wanted to find a way to get us out of Germany. But he went to town one day, and didn't return by dark. We heard the air raid siren , but it's become so common, and then Major Guttenheim told me Freddie was gone, killed in the bombing raid." Helen sniffled a bit at this, but forged ahead. "The Major must have told Field Marshal von Trammel that I was going to have a baby soon, and that it was Freddie's. Freddie as the Field Marshal and Mrs. von Trammel's only child. This Major Schmidt character showed up and told me that the Field Marshal and his wife wanted to raise Freddie's baby in their home. I told them Freddie and I were married, but there was no proof, and Major Guttenheim said he knew nothing about it. So I asked Schmidt, What about me? And he said I could discuss the arrangements with the Field Marshal. But I heard him speaking to Major Guttenheim later that evening. I learned a lot of German in my months with Freddie, and I could understand most of what they were saying. He said that the Field Marshal was just going to keep me around until the baby was born, then 'dispose' of me. Colonel," Helen was pleading now, "I know we're in the middle of a war, but I want my baby. I can't let them raise this baby. Freddie told me about his father. There are a lot of really bad things going on here. The Field Marshal has been responsible for the deaths of so many little children. That's one of the things that turned Freddie against his country. He couldn't bear the thought of all those little children dying; some of them just because they weren't perfect, or needed medical care, or-or-more food, or even just because they were born to parents of a different faith. I want to raise my child the right way, not as some little Nazi monster. Please, can you help me?"
Hogan stood at the shuttered window in his room, gazing out the small crack between the wooden window covers at the moonlit sky. He felt torn between his orders from London and his conscience. Raising one corner of his mouth in a wry smile that resembled a grimace, he knew this wasn't the first time that had happened, nor would it be the last. But how could they just ignore this woman's plea for help? He knew LeBeau was upset. After they had awakened Schultz, and convinced him that he had been guarding the prisoners the entire time, Hogan and his men retired back to the barracks, while Helen went to bed in Klink's spare bedroom. Helen had mentioned that Major Schmidt had already commandeered the master suite, and Klink was relegated to the sofa for the night, although both men were still sleeping soundly on the sofa when the prisoners exited the building.
LeBeau hadn't spoken for what seemed like an eternity. When they walked into the barracks, Kinchloe had met them at the door with another message from headquarters. An underground agent would be meeting them at the Hofbrau the next night, presumably to pass along a list of locations and coordinates for the latest deployment of German troops. Kinchloe asked how the dinner in the Kommandant's quarters went, and everyone began speaking at once. Everyone, that is, except LeBeau. Finally, when they reached the part of the story about Helen's relationship with Captain von Trammel, LeBeau exploded in a string of French expletives. Hogan had silenced him with a curt order, then requested the little Frenchman join him in his quarters immediately.
Once inside, LeBeau had remained silent, standing at attention and staring at the wall with a dark look on his face. Hogan said, "I want to know what your problem is right now. And it had better be more than what I think it is." He folded his arms across his chest and waited, his serious expression communicating to his subordinate what words could not.
LeBeau answered quickly and emotionally. "Colonel, she has prostituted herself in exchange for a warm bed and now she asks our help. She is a whore and a collaborator." He spat out the accusations in a flurry of words to his commanding officer.
Hogan looked at the man in front of him, a man he knew had suffered greatly, and who had seen his friends and family suffer greatly, at the hands of the Nazis; yet his attitude angered the colonel. "You will never refer to her that way again, corporal. Is that understood?" Although he knew there was a chance that LeBeau was right, Hogan felt in his gut that Helen was telling the truth about her situation.
LeBeau raised his chin in a defiant motion, but did not answer. Looking toward the wall, Hogan continued, softer this time. "You know she didn't prostitute herself. You heard her story the same as I did, and God help me, I believe her. She's American, and she has asked for our help. We just can't ignore that." A thought came suddenly to him. Turning quickly back to the corporal, Hogan asked, "If she were a man, and a similar thing had happened to her, would we even be having this conversation?"
LeBeau looked at his commanding officer then, a puzzled expression crossing his features. Hogan said again, "Louis, can you look me in the eye and tell me that if she were a man, you would feel the same way about what happened to her?" LeBeau suddenly looked ashamed and averted his eyes.
"Louis, answer me!" Hogan demanded.
"Colonel, I-you are right. I was out of line. I am sorry." The young Frenchman looked at the floor. "I suppose if she were a man, we would all be slapping her on the back, would we not?" He said ruefully, "And I guess it is not so different than Newkirk slipping into the back room of the Hofbrau and making promises to the barmaid." LeBeau looked up then, a faint smile on his face.
Hogan raised a single inquiring eyebrow, obviously wondering about that comment. "We may need to talk about that later. Go on, go to bed. And LeBeau," the colonel paused midsentence as the French corporal turned at the doorway, his left hand resting on the doorknob.
"Yes, Colonel, sir?" LeBeau asked expectantly.
Hogan looked at him a moment, then said quietly, "Good night."
LeBeau's mouth turned up in a small smile, and answered, "Good night, sir."
Alone in his room, Hogan turned from the window, rubbing his forehead tiredly. Corporal LeBeau always saw things in black and white, but this situation was about as gray as it could get. He wondered at the curve ball the war had thrown at them this time, and how they could possibly manage to do the right thing for everybody concerned. Would London give them the go-ahead to assist Helen? He knew that what she said of Field Marshal von Trammel was right; the Underground had passed on knowledge through the network that von Trammel had personally given orders regarding children in some of the concentration camps. The man was a monster, Hogan knew. His mother's words came unbidden to his mind, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." He smiled at that, thinking how long it had been since he recalled any of his mother's favorite phrases. She had always been a master at quoting proverbs. But was she right this time? Had Freddie, as Helen called him, been as good a man as she claimed? If not, how true was the rest of her story? And did it matter? Sighing deeply, Hogan undressed for bed.
"Roll call! Roll call! Everybody up, up, up!" Schultz called loudly from the doorway.
The prisoners rolled from their straw mattresses, grumbling under their breath as the pudgy German sergeant of the guard disturbed their sound sleep. "Schultz, did anybody ever mention that you've got a voice that could wake the dead?" Newkirk's needling was endless.
Ignoring the prisoners, Schultz repeated his call, "Everybody wake up! Roll call!"
"Yeah, yeah, we heard you the first ten times." Kinchloe muttered. He felt the early morning hours more intensely than some of the other men, since he had manned the radio watch until the wee hours of the morning.
Colonel Hogan strolled out of his private quarters, straightening his leather bomber jacket on the way. He remarked casually, "Sleep good last night, Schultz?"
The fat guard answered, "Why, yes, Colonel Hogan. I slept like a baby!" Suddenly suspicious, his friendly smile became a frown, inquiring, "Why do you ask?"
Keeping a straight face while thinking of the sedative Newkirk had administered to the Germans last evening, Hogan answered, "You look well rested, is all." Clapping a hand on Schultz's shoulder as they exited the barracks, Hogan elaborated, "I always say, a man with a good night's sleep under his belt wakes up ready to take on the world." At Schultz's good-natured chuckle, the two men turned at the doorway. The German sergeant who had accompanied Major Schmidt and Helen to the camp the day before happened to be walking past the doorway at that precise moment. He collided with Sergeant Schultz, the contact with the large man's girth sending the newcomer sprawling.
Schultz reached down and offered a hand to assist the sergeant. The sergeant ignored the overture and stood under his own power. Narrowing his eyes dangerously, he spoke to Colonel Hogan. "You. Clean my uniform of the dirt." His English was rough, but the intent was clear.
Sergeant Schultz's eyes widened, obviously shocked at the nerve of the other NCO. "Sergeant, this is Colonel Hogan. He is the senior officer here."
"He is prisoner. He is American. He will clean the dirt." The sergeant stated matter-of-factly.
Hogan remained motionless, watching the sergeant but pointedly not making any movement to obey the enlisted man's order. A small crowd of men had gathered in the doorway behind their commanding officer, but Hogan was oblivious to their presence. He merely fixed his eyes on the sergeant's face in a dangerous game of wills.
Colonel Klink chose that precise moment to exit his office, shouting loudly, "Report!" The visiting sergeant reached up slowly to his shoulders and dusted the dirt from his uniform, his eyes never leaving Hogan's. After a few quick swipes of his hand across his coat, the sergeant snorted, then turned and walked away. Schultz visibly exhaled, his belly seeming to shrink several inches as the air left his lungs. Although Schultz and Hogan were in different armies, the German sergeant had a great deal of respect for the American colonel. Schultz also knew that the visiting sergeant had displayed a seething anger and resentment toward the Allied prisoners that did not seem to be justified. In the guard shack the day before, Schultz had heard the visitor describing some of the practices at other POW camps. Schultz did not feel comfortable with the man; he was cruel and vicious. As far as Sergeant Schultz was concerned, the sooner the visitors left, the better for everyone at Stalag 13.
"What is going on here, Schultz?" Klink bellowed. "Why aren't the men in formation?"
Schultz remembered his duties suddenly, and lined the men up to count them quickly. As his efforts revealed that all were accounted for once again, he turned to his superior officer and shouted, "All present and accounted for, Herr Kommandant!"
"Dismissed!" Klink called, the morning routine now complete. He turned and walked back into the Kommandantur, ready to resume the never-ending stack of paperwork.
Turning to Colonel Hogan, Schultz began, "Colonel Hogan, that man did not have a right to ask you to do that. You are an officer, and he cannot do that. I must speak to the Kommandant about this."
Hogan waved Schultz's concerns off, saying, "Don't worry about it, Schultz. No harm done." As Schultz walked off, clipboard in hand, the prisoners from Barracks 2 gathered around their commanding officer.
Newkirk was the first to speak. "Sir," he ventured, "That is one nasty Kraut." The others murmured their agreement.
Looking across the compound to the group of camp guards where the visiting sergeant was standing, Hogan nodded. "Yes he is. Now," he said, changing the subject rapidly, "What's on tap for today?"
"Hogan, if you're here about your list, I still do not have the time to address the matter right now. I am desperately behind on paperwork, and I do not need more to add to it. Go away." Colonel Klink was seated at his desk, a large mound of papers and unopened envelopes scattered across the surface.
"But Kommandant, I was just going to offer to provide men for the cleaning detail today." Hogan dropped the bait, then waited to see if the German officer would take it.
"Cleaning detail? What cleaning detail?" Klink asked, obviously confused by Hogan's offer.
"Your office and quarters, of course. Since you've got company, sir, the chores must be piling up on you. And I'll wager that Schultz isn't much in the way of maid service."
Klink responded ruefully, "You're right about that. All right, have your men straighten up the place."
Hogan crossed the two paces to the office door, pulling it open. Newkirk, Carter and Kinchloe stood outside the door, armed with brooms, mops and pails. As they began to enter, Klink exclaimed, "Not now, Hogan! They can clean in my quarters now, and work here while I have lunch."
"Ok, men, you heard the Kommandant. Let's go." Hogan herded the prisoners out the door and onto the porch. They paused, awaiting further instructions. "All right. Newkirk and Carter, keep your eyes and ears open, and make sure the Krauts don't see what Kinch is doing. Kinch, get that wire reconnected."
During his last visit, General Burkhalter had brought a visitor along who was an expert in surveillance, and Hogan had felt it was too dangerous to leave certain connections in the system active. Thinking it might come in handy in the next few days, Colonel Hogan had ordered his radioman to make sure everything in Colonel Klink's quarters was hooked up properly once again. Later, when they cleaned the Kommandant's office, Kinchloe would rewire the bug in that location, since the connection seemed to be faulty.
The prisoners went to work rapidly once they entered the Kommandant's quarters. Newkirk and Carter dusted and straightened the parlor area, while Kinchloe reactivated the microphone that was wired into Klink's dining area. Corporal LeBeau was already at work in the kitchen area preparing the noontime repast for Klink and his guests, while Hogan sampled tidbits of the lunchtime meal. The squeaky sound of a door opening caused all the men to pause and turn, suddenly alert.
"I thought I heard someone out here." Helen emerged from her bedroom. "Where's Major Schmidt?" She asked apprehensively, her fear apparent.
"Haven't seen him, Ma'am." Carter answered amiably. "How're you today?"
Helen replied quietly, "I'm fine, thank you. How're you?" Thinking their polite conversation seemed more suited to a formal social function back home in America's heartland than a prisoner of war camp in the heart of Germany, Helen whispered, "Where's your colonel?"
Carter gestured toward the kitchen. "In there."
She murmured a quick "Thank you, Sergeant" and looked past the young man to the kitchen doorway. Colonel Hogan emerged from the portal, intercepting her before she made it inside the other room. "Good morning." He said. Noticing the dark circles under her eyes and the wan look on her face, Hogan frowned imperceptibly.
Helen asked, "Colonel, I was just coming to speak with you. Did you decide if you can help me?"
Hogan quickly looked around the room. The German major was not in the quarters at the moment, but they had no way to know when he would return. Deciding it would be best not to be caught speaking with the American woman, Hogan replied, "This probably isn't the best time to discuss this."
"But when would be a good time, Colonel? Major Schmidt said last night that we would be leaving for Berlin sometime tomorrow, as soon as the other car arrives. I don't have much time." She was becoming visibly upset, and that was something that Hogan wished to avoid.
"Helen, you need to calm down. Please," He took her arm and guided her toward the sofa. "This isn't good for your or your baby. I promise, we'll talk about it later. But not right now, when the Major could come back at any moment. It's too dangerous."
Shaking off Hogan's touch, Helen cried, "Don't tell me what is or isn't good for my baby! Can't you see I'm terrified for my baby? And nothing could be more dangerous for my baby than going to Berlin! I can't-AHHGHH!" She exclaimed, doubling over in obvious pain. Hogan supported her with his arms as Newkirk rushed across the room to assist his commanding officer. Carter's broom made a loud crash as he dropped it and also ran to Helen's assistance. They helped her to lie down on the sofa, and LeBeau came from the kitchen with a cool, wet cloth for her face.
"Are you all right? Helen, answer me. What's wrong?" Hogan pressed, his normally calm façade in shreds. Although the men had often dealt with medical situations such as serious injuries during their wartime service, a pregnant woman was an unfamiliar circumstance for them to handle.
Helen whispered, "I'm ok. Please, leave me alone. I'm ok." She began to weep softly, as she placed her hands over her eyes to catch her tears. Turning her face into the cushions, she repeated, "Just leave me alone."
"Colonel, should we ask Klink to get a doctor for her?" Kinchloe's concern was evident in his voice. The men, obviously out of their element, stood back across the room from where Helen reclined on the sofa, still weeping quietly. Several minutes had passed, with no repeat of her earlier episode of pain. She had only stopped crying long enough to tell them she was ok, and to leave her alone. As Hogan opened his mouth to answer, the outer door opened and Major Schmidt walked into the parlor. Instantly, the German's eyes narrowed suspiciously on the scene before him.
"What is going on here? What have you men done?"
"Major, my men and I are here on a cleaning detail. The young lady wasn't feeling well, and laid down to rest." Colonel Hogan stepped forward to answer for his subordinates.
"Get out. There will be no more cleaning detail today." Major Schmidt walked over to Helen, shaking her shoulder and speaking sharply, "Get up. If you must be hysterical, you will do so in your room. Go."
Helen hiccuped loudly, and tried to rise from the sofa, only to find it difficult with her large belly. She lay back down, and attempted to rise again. This time, the German Major grabbed her arm, dragging her up and pushing her toward the doorway as she cried out. Helen stumbled, but caught herself and with a backward look at the Allied prisoners, she closed the door.
Carter mumbled something as he took a half step toward the Major. Hogan threw out his arm as a barrier to keep his sergeant from committing certain suicide by taking action against the German officer, as Kinchloe grabbed Carter's shoulders. While he felt the same protective urges toward the American woman, Hogan knew that any action taken against the Germans in the heat of the moment could do Helen more harm than good. Gathering up their cleaning supplies, the men exited the Kommandant's quarters silently.
"But sir, we can't just leave her there. Can't we smuggle her out through the tunnel from Klink's quarters?" Carter asked desperately. The American woman's tears had unnerved Carter, as they had all the men, causing them to become agitated at their own helplessness.
"That would be too dangerous. She can't disappear from inside the camp. It would be too easy for the Krauts to pin it on us. As much as I want to help-as we all want to help-we can't risk our operation." Hogan answered, pacing the floor.
Newkirk spoke up, "Maybe we could get the Underground in Berlin to snatch her once she gets there."
"Maybe." Hogan replied, the serious expression on his face revealing his deep concern. "Maybe. We've still got a day or so to think about it. Kinch, radio London again and update them on the situation here. Make another request that we assist her in escaping."
"Yes, sir." Kinchloe left his commanding officer's quarters quietly, crossing the common room to his bunk. With two slaps on the bed frame, the bunk converted to an entrance to the elaborate tunnel system the prisoners had constructed under the camp. The radio was below, as were most of their supplies and weapons. The slightly dank, earthy smell remained behind as the bunk closed after him, leaving the room as quiet as it had been before.
The sky was becoming cloudy over the horizon as the prisoners lined up for the final roll call of the day. LeBeau was already in the Kommandant's quarters, preparing the evening meal. Reflecting on the day's events, Hogan knew their situation was better than it had been the day before when the Kraut Major's visit had caught them off guard. Now, with all their surveillance equipment in proper working order again, at least they were able to monitor the conversations between Klink and Schmidt more closely and pick out any details that might be discussed. Although so far, each time Schmidt had entered Klink's office, he had ordered Klink to leave so that he could use the telephone in private, usually to inquire as to the arrival time for the replacement automobile. He seems quite anxious to leave our little palace, Hogan mused.
As Schultz called an end to the roll call, the prisoners broke ranks and walked casually back to the barracks. Newkirk stopped at the barracks door to light his cigarette, determined to enjoy the outdoor air for a few minutes longer before going inside the close confines of the building. As he stood on the doorstep, he looked around the compound just in time to notice the guard who had been posted outside the Kommandant's quarters suddenly rush into the building. Thinking that was a curious sight, he continued to watch the doorway, and was rewarded a moment later when an apron-clad Corporal LeBeau slipped out the door. Hurrying over to Barracks 2, he cried br athlessly, "Peter, where is Colonel Hogan?"
Alarmed, Newkirk asked, "What is it, mate? What's wrong?" He dropped his cigarette butt in the dirt and ground it out with the toe of his boot. Glancing back at the Kommandant's residence, he noticed the guard return to his post on the porch.
LeBeau took another breath and answered, "It's the young lady. The monster struck her. On her face."
Anger flashed in Newkirk's eyes, and he spoke quietly, "Come on." Pushing inside the door, the two men paused a second to allow their eyes to adjust to the dim room after being outside in the fading daylight. LeBeau saw their commander first. Rushing quickly across the common room, he called out, "Colonel Hogan! Sir, we must do something!"
Hogan turned from where he had been carrying on a conversation with Ed Bailey. Seeing the worry on the faces of two of his men, he jerked his head in the direction of his quarters. Newkirk stayed behind in the outer room as LeBeau went inside, followed by Hogan, who closed the door. "What's going on?" Hogan asked.
LeBeau began, "That filthy Bosche Major struck the young lady."
Obviously fearing the worst, Hogan's eyes searched for clues on the shorter man's face, asking, "How is she?"
"She has a busted mouth and her eye is swollen, but she seems all right, otherwise." At Hogan's relieved look, he quickly added, "But Colonel, she was right about their plans for her. I overheard the Major before he struck her. Once she delivers the child, she will die."
LeBeau's concern was evident in his tone. He had now had time to reconsider his emotional outburst of the previous day and regretted his words, just as Hogan had suspected he would. Suddenly feeling a rush of almost fatherly pride in the French soldier, Hogan made up his mind. "Ok, we'll make contact with her tonight, through the tunnel into Klink's quarters. It'll have to wait until everyone goes to sleep, but we'll squeeze it in around our little rendezvous with the Underground. Get some of that sleeping potion from Newkirk, and slip a little into Klink's nightcap. He'll be sleeping on the sofa again and he might wake up when we come in through the tunnel." Pacing the room, his arms folded across his chest, Hogan's mind was working quickly. "We'll need some kind of checkpoint when they leave tomorrow. We'll set it up on the road this side of Hammelburg."
"Yes, colonel." LeBeau replied.
"And LeBeau, don't take Carter with you to serve tonight." Hogan said, as an afterthought. After the young American sergeant's reaction earlier in the day to the German officer's rough handling of Helen, Hogan didn't want to deliberately place him in a situation where he could be provoked into a misguided chivalrous act. "Take Bailey instead."
"You want me to allow Bailey around the food? It will kill him if he cannot eat it himself!" LeBeau grinned.
Hogan answered with a twinkle in his eye, "He'll leave the food alone. Just tell him what's in it!"
The Allied prisoners were partaking of their evening meal when suddenly Newkirk called out, "Colonel, it looks like the Major succeeded in 'urrying along his car."
Hogan arose from the mess table and walked to the window, standing beside Newkirk to look out at the compound. "I thought the car wasn't supposed to be here until tomorrow."
Kinchloe, who had just come back into the main room from the tunnel below, remarked from a spot directly over Hogan's left shoulder, "Major Schmidt's been pretty insistent when he calls. I think he pulled some strings this afternoon to get them to hurry it up." Kinchloe had listened in on all of the Major's conversations through the microphone hookup from Klink's office. "Sir, the last transmission from London indicated we should do as we saw fit with this situation, short of jeopardizing our operation."
Watching the activity in the yard, Hogan said, "Good. We'll finalize our plans when I get back from town. Since the car is here now, that means they'll probably be leaving early tomorrow instead of later. I've got to change clothes. Kinch, keep listening in on Klink's quarter to make sure everything goes ok with dinner tonight." Looking at his watch, he added, "I'm going to have to hurry as it is to make the rendezvous. I'll be back soon." And with that, he walked to the tunnel entrance and descended into the maze of passages below.
Later, seated at a table in the Hofbrau, Hogan sipped his beer slowly. His contact hadn't arrived yet, but that wasn't unusual. The other patrons in the bar allowed him to drink in solitude-wasn't it amazing that a Gestapo officer's uniform had that effect on people, Hogan mused. Greta, the brunette barmaid, sidled up to him, an invitation clear in her flirtatious actions.
"I'm waiting for a friend," Hogan said in an attempt to discourage her companionship. As she moved to the next table, he idly wondered if this was the same waitress Newkirk had been dallying with. Not bad, he judged, enjoying the view of her backside as she leaned over to collect her tip from the neighboring table. Not bad at all.
LeBeau watched through the kitchen doorway as Bailey served the soup to the two German officers. He noticed Helen wasn't seated at the table and pondered what could be keeping her. Klink must have noticed the same thing and asked, "Major, shouldn't we wait for Fraulein Hitler?"
Major Schmidt unfolded his napkin, laying it across his lap. "No. She won't be joining us tonight." He tasted his soup and spoke again. "Delicious. Klink, I am tempted to take your Frenchman back to Berlin with me."
LeBeau's eyes nearly popped out of his head at the Major's suggestion. He looked quickly behind him at the remainder of the meal he had prepared, and grabbed the salt shaker. Turning it upside down, he dumped a generous portion into the entrée. Feeling satisfied that would take care of Major Schmidt's plans for his future, he turned back to his eavesdropping.
Klink sipped his drink, answering nervously, "Oh, Major. I'm afraid I couldn't possibly let you do that. You see, the Geneva Convention-"
"Bah! The Geneva Convention be damned!" Major Schmidt answered, his distaste clearly evident. "This camp of yours-these prisoners of yours, I have wanted to speak with you about them. I have seen other camps, and in none of the others have I seen prisoners so well fed. I would venture to say, Klink, that your prisoners are in better health than our own soldiers. What do you say to that?"
Klink was becoming uncomfortable. He squirmed a bit in his chair, and answered, "Well, Herr Major, I would say that I believe keeping the prisoners healthy also keeps them happy. And happy prisoners don't escape. I would call the Major's attention to the spotless record this camp has. Obviously, we're doing something right here!" A little giggle escaped Klink's throat.
Major Schmidt's eyes suddenly flared with anger. "Happy? The prisoners are not supposed to be happy, Klink! What do you think you are running here, a vacation resort? And another thing, I noticed that you don't have the prisoners separated. You have mixed all the races together. By doing so, you could be making things more difficult later."
"Later?" Klink queried. "What-I don't understand? Later, when?"
Ignoring the colonel's question, Major Schmidt turned back to eating his soup. A sound of a squeaky hinge caught their attention. Looking up, the men saw that Helen had emerged from the guest bedroom. Klink dropped his spoon with a clatter at the sight of her bruised, battered face.
"Oh, my dear girl, what on earth has happened? Are you all right?" Klink jumped up from the table, but before he could move toward Helen, Major Schmidt's voice stopped him.
"Sit down, Klink." The major ordered. Although superior in rank, Klink obeyed without question. "The fraulein will be having her meal in her room tonight. She-" he hesitated, then finished with a twisted smile, "ran into a door."
Helen looked at Major Schmidt with narrowed eyes. Trembling, she spoke, "A door that looked amazingly like his fist." Her chest was heaving under the stress and her face was pale.
Klink looked from the Major to the woman, then back again, as if trying to decide who was telling the truth. Finally, he spoke timidly, "Major, you struck her? Is that true?" He had been schooled in the gentlemanly arts, and Klink's entire being was appalled at what he was witnessing.
Major Schmidt smiled ruefully and took a swig of his drink. In a low tone, he said, "The woman is a prisoner, Klink. She is one of the enemy. She is nothing." He took another drink.
Klink looked confused and questioned, "But I thought you said she was of great importance to Field Marshal von Trammel? I thought you were guarding her to keep her safe. Herr Major, I am afraid I do not understand."
Laughing, Major Schmidt answered, "This woman is of no value herself. The whelp she carries is what interests the Field Marshal. And the babe" he nearly spat out the word-"is undamaged."
Helen was shaking violently by now. She suddenly strode purposefully across the room to where the two Germans sat at the dining table. Reaching for Klink's water glass, she grabbed it and hurled the contents into Major Schmidt's face. The German officer took her wrist, twisting it viciously and causing her to cry out in pain.
"You Nazi pig! You're not getting my baby! I won't let you have it!" Helen screamed as she fell to her knees in agony.
As Major Schmidt wiped his face with a napkin and turned back to his soup, Klink had suddenly had enough. Summoning all the meager courage he possessed, he stood and rushed to the American woman's side. He helped her rise to her feet, all the while shaking with timorous rage at the Major's actions.
As he stood fearfully trembling in front of Major Schmidt, Klink spoke, "Major, you have come into my post and behaved in a manner that does not befit a human being, much less an officer of the Third Reich. There is no honor in what you have done to this woman. In light of what has happened here tonight, I cannot allow you to remain in this camp. If you would like, I will secure you a reservation at the hotel in Hammelburg. Furthermore, I will escort Fraulein Hitler to Berlin and deliver her to Field Marshal von Trammel safely tomorrow."
Major Schmidt replaced his soupspoon on the table and picked up his napkin from his lap. He slowly and deliberately wiped his mouth, then stood. "Klink, my car arrived a little while ago. I will leave tonight," the Major's eyes took on a devious gleam, "But my assignment is clear. The woman goes along. And another thing-you can be certain that your actions tonight will not go unreported to your superior officers. I don't have to remind you that I move in higher circles within the command than you can imagine, stuck in this little backwater prison camp. But don't worry. I have a gut feeling that you won't be stuck here much longer." He laughed then, an evil sound in the quiet room.
The outer door opened as a man Hogan recognized as his contact arrived at the beer hall. The man, Becker, walked to the disguised American's table and sat down, while Greta also made her way over. Assuming she was approaching to take the new arrival's drink order, Hogan asked him, "What'll you have, Herr Becker?"
Becker answered, "Beer is fine. It will warm my insides on a night such as this."
Greta smiled at the new customer, then turned to Hogan. "Entschuldigen sie bitte, mein herr. I believe there is a telephone call for you. You can take it at the telephone at the end of the bar."
"Danke." Hogan tried not to look worried as he spoke to Becker, "I'll be right back." Walking to the bar, Hogan followed the motion of the barkeep's hand as he indicated the direction of the telephone. He picked up the receiver, saying, "Yes? Hoganhoffman here." The sound of Kinchloe's voice did nothing to allay his initial fears.
"Sir, I'm sorry to bother you, but I wanted to let you know what's happened here." Kinchloe spoke quickly and professionally to his commanding officer.
Hogan glanced around the bar, but seeing no one within listening distance, replied, "What is it?" It wasn't like Kinch to disturb him during a meeting with one of their fellow agents, and Hogan knew that it must be something the sergeant considered urgent. He listened intently to Kinchloe's concise detailing of the situation.
"Sir, something happened in the officer's residence tonight." Kinchloe carefully avoided using proper names in case the Germans monitored the call. As he provided the details of the events that had taken place over the evening meal in Klink's quarters, Hogan felt more than a small amount of surprise.
"Did you send someone out to set up the barricades?" Hogan asked, knowing that Kinchloe was usually quick to implement their plans.
"Yes, sir. We're on our way now. I wanted you to know that the checkpoint was friendly." Kinchloe answered. He had tapped Newkirk, Carter, and Elmore Higgins, as well as himself, all of Barracks 2, for the checkpoint duty. The men, clad in German uniforms, had 'borrowed' a truck from the motor pool and were about to be on their way to the designated location. Kinchloe knew that Hogan would be returning by the same isolated road, and didn't want the sight of an unexpected roadblock to cause him concern or possibly delay his return to camp.
Hogan felt satisfied with the competence of his men. "Good. I'll wrap things up here, and head back. Oh, and by the way-" Hogan added, getting Kinchloe's attention just as he was about to hang up, "What does the weather look like?" He had been inside the smoky beer hall for quite some time, and had been noticing people entering from outdoors with rain splattered clothing. The thought of a walk in the cold rain was less than appealing.
Kinchloe chuckled into the handset, "It looks ok from where I am, sir. But they tell me that it's been raining a little up top." He paused, and Hogan could hear him speaking to someone else in the room. "Sir, my man here says that the rain has stopped but a pretty heavy fog has started to move in. He says visibility is poor."
"Great", Hogan thought as he replaced the telephone receiver. "Why did Klink have to pick tonight to discover his backbone?"
LeBeau watched the activity in the camp yard through a small crack in the window shutter as Major Schmidt's driver loaded the visitors' things into the trunk of the replacement staff car. The sergeant paused a moment when he finished loading the car to light a cigarette. He had only taken a couple of puffs when it began to rain lightly. He looked up at the sky and his lips moved as he mumbled something. LeBeau felt a twisted sense of satisfaction as he watched the German snub out his newly lit cigarette and head inside the Kommandant's residence.
After a little while, Major Schmidt and Helen Hitler emerged from the Kommandant's quarters and climbed into the back seat of the vehicle. The rain had tapered off and left a creeping fog that swallowed the car as it drove between the gates of the LuftStalag. As LeBeau closed t e window shutter, his eye caught a glimpse of the window across the way. A dim light in the background of the interior room showed the outline of a familiar face at the glass. Colonel Klink was also watching the visitors depart. The curtain dropped as the light was extinguished in the Kommandant's home. Thinking of Colonel Klink's actions that evening, LeBeau smiled a little in spite of himself as he, too, turned away.
The rickety old truck stopped at the checkpoint, and Hogan turned to his underground contact, thanking him for giving him a ride in the rain. Kinchloe kept to the shadows while Carter and Newkirk, as the most experienced of the four men who had set up the barricade, approached the vehicle. Walking to the driver's side door, Carter leaned over to peer into the vehicle. "Show me your papers, please!" he snapped in heavily accented German.
The Underground contact, Becker, looked surprised and quickly began patting his pockets in a desperate search for his identification. Hogan shook his head in exasperation, saying, "Carter! He's with me!"
Carter smiled sheepishly, and answered, "I know, sir. I just like saying that."
Hogan rolled his eyes and climbed out of the truck. He watched Becker drive back into the darkness the way they had come. Turning to Newkirk, he asked, "Anything yet?"
Newkirk answered, "No, sir. We expected them to be by 'ere more than a 'alf hour ago, but 'aven't seen 'em." His quiet voice belied his concern.
With a slight frown, Hogan asked, "I wonder if something happened back at camp to hold them up." Looking around at the men, Hogan spoke quickly. "Newkirk, take Higgins-wait!" In the darkness, Hogan peered into the face of the fourth man. "McDonald! What are you doing here? I thought Higgins was coming."
Kinchloe stepped forward and answered his commanding officer. "McDonald replaced Higgins, sir. Higgins wasn't um, prepared."
Newkirk added loudly, " 'E' chickened out, is what 'e did, the bleedin' coward."
Startled, Hogan looked back at Kinchloe. "Is that true?"
Kinchloe nodded. Higgins had been begging to go on a mission for weeks, but when the time came to sneak out of camp, the man was suddenly consumed with fear that he would be shot, or caught and tortured by the Gestapo. Kinchloe had relieved him of the obligation, and substituted Sam McDonald, whom they had used on several other assignments recently.
Hogan sighed, and tiredly rubbed the back of his neck. To Kinchloe, he said "Thanks. Good call." And turning to McDonald, he added, "Glad to have you with us, McDonald. Now, as I was saying, Newkirk and McDonald, get in the truck and head back toward camp, see if you can see anything. I've got a bad feeling about this."
The two men jumped into the transport truck to obey Hogan's orders, with Newkirk in the right driver's side seat, and sped off down the dark, foggy road. Hogan turned back to Carter and Kinchloe, who were standing at his back on either side of the barricade. Carter was smiling, and said, "This fog's really something, huh sir?"
Deep in thought, Hogan answered distractedly, "What? Yeah, Carter, the fog."
Carter continued, "I haven't seen fog like this in years. I haven't seen fog like this since I was just a kid. I think I must have been around ten years old. No, make that eleven. I remember because it was the year I skinned my knee on the old tree stump out back of my grandpa's house. Yeah, the fog was so thick my grandma said it was pea soup fog. I had never had pea soup before, so she made me some. It was pretty good, but I like-"
"Carter!" Hogan snapped.
Chastised, Carter fell silent. Beside him, Kinchloe just shook his head.
The sound of a vehicle approaching from the direction in which Newkirk and McDonald had just driven off caught their attention. It was the truck they had borrowed from Stalag 13 returning, all right. Seeing the truck approaching on the side of the road to his left, Hogan knew immediately that Newkirk was no longer driving. Carter and Kinchloe joined him as he ran toward the driver's side and asked with concern, "What's going on?"
"Sir, there's been an accident. The car went off the road about two miles back t'wards camp. It's in the trees. Newkirk stayed to check it out. With the Colonel's permission, I'll carry you back there." McDonald, a Texan, answered with his Southern drawl. He leaned out the truck window, calling to the other men, "Y'all hop in and we'll head on back down that a' way!"
Calling a hurried "Let's go!" Hogan's alarm was apparent as he ran around the truck and climbed into the passenger side. As soon as Carter and Kinchloe grabbed the barricade and had safely jumped into the rear of the vehicle, McDonald threw the truck into reverse. Turning it around quickly, they sped back down the road to the accident site as fast as they could in the heavy fog. As McDonald nearly missed a turn on the curvy road, Hogan grabbed the door handle and yelled over the noisy rattle of the engine, "You wreck this truck and I'll have your stripes, sergeant!"
McDonald looked at his commander and grinned. "Yes, sir."
As he nearly missed another curve, Hogan yelled out an exasperated, "I mean it!"
McDonald's grin widened, "Yes SIR!"
He slowed the truck but before coming to a complete stop, Hogan turned to him and said, "Remind me to never let you drive again, McDonald!"
"Yes sir. I guess I am a little rusty at that. It's been a couple a' years since I took one of these babies out for a turn," McDonald sobered a little at the reminder of his imprisonment, then brightened again. "But it sure was fun!"
Through the fog, Hogan could see a faint glimmer of light. The staff car, with headlights still on, was just ahead and off to the right side of the road. He jumped out of the truck and ran toward the scene, with Carter, McDonald and Kinchloe close behind. The only sound in the eerie silence was Newkirk's voice as he spoke soothingly to someone in the vehicle, "There, now, it's all right, love. It'll all be all right."
Picking his way carefully through the undergrowth, Hogan came to stand at the side of the car. He noticed that the smell of gasoline was strong. Leaning over Newkirk's back, he asked, "What does it look like?"
Newkirk turned, relief in his eyes. "Sir, I'm terribly 'appy to see you." He raised from the car and turned to speak to Hogan and the other men. With a jerk of his head, he spoke, "The driver there, 'e seems to be alive, but out cold." Turning his flashlight into the vehicle, Newkirk continued, "As you can see, the impact was on the passenger side, Major Schmidt's side. I'm afraid 'e's gone. Seems to 'ave snapped his neck. Pity, that is." He snorted derisively.
Hogan peered over Newkirk's shoulder and saw Major Schmidt seated in the opposite side of the back seat of the car, or what was left of him. A tree limb had entered the windshield of the car, leaving the Major's face unidentifiable. Hogan suddenly felt ill looking at the bloody scene and quickly averted his eyes. Thinking of the other passenger, he queried, "What about Helen?"
Newkirk sighed, answering, "I don't know, sir. She's here in the backseat, as well. She's got a nasty bump on 'er 'ead, but she's mostly awake. I think the main problem right now is she appears to be about to deliver the child."
Hogan's eyes widened. "She's having the baby? Now?"
At Newkirk's affirmative nod, Hogan continued, "Nawwww. You're kidding, right?"
Newkirk shook his head. "No, sir." To punctuate the statement, Helen moaned loudly.
"I don't believe this." Hogan laughed mirthlessly, shaking his head. "I just don't believe this!"
"Helen? Helen, can you hear me? Are you hurt anywhere?" Hogan attempted to assess the woman's condition before the men lifted her from the vehicle.
Helen whispered something unintelligible, and Hogan leaned in closer. "I can't hear you, you're going to have to speak up. Where are you hurt?" the American colonel asked again.
Helen's eyelids fluttered open, and for an instant, her eyes were blank. Blinking rapidly, she shook her head as if to clear it. Wincing from the sudden pain that action caused, she answered, "I'm ok. Except for I must've hurt my head." Reaching up to her forehead, she suddenly gasped in pain. "My arm! My arm hurts real bad."
Hogan frowned and reached for her arm. Easing it back into her lap, he gently felt the length of the bone, but didn't find an obvious break.
"Colonel?" Kinchloe spoke from behind. Hogan glanced back over his shoulder as Kinchloe said, "That was from tonight in Klink's quarters. LeBeau mentioned that Major Schmidt tried to break her arm after she threw the water in his face."
Looking back at the woman, Hogan asked, "Are you hurt anywhere else?" At Helen's negative nod, he continued, "Ok. We're going to get you out of here. I'm going to try not to hurt you, but you're going to have to trust me and do what I say. Do you understand?"
Helen whispered, "Yes," as the men began to lift her from the back seat of the wrecked automobile.
In the glow of light from the headlamps of the car, Hogan got his first glimpse of her battered face. Her left eye was swollen almost shut, and there was a large bruise on her left cheek that ended at the bloody cut on her upper lip. Wrapping her good arm around Hogan's neck, Helen clung to him as he moved away from the car. As they reached the rear of the transport truck, Newkirk leaped into the bed of the vehicle.
"Careful, Carter. McDonald, ease her up. Careful. You got her, Newkirk?" Hogan asked as the men lifted Helen up into the back of the truck.
"Yes, sir." Newkirk answered as he settled back on the floor of the truck, Helen cradled in his arms.
Hogan spoke into the dark space that was the bed of the truck, "Newkirk, see if you can ease her out of her cloak. And toss me one of her shoes, as well. We'll use them as decoys."
"Yes, sir." The four men standing outside the truck winced at the sound of Helen's whimpers as Newkirk removed her wrap. He murmured comforting words as the pain in her arm caused her to cry out, "Sorry, love, I know it hurts. Sorry." As he finally was able to free the garment, Newkirk called out, "All right. Here it comes-" as he tossed the cloak toward the back opening of the vehicle.
The colonel had been speaking quietly to the other men while they waited for Newkirk to hand them Helen's cloak, but at Newkirk's words, Hogan turned just as the fabric struck him full in the face, followed closely by the shoe.
Newkirk spoke again from the darkness, "Sorry 'bout that, sir."
Hogan picked up the cloak and handed it to Kinchloe. "Kinch, you and Carter take these past the car a few hundred feet and leave the shoe. Be sure and make an obvious trail. The river isn't too far. Carry the cloak down and toss it over the side into the water. With any luck, when the Krauts come looking for the Major tomorrow, they'll think Helen wandered off in the fog and fell into the river."
The two men answered an affirmative, "Yes, sir," and headed back toward the car.
"What about the sergeant?" McDonald asked.
Hogan thought for a moment, then said, "He'll have plenty to answer for when he wakes up. Just leave him be."
As the words left his lips, the men heard the click of a gun as it was cocked. A few muffled words reached their ears from the vicinity of the wrecked staff car, and Carter dropped the cloak and shoe as he raised his arms high, Kinchloe following suit. In the shadow of the staff car, the form of the driver was barely discernable. As he stood and moved closer to Kinchloe, the German began to speak more rapidly and excitedly. Hogan reached for his sidearm, as McDonald silently raised his rifle and took aim. Before the German sergeant could pull the trigger, McDonald whispered, "I got him." At Hogan's nod, the Texan fired a single shot, his aim true.
The loud crack of the rifle reverberated through the woods and the German sergeant silently fell to the ground, mortally wounded from a gunshot to his heart. The two prisoners dropped their arms, looking wide-eyed with relief at their comrades as they hurried toward the scene. Extending his hand to McDonald, Carter said gratefully, "Boy, thanks, McDonald. I sure owe you one."
Kinchloe added, "Same here. Nice shooting."
McDonald answered, "No problem," as he shook the men's hands.
Bending to check the German sergeant for a pulse and finding nothing, Hogan shook his head. As he arose, the American colonel spoke rapidly, giving orders with a skill that only comes with experience. "Let's go ahead and drag the body back into the car. With all the gasoline that's been spilled here, it shouldn't be any problem to make the Krauts believe the car burned after the impact. You two go ahead and put the cloak and shoe in the woods like we planned. Then when you get back, light it up. That'll delay anyone who is checking this out at least a few hours." Hogan turned away, walking toward the transport truck.
Carter called out from behind, "Sir?"
Hogan stopped and turned, asking, "Yeah? What is it, Carter?"
The young American sergeant answered his commanding officer with a question, "Uh, do you have a match?"
"Kinch?" Hogan asked. Shaking his head in silent laughter, Kinchloe patted his pockets until he found a pack of matches. He tossed the packet to Carter, who barely managed to catch them in the dark.
Carter retrieved the items of Helen's clothing from the ground and sped off with Kinchloe, the dim light from their flashlight fading into the darkness toward the river. Hogan and McDonald finished their preparations at the car and walked back to the transport truck. As they neared the road, they could hear Helen moaning in discomfort from the back of the vehicle.
From the back of the truck, Newkirk asked quietly, "Uh, sir? Is everything all right?"
Hogan looked through the canvas flaps at the back opening of the cargo area. "Yeah. Everything's fine. Our friend woke up, and wasn't too pleased with the situation he found himself in. McDonald took care of it. As soon as Carter and Kinch make it back up here, we'll head back to camp. How is she?" Hogan's casual tone did not fool his men; they knew he was disturbed both by the incident that had just taken place and by the predicament in which they now found themselves.
Newkirk hesitated a moment before answering. "Well, she's about as well as is to be expected, I suppose." The Englishman was worried, but spoke calmly in an effort to dispel any fears that Helen had about her circumstances.
Hogan remarked, "When we get back to camp we'll see if we can get the doctor to come out right away. I doubt that they taught Wilson much about childbirth in medic training." He turned back toward McDonald, who was waiting quietly for Kinchloe and Carter to return from the riverbank. Looking through the shadowy forest toward the staff car, Hogan could just make out Carter's silhouette against the fading beam of the headlights before the flare of a match broke the darkness. Carter lit something he held in his other hand and tossed the burning material into the wrecked vehicle. The flames took hold immediately, burning brightly against the dark night.
The men ran to join their comrades as they climbed into the truck. When McDonald rushed past Hogan and Kinchloe to get in the driver's seat, Hogan grabbed the back of his collar, ordering, "Uh-uh. You're not driving this time, buddy," and motioned for Carter to take the wheel.
Kinchloe, although an invaluable member of the team, was accustomed to playing a secondary role on active covert missions because of his dark skin. Since he could not take a chance on being recognized when they passed through the gates of the Stalag, he was in the rear of the vehicle this time, along with Hogan, who was clad in his Gestapo regalia. Carter and McDonald, in Luftwaffe uniforms, seated themselves in the front, as they were the ones who had 'borrowed' the truck from the motorpool in the beginning.
As the truck drove off, Helen asked, "Where are we going now?" through chattering teeth.
Her cloak had been used to mask her disappearance, but noticing that she was chilled, Newkirk removed his overcoat and wrapped it around her shivering form. He murmured, "We're 'eading back to Stalag 13. You'll be safe there."
In a small voice, Helen responded, "I don't want to go back there. I just want to go home."
Drawing the coat more closely around her in an effort to provide the warmth she obviously lacked, Newkirk whispered into her hair near her ear, "I know, love. So do I. So do I."
The truck pulled up in front of the darkened motorpool building and slowed to a stop. To the relief of the disguised Allied soldiers, the area appeared deserted. They quickly climbed out of the transport truck and helped Helen to stand on the ground. After assuring the men that she could walk on her own, they quickly escorted the American woman through the shadows to Barracks 2.
Once inside the building, LeBeau greeted them with a relieved smile that rapidly faded as Helen began to moan loudly, clutching her belly. Alarmed, he looked at the faces of the other men and asked, "Is it the babe? Now?"
The prisoners nodded their affirmations, and Kinchloe pushed past the small crowd to the bunk that concealed the tunnel entrance. Tapping the top bunk to gain entry to the passage below, he glanced back over his shoulder in time to see the other men helping Helen into Colonel Hogan's quarters.
Once in the tunnel, Kinchloe went immediately to the radio and began his call for medical help. After the message was sent, he changed from the German Luftwaffe uniform he had worn for the mission into his regular clothes, which consisted of what was left of his Army uniform and his field jacket. After a couple of years as a POW, a full Army uniform was a precious commodity, and most of the men wore bits of several different sets of clothing. Kinchloe's clothing was a pair of Army pants and a shirt that wasn't exactly GI issue, but fit well and was warm and comfortable. Feeling more at ease out of the German clothing, he settled back to await an answer to their request for assistance.
"I thought they would send a regular doctor, Colonel." Sergeant Carter spoke anxiously to Hogan outside the door to Hogan's private quarters. Helen was inside the room, being attended by a stout German woman who spoke very good English and identified herself as an experienced midwife. She told them her name was Frau Krueger, and that she had never lost a patient, mother or baby.
Hogan had misgivings also, but tried not to show his worry in front of the men. "She comes with good references. I'm sure everything'll be fine." His voice faded off as Helen's low moan escalated into a muffled scream. Suddenly becoming aware of the possibility that her cries could be heard outside the thin walls of the barracks, Hogan spoke to his men, "Quick! Make some noise!"
Grasping the situation immediately, several of the men began singing a raucous bar song, and were quickly joined by the remainder of their barracks mates. The men were laughingly reciting the third verse when Sergeant Schultz opened the outer door to announce the first roll call of the day.
"Roll call! Everybody up, up, up!" Looking around at the scene before him, he asked, "What is going on here? Why is everybody up already? And why are they singing? Colonel Hogan, what is going on here? This looks like monkey business!" Schultz opened his eyes wide to punctuate his questions.
Hogan walked over to stand by Schultz as the men, still singing loudly, began to file out of the barracks to line up for morning roll call. The colonel joined in on the last of the song as he clapped a hand on the shoulder of the chubby German sergeant and escorted him outside, taking his place in the formation. Ignoring Schultz's pleas for silence, the men began another song, this one noisier and more out of tune than the one before.
Colonel Klink emerged from his office, calling "Report!" to the portly sergeant. Not giving Schultz a chance to answer, Klink voiced his puzzlement at the prisoner's uncharacteristic boisterousness. "What is going on here? Schultz!" he yelled.
Sergeant Schultz looked from the Kommandant to the prisoners and back to the Kommandant, opening his mouth several times to speak, but never quite completing the act. Seeing the German sergeant's bewilderment, Hogan stepped out of ranks and approached Colonel Klink.
"Kommandant," he began loudly in an attempt to be heard over the singing prisoners.
Klink leaned closer in order to communicate with the American. "Colonel Hogan," he shouted. "What is going on here? Why are the men behaving in this manner? Is this another of your schemes to escape?" The Kommandant shook his fist for emphasis.
Hogan took the Kommandant's upper arm and led him a short distance away from the rowdy singing in an effort to make speaking easier. "Sir, the men are just excited. It's a holiday for us, you know." Hogan smiled convincingly. "We were hoping you would allow a day of celebration for the men, a break from the normal routine, something to prove once again to these men the caliber of commander you are." He remained smiling, waiting to see if Klink would go along with his suggestion of a holiday break.
Suddenly wary, Colonel Klink asked suspiciously, "Holiday? What holiday? I'm not aware of any American holidays today."
Colonel Hogan feigned surprise, exclaiming, "Kommandant? You're kidding me! You mean you really don't know what today is?" Kinchloe and Carter had walked up behind their commanding officer, away from the noisy crowd, and Hogan darted a quick glance their way.
Klink shook his head. "No, Hogan, I don't know what today is. What is it?"
As Hogan opened his mouth to speak, Carter blurted out the name of the first holiday that came to him, thoughts of Helen fresh on all the men's minds. "Why, it's Mother's Day!" As soon as the words left Carter's mouth, Hogan's eye caught a glimpse of Kinchloe's shocked expression, and the American colonel winced as the words to the bawdy song the prisoners were singing penetrated his mind.
Klink turned, looking disgustedly at the American men. "Mother's Day? Colonel Hogan, have your men no respect at all? Is that the sort of song they sing to their mothers in your country?" The German Kommandant turned to walk back toward the prisoners' formation, the nearly obscene lyrics echoing behind him.
Hogan regrouped quickly, catching up to Colonel Klink and talking rapidly, "Kommandant, the men are just feeling lively today. They've been so overstressed lately, with all the extra roll calls and keeping this place tidy for the guests you've been entertaining, that we were hoping that you would allow the men a day to rest and relax, maybe have a few games, put on a musical show with those instruments the YMCA sent, have a nice dinner later with white bread, butter, maybe a few bottles of wine, hey-maybe you could call up that band that's playing at the Hofbrau this week. I heard some of the guards talking and they say it's pretty good!"
Narrowing his eyes, Klink warned, "Hogan!"
"Ok, maybe the band is out of the question. But we have a couple of guys here who can play a pretty mean harmonica, so we'll manage. What do you say, Kommandant? A big-hearted gesture like that would go over really big at the next escape committee meeting." Hogan smooth-talked, delivering his most persuasive smile.
Klink's face took on a defeated expression, and finding it easier to acquiesce to the American's request than to argue, he answered, "You and your escape committee! Oh, very well, Hogan. You may have your holiday, but I am warning you-if my guards see anyone even looking like they are attempting an escape, all your men will be confined to barracks until further notice, and the violators will be thrown into the cooler for 90 days."
Hogan grinned and turned to leave. Suddenly remembering something, he snapped his fingers and spun back around to Colonel Klink. "Oh, Kommandant-where should I have the men go to get the wine?"
Hogan paced the floor in front of his quarters door in the fading afternoon sunlight. The camp yard was alive with the spirited sounds of a football game, but inside Barracks 2, the tension was almost unbearable. For the umpteenth time that afternoon, Hogan stopped pacing and looked at the door to his quarters. He considered knocking on the closed door to ask Frau Krueger or Wilson, who was inside assisting the midwife, what was going on. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he thought better of it, and resumed his stride.
The outer door suddenly opened, and Sergeant Carter poked his head inside. Seeing Newkirk seated at the mess table shuffling a worn deck of cards, Carter asked, "Anything yet?"
Newkirk didn't bother to look up, just answered, "Not a thing's changed since you asked last time, Andrew. What was it, five minutes ago? Four, perhaps?" He shuffled the cards again and began laying the deck out in a solitaire formation.
"Ok, ok. Sorry." Carter ducked back outside, closing the door softly behind him. Hogan glanced over at the door, so deep in his thoughts that he didn't realize someone had been in the room until he heard the door shut.
"Kinch?" Hogan called out.
"Yes, Colonel?" Sergeant Kinchloe answered from a point behind Hogan.
Stopping his pacing again for a moment and turning to face the radioman, Hogan asked, "You did get those coordinates off to London, didn't you?"
Kinchloe barely hid his chuckle, answering, "Yes, sir. Sent them off last night. London confirmed their receipt of the message." Kinchloe could tell his commanding officer was nervous, since he had asked the same question three times that afternoon. Each time, Kinchloe had assured him the message had been processed as ordered. Shaking his head, the American sergeant settled back on his bunk, his last letter from home spread out across his chest. He knew Colonel Hogan well, and found his nervousness mildly amusing. You'd think it was his baby, Kinchloe mused, although he knew the entire reason for Hogan's uneasiness did not lie solely with Helen's welfare. In their present position, they were vulnerable to the Germans as long as Helen remained incapacitated in Hogan's quarters.
Hogan resumed pacing, speaking again, "Good. Good." Frowning, he then added as an afterthought, "I wonder-does it usually take this long?"
Kinchloe smiled. "Yes, I think it does. Colonel, Wilson said everything is going fine. Why don't you step outside for a little while and get some fresh air? We'll call you if anything changes."
Hogan sighed and agreed, "Yes, I guess you're right. Some air might do me good at that." He turned and walked toward the doorway, but just as he placed his hand on the doorknob, a new sound was heard coming from his quarters.
Hogan spun around, his eyes widening. Kinchloe sat up quickly on his bunk and swung his legs over the side to stand. Newkirk arose from the mess table, upsetting his solitaire game with the motion. The door to Hogan's quarters opened, and Wilson emerged from the small room. A huge grin was on his face as he looked at the men standing before him.
He proudly announced, "It's a girl!"
"Frau Krueger, we can't thank you enough for all you've done. If there is anything at all you need that we can help you with, please send word. We'll do all we can." Hogan spoke to the midwife as she prepared to leave through the tunnel. After instructing Sergeant Wilson in the proper care of both mother and baby, she had pronounced Helen well on the way to recovery, with no complications whatsoever, although she assured the men she would return at a moments' notice if anything should change.
As Hogan assisted the German woman in climbing over the bunk onto the ladder, he smiled and added, "Sergeant McDonald will see you safely home. Thank you again."
Frau Krueger paused midway down the ladder and spoke, "Colonel, I thank you for your kind offer, but it is truly I who owe you a debt." At Hogan's puzzled look, she continued, "Do you remember the young woman and two children that you helped to leave Germany two months ago?"
Always cautious, Hogan answered with a question, "Why do you ask?"
"Her name was Maria. She worked as a secretary for General Ruhr. She hoped to provide information that would be helpful in exchange for the safety of her children. The children were my grandchildren. Maria was-is-my daughter. I can never thank you enough for helping them to safety." Frau Krueger smiled and reached up to pat Hogan's hand in a motherly fashion. "So you see, Colonel Hogan, it is I who shall always and forever more be indebted to you and your men. Goodbye."
Hogan straightened and turned back to the now darkened room. The tension of the day, combined with the sleepless night before, made him suddenly feel extremely exhausted. In the pale moonlight, the colonel made his way through the large common room to the empty bunk that he planned to use for the night. To better enable Wilson to attend to Helen during the night, the medic was sleeping on a pallet in Hogan's quarters, next to the new mother and baby, who shared the bottom bunk.
"Colonel?" Corporal LeBeau whispered to him as he crossed the room.
"Yeah? What is it, LeBeau?" Hogan answered as he moved closer to the Frenchman's bunk.
LeBeau quietly spoke, "This was the right thing to do." In his own way, the French corporal was apologizing again for his behavior of the previous day.
Hogan hesitated a moment before responding, "It's not over yet. It's going to be tricky getting a woman and an infant out of the country."
"Yes, but it is worth the trouble, is it not?" LeBeau continued, expressing his feelings to his commander in a whispered voice, "Colonel, there is so much death in the world, so much killing. But now, tonight, we helped do the opposite-a new life was begun. It is a good feeling."
Hogan smiled into the darkness. LeBeau's thoughts mirrored his own. "Yeah, it is a good feeling." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a cigar and placed it in LeBeau's hand. "Here, I've been saving this for a special occasion, compliments of the Kommandant. Sorry, I don't have any with those little labels that say 'It's a Girl'."
"Roll call, roll call! Everybody up, up, up!" Sergeant Schultz burst into the barracks the next morning, loudly calling the prisoners to formation. As he looked around the room, he noticed Colonel Hogan rising from the bunk in the main room of the barracks. "Colonel Hogan? What are you doing there? Why are you not in your own bed?"
Hogan blinked in an attempt to wake up. "Late poker game, Schultz." Shaking his head to clear it, Hogan briefly considered lying back down on the bunk, but knowing that would only get them more attention from the guard, dismissed the idea. He stood and stretched, and the men around him tumbled out of their beds, as well, hurriedly pulling on their clothing. As Schultz closed the outer door, the baby sleeping in Hogan's quarters awakened with a cry that was quickly quieted.
Schultz reopened the outer barracks door, looking wide-eyed around the room. "What was that?" The chubby German asked, obviously fearful of what the answer would be.
Newkirk spoke up quickly, "Sounded like a cat to me, it did." The prisoners murmured their agreement. "We'll have to search for it before Bailey here gets LeBeau to cook it for dinner!" He slapped Bailey, the American airman on the back. Newkirk leaned over and whispered a ribald comment into Bailey's ear, whereupon the two men burst into laughter.
Schultz waited in the open doorway, still unconvinced. Hogan complained, "Schultz, close the door. You're letting all the warm air out."
Carter called out laughingly, "Yeah. Were you born in a barn?" Amid the men's laughter, Schultz looked around the room at the prisoners a final time. Still not seeing anything out of the ordinary, he closed the door.
Outside, the prisoners lined up for roll call in the frosty predawn air. Following his daily routine of calling for the morning account, Colonel Klink exited his office, dismissing the prisoners when Schultz made his report of all present.
Hogan went back into Barracks 2, and seeing Wilson had also gone back inside, he approached the medic. "Everything ok? Need anything?" Hogan voiced his concern.
Wilson grinned and answered, "No, sir. I believe we've got everything we need right now. Mama and baby seem to be doing real well. She's a pretty little thing. Eats real good, too." The medic blushed a little at his reference to the breastfeeding infant. Recovering quickly, he continued, "Would you like to see her, sir? Miss Helen mentioned earlier that she would like to speak with you when you got a chance."
Hogan felt unsure, but went along with the medic's suggestion. He walked to the door of his personal quarters, and raised his hand to knock gently on the door. At Helen's soft "Come in," he entered the room that suddenly seemed foreign to him.
She was in a sitting position on the lower bunk, propped up against several pillows donated by the men in the main barracks. She wore a hospital gown from the camp infirmary, her fiery red hair was tied back with a ribbon, and the newborn baby was held in her arms. Helen lifted her head and smiled, and Hogan's throat constricted as he looked at her. The scene seemed so beautiful, so peaceful, so out of place in the prison camp, until she looked up, exposing the bruises from Major Schmidt's violent anger. He suddenly felt a keen desire to go home, back to a place that didn't have bombs falling around it, a place where there were no bridges or factories to blow up and the welcoming committee didn't involve Gestapo interrogators. He took a deep breath to clear his mind of those thoughts that were better kept pushed to the background, and pasted a smile on his face.
"How's our little girl today?" Hogan stopped a few feet from the bunk.
Helen answered, "She's wonderful. She's beautiful. And perfect. Would you like to hold her?" To emphasize the point, she lifted up the baby toward the Colonel.
Hogan looked around uncertainly. Feeling out of his element but unable to think of a reason he could give to get out of her offer, he said hesitantly, "I don't know much about babies."
Helen laughed softly at his discomfiture. "There's not much to it, Colonel. Come here, I'll show you."
Hogan approached the bunk and bent over. As she lifted the baby, he noticed that Helen's arm was wrapped. Wilson had mentioned that he was pretty sure it was sprained, not broken. Helen placed the baby in his arms, instructing him where to keep his hands to support her head and body. He straightened, and looked into the deep blue eyes of the infant girl. Solemn-faced, he stared a moment, but as the baby wrinkled her nose and rubbed her face with tiny fists, he broke into a lopsided grin.
"Colonel Hogan, excuse me, sir. Kinch asked me to get you to come down below. He's got a priority message for you." Sergeant Baker, Kinchloe's assistant on radio duties, stood just outside the open doorway of Hogan's private quarters.
"What? Oh, ok. Thanks. Tell him I'll be there in a minute." Hogan looked into the baby's face once more, saying to Helen, "You're right. She is beautiful." He carefully handed the infant back to her mother and turned to go. Helen's voice stopped him as he walked out of the room.
"Colonel?" Her voice was quiet but strong.
"Yes?" Hogan answered, half turning toward her.
"Thank you. For everything." Helen's eyes were transfixed on her baby's face. Hogan took one last look, and left the room, closing the door quietly behind.
Hogan walked across the common room of the barracks to the bunk opening. As he placed his right foot on the top ladder rung, the outer barracks door swung open forcefully. Carter rushed into the room, announcing breathlessly, "Colonel, Gestapo."
Hogan stepped back and tapped the bunk to close the tunnel opening. Turning to Carter, he asked, "Hochstetter?"
Carter nodded, and Hogan queried as he walked toward the door, "Anyone with him?"
"Nope, he's alone. And boy, does he looks mad!" Carter gushed, forgetting military protocol with his commanding officer momentarily. Hogan turned a questioning look on the young sergeant, who immediately added, "Sir."
He had been expecting a visit from Hochstetter, the Gestapo Major who was assigned to investigate unusual activity and occurrences in their area. "He's going into Klink's office. Come on." Hogan motioned Carter toward the private room at the end of the barracks, then hesitated a brief moment at the doorway when he remembered Helen occupied the room. Forging ahead, he knocked lightly on the door.
"Come in." Helen's voice called.
"Sorry to disturb you, but we've got business to take care of." Hogan and Carter took seats at the desk in the center of the room, then plugged in the coffeepot and took off the lid and basket. Voices could be heard clearly through the small speaker that was hidden inside. Helen watched dumbfounded while the two men listened in on the conversation that was taking place in the Kommandant's office.
"Klink," Major Hochstetter was saying in his grating voice, "you had a Major Schmidt as your guest here at Stalag 13, did you not?"
"Why, yes, Major. He was delivering a prisoner to Field Marshal von Trammel, but had trouble with his car's engine. He was forced to wait until another car could arrive to complete his journey. Why do you ask?" Klink spoke rapidly in answer to the Gestapo man's question.
"He met with an unfortunate accident not far from here." Hochstetter relayed. "He was killed, along with his driver, when his car crashed into the trees and burned on the road to Hammelburg. It has taken some time to identify the bodies."
Klink was genuinely surprised. "How terrible! Major, I had no idea."
A soft knock sounded at the door as LeBeau and Newkirk poked their heads inside. Hogan motioned for them to join him at the table. Both men glanced shyly at the woman in the bed, then took their places at the table.
"You said he and his driver were killed? What about his prisoner, the young fraulein?" Klink asked, concern in his voice.
The men could hear rustling and movement in the Kommandant's office, then Hochstetter answered, "She has not been found. That is why I am here, Klink. What do you know about this?"
Klink answered, fear in his voice, "What do I know about this? Why, Major, I know nothing, nothing at all!"
"He's been hanging around Schultz too long," Hogan wisecracked, to the amusement of the other men gathered around the coffeepot.
On the other end of the wire, Hochstetter spoke again, "Are all your prisoners accounted for, Klink?"
Colonel Klink replied, "Of course, Major! You know the perfect record we have here at Stalag 13! There has never been-"
Hochstetter interrupted Klink, saying dismissively, "Ya, ya, ya. I know all about your perfect record." Under his breath he added derogatorily, "I just find it hard to believe." He continued, "Major Schmidt telephoned the Field Marshal in Berlin shortly before he left here and informed him that he and his party would be leaving earlier than expected. He indicated that there might have been a problem here, but that they would discuss it when he arrived in Berlin." There was a slight pause in the conversation, and Hochstetter finished, "What was the problem, Klink?"
Klink sputtered, "Major Hochstetter, I know that Major Schmidt was annoyed about the delay in getting a car to carry him and Fraulein Hitler to Berlin, and he seemed to be growing rather angry with the situation, but I cannot imagine what kind of a problem he might have been referring to. I am sure it had absolutely nothing to do with me." Klink laughed a little at his answer, giving it an insincere ring.
"There you go, Kommandant, feed the little Nazi pig a bucket o' slop." Newkirk commented as the men listened to Klink's not-completely-truthful answer.
As Hochstetter made to leave, he offered a final comment to Colonel Klink, "And I am absolutely sure that it had something to do with you, Klink."
"Um, excuse me, guys?" A female voice asked from behind the men, who were still crowded around the coffeepot. The prisoners turned, realizing suddenly that they had become so engrossed in the conversation they had been eavesdropping upon that they had forgotten Helen's presence. "If the Gestapo is looking for me here, I've got to get out of this camp." The baby, sensing her mother's agitation, began to whimper.
Hogan answered, "You're not in any shape to go anywhere right now. We're going to get you out in a few days, when you're a little stronger."
Carter approached the bed slowly, his eyes fascinated by the infant. "Wow! She's so little! What are you going to name her?" He pulled off his glove to touch the tiny fingers, which promptly tightened around his finger. "Look at that grip! She's something, boy!"
Helen smiled slightly, and said, "Yes, she is tiny. And she's going to have to be strong. I think we've probably got a fight ahead of us."
Carter asked, "What do you mean?" He was still playing with the baby, allowing the infant to grab hold of his fingers, then release.
"I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Our country is at war. Now I come home with a half-German baby. I know the truth about my baby's father, how he really felt and what kind of man he was. But a lot of people aren't going to understand that." Helen explained. She swallowed, and continued, "But I guess we've got to actually get home first. There I go, putting the cart before the horse again. And sergeant, to answer your other question, I think I'll name her Rosemarie, after the name that was written in the Bible that brought Freddie and me together in the beginning."
Hogan had been standing back a few feet, allowing his men to see the baby for a few moments, but he spoke then, saying, "All right, let's go, I'm sure our guests have had enough company for one day." Turning to Helen, he said, "I'll send Wilson in to check if you need anything." After she murmured her thanks, he closed the door and headed below ground, where Kinchloe had a message waiting for him.
"How do I look? I can't believe I let you do this!" Helen exclaimed as Corporal LeBeau put the finishing touches on her new hairdo. Earlier, the floor had been littered with fiery red curls, the result of the radically short haircut she had received.
"Mon Dieu! It is a crime! I cannot believe it, either! Cherie, you are still beautiful, but so different! It is hard to believe you are the same woman. No one will ever recognize you now." LeBeau replied, feeling not a small amount of regret for having snipped off Helen's beautiful mane. He handed her a mirror, allowing her to see for the first time the results of the hair color treatment he had applied. Colonel Hogan had felt the bright golden red of her natural hair color to be too much of an attention-getter, and in the escape business, drawing attention was a definite no-no. So LeBeau had applied a dark brunette rinse to Helen's much shorter hair, completely changing the woman's appearance.
Seeing her hair for the first time, she cried out, "Oh, no! Look at me! You're right-I don't even look like me!"
Later that evening, the mother and infant would accompany two of the most trusted underground agents in the network out the tunnel exit and be on their way to rendezvous with the submarine.
A little more than a week had passed since little Rosemarie's birth. Because of the baby's occasional crying, Hogan had moved the pair into the tunnels, deeming the risk of being found out too great if Helen and the baby remained above ground. During that time, Helen had met several airmen who wer 'passing through' Stalag 13 on their way out of Germany. The men, mostly American and British, had been unfailingly polite, although Colonel Hogan and his crew had tried to make sure her contact with the visitors was minimal.
Since Kinchloe spent a considerable amount of time below ground in the tunnel system manning the radio watch, Helen had become comfortable speaking with him about their situations. After watching and listening to the prisoners for several days, she finally worked up the nerve to ask him the question that had been dogging at her brain since her arrival at Stalag 13, "Why?"
Kinchloe seemed surprised by her question. "Why what?" he asked as he cooed at the baby he was holding in his arms.
"Why do you stay here?" She asked. "I've seen what you do here. You send everyone else off, back to freedom, and yet you stay. I don't understand why you-all of you-do it. Or how you can stand it. We grew up just a few miles apart, we're from the same place-"
Kinchloe interrupted, saying with a slight smile, "But a different side of the tracks."
Helen made a slight grimace and continued, "And all I have thought about since the day I was captured was going home. How do you live with the knowledge that everybody else gets to go, but you have to stay?"
Kinchloe thought for a moment, then answered, "Who else is going to do this? Sure, I'd love to be back home, safe and sound, with my family. But right now, I have to do this. I could leave. Any of us could leave. Colonel Hogan always made it clear this was a 'volunteers only' setup. I'm here because this is what I can do. It's a small part that I play, but I like to think that I do my best. And I couldn't ask for a better bunch of guys to serve with."
At Helen's thoughtful expression, Kinchloe added, grinning, "Don't misunderstand me, I'd like nothing better than for the war to be over. But for now, this is what I have to do." The transmitter chose that moment to erupt in a series of blips and beeps. The radioman handed the baby girl back to her mother, and went back to his duty.
Major Hochstetter was pulling into Stalag 13 for the sixth time in as many days. Although he was convinced that there was a connection between Helen's disappearance and the prisoners of the Luftstalag, he had been unable to find the link.
"Klink!" He shouted as he stepped out of the staff car. His Gestapo uniform was crisply pressed as usual, and although the Major was small in stature, the uniform seemed to cause him to grow several inches in height.
Colonel Klink turned in the direction of Hochstetter, his shoulders sagging at the thought of another few hours spent listening to the Gestapo Major's endless accusations and speculation. Although he hoped the young American woman was still alive somewhere, he almost wished Hochstetter would find her so he would leave their camp alone for a while. Sighing deeply, he answered, "Yes, Major Hochstetter?"
"Field Marshal von Trammel has requested that I complete my investigation of the matter of the disappearance of Fraulein Hitler by the end of the week. I have stopped in to see if you have any further information you would like me to include in my report." Hochstetter ground out the words in his gravelly, gruff voice.
Klink answered, "Major, I have already told you everything I know. I cannot add anything more because I have nothing more to add."
"Kommandant, I'd like a word with you, as soon as you have the chance." Colonel Hogan had walked up silently behind the two German officers, and now interrupted their conversation with his request.
Colonel Klink replied, "Not now, Hogan. Can't you see I'm busy?" The Kommandant was nervous, and it showed in his tense demeanor.
Hogan kept speaking, "It's about the Red Cross packages. We've noticed there are a few things missing." His face the picture of innocence, the American officer pressed ahead. "It's strictly against the Geneva Convention for your men to be raiding the packages, Kommandant."
Without looking at Hogan, Hochstetter screamed at Klink, as the Gestapo man's eyes bulged and his face reddened, "What is this man doing here?"
Klink started to answer, but Hogan interrupted cheerfully, "Say, Major, you've been hanging around a lot lately. What keeps bringing you back here, day after day?" Hogan lifted an eyebrow and looked at the Gestapo man suspiciously, "You wouldn't know anything about the Red Cross packages, would you?"
"Hogan!" Klink voice spoke a warning. "Of course Major Hochstetter wouldn't know anything about your Red Cross packages!"
Tapping his gloves on his palm, Hochstetter looked at Hogan thoughtfully. "I don't know anything about your Red Cross packages, Hogan, but what do you know about the young American woman who disappeared in the area a few nights ago?"
Hogan's face took on an exaggerated surprised expression. "What do I know about her? Why would I know anything about her? Haven't you been able to find her, Major?"
Hochstetter clenched his teeth, and answered, "No, I have been unable to find her. Which leads me to think she must have connections in this area. Which leads me to you, Hogan." The German officer glared at Hogan through narrowed eyes, his hatred for the American seething from the core of his being.
"Me? I think you might be looking at this wrong, Major." Hogan answered smoothly.
"Why is that?" Hochstetter asked.
"Yes, why is that, Hogan?" Klink echoed, as Hochstetter gave him a silencing glance.
"Well, you said yourself that she must have connections. How far can a pregnant woman get without help? The Gestapo is usually very thorough. I would assume you have already searched the area and turned up no clues as to her whereabouts. So to be that good, her connections must come from somewhere higher up. What did you say her name was, Kommandant?" Hogan asked.
"Fraulein Hitler." Klink answered quickly, then his eyes widened as his mouth formed an "O", an expression that was mirroed on Hochstetter's face.
"Uh huh." Hogan smiled and saluted the Kommandant, turning to walk back to his barracks.
Text and original characters copyright 2002 by Rebecca Sowell
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.