Hogan Takes a Holiday
Linda Groundwater

Papa Bear Awards 20072007 Papa Bear Awards - Third Place
Best Original Character - Meyer

Papa Bear Awards 20072007 Papa Bear Awards - Second Place
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character - Crittendon

Papa Bear Awards 20072007 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Most Unique Story

Papa Bear Awards 20072007 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Overall Story

Chapter One



Overdoing It



His face covered in streaks of black soot, his dark clothes sodden and clinging to him, Colonel Robert Hogan climbed out of the tunnel and into Barracks Two in the middle of Stalag Luft 13. Registering the relative warmth of the hut compared to the stormy German countryside he had just left behind, he felt a shiver ripple through him as he stepped purposefully toward the small stove in the middle of the common room. He didn’t bother pushing the dripping, matted dark hair away from his face as he took the steaming cup immediately offered to him by Corporal Louis Le Beau.


“Thanks,” Hogan said shortly, drawing the cup up toward his face and letting the heat thaw his frozen nose and colorless lips. He nodded gratefully toward Andrew Carter when the young Sergeant draped a scratchy prison camp blanket over his shoulders.


“Everything go all right, gov’nor?” Peter Newkirk, RAF Corporal, came up alongside the US Army Air Corps officer, gracefully sidestepping the growing puddle near the Colonel’s feet.


“Fine,” Hogan said, suddenly feeling even colder despite the small comforts he had been offered. “Everything was going great till the sleet turned into freezing rain. I couldn’t even see the tree stump in front of me to get back into the tunnel.” Hogan offered a small grimace. “My shin found it for me.” He shrugged and took another sip of Le Beau’s coffee. “The Underground will pass on the coordinates of that munitions plant tomorrow. Then the Allies will be able to bomb it with no trouble at all.”


Another, larger shiver shook Hogan’s frame, and the Colonel sneezed. “You had better go get dry, Colonel,” Le Beau fussed. “You will get very sick if you do not get out of those wet things.”


“Yes, mother,” Hogan replied, not unkindly.


“And you’d better get some sleep, too,” piped up James Kinchloe; “London says they’ll have more for you to do tomorrow… and it’s only five hours to roll call.”


Hogan looked at his radio man, hoping to find that the tall, sturdy Sergeant, who served as communications officer for the secret intelligence and espionage unit Hogan ran out of this Luftwaffe prison camp, was joking. But Hogan didn’t find any trace of humor in the man’s dark eyes; only sympathy. And that was something he could live without, at least right now.


“Didn’t you know, Kinch,” Hogan responded, “that officers are supposed to survive on the praise and glory of their subordinates?” A lopsided, weary smile from the Colonel that was met sympathetically by his men. “Everything okay here?”


“Right as rain, Colonel,” Newkirk declared. His overly bright smile, intended to cheer up his commanding officer, fell as he met the baleful stares of Kinch, Carter and Le Beau. “Uh—poor choice of words there, gov’nor—I mean, everything was quiet here.”


“Good,” Hogan said, ignoring the faux pas. He took another warming drink from his cup, then left it on the stove. “I’m going to bed. See you at roll call.”


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


“Are we keeping you up, Colonel Hogan?”


Hogan finished the huge yawn he had been unable to suppress when the Kommandant of the prisoner of war camp, Wilhelm Klink, started his usual long-winded speech about the natural superiority of the Third Reich over the rest of the world. He rubbed his face brusquely and looked, bleary-eyed, at the German officer. “Actually, Kommandant, this was a bit of an early start for me. Next time, would you mind moving morning roll call to about ten o’clock? I’d like to freshen up, maybe have a little brunch, before I face the day.”


The fourteen men who attended the head counts with Hogan each day broke into exaggerated laughter at their senior officer’s wisecrack. It didn’t matter that he had made this request before; the fact that Hogan always knew exactly how to fluster Colonel Klink kept them more than a little amused. Hogan reacted to their chuckles as he always did: a simple glance in the direction of the other prisoners, accompanied by an understated smile that shone most brightly in his eyes.


Hogan’s attention turned back to Klink as the Luftwaffe Colonel began protesting. “Insolence! If you had turned your lights out when you were ordered to, Colonel Hogan, you would not be so tired in the morning!”


“That’s just not possible, Kommandant; we’ve got a lot of work to do at night—digging tunnels, planning escapes, trying to remember what girls look like—”


More guffaws from the Allied prisoners. More fist-waving from Klink, until finally the Kommandant dismissed the men in disgust, with the promise of watchful German eyes being kept on the prisoners at all times, day or night. Hogan nodded knowingly and turned back toward the barracks.


“Another fine morning for the Kommandant,” Newkirk announced with relish as they went back inside. “A lovely touch there, gov’nor. Just enough to stir the old Bald Eagle up for the day.”


Oui. If he did not think we were planning to escape, he might wonder what we are really up to!” agreed Le Beau.


Hogan listened to the banter as the men found their cups for morning coffee. Le Beau was right: a vital part of the success of Hogan’s sabotage and espionage operation depended on Klink remaining Kommandant of Stalag 13—and the “No Escapes” record that the camp held was one of the main reasons Klink was still in place. Never mind that men could actually escape and return at will—and often did. What was most important was that the Germans thought Klink was so efficient at keeping his prisoners cowed that they would never think of replacing him with someone who was actually—Heaven forbid—competent.


Newkirk smiled slyly and drew his hand up to lip level. “I’d like to be up to about here with some beautiful girl right about now,” he declared.


“A cool blonde, or a flashy brunette?” Kinch asked, his dark eyes shining.


“Mate, it’s been so long, I don’t even care if she has hair. As long as she’s breathing, I’ll be satisfied.”


“You’d better go back to sleep, then,” Hogan said. “The only place you’re gonna get a living, breathing woman for awhile is in your dreams. London’s promised us more work today—and you can bet that fraternizing is going to have very little to do with it.” He shrugged. “I’m going to catch a little more shut-eye. Kinch, wake me up when London calls.”


“Right, Colonel.”


“But Colonel—your breakfast!” protested Le Beau.


“Save it for later, Louis. I’m beat.”


Le Beau frowned, but nodded as he watched Hogan disappear into his office. “He is working too hard. It is catching up with him.”


“And we have to go out again tonight,” Carter added. “That Underground contact said he’d only meet with Papa Bear.”


“There’s always more work for the Colonel,” Kinch said, nodding. “He takes the biggest risks, takes all the responsibility, makes all the plans, faces all the brass, deals with the scariest Krauts head on. Any ordinary man’d get a furlough once in awhile. But here…”


“I wish there was a way he could get some time off,” Carter said wistfully. “Hey, why can’t we just tell Headquarters that the Colonel needs a break?”


“Where’s he supposed to go, Andrew?” Newkirk asked. “It’s not like he can just head out for a couple of weeks. The Nazis might notice that.”


Le Beau shook his head again as he gathered ingredients for the morning meal. “He needs time to rest.”


The bunk above the barracks tunnel opened up and a man popped his head into the room. “Kinch—London’s on the line. They want to talk to the Colonel.”


Kinch stood up and shook his head. “Thanks, Baker. We’re coming.” He looked at the others. “No rest for the weary today, I’m afraid. I’d better tell Colonel Hogan he’s already in demand.”


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


“Gee, it sure is quiet out here. I mean it’s so quiet you could almost fall asleep. I’m not used to everything being so still, not even at night. I suppose it’s the snow. But, you know, snow usually makes some kind of—”


“Carter.” The weary voice of the Sergeant’s commanding officer stopped the young man from continuing. “Silence is a good thing when you’re in the spy business. Try to remember that.”


In the darkness, Carter grinned. “Sure, Colonel,” he said. “I guess I’m just not used to waiting so long. That contact sure is late.”


Hogan finished a long yawn and rubbed his eyes. “They’re keeping me up past my bedtime,” he agreed. Leaning forward in their cramped hideaway, he ordered, “Look, you head back to camp. If they aren’t here in five more minutes, I’ll follow you.”


Carter’s eyes widened in protest. “But Colonel, don’t you think you should have someone here to back you up—?”


Hogan listened to the woods around them, then gently pushed Carter toward the clearing. “I don’t like it when our friends are late—it always smells too much like Krauts. Get moving. And don’t even think about coming back out. Understood?”


Carter took a long look at Hogan’s face, hoping for a change of heart. “Okay, Colonel,” Carter said doubtfully. He frowned. “If you’re sure.”


“I’m sure. Get going.” Carter nodded, then turned away to go back to camp. “And Carter,” Hogan called.


The Sergeant whirled back. “Yeah, Colonel?” he replied, almost too eagerly.


Hogan offered a small smile. “Be safe.”


“Right, sir.” Carter nodded and disappeared.


Hogan settled in tensely for the wait.


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


“Why did you come back, then?” Newkirk asked accusingly.


“Because it was an order!” Carter answered vehemently. “The Colonel said ‘Go home—now,’ and I went!”


Newkirk shook his head, as though disappointed in a small child. “And you didn’t think to backtrack and make sure everything went okay? You left the gov’nor out there with no backup at all?”


Carter stood up from his bunk defensively. “Hey, I did just what the Colonel told me to do, Newkirk—he said he’d follow me if the contact from the Underground didn’t show up in five minutes!”


“And what happens when he turns around to come home and there’s a Nazi patrol waitin’? Didn’t you think we should know if that might delay him just a bit?”


Kinch stood up from the common room table as the situation started to get out of hand. “Okay, wait a minute—wait a minute!” Newkirk’s heated expression turned on Kinchloe; the Sergeant met the gaze without wavering. “Cut it out, Newkirk. You know Colonel Hogan expects his orders to be obeyed—whether we like them or not. Carter did the right thing.”


Still steaming, Newkirk retorted, “Oh, and so it’s okay that Carter’s been back for an hour and there’s still no sign of the gov’nor? That even if the contact did show up, that Colonel Hogan should have been back by now, and he’s nowhere in sight?”


“I’m not saying it’s okay,” Kinch replied forcefully. “I’m saying that Carter did exactly what the Colonel expected him to do. So lay off him.”


Almost expecting the Englishman to blow up at him, Kinch was relieved when instead Newkirk capitulated. “Yeah, you’re right, Kinch,” he said, deflated. “I’m sorry about that, Andrew,” he apologized. “It just doesn’t seem right, is all.”


Carter shifted his feet and nodded. “That’s all right, pal. I wasn’t real happy about leaving, either. But Colonel Hogan seemed so sure.” He frowned again, deeply. “And now something might have happened to him, and we won’t even know what.”


“So what do we do?” asked Le Beau, who had chosen not to get his own hot-bloodedness involved before now. “We are standing here talking, while le Colonel is still outside the camp somewhere.”


“I say we go back to the rendezvous point and see if we can at least find any clues about what happened,” Newkirk suggested.


“I agree,” Carter seconded.


Everyone looked at Kinch. Finally the Sergeant sighed and nodded. “Okay; me, too. Carter, can you trace your route back to the meeting place?”


“You betcha.”


“Then you’d better get going. We’ve wasted enough time already.”


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


“Look, that bush is moving!” Carter whispered excitedly, nudging Newkirk and pointing toward a clump of brush nearby.


“So what?” Newkirk answered. “It could be a rabbit.”


“Oh, yeah? Well, since when does a rabbit wear boots? I just saw a foot disappear into those bushes, and it wasn’t furry or lucky! It’s gotta be the Colonel!”


Newkirk considered a moment, then let out the light hoot of a mournful owl. He waited a beat, then repeated it. Shortly after, he heard it repeated back to him, three times. He tapped Carter and nodded, then the two of them made their way to the underbrush, where they found Hogan crouched tensely, pistol drawn and close to his chest.


The Colonel relaxed his shoulders and stood when his men came into view. “What did you think you were doing?—I thought you were a Nazi patrol!” he whispered.


“Just coming to fetch you, gov’nor,” Newkirk replied; “you’re running late tonight.”


Hogan let out an exasperated breath. “I’m late because our contact was delayed by a patrol, and on the way back, I was, too. You two coming out only adds to the trouble. Let’s go,” he ordered crossly.


Newkirk and Carter accepted the Colonel’s annoyance and quickly headed out in the direction of camp. Twice Carter turned around to try and offer an apologetic smile to the Colonel; both times, he found that impossible, as Hogan was lagging behind. Carter trotted to catch up to Newkirk and nudged him, gesturing back toward their commanding officer.


Newkirk glanced back and shook his head. “’e’s tired,” the Englishman observed in a low voice. “I reckon he didn’t need any black paint on his face tonight—the dark circles under his eyes run all the way down ’is cheeks.”


“Yeah; London sure has been running him ragged.”


“Let’s make it a little easier for him to stay in the lead.” Newkirk stopped walking and waited for what seemed like too long for Hogan to catch up. Finally, nodding acknowledgement, Hogan came up beside them. “We’re nearly there, gov’nor,” the Corporal said; “why don’t you take point, and Carter and I will keep watch behind?”


“Okay,” was all Hogan said. Then he moved on ahead.


Carter and Newkirk found it difficult not to overtake the Colonel, whose pace was painfully slow. “D’you think he’s been clipped and he just isn’t telling us?” Carter asked, as Newkirk once again held him back.


“No, mate,” Newkirk answered; “I think he’s just dead beat. We’re gonna have to get him a furlough.”


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


“We got that information off to London, Colonel,” Kinch said. He waited for an answer from Hogan, who was sitting facing his desk, the single small lamp on it casting a faint aura around the officer. Hogan didn’t stir. “Colonel?”


Another ten seconds of silence. Kinch hesitated. What to say? Hogan hadn’t moved an inch. Had the Colonel even heard him? He prepared himself to try again, but he didn’t get a chance.


“They shouldn’t have gone back out tonight.”


Kinch let out a breath of relief. True, what the Colonel finally said did not bode well for the coming conversation, but at least the Sergeant didn’t have to try and draw him out. He waited a moment, hoping his commanding officer would look at him.


He didn’t. “I ordered Carter to stay in camp.”


Kinch straightened—at least this he could answer confidently. “I asked Carter to retrace his steps, sir. He’d been back for over an hour, and we wanted to make sure everything was okay.”


“If everything was okay, I’d have already been back, wouldn’t I?” Hogan snapped, finally turning around and fixing Kinch with a hard stare. “All going out did was put them in the same danger I was in. And that’s what I was trying to avoid by ordering Carter to stay put.”


Kinch blinked back at Hogan, genuinely surprised by the man’s visible anger. It was rare for Hogan to express his negative emotions so forcefully. He looked down at the floor and spoke softly. “The men were worried about you, sir.”


The men. Not “We”? Hogan took in and let out a heavy breath. You’ve just alienated a true friend. Idiot. He slid off the stool and approached Kinch. “Look, I know they were, and—” A gesture of helplessness with outstretched palms—“and I’m sorry.” Hogan shook his head and sighed. “The thing is, they shouldn’t have had to worry about me in the first place. I was just slow coming back. I’ve been slow doing a lot of things lately,” he said. He glanced fleetingly at his bunk. He knew Kinch wouldn’t make him feel small if he looked him in the eye, but he still couldn’t manage it.


Slow, Colonel?” Kinch prodded gently. Tread carefully, Kinchloe, or he’ll clam right up.


“Yeah, Kinch. Slow. I’m slowing down, I’m getting old, I’m wearing out.” Hogan headed for his window, slid open the shutters just enough to look outside into the compound; not enough for the guards to notice. “I wasn’t late coming back tonight just because of the extra patrols; I was late because once I knew I was clear of them, I was just too bone-tired to move much faster than an old man.” Another stare at nothing in the dim light. “When I realized that Newkirk and Carter had come out looking for me, I thought, ‘There you go, Hogan—you can’t even go out on your own any more.’ And that’s what I was angry at,” he admitted quietly. “Not that they cared enough to go out.”


Kinch let a silence grow between them as he absorbed Hogan’s confession. There wasn’t one of them that hadn’t noticed the growing fatigue of their commanding officer as he raced from one crisis to another in the past few weeks. But there wasn’t one of them who hadn’t thought Hogan was coping with it, as he coped with everything else. Kinch shook his head. Everything else. They’d all missed it—all of them. Because it made them feel better to think Hogan never felt what they did: fear, uncertainty—and exhaustion. “Never allowed to be human,” he muttered softly.


Hogan furrowed his brow. “What’s that?”


Kinch shook his head. “I was just thinking, sir. It seems you have an awful lot to deal with, and not a lot of time to breathe in between. A man’s bound to get weary.”


“A luxury we can’t afford at the moment, Kinch,” Hogan said. He closed the shutter and sat down on the lower bunk. “There are big bad Nazis out there making things awfully difficult for our boys. None of them seem to take the time to ‘breathe.’ Whoever runs this operation can’t, either.”


“We’re all just men, Colonel. Not superhuman.”


“So the Germans keep telling us… over and over again.” Hogan lay back on the thin mattress and laced his hands behind his head. “One week’s worth of good sleep, and I’d bet I could get through this war,” Hogan declared almost lightly.


Kinch knew better than to believe the tone. “Well, for now, there’s not much to do but take it easy,” he said, slipping back into a manner he knew Hogan would be able to accept. “London says thanks for the information and they’ll get back to us some time tomorrow.” He shrugged. “Sounds like a good time to catch up on forty or eighty winks or so.”


“I couldn’t agree more, Kinch,” Hogan replied. He let out a long sigh. “Don’t let Louis wake me up if I sleep through lunch.”


“What about Klink and noon roll call?”


Hogan shot him a wry look. “Tell him I have a Do Not Disturb order out till 1945.” He slipped into a small smile.


The mask is back, Kinch thought with a twinge of sympathy. “Yes, sir.” Never allowed to be human…


Hogan shrugged resignedly. “Get me up when it’s time. Or London calls. Or the Allies come storming through the front gate. Whatever.”


“Right, sir.” Kinch smiled softly and went to the door, then turned back to his commander. “Oh, and Colonel…”


“Yeah, Kinch?”


“I was worried, too.”


A small nod, and a sense of overwhelming relief. “Thanks.”

Chapter Two



Time Out



Hogan stepped up into the barracks as his eyes swept the room. “Okay, fellas, gather round,” he ordered. Le Beau, Kinch, Carter and Newkirk immediately came to the common room table.


“What’s going on, Colonel?” asked Newkirk.


“I’m going to go away for awhile.”


The outcry from Hogan’s men nearly drove him back into the tunnel. “Where are you going?” “What is wrong, mon Colonel?” “What happened?”


“Hold it, hold it,” Hogan said. “Nobody needs to get excited; I’ll be coming back. This is just a short-term leave of absence.”


“Where are you going, Colonel?” Le Beau asked.


Hogan looked at his men and took a settling breath. “London’s suddenly remembered that I was overdue for a furlough when I was shot down, and I haven’t had one since. So, I’m getting out of Stalag 13 for a couple of weeks.” The serious faces that greeted his announcement prompted him to continue. “It’s been a long time without a weekend off,” he joked. Still no smiles. “Look, it’s no big deal. We’ve had a lot of activity lately and London doesn’t want anybody to burn out. And they’ve strongly ‘suggested’ that I find a way to get out of camp so I wouldn’t be tempted to start anything. After the last few weeks of madness around here, I told them I’d be glad to take them up on their offer.”


The men still didn’t say anything. Hogan began to feel more than a little guilty about wanting to—needing to—recharge his batteries. Eventually, when the men were looking at everything but him, he said, “Don’t look so worried. Nobody’s planning a hostile takeover or anything. Headquarters simply recognizes that what we do is a bit out of the ordinary, and they want us to last out the war. And you fellas will get a break, too—London says they’ll go light while I’m away. All you’ll have to worry about is bringing in downed flyers. And even then only if you’re sure you can trust whoever comes in my place. No missions.”


Small nods of agreement but no direct looks greeted the Colonel. He frowned, then moved away from them. Quietly, he said, “I’ll be in my office.”


“Colonel,” Newkirk finally said. Hogan stopped and turned around. “We’re… sorry we didn’t do anything about it ourselves, sir. I mean, the rest of us manage to get out for awhile, and it’s covered for us at roll calls. But if you weren’t here, it’d be noticed because you’re an officer, so you haven’t been able to do it like we have. We should have found a way to make it easier for you a long time ago, Colonel, and we didn’t.” He lowered his head, unsure how to continue, and added, “I guess we were only thinking about ourselves.”


Hogan absorbed the Englishman’s confession in silence, then said, “It’s not your job to make things easy on me, Newkirk. I’m supposed to be smart enough to know when I need a break, and obviously I wasn’t, so I’m being ordered to.” He shrugged. “This is… just a way of keeping me on the rails. London says keeping the operation running is worth grounding it for a couple of weeks, and whatever I come up with to get out, they’ll go along with. Now, I just have to figure out what that’s gonna be.”


“Right, sir,” Newkirk replied softly, with a nod.


“We’ll leave you alone to work on it, sir,” Kinch added. He felt butterflies in his stomach when Hogan’s eyes turned in his direction but seemed to look right through him.


Hogan offered a faint smile. “Thanks, fellas.”


When Hogan’s door closed behind him, his men stared silently for a moment, then burst into spontaneous chatter. Finally it was Carter’s words that stopped the rest of them in their tracks: “What if the Colonel doesn’t come back?”


Kinch, Newkirk and Le Beau contemplated that idea for a moment. Then Newkirk said, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt, “Never happen, Andrew. Colonel Hogan says this is only for two weeks. I’m sure London isn’t going to let him go for good.”


“Besides,” Kinch put in, “the Colonel’s not the type that can sit back and do nothing while the war happens all around him.”


Oui, that is true. It would drive him crazy to let the Krauts carry on their regular business without interfering somehow,” Le Beau added.


Kinch nodded knowingly. “You can say that again.”


“But we’re all volunteers,” Carter persisted. “Colonel Hogan always says we’re volunteers. And that includes him, doesn’t it? He could just decide he doesn’t want to volunteer any more.”


Kinch shook his head. “Not likely, Carter. You know how the Colonel is. He’s got a lot of responsibility. So many people depend on him, for everything. Even if London didn’t force him to come back, you know he would.” He paused, then added more quietly, “But I’m kind of glad they decided to do this; he sure is tired.”


“We should have been watching out for him,” Newkirk declared again. He stared at the floor, frowning. “He always watches out for us.”


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


“Here’s how we’re gonna do it,” Hogan announced. He looked carefully at his men, crowded into his quarters as he sat on the stool at his desk. “I’m going to join the Senior Prisoner of War Exchange Program.”


Hogan’s men exchanged puzzled looks. Carter spoke up. “What’s that, Colonel?”


Hogan nodded. “I’m glad you asked, Carter,” he answered, straightening as though about to make a formal presentation. “The Senior Prisoner of War Exchange Program is aimed at increasing the efficiency of the LuftStalags by spreading the ideas that are working in some camps, to others. Stalag 13 has the best record of any prison camp in Germany: no escapes. Thanks, of course, to the iron hand of the Kommandant, as well as a very cooperative senior POW. The idea is to send that senior POW to another camp to toe the line with the prisoners there, while a Senior POW from another camp comes and experiences the strong will of Colonel Klink, thereby learning that attempting to escape is futile.”


Small smiles had crept up on the faces of Hogan’s men as he spoke. Now, Kinch nodded. “So you get out in full view of Klink, no questions asked.”


Hogan nodded. “Exactly.”


“What if Klink doesn’t agree?” Le Beau asked.


“How can he disagree with a Luftwaffe initiative?” Hogan asked. “He’ll have all the official paperwork on his desk tomorrow morning—right, Newkirk?”


“Uh—right, sir.” Newkirk brought himself out of his deep thoughts. “Gov’nor, I don’t want to sound negative, but what if once you’ve swapped…well, they don’t want to let you swap back?”


Hogan looked at his men and saw worried faces. “The program will have very strict rules. It’s two weeks and that’s it. If somebody decides to be funny and tries to mess up the works, one of you fellas will have to enforce it.” His men were still frowning. “Look, this is one of the easiest things we’ve ever had to do—we deliver letters to two camps, we monitor the phones. We do a swap; we swap back.”


“What camp are you going to, Colonel?” Carter asked.


“I thought I might head to Stalag 9.” Hogan shrugged. “We used to get a lot of traffic from there, but things have gone fairly quiet lately. This will give me a chance to find out what’s going on.”


Le Beau pursed his lips, hesitating, then said, “We still want to tell you we are sorry, mon Colonel,” he began.


Hogan shook his head to cut off the Frenchman. “Don’t be,” he said. “POW’s aren’t supposed to get time off, remember? I’m getting more than most of the boys here ever will.”


“Yeah, but most of the boys here aren’t running an espionage and sabotage operation out of a prisoner of war camp,” Kinch countered. “You deserve the break, Colonel. We’ll be glad to keep an eye on things here while you get yourself some rest.”


“Not much of a holiday,” Carter murmured.


Hogan laughed. “No, but it’s the best I can do. If this works, next time I might get Klink to send me someplace with girls.”


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


“Colonel Hogan, I must say you’re taking this very well,” Klink said. “I did not think you would want to leave Stalag 13 to go to another camp.”


“What could ever compare to this paradise?” Hogan deadpanned.


“You don’t know what the Kommandant of Stalag 9 is like.” Klink puffed himself up with pride. “Of course, he could never be as tough as I am—”


“Oh, of course not,” Hogan put in.


“—but he might be harder on you.” Klink moved in to speak confidentially, even though there was no one else in the room. “Just between you and me, Hogan, I have been easy on you.”


Hogan turned his head only slightly to see Klink hovering near his ear. “You have?”


“Yes, Hogan. You see, for some reason I see you as a sort of… kindred spirit.”


“You do?”


Klink nodded solemnly. “We think the same way, you and I.”


Hogan’s stomach turned at the thought, and he squeezed his eyes shut as though swallowing a bad taste in his mouth. “Do we?”


Klink nodded again and moved away, still thinking. “Mm-hm. We both know that there is no escaping from Stalag 13. And so I am willing to make occasional concessions to you in exchange for the peace of mind that comes with knowing you will not try anything underhanded.” A pause. “Most of the time.”


Hogan opened his eyes and nodded hastily, covering up his growing nausea. “Of course, Colonel. And I appreciate everything you’ve done, sir. For the men.”


Klink nodded and waved a dismissive hand almost regally as he returned to his desk. “It’s all part of the game, Colonel Hogan. All part of keeping a strong hold on the reins of this camp.” He sat down at his desk, smiling smugly.


“And you do it so well, sir,” Hogan replied. “I’m sure going to miss it here while I’m at Stalag 9. But knowing I’ll be able to come back here to you in two weeks will help me bear up.” He straightened and put on a brave face. “I’ll be strong, Kommandant. I’ll say to myself, ‘Let others get promoted and move on to Berlin; Colonel Klink will always be at Stalag 13.’” Hogan nodded, satisfied. “It gives me a real sense of peace, sir,” he added sincerely.


“I’m so glad,” Klink said, his tone turning slightly sour.


“May I go pack now, sir?”


“Pack?” Klink echoed incredulously. “You don’t have anything to pack; you’re a prisoner!”


“That’s not true, sir! I still have my favorite toothbrush. And the fellas said I could take our lucky mouse, so I don’t miss them too much while I’m away.”


Klink shook his head, suddenly quite weary. “By all means, Hogan, go pack. You are dismissed.”


“Thank you, sir,” Hogan said, and with a quick salute he was out of the office.


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


Hans Schultz, Sergeant of the Guard at Stalag 13 and un-seeing, un-hearing and usually unwitting part of the Allied operation in camp, stood at the door to Barracks Two, waiting for Colonel Hogan to come out of his office.


“Hey, Schultz, why don’t you bring a girl back with you from Stalag 9?” Newkirk suggested.


The large man chuckled good-naturedly as he looked at the Englishman leaning on a bunk post. “I’m afraid that is not possible. You see, they had to take the women out of the prison camps,” he replied, looking almost conspiratorially at the prisoners. Newkirk exchanged looks with the other men in the common room; “too many Allied flyers were getting shot down just so they could see them!” He laughed loudly, amused at his own joke, as the prisoners made bad-tempered faces at him and shuffled away.


The door to Hogan’s office opened and the Colonel came out, carrying a small knapsack. “Well, that’s it, I guess,” he said simply, looking around the room without letting his eyes stop on any of his men.


“Yep, that’s it,” Kinch agreed. He walked up to Hogan, forcing the officer to look him in the face. “You take care,” he said. He knew Hogan would hear what he could not say with the German guard in the room. “Come back safe.”


Hogan accepted the words with a meaningful nod. “I will,” he answered.


“Yeah, don’t try anything dumb over there, like trying to escape or anything,” Newkirk put in.


“I won’t,” Hogan agreed.


“And don’t take any wooden nickels,” Carter added awkwardly.


Hogan smiled in the young man’s direction. “I don’t think I’ll have the chance,” he said.


“Just remember: you only have two weeks,” Le Beau reminded him. “After that, it’s back to the Iron Eagle.”


“Just two weeks of easy living,” Hogan said, nodding. “Then back to try and soften up the head of the toughest POW camp in all of Germany.”


“That’s right,” his men agreed, a little too heartily.


The room was ripe with unspoken words of caution and care. Hogan made his way to the door of the barracks, then looked over the room again. “I’ll be back in two weeks,” he said firmly. His men nodded with some uncertainty. “You can count on it.”


“Yes, sir,” Kinch replied, hearing the real meaning behind Hogan’s spoken words: If anything goes wrong, get me back to Stalag 13! “You can count on it.”


Colonel Hogan took in and let out a long breath, then looked at Schultz and said, “Let’s go.”


Chapter Three



Guess Who’s Coming to Stalag 13?



“I think it only fair to tell you, Colonel Hogan, that I do not approve of this ‘exchange program’ being forced upon the Stalags. I see it as highly irregular and highly unnecessary.” The Kommandant of Stalag 9, Heinrich Meyer, regarded Hogan from behind his desk, his back straight, his chin raised in defiance, his eyes sharp and piercing. “And I will give it the minimal attention it deserves, with one vital exception: I will watch you very carefully, Colonel. And if you try to escape, you will be shot.” A thin, false smile crossed his lips. “Is that clear?”


“Crystal,” Hogan replied coolly. “But do me a favor, Captain: don’t take your frustration with the brass out on me. I didn’t ask to come on this little field trip. I’m just as much a victim here as you are.”


Meyer allowed a small snort of a laugh to escape without opening his mouth. Then, still almost but not quite smiling, he said to Hogan, “That will remain to be seen, Colonel. In the meantime, understand that I am not as… accommodating as your Kommandant Klink, if what I am led to believe is true.” Hogan crossed his arms and cocked his head. “And I am not so gullible as to believe that any man would completely give up trying to escape. But let me warn you: the consequences of any such attempt are unforgiving.”


“Consider me warned,” Hogan said. This guy’s a real charmer. “Tell me about the fellow going to Stalag 13,” he suggested.


“No need—you are about to meet him for yourself. He will formally hand over command to you as he leaves. It seemed to be the least… the very least… I could do, to make this whole distasteful program go away as soon as possible. Leutnant!” The door to Meyer’s office opened and another German officer entered. “Is our departing senior POW ready?”


“Ja, Herr Kapitän. Er wartet durch den Lastwagen draußen.”


Meyer nodded. “Bring him in. He must meet Colonel Hogan before he goes to Stalag 13.”


“Jawohl, Herr Kapitän.”


“Tell him anything you think he needs to know, Colonel Hogan,” Meyer said, as the Lieutenant went to do his bidding. “I have been told you are most sensible about escapes. If that is true, you should impart some of this wisdom to the man who will be taking your place for the next fortnight. You see, he does not ‘cooperate’ with me as you do with Colonel Klink. And I would hate to see Kommandant Klink’s perfect record broken, if a man from my camp actually succeeds while he is there.”


Hogan saw right through the words to the irony behind them. “Yeah, I bet you’d be just heartbroken,” he said, letting only a touch of the sarcasm he felt drip through.


The door to the office opened again and the German Lieutenant entered. “Herr Kommandant: der Gefangene.”


The young man stepped back to allow the senior POW into the room. Hogan took one look at the prisoner and closed his eyes, wishing with all his might that he could cancel this imposed “rest” period and get back to Stalag 13. He’d never be able to relax now, not even with no missions from London to put him in danger. And his men would never forgive him.


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


Herr Kommandant, I am back.” Sergeant Schultz announced himself in Klink’s office, pulling himself to attention.


“Very good, Schultz. Did you have any trouble with Hogan?”


No, Herr Kommandant. But when he came out of Kommandant Meyer’s office, he did ask me if I was sure he had to stay.”


Klink raised his eyebrows. “Typical American reaction—soft. Very soft. I’ve been too easy on him, Schultz; you mark my words: he’ll come back with a much stronger appreciation of me.”


“I’m sure he will, Herr Kommandant.”


“You have the prisoner from Stalag 9 with you?”


Jawohl, Herr Kommandant.


“Then bring him in!” Klink commanded, exasperated.


Deflated by the idea, Schultz nodded and almost sighed. “Of course, Herr Kommandant.


Schultz turned and opened the door to Klink’s office, moving back to allow the prisoner to enter. Klink’s jaw dropped even as he thought he would lose his monocle. “Colonel Crittendon!” he gasped.


The tall, moustached Englishman stepped efficiently into the office and brought himself to attention in front of Klink’s desk, executing a smart salute. “Colonel Rodney Crittendon, RAF. At your service, Kommandant!” he announced.


Klink stood up, amazed, and returned the salute. “What are you doing here?” he asked, still stunned.


“I thought you’d know, Colonel!” Crittendon said heartily. Klink swallowed hard. The English officer always did have a crisp, almost barking, voice that made Klink himself feel more like a Private facing a senior officer than the Kommandant of a prison camp and the man’s natural superior. “Some business about an exchange program, I’m led to understand. Just sheer coincidence I was sent here, from the look of it. Must say I’m rather looking forward to it—poor Hogan looked stunned by the whole matter, but I’m not one to be weak about it. Consider it a bit of challenge, actually. Taking on command of a whole different group of men, picking up where someone else has left off, whipping the men into shape...”


“It’s… only… two weeks, Colonel,” Klink said. Now he understood Hogan’s plea to Schultz before he was left at Stalag 9. Crittendon always got under Hogan’s skin—he had the American dead to rights on date of rank, which meant whenever they were both in camp, Hogan was not the senior officer. Klink himself quite enjoyed seeing Hogan rankled occasionally, especially by someone on the POW’s own side of the war. But something about Crittendon bothered Klink, too. No matter how gung-ho and stuck on military protocol the man seemed, there always seemed to be trouble when Crittendon was in camp… and this time, Hogan wouldn’t be around to make it all right again.


“Yes, well, Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Crittendon replied with a chortle. “I take it I’ll be in Hogan’s quarters.”


“That’s right; you will,” Klink answered with a nod. Then, coming back into himself, the Kommandant added sternly, “And I’ll expect no monkey business from you, Colonel Crittendon. I run a tight ship.”


“Right you are, Kommandant!” Crittendon agreed. An amused chuckle. “Or should I say, ‘Aye, aye, sir!’?” he amended.


Klink felt a split-second moment of regret that he had let Hogan out of camp for the next two weeks. “Schultz will see you to your quarters,” he said weakly. “I’ll talk with you after roll call tomorrow morning.”


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


“Quite a surprise, eh, men?” Crittendon asked, standing, pleased, in the middle of the common room of Barracks Two.


“Yeah, quite a surprise,” Carter said unenthusiastically.


“You can say that again,” Newkirk muttered.


Quite a surprise,” Le Beau added, crossing his arms. His face went dark.


“You could knock me over with a feather,” Kinch said tonelessly. Hogan’s men exchanged looks, then turned back reluctantly as Crittendon continued.


“Sheer stroke of luck being brought here,” the British officer said.


“It was a stroke of something,” Newkirk admitted under his breath.


“Well, with such a fine team of men, I’m sure Colonel Hogan will be proud of what we’ll accomplish right under Jerry’s nose in his absence, eh?”


Kinch stepped forward. “I beg your pardon, sir, but Colonel Hogan ordered us to stand down while he’s away. All he wants us to do is get downed flyers out of the woods. Everything else is on hold.”


“On hold?” Crittendon echoed. “Nonsense! The Jerries aren’t taking a holiday just because they’ve moved Hogan out for awhile.”


“They didn’t move him out,” Kinch countered; “London did.”


Crittendon furrowed his brow. “London?”


“That’s right,” Newkirk confirmed. “We’ve been really busy in the last few months. Headquarters ordered the Colonel to get out of camp and have a rest period. And they said they won’t give us any missions till he comes back.”


Crittendon frowned. “I see.” Hogan’s men nodded at each other in silence. Finally, they’d gotten through. “Well,” he said finally, “if the chaps back in London aren’t going to give us anything to occupy ourselves with, we’ll have to find something ourselves.”


“Not calisthenics!” Carter couldn’t hold in.


Crittendon laughed. “No, no, no, dear boy!” He looked Carter up and down with a critical eye. “Not that you couldn’t use it.” Carter frowned and studied himself in self-defense. “I’m not talking about exercise. I’m talking about Jerry-bashing!”


“But Colonel Crittendon, Colonel Hogan said—”


But the officer cut Le Beau off before he could continue. “Never mind that, Corporal. When Hogan’s not here, I’m in charge. And besides, I’d have to countermand his orders based on date of rank.” Hogan’s men frowned, fuming. “Now, all I have to do is figure out what we’re going to be doing, and then we’ll get started. Be a nice surprise for Hogan when he gets back, yes? Of course!” Crittendon sat down at the common room table and looked at the others. “So. Where is Jerry hurting us the most at the moment?”


Newkirk shook his head and muttered, “Right in our own barracks.”


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


“How could le Colonel do this to us?” Le Beau said in an excited whisper as soon as Crittendon went into Hogan’s quarters to settle in.


“Yeah, I thought it was gonna be a slow two weeks without the Colonel here,” Carter agreed.


“Not likely with that dizzy peacock around,” Newkirk said.


“Some joke, Colonel,” Le Beau said, shaking his head. “It is not funny.”


“Hang on, fellas,” Kinch protested. “You don’t think the Colonel would do this to us on purpose?” The looks that met him were only half-believing. “You remember what Colonel Hogan said—things were getting quiet over at Stalag 9 and he didn’t know why. Well, now we know why. He wouldn’t have given us Crittendon on purpose.”


“I suppose,” Newkirk conceded reluctantly. “Ol’ Crittendon drives him up the wall, too.”


Le Beau played with an invisible something at the table. “C’est vrai,” he admitted. Suddenly he was struck with an idea. “Hey—we are the ones running this ‘exchange program,’ right?”


“Right,” Newkirk agreed.


“Well, why do we not just order it ended and bring le Colonel back?”


Carter and Newkirk immediately lauded the idea, but were quieted by the stillness of their fourth. “What’s the matter, Kinch?” Carter asked.


Pursing his lips, the Sergeant looked up at his friends. “London sent Colonel Hogan away because he needed a break.” The others sighed inwardly. “What kind of men are we if we can’t put up with Crittendon for a couple of weeks so the Colonel can get some time off?”


“But Kinch,” Le Beau couldn’t help protesting, “that idiot is going to—”


“If we call Colonel Hogan back now, he’ll never get another chance to recharge. There’s nothing going on at Stalag 9. And that’s where the Colonel needs to be.”


Newkirk sighed. “You’re right as usual, Kinch,” he admitted.


“Of course he is,” Carter added.


Le Beau eyed Kinch with mostly false acrimony. “Do you have any idea how irritating that is?” he asked.


Kinch chuckled softly as the hummed strains of God Save the King wafted through the door of Hogan’s office. “Yep,” he said wryly. “I sure do.”

Chapter Four



The Colonel Swap



Hogan sat on the bottom bunk in his adopted room and massaged his temples. Crittendon! he thought desperately. He was supposed to be at Stalag 16! How could I not even think he might be here? He sighed and dropped his hands. “You didn’t think because you were actually looking forward to a break, and you let yourself slip!” he condemned himself aloud.


Hogan grimaced, disgusted with himself. Crittendon could cause all sorts of havoc in fourteen days. Maybe when the fellas see him, they’ll realize there was a screw-up and they’ll get me back to Stalag 13. He shook his head, discouraged. “Maybe,” he muttered.


He still remembered the nauseous feeling he got when Crittendon had said jovially to him in Meyer’s office: “A bit like playing in someone else’s backyard, eh, Hogan?”


Hogan had gritted his teeth and replied, “I didn’t know you were in this particular playground, Colonel.”


Meyer had been fascinated to learn that the two officers had already met, and watched carefully as the American seemed to shrink visibly when having to speak to the British officer. And he had absolutely loved the pained expression on Hogan’s face when Crittendon said, “They tried everything to hold me at Stalag 16, Hogan, but they couldn’t do it! Finally, they transferred me here. Kommandant Meyer has been working admirably to keep me inside the fence, but it’s an officer’s duty and all, what?” And then he’d laughed, gratingly, while elbowing Hogan in the ribs.


Seeing the suffering so clearly etched on Hogan’s face made it almost worth putting up with this inane exchange program, Meyer had thought. And then came Hogan’s plea, which had ratcheted up Meyer’s support of the program two more notches: “Well, just take it easy for a couple of weeks, all right? Things are fine just as they are at Stalag 13.”


At that Crittendon had offered Hogan an exaggerated wink; even Meyer had rolled his eyes to the ceiling at that. “I’ll bet they are, Hogan, old man,” the RAF officer said. “And you can rest assured: I’ll do my best to keep things running smoothly until you return.”


“Don’t do anything!” Hogan had begged. “Just consider it R and R.”


Sitting on the bunk now, Hogan looked at the very precisely tucked-in blanket, the very tidy row of bottles on the shelf across the room, the very neatly arranged pencils on the desk. Suddenly he felt very weary, and he lay down with a sigh, pushed his crush cap over his eyes, and crossed his arms over his stomach.


The sound of footsteps intruded less than a minute later. “Sir?”


Hogan opened his eyes and peered out from beneath his cap. A young man stood in the doorway, an almost sheepish look on his face. Hogan sat up slowly, pushed his cap back, and furrowed his brow. “Yes, Corporal?”


“Uh… it’s time for calisthenics.”


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


“So what’s the set-up here?” Hogan asked, buttoning up a fresh shirt after a quick wash in the common room sink. I miss those extra showers I used to sneak in, he thought fleetingly.


“Pretty ordinary, Colonel,” replied Steve Grizone, who’d followed Hogan into his quarters to continue their conversation. “We get up early for roll call, then we do a few things around the compound to keep the Krauts happy and ourselves sane, then we mosey around until something better comes along.”


“And calisthenics every day?” Hogan asked, tucking the shirt into his trousers.


Grizone nodded. “Yes, sir, every day. Well, ever since…” His voice trailed off.


Hogan paused and looked at the Sergeant. “Don’t tell me—ever since Colonel Crittendon came into camp.”


Grizone shuffled his feet. “Yes, sir.”


Hogan sighed and draped his tie around his neck, then reconsidered and hung it on a nail near the small mirror on the wall. “How long has he been here?”


“About two months, sir.”


Hogan did some mental calculations as he straightened the collar of his shirt; then he nodded. “That sounds about right,” he muttered. The Colonel considered before he made his next statement; he hadn’t had a chance to check the barracks for listening devices, but he was sure there had to be one planted somewhere. He grabbed his jacket and crush cap and headed outside. “Tell me about your Escape Committee,” he prompted. The Krauts’d have to be stupid to think the fellas don’t have one. Still, no sense in taking any chances.


Grizone shoved his hands in his pockets. “Not much to tell, Colonel,” he said as they headed out the door. “We used to be pretty active; you know, the fellas are always looking for a way to get out.”


“That’s understandable,” Hogan commented, glancing up at the cold, distant sun before pulling his jacket in tightly around him.


“But now… well… I mean, we still want to get out, but…”


Another hesitation. Hogan turned fully to the young man as they turned the corner of the barracks. “But?” he probed softly.


“But…” Grizone sighed. “But Colonel Crittendon usually messes it up for us.”


Hogan pursed his lips. He’d been afraid of this. “Messes it up? How?”


“He means well, Colonel Hogan, really he does,” Grizone added hastily in the Englishman’s defense.


Well, that nearly sounded sincere, Hogan observed silently. “I have no doubt about that,” he said aloud.


“It’s just that—well, he insists on being a part of every escape attempt, and there always seems to be a problem.”


“A problem?” Hogan repeated.


Grizone drew his jacket up around his neck. Then he pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and held it out toward Hogan. The Colonel shook his head and Grizone shrugged, then pulled out some matches and lit his own smoke. “Yeah,” the Sergeant said, resuming the conversation as the two leaned against the barracks wall. “You know, something gets dropped and the goons hear us. The flashlight gets left behind and by the time someone’s gone to get it, the searchlights have us pinned down. Or worst of all, we actually get all the way out of camp, but we get so spun around we have no idea where we’re going, and we end up back at our own front gate! This never used to happen to us before!” the young man said, shaking his head.


“Sounds like the curse of Crittendon,” Hogan remarked.


“Do you think he’s working for the goons, Colonel?” asked Grizone confidentially. “You know—sabotaging our escape attempts?”


Hogan shook his head. “No. No, Crittendon’s the real thing,” he assured the Sergeant. “He just has this incredible knack for creating spectacular disasters.”


“He’s a menace!” Grizone burst.


Hogan laughed softly. “That’s to damn with faint praise,” he said. “No, Grizone, Colonel Crittendon is the most genuine man you’d ever want to meet. He’s sincere, he’s loyal, he cares about his men, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to beat the Nazis.” He shrugged. “The thing is, he’s not really well suited to doing that.”


“That’s unfortunate,” Grizone remarked dryly.


Hogan nodded. “It sure is.”


“Well, gee, Colonel, what do we do, then?” Grizone asked. “We want to be able to get out. I mean, if he’s for real, I’d hate to hurt his feelings or anything, but the guys are starting to get… well… impatient, if you know what I mean.”


“I understand,” Hogan answered. “Tell you what: tell the Escape Committee to come up with a few more plans. Let me deal with Crittendon when we swap back in two weeks. I might be able to help alleviate your problem.”


“Gee, that’d be great, Colonel.” Grizone took a long drag from his cigarette while Hogan looked out past the barbed wire fences. “Colonel Hogan, can I ask you something?”


“Sure; what is it?”


“How come everyone tells us to head toward Stalag 13 when we get out of camp?”


Hogan briefly stiffened. Could this boy be a German plant? He considered the idea, then realized that without knowing about the operation, the men who escaped from prison camps would have every reason to be bewildered about a suggestion that they make tracks for another prison camp in order to reach safety. Still, he would take no chances. Hogan shrugged. “Maybe the travel brochures gave us a five-star rating.”


Grizone grinned, then let his face slip into an expression of uncertainty. He could only watch and wonder as Hogan walked away.


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


Crittendon gave a mighty slap of his hands and then rubbed them together enthusiastically. “Well, chaps, what has Jerry got going on right now that we can have a go at?” he asked, moving into the common room.


“Colonel Crittendon, London expects this to be a quiet couple of weeks—” Carter began.


“And so does Jerry! But we can take care of that, now, can’t we?” Crittendon replied with vigor.


The bunk that hid the tunnel underneath the barracks lifted and Kinch’s head popped through. “We got a message from the Underground,” he said, stepping into the room.


Newkirk, Le Beau and Carter turned toward him and away from Crittendon. “What do they want?” the Frenchman asked.


“They want our help setting up a Resistance group in another area.” Kinch shrugged. “I told them they’d have to wait.”


Even as Hogan’s men were nodding, Crittendon was rising from his seat. “Have to wait? Nonsense! We can help them set up that group!”


“They’re expecting Colonel Hogan, sir. He’s done it before, and they’ll need his expertise behind them when they start.”


“That’s right,” Newkirk agreed. “Y’know, the gov’nor’s got quite a reputation. Some people won’t deal with anyone but him.”


“Pish posh,” Crittendon retorted. Hogan’s men were left speechless at the words. “Anyone can set up a Resistance group—even you could do that, Carter!”


“Oh, no, sir; not me,” Carter replied, shaking his head.


“Heaven help them if you did,” Newkirk added.


Crittendon ignored the protests. “Well, we can certainly help this keen little band of fighters get their operation underway, what? Sergeant Kinchloe, get back in touch with that Underground group and tell them we’ll be more than happy to assist them.”


“But Colonel Crittendon, it would really be better if they deal with Colonel Hogan—”


“Set up a meeting for oh-eleven hundred hours, tonight.”


Le Beau looked at him, almost but not quite hiding his disgust. “You mean twenty-three hundred hours,” he said flatly.


“Twenty-three? On a twenty-four hour clock and adding eleven, that would mean that…” Crittendon tried to calculate using the different numbers. “Yes, well, whatever it is, make sure they know when to be there!” He turned back toward Hogan’s room. “Must start making plans now, chaps! Can’t risk anything going wrong. Go on, Kinchloe, get moving!”


Kinch sighed. “Yes, sir,” he said, making the slowest of movements back toward the tunnel as Crittendon disappeared.


Newkirk shook his head. “If this new group is smart, they won’t show up at all.”


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


“Did you warn them, Kinch?” Newkirk whispered as they crouched in the woods, waiting for their contact to appear.


“Are you kidding? I’d just made contact when Crittendon decided he wanted to listen in on the conversation and make suggestions. He was by my side the whole time. I couldn’t even tell them Colonel Hogan wouldn’t be coming.”


“Fantastic,” Newkirk replied, shaking his head. He looked over at the RAF officer, who was standing proudly a few feet away from them. “Look at ’im. Stands out like a ruddy beacon, he does.”


“He’s sure determined to keep things going while the Colonel’s away.”


“Can’t we get London to bring him back into line?” Newkirk suggested.


Kinch shook his head. “I thought of that, too. But then they’ll just bring Colonel Hogan back instead, and what kind of break will he have gotten?”


“Yeah, you’re right, Kinch. We’re just thinking about ourselves again.”


“Yep.” Kinch sighed. “Boy, there sure is something to be said for being selfish.”


A light suddenly pierced the darkness. Kinch and Newkirk instantly crouched lower, pistols gripped tighter and ready to fire. Kinch stole a quick look toward Crittendon, who hadn’t moved. The light came again, twice this time, then again, three times. Newkirk flashed the light he held three times, then twice.


The other light answered: one flash. Newkirk and Kinch stood up. Sounds in the underbrush indicated someone approaching. “Papa Bear?” came a low voice.


“Valentino?” Kinch replied.


Newkirk couldn’t hide a tiny smirk. This fella sure doesn’t sound like a “Valentino.” More like a “Peter Lorre.”


“Glad to meet you,” the tall, stocky man replied. He looked around as the trio exchanged handshakes. “Where is Colonel Hogan?” he asked.


Kinch and Newkirk looked at each other. “Look, I wasn’t able to tell you when we radioed, but—”


“Where’s this Valentino, then?” came the bold voice of Crittendon from behind them. Hogan’s men “shushed” the officer and quickly drew him into their circle. Valentino tensed visibly.


“This is our contact, sir,” Newkirk explained, gesturing toward the man who had joined them. “He was just asking us where Colonel Hogan is.”


“I was expecting Papa Bear to be here. He knows everything about the Underground in this area,” Valentino explained.


“That’s lovely, old man, but Hogan’s not the only one who knows the Underground,” Crittendon announced. Again, Newkirk and Kinch quieted him.


“Who is this man?” asked Valentino, anger creeping into his voice.


“Colonel Rodney Crittendon, RAF,” answered the officer. “Believe me: I am quite capable of helping you lot organize yourselves. Now, where can we go to discuss this over a nice cup of tea?”


“We want to deal with Colonel Hogan only,” Valentino said firmly.


“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to tell you when we radioed,” Kinch tried to explain. “You see, Colonel Hogan is… temporarily on assignment. He’ll be back in a couple of weeks. And Colonel Crittendon here is at Stalag 13 in the meantime. He thought it would better if you could start up right away.”


“We will wait for Colonel Hogan,” Valentino decided, even as he watched Crittendon getting ready to launch a protest. Then he added flatly, “I understand he does not drink tea.”


Newkirk nodded, embarrassed by the encounter. “We’re sorry, mate. We’ll see that Papa Bear gets in touch with you the very day he gets back.”


Kinch and Newkirk farewelled the Underground contact as Crittendon continued to offer his services. Newkirk grabbed the officer by the arm and steered him back toward Stalag 13. “What’s wrong with tea?” the Colonel asked.


“Not everyone finds it as appealing as you do in the middle of the night in Nazi Germany, Colonel Crittendon,” Newkirk answered with an exasperated look toward his charge.


Crittendon shook his head. “What an extraordinary thing.”


“Let’s get back to camp before anything else extraordinary happens,” Kinch suggested. And they practically dragged the British officer back through the woods.


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


Hogan watched with curiosity as a German staff car pulled into the compound shortly after morning roll call, polished to reflect the bleak sun to its maximum, flags waving near the hood. It stopped near Captain Meyer’s office and a German non-com stepped out from the driver’s seat to open the back door.


Hogan was just craning his neck to see if he recognized the other occupant of the vehicle when he found himself facing a sullen-faced guard who didn’t hesitate to press the barrel of his rifle into the American’s stomach. “Inside. Schnell.”


Hogan frowned and drew in a breath to create a small space between himself and the weapon. “Okay, Fritz; all you had to do is ask,” he answered.


But the guard closed the gap; Hogan obviously wasn’t moving fast enough. “Gehen Sie die Baracken herein. Jetzt.


“All right, all right,” Hogan said, raising his hands slightly to show compliance. “I’m going.” He turned away from the guard and straightened to get the feeling of the cold rifle off his back. “Anybody’d think you didn’t want us to see what’s going on.”


“Schnell!” persisted the guard, as Hogan slowly opened the door to the barracks.


“Or who’s coming!” Hogan called over his shoulder, as the guard shoved him inside and pulled the door loudly shut behind him. Hogan glared at the door for a second, then, being watched by the other men in the common room, moved over to the window between two of the bunks. As he tried to peer out through the glass, he found himself facing yet another rifle barrel.


Hogan raised his hands in surrender once again. “I know, I know,” he sighed, closing the shutters on his own and turning back toward his barracks-mates: “Inside. Schnell.”

Chapter Five



The Reluctant Spies



“Hey, who is that coming into camp?” Le Beau asked.


Carter pulled away from the wall of the barracks and stopped playing with the ball in his hands. “Gee, I dunno. Are we expecting anybody?”


“Only Colonel Hogan. But he will not come back fast enough for me.”


“Maybe we’d better go tell Kinch and Newkirk.”


Oui. But not in front of Crittendon.”


“No way,” Carter agreed quickly. “We’re not gonna make that mistake again.”


“I do not think London would be happy if they found out we were putting off members of the Underground by insisting on taking them to tea.”


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


“Major Baumann, you are more than welcome to use our facilities,” Klink said to the officer. “But I still do not understand why Stalag 13 would have to be involved.”


“You do not need to know all the details of the Abwehr’s business,” Baumann replied, almost haughtily. “Military Intelligence does not require the input of prison camp Kommandants.”


Klink tried to laugh at the barb. “No, of course not,” he said, shaking his head. “But I do need to know what you want from me, Major.”


“I want your cooperation, Colonel Klink. That is all.”


“Well, you certainly have that, Major!” Klink practically sang. His voice deadpanned. “Whatever it is that I’m doing that I’m not going to know anything about.”


Baumann sighed impatiently. “You are going to provide safe quarters for Doctor Wurfel until he is ready to return to Berlin.”


Berlin?” Klink asked. “What could be safer than Berlin?”


“Almost any place at the moment, Klink. The English are bombing it incessantly. And that is exactly why this… place… has been chosen,” Baumann replied with some distaste. “Doctor Wurfel is in need of quiet, and materials. And none of those things is available at the moment, in Berlin.”


Klink frowned. “But we are just a simple prisoner of war camp, Major. We do not have any special materials here.”


“You have wood?” asked Baumann pointedly.


Klink laughed nervously. “Wood? Why, of course, Major Baumann. All our buildings are made of wood. And of course we have firewood in the camp because of the—”


“I am not talking about dismantling your buildings, Colonel,” Baumann interrupted. “Have you not noticed what is around your camp? There is a forest, Colonel Klink. There is wood to burn!” He laughed, not in a friendly manner, at his own pun. “You have all that Doctor Wurfel requires. Without resorting to reducing your camp to rubble and ash.”


“Well, then, of course the doctor is more than welcome here,” Klink answered, unreasonably relieved. Had he actually thought the Major would have been capable of the destruction of the camp? “How long will he be staying?”


“Until he’s ready to leave.”


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


“Do you fellas have any wire cutters around here?” Hogan asked under his breath.


“Sure, Colonel,” answered Lovett. “It wasn’t easy, but we—”


Hogan seized the Corporal’s arm to get his attention. He put a finger over his lips, then pushed the air gently with his hand to indicate the young man should keep his voice down.


John Lovett nodded understanding, furrowing his brow. “Sure, Colonel,” he repeated in a whisper. “We’ve just been looking for a chance to use them.”


“We’re gonna use them right now. Go get ’em.”


Hogan smiled softly as Lovett stole a cautious look around, then headed for a footlocker on the floor across the room. He moved the trunk aside and with nimble fingers pried a floorboard up just enough to pull out a tool. He replaced the board, moved the footlocker back, and returned to Hogan.


“What are you gonna do, sir?” Lovett asked as Hogan accepted the offering.


Hogan reached up to the light suspended from the ceiling and pulled it down toward the table. Then he fingered the wires attached to it and isolated one, which he deftly cut before handing the wire cutters back to the Corporal. “I’m going to make it just a little harder for the Krauts to know your every move,” he answered in a normal voice.


Lovett’s eyes widened and he looked closely at the light. “Colonel, are you saying that was a—?”


“A listening device? Absolutely,” Hogan confirmed. “There’s one in Crittendon’s quarters, too. But I think I’ll leave that one intact—at least for now. Can’t let Meyer think we’ve found out everything; it might ruin his self-esteem.”


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


“Boy, I sure would like to know what that Kraut Major was doing here,” Kinch said softly as the men broke off from noon roll call.


“It’s too bad we could not find out,” Le Beau said under his breath. “But if we tried to use the coffee pot in Colonel Hogan’s office to listen, then Colonel Crittendon would also know.”


“You know, I think we might be looking at this the wrong way,” Newkirk said, sitting at the common room table and picking up the cards he had left there when they were called outside. “I think we need to do exactly what Colonel Hogan said—nothing. We just pick up flyers if they need us, and take a holiday from the spy business.”


“Yeah, I thought that’d be great, too,” Kinch agreed. “But I just can’t help being curious.” He shrugged. “Maybe it’s just become ingrained.”


“Well don’t let it be too ‘ingrained’ while Crittendon’s around,” Newkirk warned him. “Otherwise you might find yourself in the middle of one of his Keystone Kop routines. Or on the pointy end of the Gestapo’s stick.”


“Don’t worry,” Kinch answered; “I have no intention of doing anything but what we were told.”


At that moment, Crittendon came out Hogan’s office, where he had disappeared as soon as roll call had finished. Now, he looked at the men with a touch of dismay. “Terribly disappointing,” he said, shaking his head.


“What’s that, Colonel Crittendon?” asked Carter. The others shot him looks that could have curdled milk.


But Crittendon missed the clandestine warnings and continued. “Why, that Jerry’s bringing another man into camp without explaining his presence to us,” he replied, genuinely surprised.


“Are they supposed to tell the prisoners what they’re up to?” Newkirk asked.


“Besides, I thought that Boche Major was gone,” Le Beau added.


“That’s just the extraordinary thing,” Crittendon said: “he was. But now he’s come back with a civilian in tow.”


“He’s come back?” Kinch asked, a little too eagerly, wishing silently that he’d been able to get to the coffee pot listening device in Hogan’s quarters without the English officer knowing about it.


Crittendon nodded. “Yes. And I don’t know about you chaps, but I know I, for one, would be very interested in knowing who he is—and if we can do something to make his life just a little bit harder, what? I’m sure Hogan would do no less.”


“That’s right, he would, sir,” Newkirk agreed. “But, you see, he’s not here, and London’s asked us to make sure all we do is—”


“Ruddy bad timing for London to give Hogan some time off. But we’ll make do without him, I’m sure. Now, who’s got a bit of craftiness in him, eh? We’ve got to find out who this chap is, so we can decide whether to shuffle him back to London, or do away with him!”


Carter winced at the aggressiveness of the British officer’s statement and looked worriedly at his companions. Le Beau steadfastly maintained his silence, crossing his arms and giving a quick shake of his head. Newkirk muttered a “Blimey,” under his breath and looked away.


In spite of himself, and despite all his orders to himself not to, Kinch found himself speaking. “I can help, Colonel.”


His friends were horrified. “Kinch!” Le Beau exclaimed.


But the tall Sergeant just shrugged. “I’m sorry, fellas,” he said softly. “But Colonel Crittendon’s right. Colonel Hogan wouldn’t let this go, no matter what orders London sent down. What if this fella in camp now is the one who could lose us the war?” He sighed. “I’d sure hate to think I let it happen because I wanted a break.”


Newkirk shifted his eyes to all the knots in the table before he finally looked up. “I suppose it would be nice to know what’s going on, at that.”


“Newkirk!” cried Le Beau.


“Yeah,” Carter said almost reluctantly. “I mean, if the guy’s gonna hang around the camp, the least we can do is see what he’s up to.”


“Carter!” Le Beau looked around at his friends. They were all shifting uncomfortably but not taking back their words. “Tell me you are all kidding!” he implored. He looked at the man who had spoken up first. “Kinch?” The radio operator could only shake his head. “Newkirk? Carter?” Averted eyes. “Are you all going to go against orders? Against Colonel Hogan’s orders?”


A silence descended on the room. “He didn’t know what we’d be seeing, Louis,” Kinch said finally. “You know he’d do the same if he was here.”


“No, he would not,” the Frenchman insisted, his voice determined. “He would follow orders.” When no one answered, his own confidence began to falter. “Well, he would try to follow orders,” he said weakly. Still, no one replied. “Okay, he would find out what is happening,” he admitted. Carter smiled at him. “D’accord. Colonel Crittendon, I will help as well,” he said. “But you must do things the way Colonel Hogan would do them; this is his camp and his operation!”


“Capital, old man,” Crittendon said with a nod. “This will go just splendidly, I’m sure.” The officer sat down at the common room table and got straight to business. “Now, the first thing I’m sure Hogan would do is burst right into the office and demand that this civilian be handed over to him at once.”


No!” the others cried in unison.


Newkirk shook his head as Crittendon reacted to the outburst from Hogan’s men with bewilderment. “It’s gonna be a bloody long fortnight.”


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


“I sure would like to know who came to camp that was so important that we were confined to barracks yesterday,” Hogan said as the men sat around the common room table. Now that the listening device in the room was gone, he felt more at ease. And more in control.


“It happens a lot, Colonel,” Sergeant Grizone informed him. “I think Meyer just likes to remind us that he’s the boss.”


Hogan shook his head. “Could be… but I’m betting there’s more to it than that.”


“What would it matter?” sighed Richard Kent, a baby-faced English Corporal whom Hogan had spotted earlier in the day, sitting almost dejectedly in his bunk. “The goons could tell us flat out what it is and we wouldn’t be able to do anything.” He shook his head. “I’d rather not know.”


Hogan felt the lad’s melancholy and frowned. “Now, that’s no way to think,” Hogan said, trying to sound both cheerful and encouraging. “If we can find out what the Krauts think is such a secret, I’m sure there’s something we could do with it.”


Grizone fixed a curious stare on Hogan. “Oh yeah?” he spoke up, disbelieving. “Like what?”


Hogan looked back at the young man. “That all depends on what we find,” he said evenly.


Grizone held Hogan’s look for a moment, then shrugged and looked back to the cup of coffee on the table in front of him. “I gotta admit, I’m siding with Kent on this one,” he said softly. “The Krauts aren’t gonna let us in on anything. I’d rather not know what they’re trying to pull.”


“Would you want to know if you could make things difficult for them?” Hogan persisted, almost casually. “Or impossible?”


“Well, sure,” Lovett said with a nod. “But how would we do that?”


“I’m not sure—yet. First, we have to find out what’s such a big secret.”


“Probably tomorrow’s lunch,” chortled Grizone. “That’s a military secret.”


“Yeah, because it could kill everyone in an hour if they fed enough of it to the Allies,” Lovett added.


Hogan laughed softly and watched as Kent only half-lifted one side of his mouth into a smile. “I’ll start snooping tomorrow,” he said.


“Be careful, Colonel,” Grizone warned. “Some of the guards—well, they don’t take too kindly to prisoners not minding their own business.”


Hogan nodded. “That just means we’ll have to make sure they think they’re being their usual, difficult selves. And that’s something I’m a specialist at.”


Chapter Six



Stirring Up Trouble



As soon as the guard left the barracks, Hogan nodded slightly toward Grizone and headed back inside. With one cursory glance around the common room, he reached up for the lamp above the table and drew it down to just above his eye level. Studying it quickly, he sighed and pushed it back up.


“Colonel, what—”


Hogan put a finger over his lips and Grizone stopped. Hogan grabbed a baseball glove and ball that were sitting on a nearby bunk and headed back outside. He started throwing the ball against the wall of the barracks as Grizone lit up a cigarette.


“Colonel, what’s going on?” the Sergeant asked.


“The Krauts have put the bug back in the light.” Bang. The ball bounced hard off the wooden slats and into Hogan’s glove. He tossed it again.




Bang. “The fact that they’ve done it so fast means they’ve been listening pretty regularly.” Hogan’s gloved hand was forced back slightly from the impact of the catch. He threw again, a little harder.


“Oh.” Bang. Grizone took a drag from his cigarette, then blew the blue-grey smoke high into the air in a long, thin stream. “Why?”


Hogan shrugged. “Why not?” His arm jerked and absorbed the force of the ball as he caught it. “It’s what they do.”


“Oh.” Grizone watched as Hogan threw the ball again, this time straight up in the air, then concentrated to make the catch. “So what do we do now?” he asked the Colonel.


Hogan paused and looked straight at the Sergeant. “We cut it again.” Grizone started to answer but seemed unsure what to say. Hogan smiled and his eyes twinkled. “We have to make sure the Krauts know their place!”


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


“What have you been able to find out, Corporal?”


“Well, sir,” Newkirk reported to Crittendon in Hogan’s office, “I managed to get assigned to cleaning duty, and I went through the Kommandant’s safe.”


“And?” the British officer asked.


“And… there’s nothing in there, sir. I mean, nothing we haven’t seen already, that is,” Newkirk replied.


“Dash it all,” Crittendon said. “Corporal Le Beau, what about you?”


“I managed to bring the visitor his dinner,” the Frenchman said. “While I was in there someone telephoned.” He shrugged. “When he realized I was standing there, he made the conversation short, but I still got out of it that he is some kind of scientist or doctor. He had a lot of paperwork out on the table. Formulas of some kind, but I could not understand them. In either case, the Krauts are looking after him very well. He was turning down the offer of champagne.”


“Nice work if you can get it,” Newkirk remarked.


“What about you, Sergeant Kinchloe?” Crittendon asked.


“Our visitor is a Doctor Hermann Wurfel. The phone call you overheard, Louis, came from Gestapo Headquarters in Hammelburg. Apparently they’ve been assigned to keep a close watch on the fine doctor—and that includes making him as comfortable as possible.” Kinch looked at the others. “They were also asking whether he had the materials he needed, and he said yes, he did, for now.”


“Materials?” Le Beau echoed. He thought a moment, then shook his head. “He did not have anything out that I could see.”


“That’s good information, Kinchloe; keep monitoring the phones.”


“Right, sir.”


“And you, young Carter?” Crittendon asked. “What came out of your investigation?”


“Well,” the young Sergeant answered, “this fella Baumann has got Klink in a real spin. He’s been in and out twice just today, and both times Klink was running all over camp trying to make him happy.”


Kinch laughed lightly through his nose. “Are you kidding? The Abwehr and the Gestapo looking after this one fella? I’m surprised we haven’t seen Klink crawling around camp on his hands and knees.”


“Obviously, this Wurfel is a very important man,” Crittendon surmised.


Newkirk rolled his eyes. “Obviously is the operative word there, sir,” he dared.


Crittendon missed the dig. “Very well, then, fellows, we’ll need to keep an eye on him. Got to find out what’s so jolly important about him.”


“I’ve got a call out to the Underground, Colonel,” Kinch offered. “I hope to get more information on Doctor Wurfel tonight.”


“Good show.”


“And I’ll be bringing him his breakfast again in the morning,” Le Beau added.


“Right, old chap.”


“I’m gonna go through his trash and see if I can’t find anything useful in what he’s thrown away,” Newkirk added.


“Very good,” Crittendon said. “I think I’ll have a talk with Kommandant Klink about him.”


“No!” yelped Carter, who was immediately echoed by the others.


“Well, why ever not?” Crittendon inquired with some surprise.


“If we show we have a special interest in him, Klink won’t let us anywhere near him!” Kinch explained.


“Nonsense!” Crittendon countered. “A bit of professional curiosity is all. He won’t mind a bit.”


Hogan’s men almost as one sighed and closed their eyes in prayer.


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


Hogan caught Captain Meyer staring at him from across the compound as two guards came out of Barracks Seven and walked away, ignoring the American. Hogan stared back, unflinching, then took a casual look around the prison camp yard before heading back inside the now-empty hut.


He pulled down the light above the common room table and let out an audible sigh as he pushed it back up to its normal height. Yep, Hogan thought, it’s gonna be a battle of wills. It’s a good thing I’m a patient man.


Then he knelt down at the locker with the removable floorboard underneath it, and got to work.


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


Hogan reached into his pocket to the chocolate bars he had convinced the men in his barracks to give up in anticipation of some guard-bribing and pulled out one with nuts. “Sure is nice when those Red Cross packages make it into camp,” Hogan sighed as he started unwrapping one near a guard he had pegged as more like the Stalag 13 guards than any of the others he had encountered here so far. “And this time, it was especially nice of the fellas to share with me, since I’ve probably got a package of my own waiting for me back at Stalag 13.”


Hogan laughed, an exaggerated, false sound to all those who knew him well, but perfectly sincere to everyone else. “Kind of makes these extras,” he said, waving the open chocolate in front of the guard’s face casually. He pretended not to notice when the guard’s eyes widened with desire. “I suppose I should watch my diet while I’m here—it’s important to eat healthy food, especially while I’m in a prison camp. Don’t know how long I’ll be here, after all….” He took a quick glance around him. In the distance, he saw Grizone, Kent and Lovett all watching with rapt attention, trying not to be obvious. “It’s a real dilemma,” Hogan sighed, still holding the chocolate; “I don’t know anyone else who really loves chocolate. And I’d hate to seem ungrateful to the fellas in the barracks by giving it back.”


The guard made a move as if to reach out for the candy, then stopped. Hogan turned to the Corporal, feigning surprise. “Oh, you like chocolate, do you, Fritz?” he asked with some amazement in his voice. A smile made its way onto Hogan’s face as the Corporal eyed the chocolate greedily.


“Ja, ich mag Schokolade sehr viel, Herr Oberst,” the guard answered, nodding.


Hogan laughed conspiratorially. “That’s a yes, then, Corporal, yeah?” he said, still smiling as he continued to unwrap the candy bar.


“Oh, ja, Herr Oberst, ja. Schokolade ist sehr gut!”


Hogan laughed with the young man and broke off a small part of the bar. “Well, I suppose it’s gotta be better than trying to keep track of every Tom, Dick and Heinrich that comes in and out of this camp,” he said, handing a square of the coveted treat to the guard. The Corporal nodded and laughed his agreement as he stuffed the chocolate into his mouth, stealing quick looks all around him to see if he was being watched. “I mean, that Major that came here the other day—he couldn’t be all that important to have you fellas standing guard at our barracks while he strutted around. A waste of time for Captain Meyer just to show off to visiting brass!” he continued, laughing.


The guard nodded and laughed, accepting with ease the next block of chocolate from Hogan. Suddenly he stopped laughing. “Nein. Nein, Herr Oberst,” he said softly. “Dieser Offizier, er war hier auf dem sehr wichtigen Geschäft.” Hogan looked at the guard, pretending not to understand. “Business,” the guard added; “sehr important business.” The guard nodded knowingly.


“Important?” Hogan repeated, holding a piece of chocolate just out of reach of the German. “How important?” he asked, pulling the candy closer to himself as the guard tried to reach out without answering.


“Bitte, Herr Oberst,” the guard said. “I cannot…”


“I know,” Hogan sighed, lowering his arms, thereby drawing the chocolate out of the guard’s reach and sight. “I know. They don’t tell you poor guards anything. It’s the same way at Stalag 13, you know. The Sergeant of the Guard there always tells us that he knows nothing at all. I thought it was different in your army, and that he was just an exception… but it looks like it’s the same all over the German military. Only the big guys know things; everyone else is left in the dark.”


“Nein,” the guard said in a low voice, edging around Hogan to see if he could get a glimpse of the chocolate bar again. “That is not true everywhere. It is true that the officers do not tell us everything. But sometimes we hear things anyway.”


“Things?” Hogan asked, fingering the chocolate as though debating what to do with it. He ran it under his nose, sniffed happily, and sighed.


Ja, Herr Oberst. Things.”


“Like what?” Hogan asked, still not looking at the guard. “You can talk big, Fritz, but all I hear is a lot of hot air.”


“Nein, das ist nicht wahr,” the guard insisted. “It is not true. I can prove it.”


“Prove it?” Hogan asked, letting interest show in his voice. “How can you do that?”


I know why that officer came to camp the other day,” the guard whispered.


“You don’t,” Hogan countered in false disbelief. The hand that had been waving the chocolate stopped inches from the guard’s face. Hogan held it steady there, not looking in the German’s direction.


Ja, Herr Oberst. I do!” the guard said. “He was here to deliver something to Kommandant Meyer for safe keeping!”


“Something?” Hogan asked. He shrugged. “You could be making that up.”


Nein, Colonel, I am not! Kommandant Meyer has put it in his safe, to be picked up again by another officer at the end of the week.”


Hogan furrowed his brow. “Why use Meyer? And why not just deliver it himself?”


The guard shook his head. “Ich weiß nicht, Herr Oberst,” he answered.


Hogan nearly growled his frustration.


“I do not know,” the guard translated for the American, misinterpreting Hogan’s irritability over the lack of information as an inability to understand the German language. Then he straightened as though with hurt pride. “But I know that the other guards do not even know that much. I am most resourceful, you know. I know many things the others do not.”


Hogan finally looked at the guard and let his defenses down—at least on the surface. He handed over the remainder of the candy bar, which the German took quickly and happily. “I’ll just bet you do,” he said finally. “Look, I’m sorry I tested you, Fritz—it’s just frustrating getting moved around from camp to camp when the Kommandants feel like it. Here,” he said, reaching into his bomber jacket and pulling out another candy bar. “Take this. I’ll feel better about taking my frustration out on you.”


“Oh, nein, nein, Herr Oberst. I understand,” the guard said, trying to turn away the gift.


“No, no. I insist,” Hogan said, pressing the chocolate into the guard’s hand. “It’s the least I could do. Look, I never even got your name.”


The guard grinned. “It is Fritz, Herr Oberst,” he said. “Corporal Fritz Drescher.”


Hogan offered a genuine smile in return. “Well, what do you know?” he said with a shake of his head. “It looks like we both knew something today.” He nodded his farewell to the Corporal, and casually headed back to the barracks.


Chapter Seven



Getting Started



Hogan handed the wire cutters back to Grizone, then turned to the stove of Barracks Seven to pour himself a cup of coffee as Lovett pushed the light above the table back up to its usual level. Smiling, the Corporal exchanged glances with a couple of the others in the room before settling down on his bunk near the door. “I gotta hand it to you, Colonel Hogan,” he said. “You must be driving the Krauts crazy.”


Hogan shrugged and came back to sit at the common room table. “What good’s being a POW if you can’t make your captors earn their money once in awhile?” he replied. “Oh—” he said suddenly, reaching into his jacket pocket. “Here are the extra chocolate bars you fellas let me have. I didn’t need them.” He tossed one casually at Kent, the other at Lovett, then took a very satisfying sip of a very bad cup of coffee.


Grizone shook his head. “You were amazing out there, Colonel. You had that goon practically eating out of your hand!”


“From the look of it, he would have done that, too, if you’d have let him!” Lovett laughed.


Hogan allowed a small grin to escape from behind his cup. “He was a softer sell than I thought.”


His voice low and hesitant, Kent finally spoke up. “What did you find out, Colonel?”


Hogan turned to the shy Englishman and smiled softly. “I was hoping you’d ask,” he said. “It seems like our Kraut came to make a delivery.”


“What kind of delivery?” Lovett asked.


“I’m not sure,” Hogan answered. “But there’ll be another Kraut coming to do a pick-up at the end of the week. And that doesn’t leave us much time.”


“Much time?” echoed Lovett. “For what?”


Hogan raised his eyebrows as if surprised the prisoners couldn’t figure it out for themselves. “To find out what’s so fascinating, of course!” he announced.


The others laughed in incredulity. “Come on; you’ve gotta be kidding!” Grizone said. “We don’t even know what it is! And even if we do find out and we manage to see it, what are we gonna do with it?”


Hogan just smiled. “That’s half the fun of finding out.”


Lovett and Grizone exchanged astonished looks. Kent kept his eyes firmly on Hogan. “What are you planning to do, Colonel?” the young Englishman asked.


“Another fine question,” Hogan declared with a nod. “We’re gonna need to round up some specialists. Who’s your best safe cracker?” he asked the room.


“Our best—what?” Lovett asked.


“Safe cracker. Who’s good with his hands, has a good ear? Who can crack the safe in the Kommandant’s office?”


“Oh, boy,” Grizone said, definitely enjoying the development but equally unnerved by it, at least inwardly. “Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”


“What, to get a piece of the action for ourselves? You bet!” Hogan answered.


“But what about the Krauts?” Lovett put in.


“What about ’em?” Hogan answered lightly. His inner voice urged caution. He made it a point of learning as much as he could about other prison camps, but he didn’t really know what the guards or the Kommandant were like, except from what he had experienced in the last couple of days and what he had heard when escaped prisoners passed through Stalag 13. But he also had to admit he was starting to go stir crazy in a camp where he was just an ordinary prisoner. No operation, no regular opportunities to best the Germans, no way of continuing the fight he had been using as a weapon against the demon known as his memories. But this was his problem, he realized, and he needed to be careful before dragging anyone else into his solution. Nevertheless, he couldn’t help but be excited by the idea of helping the men in this camp to do a little underhanded trickery as well.


If they wanted to.


“Well, they’re not gonna conveniently tell us everything we want to know,” Lovett said.


“They’ve told us everything we need to know right now,” Hogan replied. “You do this kind of thing one step at a time.”


“Why does that sound like you’ve done this before?” Grizone asked.


Hogan grinned. “Because I have.”


A voice, almost inaudible in its timidity, surprised them all. “I can help with the safe.”


Hogan looked up from his coffee. “Kent? Are you sure?”


Kent nodded as a small smile crept onto his face. “Yes, sir. I’ve always been… well… very good with my hands, sir.”


Hogan thought of Newkirk back at Stalag 13, and thought it quite fitting that another Englishman take the job of safe cracker in this caper. “Have you cracked safes before?” he asked gently.


Kent stole quick looks at the others before he answered. “Once or twice, sir.”


Grizone and Lovett didn’t know what to say.


“But I won’t need to do that here, sir,” Kent added. “I know the combination.”


“You do?” blurted out Grizone. Hogan watched the exchange, amused.


Kent nodded. “Yeah. I was in there one day when the Kommandant opened the safe—and I couldn’t help but notice. He doesn’t have the number memorized; he’s got it written down, and I… just kind of… looked over his shoulder.”


Hogan nodded. “That’s good enough for me.”


Lovett shook his head, still astounded by the developments. “Me, too,” he agreed. “So… what do we do now, Colonel?”


“We organize a cleaning detail. You know, when I came into camp, I thought Captain Meyer’s office was in appalling condition for a place that receives German officers.”


“I’m not gonna clean some dirty goon’s office!” Lovett protested.


Grizone slapped him softly, his eyes starting to light up. “You jerk—it’s a cover to get near the safe!”


Lovett started to answer, then shut his mouth and looked pleasantly bested.


But Hogan was nodding his head. “Now you’re catching on.”


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


Newkirk waited until he saw Wurfel walk out of the visitors’ quarters and with the ease of a seasoned professional made his way into the locked building without being seen. He glanced over his shoulder briefly to make sure Carter was in place, and when he was satisfied all was in order, he put the issue of security out of his mind and concentrated on the task at hand.


First he made his way to the table in front of the sofa, where Le Beau had told them yesterday that Wurfel had been working on some formulas. Now, the surface was frustratingly clear except for an empty cup. He did a quick three-sixty, trying to spot anything useful just sitting out in the room for anyone to see, then grunted irritably when he found nothing. “Don’t even trust prison camp security,” he muttered aloud. Then he snorted a laugh. “Well, why should you?” he asked no one in particular with a shrug. “I’m living proof that it stinks.”


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


“I appreciate your interest in our visitor, Colonel Crittendon, but I assure you there is nothing I can tell you about him.”


“Kommandant Klink, I think it only fair to warn you that as the senior prisoner of war officer in this camp, I feel it is my duty to know everything that happens here, in the interests of my men. I realize that I am only here for two weeks—”


Two long weeks, Klink thought miserably to himself, as he listened once again to the insistent British officer. Hogan, I can’t wait for you to come home. Klink blinked his eyes wide open as he realized what he had just hoped for. I must be losing my mind!


“—that he should be introduced to me.”


“That’s absolutely ridiculous, Colonel. Now if you don’t mind, I have a lot of work to do. You are dismissed.” Klink tried to look back to the paperwork on his desk, but the silence that should have been the sound of retreating footsteps stopped him.


Crittendon pulled himself up arrow-straight and saluted with such vigor that Klink was almost frightened. “I understand your position, Kommandant, but I’m afraid I’ll have to take matters into my own hands.”


“Your own hands?” Klink repeated, aghast. He stood up as he returned the salute, not even noticing that his arm was shaking. “Just who do you think is running this camp?”


“Oh, you are, Kommandant, without a doubt! I’ll just go over and shake hands. Won’t make a nuisance of myself, of course—just take a moment of his time to let him know I’m out and about in case he needs me.”


Needs you?” Klink bolted around his desk and scrambled to follow Crittendon out of the office. “Why on earth would a visiting German need you?”


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


Newkirk took a few measured steps around the room, hoping to find a briefcase he could pick his way into. Finding nothing, he headed for the bedroom, and had just begun to scan the room when he heard words from outside that made him freeze in his tracks. “Hey! You guys wanna play ball?”


That was the signal. Carter was calling to Le Beau and Olsen from his spot across from the barracks. Someone was coming. Newkirk did a quick retreat and headed for the door of the hut, only to hear voices approaching from the other side. Too close for him to make a successful getaway. He backed away and then took off back toward the bedroom. All he could do now was hide.


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


“I’m still trying to figure out what you’ve called me for, Captain,” Hogan said, trying to put on his most bored expression. His eyes wandered around the room, seemingly looking at nothing, but in reality, seeing everything.


Meyer rounded his desk, circling Hogan in a way that reminded him of a small vulture, or… Major Hochstetter of the Gestapo when he was moving in close to Hogan for yet another accurate observation that he was sure he could prove. Neither comparison was pleasant. “I just want to know how you did it, Hogan,” the Kommandant said smoothly. “Tell me what led you to it.”


Hogan furrowed his brow as he frowned. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Captain,” he said.


“Of course not,” Meyer replied almost agreeably. “Let me enlighten you. Would it help if I enlightened you?”


Hogan heaved an exaggerated sigh. “Learn a new English word, Kommandant?”


Meyer shook his head and returned to his desk. “I was hoping you would recognize the pun, Hogan,” he said.


“That’s Colonel Hogan, by the way, Captain,” Hogan said matter-of-factly. If this lowlife Nazi was going to pester him, Hogan would at least insist on the respect due his rank. It was the smallest thing he could do to rankle the Captain. “And since I don’t understand what you’re carrying on about, the pun is a bit useless, I’m afraid.”


Meyer smiled. “Very well, Colonel Hogan, I will spell it out for you.” His smile disappeared. “You are cutting something in your barracks. I want to know what you are using.”


“Cutting something?” Hogan repeated. “If you’re talking about the potatoes, I’ve been trying my best, but they’re awfully hard to get through with a butter knife.”


Meyer’s smile returned, thin, forced. False. “If the meals are that disagreeable, I’m sure I can arrange for you to do without.” Hogan raised his eyebrows but said nothing. “I am not talking about the food, Colonel.”


“Then you have me completely stumped.”


“There are certain… wires in the barracks. Wires that have been cut every day for the last three days. They had never been cut before you arrived here. Does that say anything to you?”


“Someone’s got a really good butter knife?”


Someone is stirring up trouble among the prisoners. I believe that someone is you.”


Me?” Hogan protested. Similar conversations with Klink suddenly rushed through his mind. “Why me?”


“Let’s just say one hears things in a prison camp,” Meyer replied.


“Or doesn’t,” Hogan couldn’t stop himself from saying. He fixed Meyer with a direct stare. “Is that what you’re getting at, Captain?”


“Admit it, Colonel Hogan. You are responsible.”


“For what?”


“Admit it! Or you will spend the next three days in the cooler!”


Hogan’s temper started to kick in. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Captain. And the Geneva Convention states that no prisoner will be compelled to admit he’s guilty of an offence of which he is accused. You can’t punish me for something I haven’t confessed to doing.”


“Is that so?”


“Yeah, that’s so.”


“And is this how you approach disciplinary situations with the Kommandant of Stalag 13?”


“Colonel Klink knows the Geneva Convention.”


“And that is probably because you spout it to him whenever it suits you!”


Hogan bristled. “It suits me just fine all the time, Captain. As a prisoner of war, I’ve had plenty of time to study the document that tells me my rights.” He paused, then added one more punch: “No one has ever escaped from Stalag 13, Captain. Klink rules the camp with one hand balled into an Iron Fist—and one hand firmly grasping the Geneva Convention. How many escapes have you had… ignoring prisoners’ human rights?”


Meyer nodded once, stiffly. “Very well.” He abruptly cut off his attack. “You will not be punished, Colonel Hogan. But I will be keeping an eye on you.”


“Great; I’d hate to think we couldn’t be close while I’m here.”


“You are dismissed.”


“Thanks so much,” Hogan replied. He turned to leave, his anger still simmering barely beneath the surface.


“Colonel Hogan,” called Meyer. Hogan stopped in his tracks and turned to fix an icy stare on the Captain. “I believe the Geneva Convention requires that officers salute the commander of their prison camp, regardless of whether they outrank him.”


Meyer straightened to his full height behind his desk, reveling in Hogan’s resentment. “Well, it looks like you do know a bit about how POW camps are supposed to run,” the American said. He offered a stiff, resentful salute. “I look forward to more of these little talks.”


Meyer nodded as he returned the salute. “I am quite sure there will be ample opportunity to have them.”


Hogan lowered his hand. “I hope they’re all as… enlightening… as this one. Good day, Captain.”

Chapter Eight



On The Other Side



“Colonel Crittendon. While you are at Stalag 13, I expect you to obey the rules of this camp. And one of those rules it not to disturb visitors! You have no need to see this man, and—”


Newkirk listened from his spot under the bed as best he could, nearly coming out from his hiding place out of sheer frustration. Crittendon! Again! And if he wasn’t mistaken, that was Klink with him, trying to head him off. Fine war this is, when the bleedin’ enemy does more for you than your allies! He strained to listen again, hoping upon hope for Klink’s success.


The door to the hut opened and Newkirk instinctively squeezed his eyes shut. Klink’s voice filtered through the closed bedroom door. “No, Colonel Crittendon. I am telling you this is not the best idea—”


“Hey, Kommandant! Colonel Crittendon! Can I see you for a minute?”


Carter’s voice was like a breath of fresh air. Newkirk heard the door shut and the voices began to get softer as the sound of retreating footsteps met his ears. He blew out a breath of relief, then rolled out from under the bed and made his way back into the main room, being sure to stay away from the windows. Outside he could hear Carter fumbling through his encounter with the two Colonels.


“I just thought it was pretty interesting—you know, two Colonels heading out together and all,” the young man was saying. “I just wondered if you two had anything in common.”


No,” Klink answered immediately, emphatically, even as Crittendon replied, “I’m sure we must, dear boy! A little harder with these different uniforms, though, eh?” And then the English officer laughed heartily.


Newkirk shook his head and opened the door a crack to survey the situation. Carter had moved far enough away that Klink and Crittendon had their backs turned to the hut, and there were Kinch and Le Beau, moving in to make sure they stayed that way. Newkirk did a quick scan of the compound, then, looking regretfully back into the room, he slipped outside and went over to join in the ludicrous conversation.


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


Hogan stood quietly, calmly, in Meyer’s office, facing the Kommandant and radiating a confidence he did not feel. He had used this kind of ploy before, at Stalag 13. But here at Stalag 9, Hogan was not as sure of the result. While it was true that, like Klink, Meyer had an ego—he had demonstrated that yesterday in their tangle over the cut wires—it was equally true that the Captain was not as pliable (or was that gullible?) as Klink. All that could be done then, the Colonel concluded, was to play the same game, but from a different angle. And in Meyer’s case, Hogan was wagering that a cooler, officer-to-officer approach would be more successful than an open appeal to the German’s pride.


“And you are asking me to approve such a program,” Meyer said, finally breaking the long silence.


“Yes, sir,” Hogan replied. “It’s worked at Stalag 13, and I think it would be successful here, as well. The men need to occupy themselves with productive work. It keeps them stable, less prone to erratic behavior, and less likely to try and escape. Both sides win.”


Meyer screwed up his face, intrigued. “And why would you be interested in making the prisoners less likely to escape?”


“Because I have this strange aversion to seeing good men get shot.”


“Shot!” Meyer echoed, a touch of amazement leaking out from a voice Hogan sensed was trying hard not to betray any interest in what the American was saying. “Have any of your men been shot trying to escape from Stalag 13?”


“No, and I’m trying to keep it that way,” Hogan answered. “Colonel Klink shares my goal, and he’s been very understanding about implementing my initiatives. The camp has benefited, and so have the men.”


“So… maintaining the cars, gardening in the compound, cleaning the office, working in the mess hall… this is your plan?”


“Yes, sir. I’d appreciate it if you’d consider it.” Hogan paused. “After all, that’s what this Exchange Program is supposed to be about, isn’t it? Trying something different?”


Meyer took another minute to mull over Hogan’s request. Hogan stood patiently before him, waiting. “Very well, Colonel Hogan. We will try this ‘productive work’ scheme of yours.”


“Thank you, Captain. You won’t be disappointed.”


“But you might,” Meyer countered.


Hogan frowned. “Oh? How’s that?”


“You might find the prisoners are not as interested as you are in ‘dressing up’ the prison camp.”


“I’ve already spoken with the men. They’re looking forward to making themselves useful.”


Meyer nodded acknowledgement of Hogan’s effort. “I commend you, Colonel Hogan. You seem to have done all your homework on this one.”


“That I have,” Hogan agreed.


A smile suddenly spread across Meyer’s face. “I must confess, Colonel, to being very curious about what Colonel Crittendon is trying to promote at Stalag 13.”


The happiness Hogan felt at his success in getting the cleaning program underway instantly melted into a pool of worry and regret. “So am I, Captain,” he answered, with a sigh that didn’t escape Meyer’s notice. “But I doubt I’d be as amused at the answer as you.”


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


“That was entirely too close,” Newkirk complained when Crittendon called Hogan’s men in for a debriefing meeting. “What made you think you had to go and talk to Wurfel—especially since I was in his quarters at the time?”


Crittendon favored the Englishman with a knowing smile. “I was certain you’d have everything under control, Corporal,” he said. “And you did! That was jolly well done.”


“That was jolly well gonna give me heart failure!” Newkirk retorted.


“Nothing so dramatic, old chap,” Crittendon laughed. “If I was perfectly willing to walk straight into Jerry’s living quarters, then of course Kommandant Klink would never think that one of you men would be in there. So there wouldn’t be a search, would there? Yes, good thinking, good thinking all around.”


“I had to ruddy near run for my life,” Newkirk insisted. “I had just gotten Carter’s signal and had barely squeezed under the bed when you were at the front door, ready to burst in on me!” He looked at Le Beau and added more softly, “My heart actually stopped beating there for a minute, Louis; I’m sure of it.”


Le Beau nodded sympathetically.


“And what did you find out, Sergeant Kinchloe?” Crittendon asked, ignoring the RAF Corporal’s continuing complaint.


“London says Wurfel is a researcher—a scientist. He’s working on developing a surface-to-air missile for the Luftwaffe.” Kinch paused as the others involuntarily let out gasps of dismay. “The Germans are looking at a way of having the warheads explode far enough away to spread their shrapnel, but close enough to do some major damage.”


“Proximity fuses,” Carter postulated. The others looked at him, waiting for more. “They’ll travel a certain distance, then just blow.”


“I do not like the sound of that,” Le Beau said sullenly.


“Neither do I,” Newkirk concurred. “And if that’s what Wurfel’s working on, we’d better make sure he doesn’t get to finish.”


“Good chaps,” Crittendon praised. “See? I told you we didn’t need Hogan to pull this off.”


“Well, I guess we’re pretty smart, at that!” Carter said.


“Of course you are!” Crittendon agreed.


Newkirk nodded grimly. “I’d give my right arm to get another crack at Wurfel’s papers,” he declared.


“Why stop at the papers, Corporal Newkirk?” the British officer asked. “Why not do away with the man—send him back to London?”


“Sure; why not?” Carter asked brightly.


Oui, we can stop the whole program!” Le Beau boasted.


Newkirk started to add his support to the proposal when Kinch spoke up. “Hang on—hang on!” the Sergeant said. He waited until the others settled down to continue. “We can’t do that.”


“Why not?” Carter asked as the others echoed his sentiment.


Crittendon shook his head. “Sergeant Kinchloe, don’t tell me you’re still stuck on the idea of limiting yourself to picking up flyers until Colonel Hogan comes back from Stalag 9. I thought you wanted to take a good swipe at Jerry.”


“It wasn’t just an idea—it was an order,” Kinch reminded them all. “And I do want to take a swipe at the Krauts.”


“Then what’s the matter, Kinch?” asked Newkirk, frowning.


Kinch turned to Le Beau. “Louis, when you agreed to get involved in this, you said it had to be Colonel Hogan’s way. We had to operate the way we thought he would.”


Le Beau nodded. “That’s right.” The others murmured agreement.


“Yeah, and imagine how the Colonel would feel if we got rid of a Kraut like Wurfel!” Carter burst excitedly.


“Exactly!” Crittendon interjected. “We’ve got a beautiful opportunity here, Kinchloe.”


Kinch shook his head. “Think about it,” he said: “we haven’t been able to get any details of Wurfel’s work. And we don’t have any idea how many people are working on the project. Or who’s protecting him. Or what the consequences would be if he just disappeared.”


Carter starting shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. Le Beau dropped his eyes, and Newkirk shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned back against Hogan’s desk. “It’s one thing to say we don’t need Colonel Hogan,” Kinch said, words that stung each of them as they realized that’s exactly what they had been suggesting; “it’s another thing entirely to think everything through the way he does before we all run off half-cocked to put a plan in place that has every chance of turning into a disaster—in more ways than one.”


Silence fell over the room. Then, slowly, Hogan’s men one by one started to speak. “You are right, Kinch,” Le Beau admitted. “I was not thinking of the consequences. It just sounded like such an exciting idea that I did not consider the problems.”


“Me, too,” Carter agreed sheepishly. “Boy, it’s a good thing you’re here, Kinch—at least you think enough like the Colonel to think of all the things he would.”


“Yeah,” Newkirk added, embarrassed that he’d let himself get carried away. “You’re a pretty good substitute when the gov’nor’s not here.”


Kinch laughed softly. “I don’t think so,” he said. “You’ll notice I can think of the questions, but I can’t think of any of the answers. It’s the Colonel who walks the floor all night, not me. They don’t pay me enough.”


Newkirk nodded, then said thoughtfully, “They don’t pay him enough, either.”


Crittendon regarded the quiet men for a moment, then ventured to ask, “So what’s it to be, then, gentlemen? Do we capture Wurfel?”


Speaking through his disbelief, Kinch said, “No, sir. We’ll stick to just getting the papers and sending the information through to London.”


“Come on,” Le Beau suggested suddenly, “Let’s go out in the yard for awhile. It is strange being in the Colonel’s office without him here.”


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


“We’re gonna have to start all over again tomorrow, trying to get at those papers,” Newkirk said that night, shaking his head.


“Yeah, that sure was a close one,” Carter agreed from his bunk below Newkirk’s, looking up at the Englishman. “I barely had time to get the words out of my mouth!”


“Yeah, and what an excuse,” Kinch chuckled, shaking his head: “‘two Colonels crossing the yard—I wonder if you have anything in common.’” He smiled as he made his way to his own bunk. “Or did you forget that Hogan’s a Colonel, too, so you’d see two Colonels wandering around the camp lots of times?”


“Hey, that was all I could think of on short notice!” Carter said, really only half-defensively. “How was I supposed to know it would be Colonel Crittendon trying to go into Wurfel’s quarters?”


“I agree,” Le Beau said as he wrapped his blanket around himself. “That had to be one of the stupidest things Crittendon has ever done.”


“You can say that again,” Newkirk agreed. “I managed to get out of it all right, but I would have been a lot happier if I’d just had five more minutes in there. I’ll have another go tomorrow… if you lot will make sure Crittendon is bound and gagged while I’m at it!”


“And to think, we were all getting excited about going along with Crittendon’s plan to do away with Wurfel altogether!” Le Beau exclaimed, shaking his head. “I refuse to believe I was in my right mind.”


“We all got excited, mate,” Newkirk admitted. “The idea of making life Hell for the Krauts was just a little too tempting to pass up.”


“I was thinking Colonel Hogan would be real proud of us if he found out we’d done something that big without him,” Carter revealed.


“Yeah, but we’d have made a right mess of it, wouldn’t we? I don’t think he’d have been real pleased about that,” Newkirk countered. “But we were saved from that big mistake; along came Kinch to the rescue.”


“Thank goodness for that!” Carter declared.


“I didn’t do anything that amazing,” Kinch announced. “I just got cold feet and started imagining all the problems we might have.”


“Yeah, but in the process, you reminded us of who started this operation in the first place—someone I admit, with some shame, that I had almost forgotten about in the excitement of the moment,” Newkirk disclosed.


“It is easy to forget how much work goes into some of Colonel Hogan’s schemes,” Le Beau put in. “He makes it all look so effortless that we do not think of all the planning he does when we are asleep, or playing cards, or playing volleyball out in the yard.”


“And I suppose this isn’t the only time we’re guilty of forgettin’ that,” Newkirk pondered. “But that’s something London didn’t forget, and that’s why they made him take time off in the first place.”


“I guess you’re right,” Kinch said with a nod. “We all take advantage, don’t we? I mean, we go to sleep most nights, fully confident that no matter what the problem is, the Colonel will come up with a way to solve it. What he doesn’t tell us is what he goes through to come up with the solutions that we take for granted.”


“Well, I don’t mind tellin’ you, I felt downright disloyal when I realized what I was saying,” Newkirk announced.


Oui, me, too,” Le Beau added.


“Me three,” Carter piped up.


“That makes it unanimous,” Kinch said. “When Colonel Hogan comes back, I’m sure gonna have a greater appreciation of what he does and how he does it. I think I’m gonna work just a little harder to make things easier for him, in whatever ways I can.”


“I wonder how he’s doing over at Stalag 9,” Carter mused. “It must be really relaxing for him not having to worry about the operation.”


“He is probably getting the best sleep he has had in the last two years,” Le Beau guessed. “And we should all be doing the same; we have a Kraut to rob in the morning.”


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


Hogan lay wide awake in his bunk, staring up at the ceiling and trying to see the faces of his men from Stalag 13. What would they be doing now? he wondered. Maybe they were playing poker, or still cleaning up from one of Le Beau’s big dinners. I could do with one of those, he thought wistfully, certain that he had lost at least five pounds in the last few days on the prison diet he had once been used to, but now found almost inedible.


The idea of Crittendon lying in Hogan’s bunk, in Hogan’s quarters, in Hogan’s camp, made the American officer’s stomach tighten. Though he knew he was innocent of any knowledge of where the English officer was when he decided to set up the exchange with Stalag 9, Hogan still felt a pang of guilt when he remembered that it was his own need to rest and unwind that had led to his men being exposed to a person that Hogan, in his most benign moments, could only think of as a good-intentioned, walking disaster. And now, those same dedicated men were being forced to put up with Colonel Crittendon, and probably thinking it was some grand joke on Hogan’s part to drive them all crazy for awhile.


But what kind of rest was he getting here? Hogan’s mind drifted to the men of Barracks Seven. He wanted to trust them, and their simple acceptance of him made him feel welcome, and warm inside. But the cautious part of him didn’t let him give in to that comfortable feeling of belonging. He was different; he was about something different. And he had to keep that in mind twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week—whether he wanted to or not. It was why he couldn’t be as honest and open with the prisoners as they seemed to be with him. It was why he couldn’t let the unusual delivery by a German officer simply pass him by, even when he was “on leave”; he had to do something to try and turn this opportunity to the Allies’ advantage.


And so here he was, coordinating the prisoners in this camp to embark on a fake cleaning detail. This really isn’t taking the two weeks off that London ordered me to, he told himself wryly. But this was a simple operation, just something to keep his mind alert, he reminded himself.


With men who have never pulled this kind of caper before. Hogan rolled over onto his side on the bunk. That’s what was keeping him up tonight, he surmised. Along with thoughts of his own men, Hogan couldn’t help thinking that so much was depending on the ability of Grizone, Lovett, Kent and a few others, men who were willing to do so much, but who had so little experience. Le Beau, Kinch, Carter and Newkirk all had their specialties, their expertise, and Hogan knew that when he was assigning mission duties to these men, he could rest easy in the certainty that they could handle almost anything that came their way. And he wondered if he wasn’t taking advantage of that knowledge too often; if he didn’t expect more of them than he should, if he should shoulder just a little more of the burden, instead of expecting them to be willing to volunteer when some of his more complex—and dangerous—schemes cropped up.


The possibility troubled him, and he rolled onto his back to consider it.


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


Carter sighed as he turned over again on his bunk. G’night, Colonel Hogan, he thought, missing his commanding officer more than he had thought he would. He closed his eyes and tried to wish a speedy end to the two weeks they would be without the Colonel.


Hope you’re getting your rest, gov’nor, Newkirk said to himself as he pulled his blankets up to cover his neck and his chin. I promise I won’t be forgetting what you put into this operation again.


Vous dormez bien, mon Colonel. Come back soon… and rested. Le Beau punched at his mattress one final time before giving up and letting out a sigh.


You always have the answers, Colonel, Kinch thought, reflecting on the day’s events. But I don’t think until today any of us quite realized that you do it so well… and so often on your own. I don’t think any of us would want to be part of an operation like this without you for long. And I don’t think we’d last very long, either. He looked toward the door to Hogan’s office. We’ll deal with Crittendon for awhile… I just hope you’re getting some well-deserved time off.


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


Hogan sighed and rolled over yet again, resigning himself to a semi-sleepless night. “G’night, fellas,” he whispered to the men tucked up in Barracks Two at Stalag 13. “I’ll make it up to you when I get back… I promise.”

Chapter Nine



A Walk in the Park



“Aren’t you going to be in the office with us, Colonel?” asked Kent a little uncomfortably when Hogan laid out the details of his plan in full the next day.


Hogan shook his head. “Meyer and his goons are going to be keeping a very close watch on me,” he answered. “If I’m in there with you, he’s gonna be right on top of me. If I’m out in the yard, he’s less likely to think I’m trying to pull something in his office.”


“So that’s why you’ve got us doing all sorts of jobs around camp, even though we’re only really interested in one of them,” Lovett guessed.


“That’s right,” Hogan confirmed. “Gotta spread our good works around.” He looked at the Englishman and asked sincerely, “Are you sure you’re up to this, Kent? No one will think any less of you if you change your mind.”


Kent studied the Colonel for a moment, then asked, “When were you shot down, Colonel?”


Hogan didn’t break the man’s gaze. His mind flashed back to the night before. “July, 1942,” he said.


“Have you ever escaped from camp?”




“More than once?”


Grizone started to get impatient with what he saw as a waste of time. “Kent, what’s this got to do with—?”


But Hogan held up a hand to silence him and looked with full concentration at the Englishman. “More than once, yes.”


“Did the Krauts catch you?”


Hogan paused. “I’m in a POW camp.”


Kent considered the Colonel’s answer. “What’d they do to you when you got back?”


Hogan remembered, and sifted through his experiences. “Depends.” On if they knew I’d gotten out in the first place.


Kent fell silent. Hogan waited. Lovett and Grizone shifted and looked from Hogan to Kent and back again. Then the English Corporal said simply, “I’ll do it. I won’t let you down, sir.”


Hogan smiled softly, satisfied. “I didn’t think you would.” He stood up and looked at the others. “I’ll be in my quarters.”


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


Hogan was sitting on the bottom bunk in his room, reading, when Grizone knocked on his open door. “Come on in,” he invited the Sergeant.


Grizone approached Hogan and shoved his hands in his back pockets. “The fellas are ready to go whenever you say, Colonel,” he reported.


“Okay,” Hogan said. “We’ll get started right after noon roll call.”


“Great,” Grizone answered.


Grizone seemed to linger. Hogan looked up. “Something else, Sergeant?” he asked.


“Uh, yeah,” Grizone admitted awkwardly. Then, hastily: “—Uh, I mean yes, sir.”


Hogan frowned slightly and swung his legs off his bunk. “Spill it,” he prompted gently.


Grizone shrugged as though embarrassed. “Well, there’s something I just don’t get, Colonel.”




“Yeah—I mean, understand.”


“What’s that?” Hogan asked.


“Well, how come you let Kent interrogate you like that when we were out in the common room?” he asked. “That stuff’s none of his business, and I don’t understand what it had to do with the question you asked him, anyway.”


Hogan nodded his comprehension. “He was checking me out,” he said.




Hogan took a quick glance around the room, having just put the Germans’ listening device near his bunk out of business a couple of hours ago. He was sure no one had replaced it, as he had been in here ever since. “I’m not exactly asking him to take a walk in the park,” he said to Grizone; “he wanted to make sure he was putting his faith in the right person before deciding whether to go along.”


“But what does that have to do with how long you’ve been a prisoner, or how many times you escaped?”


Hogan said simply, “Everyone has a different way to gauge a man’s worth.”


“And what did the Krauts do when they recaptured you?” the young man asked, obviously past his prior objections. “The cooler?” Hogan shrugged. “You know, you answered Kent’s question about being recaptured kinda funny. You did get out, didn’t you?”




“And then they caught you and brought you back to camp?”


Hogan felt his stomach tighten. These men needed to know the truth—they deserved to hear the truth. But part of him still held back, if for no other reason than habit, and a ceaseless need for vigilance. Still, he wanted to offer Grizone something to show the Sergeant that his apparent trust in Hogan was not misplaced. Another cryptic but honest answer might solve the dilemma. “Sometimes.” Sometimes they caught me and took me to Gestapo Headquarters because I wasn’t dressed like a POW!


Grizone knitted his eyebrows. “‘Sometimes’? They must have brought you back every time, or you’d be long gone by now.”


“You could be right,” Hogan replied.


Grizone thought a moment and then said, “I could be… That doesn’t mean I am.”


Hogan didn’t answer.


“Y’know, Colonel Hogan, you sure are a hard man to figure out,” Grizone observed.


“Do you have to figure me out?” Hogan asked.


“No.” Grizone chuckled. “I’m just sure real glad you’re one of us.”


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


Newkirk slipped the small camera into Carter’s waiting hand. “There you go, mate. Everything I could get me hands on is on that film. Don’t over-expose it, will you?”


“I don’t think that’ll be a problem, pal,” Carter said with a trace of humorous defensiveness. “I always process my stuff in the dark room downstairs.”


“Well, get to it, then,” Newkirk answered. “We’ve gotta get this stuff moving; we’ve wasted enough time already.”


“You got it, boy,” Carter agreed, and he scrambled down the ladder to the tunnel.


Newkirk turned as Le Beau and Kinch came back into the barracks. “Did you get everything?” Le Beau asked. He blew into his hands and headed for the stove.


“Everything that made no sense to me, Louis,” Newkirk said. “And believe me, there was a lot of that.”


I believe it,” ribbed Kinch.


Newkirk made a face. “Oh, you’re a bloody comedian, you are, Kinch.” Then, nodding, he remarked, “Really, mates, it felt great to get in there and back out again without Crittendon pulling anything insane. Where is he?”


“Calisthenics,” Kinch answered. Newkirk looked astonished. “You didn’t think he was gonna go a whole two weeks without them?”


“No, I didn’t—but I’m wondering why he didn’t come looking for us to do them with him!”


“That’s easy,” Le Beau explained. “I was showing him some of the German guards and suggested that they might be out of shape. He took one look at Schultz and decided he needed to get the Germans involved in some sort of physical exercise routine right away! So today’s calisthenics is for Krauts only.”


Newkirk grinned, amazed. “That kind of plan is worthy of Colonel ’Ogan himself.”


“Almost,” Kinch clarified.




Kinch threw a look at Le Beau before heading toward the tunnel. “Yeah. He got Crittendon so gung-ho about exercises… that he’s planning on having the rest of us do them as well. Half an hour before roll call in the morning!”


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


Hogan stood on the steps outside the Kommandant’s office and let his eyes scan the compound. “There you go, Captain,” he said to Meyer, who was standing beside him: “engaged, productive men. They’re working, they’re active, they’re happy. I think you’ll find this makes a big difference to them.”


Meyer looked across the yard and saw small groups of men working under cars, creating rock gardens, painting faded signs, sweeping out barracks, beating blankets and mattresses. He shook his head. “Quite frankly, Colonel Hogan, I am not interested in making a difference to the prisoners. However, I must admit to being somewhat impressed by the enthusiasm with which these men have taken on your idea. At the very least it makes them easier to guard—they are out in the open and engaged in some of the more menial tasks that take my own men away from their posts.” He nodded. “This will make a big difference to me.”


Thanks to years of practice, Hogan was able to completely contain the feeling of distaste that rose into his mouth at the German’s remarks. Making an effort to sound resigned, and almost cheerful, the Colonel said, “And it means there’s likely to be a lot less trouble. And that makes a big difference to me.”


“You say your Colonel Klink allows the prisoners to undertake this sort of activity on a regular basis?” Meyer asked.


“Yes, sir,” Hogan replied. “And there’s never been a successful escape from Stalag 13.” None that the Krauts know about, anyway.


Meyer watched for a few seconds longer, then said, “I must get back to work.”


Hogan stopped the Captain as he turned to head back to his office. Not yet, you don’t! “Why don’t you come with me on a little inspection tour?” he asked, laying a hand on Meyer’s arm. As a look of disdain started taking over the German’s face, Hogan added earnestly, “Please, Captain. The men would feel so good knowing that their Kommandant recognizes what they’re doing.” Meyer looked doubtful. Just one more little push might do it…. “Come on,” Hogan urged. “You’re the head of the prison camp; you can afford to make a small gesture. And it would mean so much.”


Meyer pursed his lips, then reluctantly agreed. “All right,” he said. Let us start in my office.”


“Oh, no, Captain,” Hogan said, shaking his head as though disappointed in Meyer’s lack of understanding. “Your office will still be a mess! Look over there—the men are almost done polishing that car. Go on; go tell them how you can practically use the hood as a mirror. It’ll boost their spirits a mile high.”


Meyer sighed heavily, letting his shoulders rise and fall as he shook his head. “Fine, fine,” he said, already tiring of this little exercise. “We will do it as you say.”


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


“I hate to admit it, Newkirk, but you’re right,” Kinch said later that evening.


“How’s that, mate?” the Englishman asked.


“Yes, tell him,” Le Beau teased; “he will want to remember this rare moment for a long time.”


The Frenchman grabbed the table that housed the radio equipment to stop from losing his balance when the expected playful shove came swiftly.


Kinch ignored the banter and continued to look closely at the developed film through a magnifying glass. “I don’t understand any of this, either.”


“See? I told you,” Newkirk said in self-defense. “All numbers and formulas and scribblings that don’t mean a thing.”


“Not to us,” Kinch said; “but they will to someone in London.”


“We’ll have to get this stuff to the Underground pretty quick,” Carter suggested.


“Yeah, but how will we do that without Crittendon knowing about it?” Le Beau asked, a touch of sourness lacing his voice.


“That’s easy,” Newkirk replied: “we do it during his bleedin’ calisthenics!”


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


“Okay, it’s crunch time,” Hogan said to the men of Barracks Seven. “How’d you go?”


Kent nodded. “I got in the safe okay, Colonel. It was easy.”


Hogan grinned. It always helps to have the combination. “What did you find?”


Kent screwed up his face. “A lot of stuff that had nothing to do with the German war effort, that’s for sure. Our Kommandant’s a real… uh… ladies’ man.”


“What, you mean he’s got a little black book in there?” Grizone asked.


“More like a big black book,” Kent answered. He pulled the item out of his jacket and handed it to Hogan.


Hogan opened the book, turned a few pages, studied it, turned another page.


“What do you make of it, Colonel?” Grizone asked. “Something written in code?”


Hogan shook his head, both amused and impressed that the Sergeant was thinking that way. “No. The Kommandant at Stalag 13 has something similar in his own safe. As a matter of fact, I recognize a couple of the names. These fellas just don’t want to share their catches with anyone higher up—or lower down. Imagine the guards getting hold of it.”


The men guffawed. “So it was a wasted effort?” Lovett asked. “Gee, I’d sure hate to think I changed the oil in that Kraut’s car for the phone numbers of some dames who obviously don’t have any taste.”


Hogan half-smiled and handed the book back to Kent. “Make sure that gets back into his safe tonight.”


“Right, sir,” Kent replied before he had a chance to realize what Hogan had just asked him to do. “Tonight?” he gulped, when it finally hit him. “How’m I supposed to do that?”


Grizone shrugged his shoulders and said, “How did you do it today? I have a feeling the Colonel has a way.”


Hogan nodded. “Thank you for your vote of confidence,” he said, smiling. He turned back to the Englishman. “While I was showing the fine Captain around the compound, he let it slip that he was going into town for dinner tonight. So there should be plenty of opportunity to get back into his office. Anything else in the safe worth looking at?”


“Well,” the Corporal said thoughtfully, “I didn’t know if this meant anything, but I brought it anyway, because it seemed quite odd to have in a prison camp.”


“What is it?”


Kent reached in again and carefully extracted a small envelope.


Hogan accepted it and then opened it up, looking inside. He furrowed his brow as he pulled out a perforated sheet of paper. “Postage stamps?” he mused, very careful not to wrinkle or bend it. He studied the faces on the twenty stamps staring back at him, as his mind started to spin. “Don’t tell me our fine Captain Meyer is a philatelist.”


“That’s disgusting!” Lovett commented.


Grizone rolled his eyes. “A philatelist is a stamp collector, you idiot.”


“Well, how was I supposed to know?”


“Okay, okay, fellas,” Hogan said absentmindedly, wanting silence so he could figure this out. “It doesn’t make sense,” he murmured.


“What’s that, Colonel?” asked Lovett.


Hogan narrowed his eyes, trying to figure out the Germans’ plans. “Why would the Krauts use an officer to deliver these?” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then started very slowly pacing in the small room. “And then why would someone else have to come and pick them up?”


“Nothing better to do?” Grizone ventured.


Hogan shook his head, still thinking. “I don’t think so; they’re too full of themselves to put up with that kind of humiliation…. There’s gotta be something to this….” The men remained silent as Hogan plotted things out in his head. Finally the Colonel heaved a sigh. “I’ll need some time to decipher this puzzle. But we don’t have time.” Blinking himself out of his thoughts, he turned to Kent and said, “This was great work. I’m sure you’ve got the right thing. Now I just have to figure out what to do with it. And then we’ll give Meyer back his stamps… and his precious names and phone numbers. Wouldn’t want the Kommandant to have to go without a date on Saturday night, now, would we?”


The men laughed as Hogan turned once again to the stamps on the desk. “And I’m sure he won’t be discussing his stamp collection when he’s with some lucky Fräulein. Unless getting hold of these is the boost he needs to send his career through the roof.”


Chapter Ten



Shaping Up



“Jolly good work, getting hold of those formulas,” Crittendon said approvingly to Newkirk. “Awfully sorry I wasn’t there to help; I was working on getting some of those guards into shape and missed it, what? Terribly flabby, some of them; don’t know how they manage to stay on their feet! Now all we have to do is get the information to London. Who are we meeting?”


We?” Newkirk nearly choked on the word.


“Of course!” Crittendon declared. “You don’t think we can afford to just sit back and hold onto this information for the rest of the war? Where’s your head, man?”


“I didn’t mean that; I meant—”


“Forget it, Newkirk,” Kinch interrupted, laying a hand across the Englishman’s arm. “You’re never gonna get through.”


Newkirk covered his eyes with his hand. “Give me strength,” he muttered.


“I suggest we get hold of the Underground and see if we can’t get them to pass on the information for us. There’s too much of it to pass on by radio, don’t you think?” Crittendon proposed.


“Yes, sir, we do think,” Kinch agreed. “We’ve already been in touch with the Underground. We’re planning to hand it over tomorrow night.” He ignored the glare from Newkirk about giving away their plans.


“Excellent, Sergeant. Excellent! We’ll head out after lights-out, all right?”


“No, sir. Much later.” Kinch glanced reluctantly toward Newkirk. “Twenty-three hundred thirty hours, tomorrow night.”


Newkirk crossed his arms in disgust.


“Very good. I’ll be ready at midnight.”


Newkirk almost exploded in frustration. “But that’s not—


Kinch put his arm out toward the Englishman to silence him. “That’ll be fine, Colonel,” the American said.


Newkirk smiled.


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


Hogan came out of his quarters, rubbing his eyes with his fingers as he made his way stiffly toward the kettle on the stove. The light pouring out from his quarters created a shaft of light that served as a dim path into the darkened room. “How’s it going, sir?” a voice from behind him asked.


Mildly surprised to find anyone still up, Hogan turned around to see Grizone sitting on his bunk, watching the Colonel. Hogan shrugged. “Let’s just say it’s gonna be a long night.”


Grizone stood up and grabbed two cups, gesturing for Hogan to pour. “You sure are determined,” the Sergeant said.


“That’s one way of putting it,” Hogan said with a nod. He sighed. “The other way is stupid.”


Grizone let out a short laugh. “I don’t think so, sir.”


“No?” Hogan asked. He put down the kettle and took a sip of the coffee. Grimacing at its bitterness, he braced himself and then took another drink. “What would you call it when you spend hours trying to figure out something that might not even be there?”


“Hmm… thorough?” Grizone sat at the common room table, glancing around at the deeply sleeping men around them. Leaning in as Hogan sat across from him, he whispered, “Who else could organize it so the Kommandant of the camp would let us into his office unsupervised—and then get us back in there again to return a bit of what we stole in the first place?”


“We don’t steal; we borrow,” Hogan corrected. “And I have no idea yet if we’ve even really accomplished anything by doing it.”


“I’ll have to disagree with you there, Colonel,” Grizone remarked.


“How’s that?” Hogan asked.


“I’ve never seen the fellas so happy before—well, unless you count the time that we had a really heavy rainstorm and Meyer fell on his backside in the mud. You should have seen him trying to maintain his dignity as he tried to scramble back up and kept slipping back into it! The Marx Brothers could have used that routine and come out on top.” Grizone grinned as memories filled his mind.


“I’m sorry I missed it,” Hogan said into his coffee.


“You sure are a sneaky fella for someone who comes out of a camp with such a tough Kommandant.”


Hogan arched an eyebrow. “What, Klink?”




“You’ve heard of him?”


Grizone shrugged. “Only that he runs the most escape-proof prisoner of war camp in Germany.”


“That’s what it says in the ads,” Hogan quipped quietly.


Grizone leaned in closer and lowered his voice even more. “Then how did you—” He faltered when Hogan met his eye and seemed to wordlessly warn him not to probe further. “I mean, you said you’ve escaped from camp. But there’s never been a successful escape from Stalag 13.”


“That’s right.”


“Were you at other camps before 13?” Grizone asked.


Hogan shrugged. “Dulag, Wetzlar.”


“Don’t tell me you got out of there.”


“I’m not telling you anything,” Hogan answered pointedly. He drained the cup of coffee and stood up. “Look, I’ve got a lot of work to do. If you want to help me, get me a magnifying glass or a microscope or something like that. My eyes are burning from trying to see things that are way too small in a room that’s supposed to be in lights-out. We’ve gotta get those stamps back before Meyer decides he has to check on them.”


Grizone nodded, still not able to understand the officer standing before him. “Right, Colonel. I think the medic has a microscope. I’m pretty good at sneaking out after lights-out. I’ll go get it for you.”


Hogan nodded briefly. “Thanks.” Then he headed back into the solitude of his room, where he could avoid Grizone’s unanswerable questions.


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


“Colonel Crittendon, I must tell you, that while I appreciate your interest in the physical well-being of my men, I cannot allow you to tie up my guards with push-ups and sit-ups when they are supposed to be watching the prisoners! Both yesterday and today, you have been distracting my men with exercise programs and… calisthenics.”


Klink rounded his desk, watching as the English officer didn’t even try to explain his behavior, or make excuses for it. Oh, how the German missed Hogan. Good heavens! Klink thought. How desperate must I be?


“Just doing a good deed, Kommandant,” Crittendon said confidently. “Some of those men would do well to make the rounds of the camp several times with full pack—before starting on a regular exercise routine!”


A knock on the door interrupted the Englishman. “Come in!” Klink called, relieved.


Schultz came in. “Excuse me, Herr Kommandant.”


“You see?” Crittendon said, seizing the moment as he looked at the portly Sergeant. “Take a look at Schultz, here; he’s completely out of shape!”


“Out of shape?” Schultz repeated, bewildered. “Round is a shape.”


“I’m sure you can see why I think it’s imperative that your men be involved in some routine exercise each morning, Colonel Klink. The prisoners themselves are going to be out doing calisthenics half an hour each morning before roll call. Your guards would do well to join them!” Crittendon insisted, tapping Schultz’s considerable girth with the back of his hand.


“You’d have to wake most of them up first,” Klink said through his teeth. Louder, he asked, “What do you want, Schultz?”


Herr Kommandant, Major Baumann is here to see you.”


“Show him in, Schultz. If you will excuse me, Colonel Crittendon, I have work to do,” Klink said, sounding as authoritative as he could manage. He stood up as Schultz allowed Major Baumann inside the office. “Major Baumann, how are you?” he greeted the man pleasantly, ingratiatingly.


Baumann stopped in front of the desk and offered Klink a raised hand in salute to the Fuhrer. “Colonel Klink, Herr Doktor Wurfel is in need of some special supplies. I have brought them with me for him today.”


Klink dropped the hand he had raised in a limp gesture of loyalty to Hitler. “Supplies?” he asked. “The doctor has not asked me for any supplies.”


Baumann took in and let out an impatient breath. “That is why I have brought them with me. They are special things he needs to test out his theories. He will need your men to cut some trees so he can design them as he wishes.”


Klink frowned. “Trees?”


Schultz spoke up hesitantly. “Maybe the doctor is a tree surgeon, Herr Kommandant,” he suggested.


Klink and Baumann both glared at the Sergeant, who shrugged his shoulders and wiggled his moustache. “Schultz, please escort Colonel Crittendon back to his barracks,” Klink ordered.


“Very well, Kommandant; we shall continue our conversation later,” Crittendon said, offering Klink a smart salute.


Klink returned it, his heart sinking at the thought. I was afraid you’d say something like that, he thought.


“Come along, Sergeant,” Crittendon said to Schultz, patting the guard on the stomach with a little more gusto than the German liked; “we’ll take the long way back to the barracks, what? A bit of a run won’t do you any harm at all! You’ll have to keep up with me, now! And we’re off!” And Crittendon exited the office at a fast clip and then broke into a jog, leaving Schultz to offer hasty salutes to the two officers in the room before bolting after his charge.


Klink watched them leave with both relief and trepidation. “So, you say Doktor Wurfel needs trees cut down? Whatever for?”


Baumann sighed and looked at the ceiling, as though frustrated at dealing with an imbecile child. “Because a shortage of metal means that anything we work on will need to be made of wood in order to be successful, Colonel Klink,” he said, practically spitting out the name.


Klink couldn’t help but feel offended by the tone of voice the Major was using. “I think I would like to know more about what Doktor Wurfel is doing, Major Baumann, before I commit any more of my resources to this project.”


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


“I think that’s a fair request, don’t you, Carter?” Kinch asked, as Hogan’s men stood huddled around the coffee pot listening device in the Colonel’s quarters.


“Oh, sure, I think that’s fair,” Carter agreed. “What about you, Newkirk?”


“The Kommandant’s never made a more reasonable request,” the Englishman said with a nod. “What do you think, Louis?”


“I think if we are not quiet, we will miss the answer!” Le Beau said, too worried about something going wrong to enjoy the banter.


The foursome turned back to the coffee pot to hear the rest of what was happening in Klink’s office.


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


“If that is what it will take to get you to do what I ask, Colonel, then I will tell you. Doktor Wurfel is working on a new ground-to-air flak weapon, using cutting edge technology that will ensure maximum damage to Allied planes without any possibility of casualties on our side.” Baumann paused and looked directly at the Kommandant.


Hogan’s men looked at each other with concern. Sure, they had the theories on film—they hoped—but there could be a lot more to this than they thought. They leaned more heavily toward the coffee pot as the Major continued. “Do I need to continue, Colonel Klink, or do you feel you have enough information from me now to feel confident in what the Abwehr is asking of you?”


The emphasis on the military branch demanding his cooperation and the condescension in the Major’s tone was enough to cow Klink into gulping, “That’s more than sufficient, thank you.” He still didn’t understand why Wurfel would need to test things here, from his camp, but he wasn’t about to ask.


“Very well, then. Perhaps you will stop merely standing there nodding like a marionette and get one of your men to start unloading the car.”


Klink abruptly stopped bobbing his head and snapped back to his unfortunate reality. “Of course, Major. Always glad to be of help,” he said in that singsong voice that he hated whenever he heard it, but could not help using when things were tense.


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


“Hey, I bet we could help unload that car,” Carter said.


“Could we?” asked Le Beau.


“Well, why not? The guards have other things to do.”


“They don’t,” Newkirk mused. “But they will.”


The four of them smiled in mutual understanding. Kinch nodded as he hurriedly put away the coffee pot. “Let’s go.”


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


Bleary-eyed, Hogan straightened from his hunched-over position at the desk and drew out his arms for a stretch. It had been a long night, and with Grizone not as successful as he’d hoped at sneaking out last night, thanks to the guards prowling the compound, Hogan was left with a magnifying glass that Lovett had scrounged at some point from a guard during a forbidden poker game. It was hardly enough, but knowing that there was precious little time left in which the prisoners could safely hold onto those stamps, Hogan had had to make do.


Except that he hadn’t “made do”—he had found nothing. Hogan winced as he felt muscles protesting their shabby treatment, and he yawned and dug the heels of his hands into his eyes, hoping to clear some of his blurred vision. Only sleep will do that now, he thought as he saw a crack of morning light peer through the shutters. And there’s no chance of that.


A light knock on the door and Grizone came inside, carefully carrying a steaming cup of coffee. “Thought you’d need this if you were still up,” he said, handing it to Hogan, who took it gratefully. “I thought you might have finally given up and gone to bed.”


“Never say die,” Hogan said, taking a sip. His thoughts suddenly drifted to Le Beau, who was always bringing him something to eat or drink. A mother hen in every camp, he thought fondly. He shook his head. “There’s gotta be something to this. Something isn’t right.” Another yawn. Hogan ran his hand along an unshaven cheek, then along the back of his stiff neck. “That microscope still on for today?” he asked.


Grizone’s eyes widened. “You still want to try? I mean, isn’t it dangerous having the stamps away from the safe much longer?”


“Just a few more hours,” Hogan said. “But we’ll need a diversion for Meyer. Are you up to it?”


The Sergeant just blinked.


“Something wrong, Grizone?” Hogan asked.


“Oh—no, sir,” the young man answered, shaking his head quickly. “I’m just trying to figure out how you come up with all this stuff.”


Hogan smiled through his tiredness. “I read a lot.”


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


Carter looked over to where Corporal Karl Langenscheidt was unloading a box from the trunk of Baumann’s car and yawned, taking off his cap and scratching his head before putting it back on. Two buildings away, Le Beau rubbed his face harshly and then threw his dangling red scarf around his neck. Kinch carefully fingered the baseball he had been casually tossing from hand to hand and looked across at where Newkirk was standing near the Kommandant’s office. He tossed the ball hard and long, then watched as the Englishman jumped up high to catch it.


Newkirk looked over at Monroe over by the Recreation Hall and threw the ball hard. The young Corporal looked like he had caught it, but suddenly fell over as though struck. He held his hand to the side of his head and struggled up from the ground cursing. “Hey, you did that on purpose, you jerk!” he accused.


“I did not,” retorted Newkirk, approaching the American and putting out a hand to help him up.


Monroe yanked his arm away and moved his hand across his hair to brush the dirt out. “You looked right at me and then threw it!” he insisted. “I oughta lay you out right here.”


Newkirk straightened. “Don’t start anything you can’t finish, mate,” he warned the smaller-framed prisoner.


“Don’t you worry,” Monroe replied, tensing his muscles for a fight; “I can finish this right here, right now.”


“All right, mate; you asked for it.” Newkirk kneaded his hands and then barreled into Monroe.


Kinch came running, while Le Beau shouted “Fight! Fight!” and ran toward the action. Almost immediately a few other prisoners joined in, until the noise was impossible to ignore and Langenscheidt looked over toward the ruckus.


Carter moved in toward the guard, craning his neck to see what was happening, noticing subtly that the German was doing the same. “Hey, it’s really getting out of hand over there,” Carter suggested. He stole a quick look into the open box Langenscheidt was no longer paying any attention to. “Don’t you think you ought to do something about it?”


Langenscheidt nodded but still hesitated. More prisoners joined in the fray. More guards were heading toward the commotion. Still the German waited. He looked at the box in his hands; the Major standing several feet away, watching everything; the prisoners, getting worked up into what looked like the beginnings of a riot. He hesitated again.


“I can look after your box for you, Langenscheidt,” Carter offered, shrugging one shoulder and offering a lopsided smile. “I’d rather you make sure my friends don’t kill each other.”


That was all it took. Langenscheidt thrust the box into Carter’s open arms. “Danke schoen, Sergeant,” he said with a nod, and he ran toward the melee.


Carter glanced into the box for just a second, then smiled broadly at Major Baumann. “Don’t you worry, Major. I’ll get these things right inside, okay?”


Baumann shook his head impatiently. “Ja, ja. Just be careful, and don’t be nosy—or I can make sure you have nothing to be nosy about for the rest of your very short life.”


Carter gulped and almost pretended to feel threatened by the German’s words. “I’ll mind my own business, Major. You can count on it,” he said hastily. In was only to himself that he added, My business just happens to be finding out what’s in this box!

Chapter Eleven



Dot to Dot



“Oh, boy.” Hogan pulled back from the microscope and, blinking deliberately, massaged his cramped neck muscles. He put his eye back down to the lens again, then drew himself upright once more and frowned. “I should have known.”


“What is it, Colonel?” asked Lovett, who’d been hovering behind Hogan for the past fifteen minutes.


“Well, we can definitely rule out this delivery being solely for the purpose of expanding someone’s stamp collection,” Hogan said. He picked up the long-forgotten cup of coffee on the desk and took a long, cold drink.


“I had a feeling you were gonna say something like that,” Lovett said. “But what was it for?”


“Passing on information and instructions to Nazi spies,” Hogan replied.


Lovett nearly choked on his own cup of brew. He pulled away from the bunk he’d been leaning against and came to stand next to Hogan. “Come again, sir?” he said.


“These stamps are being used to pass on Allied troop movements toward Anzio.” Hogan let out a heavy sigh. “If we can’t stop this information from getting through and the Germans move in their reserves in force, we’re gonna lose a lot of our boys.” His eyes grew hard and his jaw became fixed in deep concentration.


“Uh—sir? Do you mind if I ask—uh—”


Hogan snapped out of his plotting mind long enough to realize that what he was saying aloud probably wasn’t making any sense to the Corporal. “Sorry, Lovett. Take a look for yourself.”


The young man turned to face the microscope as Hogan moved to the side and sat down on the stool. The Colonel turned a small dial on the side of the instrument and gestured for Lovett to bring his eye down to the lens. “See that?” Hogan prompted.


Lovett looked as closely as possible. “Looks like a stamp to me, sir,” he said.


Hogan nodded. “That’s on regular view. Let me increase the magnification. Here it is at one hundred times.”


Lovett peered into the lens again. “Hey, that number looks pretty funny.”


“Not the number,” Hogan said. “Look at the decimal point.”


Lovett shrugged. “It’s just a dot.”


“Keep looking.” Hogan turned the dial on the side again; now the image was magnified two hundred times. “Now what do you see?”


“Holy cow!”


Hogan couldn’t help smiling at the phrase that reminded him so much of Carter. “Now I think you’ve got it,” he said.


“What is that?” Lovett asked.


“It’s a micro-dot,” Hogan answered.


“A micro…” Lovett faltered.


“A micro-dot,” Hogan said again. “It’s a message that’s typed on regular paper, then photographed with a miniature camera to reduce the size. Then it’s photographed again—this time through a reversed microscope. The process gets more complicated from there until it gets to the point where the information is the size of a dot—and it has to get somewhere.”


More complicated?” Lovett repeated in disbelief.


“Yeah; these spy-type people are pretty crafty.”


“How do they get it onto the stamps?”


Hogan shrugged. “They scratch the paper where the dot goes with a needle, then they use a syringe plunger to press the dot into the texture, do a little magic to make it look like it all belongs there and stop it from falling off, and there you have it: instructions for spies.”


Lovett shook his head. “That’s amazing,” was all he could say about it. “What’s this one say?”


“Well,” Hogan said, “you can see the word Anzio in there, so you won’t get points for figuring out that they’re talking about Italy.” He stood up and peered into the microscope. “Hier vorliegende Sonderauftraege,” he read aloud. “That’s saying these are special orders.” Hogan’s eyes scanned the rest, his acquired German reading a lot of things that he didn’t want to see, and a lot of information that, if passed on to whomever was intended to see this, would mean a very tough time for Allied soldiers.


Hogan stopped looking and walked away from the microscope. This was bad, and it had taken so long to find out what the Germans were up to, that there was little, if any, time to stop the information from getting through.


His face must have given away his worry, because Lovett said, “We can’t do anything about it, can we, sir.”


Hogan wished Lovett had made that sound more like a question than a statement of fact. He pursed his lips. “I don’t know.” Still, he didn’t stop thinking.


“I’ve never heard of anything like this, Colonel. How’d you know they might try something like this?”


“I heard about it in London.” Hogan stopped as the Corporal raised his eyebrows. Whoops. Well, a little truth… “The Allies caught a spy involved with it before I was shot down.” True. “This whole process was developed in Dresden—the Krauts use it all the time to get messages to their spies overseas.” Also true. Doesn’t matter that I only learned about it on one of my trips to London after I was already running the operation at Stalag 13.


“Gee, if we know about it, and they know we know about it, how come they use it?”


“How many of the millions of letters that travel the world each day do you think our guys can intercept, even on a good day?”


Lovett nodded thoughtfully.


“And now we’ve got almost zero time to do something about this mess before we’re caught with our hands in the cookie jar.” Hogan began to pace the office slowly. “I’d love to be able to change that information so the Krauts go in all the wrong directions…” He thought some more. He shook his head. “That would take too much time; we’d need special equipment…” He paused, and redirected his thinking. “I suppose… we could just change one thing… then get rid of the rest of it….”


“How?” Lovett asked, his eyes widening. “If Meyer doesn’t find those stamps back in his safe, we might as well shoot ourselves right now!”


“He’ll get them back,” Hogan assured him. “We’ll just… fix them first.” His plotting through, Hogan turned all business as he prepared for action. “We’ve still got Grizone out taking the good Kommandant on a tour of the compound to show him all the fine work the prisoners have been doing, but time’s running out, fast. Has the medic got needles?”


Lovett shrugged, still struggling to keep up with Hogan’s racing mind. “Well, I suppose he does. I mean, he would have to, wouldn’t he?”


“Depends on how well he’s been stocked. Let’s get one. And then I need someone with a really good eye for detailed work.” Hogan squeezed his eyes shut tightly and then re-opened them. “I think my eyes are shot.”


“Lack of sleep will do that.”


“Don’t I know it,” Hogan agreed.


So what are we gonna do?” Lovett asked.


Hogan pulled the sheet of stamps out from under the microscope and looked at them with some satisfaction now that he had a plan in mind. “We’re gonna turn these babies back into plain ol’ ordinary postage stamps. And that’s gonna buy some Kraut a one-way ticket to the Russian front.”


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


“Hey, Kinch, have we still got that information Newkirk swiped from Doctor Wurfel’s quarters?” Carter asked when he got back to the barracks later on.


“Of course we do, Carter,” Kinch replied. “But it’s all been encoded and packed up to bring to our contact. Why?”


Carter shook his head. “Well, the stuff that was in that box—diodes and cathodes and things like that—I think that cutting-edge technology that Baumann was talking about has to do with infrared.”




Carter nodded. “Heat sensors. They wouldn’t be using that stuff if there was gonna be a man involved. I think he’s talking about radio-controlled stuff. Missiles that think for themselves.”


Kinch’s face dropped. “You’re kidding,” he said.


“I wish I was.” Carter shrugged. “But I don’t think so.”


“Come on, then, Carter; we’d better add that to the information we give out tonight to get through to London. Just in case it’s not part of that gobbledy-gook that Newkirk got for us to send.”


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


Martin Andrews put down the needle and rubbed his eyes brusquely with his fingertips. “That’s the best I can do, Colonel, and I hope it’s okay, because I don’t think I’ll be able to make it any better.”


Hogan moved in to where the Corporal had been working and peered in through the lens of the microscope. A sly, satisfied smile raised the edges of his lips. The time Andrews had spent scraping around with the needle from the medic while staring through the microscope had been a good investment. “That’s fantastic,” the Colonel said, nodding as he straightened. “All the other ones have been removed?”


“Yes, sir; there are just plain dots in their places now. Just that one’s been left and changed. Instead of Anzio, it says Gustav. Or Gnstvo, depending on how you translate what I just did. It was almost impossible to change a tiny little word on something I was looking at through a microscope. I never thought the tip of a needle could seem too big!”


Hogan laughed lightly. “It’s fine; you did a great job. The Allies would rather not have anyone know where they’re headed… and if the Krauts are delayed while they try to figure out where Gnstvo is, so much the better.” He nodded. “It’s excellent work. Thanks.”


Andrews shrugged off the compliment. “You’re welcome,” he said. “Anything to make life a little more difficult for Meyer. But Colonel, why the Gustav Line?”


Hogan once again felt the painful pang of not being able to completely confide in these men who were doing so much to help the Allied cause right now. But he couldn’t tell Andrews that he wanted the instructions changed to Gustav because he knew German reserves were being pulled back from the Eastern Front, and that the Allies wanted to push them toward the Gustav Line so Allied troops could move in to Anzio, in force; as a normal prisoner, Hogan would have no way of knowing that. And so he shrugged and replied, “Why not?”


Andrews smirked. “Yeah, why not?” he answered. “So what now?”


“Now?” Hogan replied. “Now, we get these stamps back into the safe, then catch up on some sleep.”


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


“Colonel Hogan, I have discussed with you before the cutting of things in your barracks,” Meyer said. “Do you recall that conversation?”


Hogan heaved a sigh. “Yes, Captain, I recall that conversation,” he said, sounding bored. “I believe you thought you were being very clever by using a pun about something that made no sense to me.”


Meyer smiled as though happy with Hogan’s impertinence. “Ah, yes,” the Kommandant said with a nod. “You were quite insistent that nothing was going on.”


“That’s right,” Hogan answered expectantly, drawing his eyebrows together.


“I’m afraid I must disagree with your view of the facts.”


“Must you?”


“Yes; you see, someone is being insistent on cutting something.”


“Well, I wish whoever it is would share their butter knife with the rest of us,” Hogan answered. “The potatoes haven’t improved since we last talked about this.”


“Then you will be pleased to know I am going to make that part of your life a little bit simpler, Colonel,” Meyer announced. “You’re not going to have to worry about the texture of the food for the next three days.”


Hogan’s knitted brow transformed into a full frown. “Why not?”


“Because you’ll be too busy trying to stop your teeth from chattering to concern yourself with the quality of the bread and water you get… while you are in the cooler.”


The cooler? Hey!” Hogan protested. “What have I done to deserve that?”


“Nothing that you will admit to, Colonel.”


“You can’t do that!”


“Can’t I?”


“Section Three, Article Sixty-One of the Geneva Convention states that no prisoner of war shall be sentenced without being given the opportunity to defend himself.”


“You know that tenet so well, Colonel; it sounds like you have often had to defend yourself.”


“I told you; I look after my men. It’s my job to know all the prisoners’ rights under the law.”


“And so?”


“And so, I want you to show me just what it is you think I’ve done to deserve three days in the cooler!”


“Very well, Colonel Hogan; we shall look together.” Meyer came out from around his desk and took his coat from the peg on the wall. “Come with me. And then prepare yourself for a chilly three days.”


Hogan glared defiantly at Meyer, then followed the Captain out the door. As they walked down the steps of the Kommandant’s office, Hogan glanced briefly at Kent, who was sweeping nearby. The Colonel nodded and stuffed his hands in his pockets, then kept walking. Kent turned to watch the two officers, then swiftly made his way inside, toward Meyer’s safe.


As Hogan and Meyer reached Barracks Seven, Lovett and Grizone came outside. Meyer ignored them and continued into the hut; Hogan looked at the pair long enough to catch the nod they offered him before coming up behind Meyer in the common room and closing the door behind him.


Meyer went straight to the lamp above the table and pulled it down. The triumphant look on his face disappeared, and he roughly pulled the lamp toward him for closer examination.


“Something wrong, Captain?” Hogan asked, amused. From behind the German, Hogan allowed himself a small smile as he looked at the wires that until only moments ago had been cut. Now, the prisoners had done such a good job at putting the wires back together, that unless Meyer physically pulled at them, giving away his own game, no one would be able to tell that the listening device had ever been discovered and severed.


Meyer scowled, then took one last look at the lamp before shoving it away from himself. He turned to Hogan. “Three days, Colonel Hogan,” he said fiercely.


Three days? What for?” Hogan demanded to know.


“Let us call it ‘preventative measures.’” Meyer smiled. “There’s nothing in the Geneva Convention about that.”

Chapter Twelve



Two By Two



“I can’t help but feel a little rotten about sneaking out on Colonel Crittendon like that,” Carter said as he and Newkirk made their way back to camp.


Newkirk shook his head as he pulled at the lid to the tree stump entrance. “Are you kidding, Andrew? The last time we had to drag him along, Valentino nearly drowned in that idiot’s bleedin’ ‘cup of tea,’” he answered. “Notice how smoothly everything went without him.” He gave the lid another tug, but it refused to move. “This is a bit hard tonight, isn’t it?”


“It was okay when we went out,” Carter said, frowning. “Let me try.”


Newkirk shrugged and let Carter move in, while the Englishman kept his eyes scanning the area. He pushed Carter down when the searchlights from the guard towers swept down toward them, then turned back to see no progress being made at all.


“We have a problem,” Carter said finally.


“Yeah; it’s stuck!” Newkirk said.


“No,” Carter replied. “It’s locked!”


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


“Boy, they sure are late,” Kinch observed needlessly.


Oui, I hope Colonel Crittendon does not give us away if they are not here by roll call.”


“If they aren’t here by roll call, you might have to worry about me giving us away.” Kinch sat for a moment, thinking. “Crittendon handled being left out of this one pretty well,” he admitted.


Le Beau shrugged. “What could he say? He knew the time to meet the contact. He was not ready.”


“And we couldn’t wake him up in time.”


“Not even if we had tried,” Le Beau added with a grin.


“And when we did try… well, I don’t know what he was dreaming about... but he sure didn’t want to leave her.” Kinch shook his head. “It’s a real shame, you know, Louis,” he said. “A guy like Crittendon—if he had the brains… he could be a really big help to the operation.”


Oui,” Le Beau agreed. “He is loyal, and genuinely interested in helping stop the Germans.”


“But oh, the price we have to pay for that enthusiasm,” Kinch said with a soft chuckle. “Where is he now?”


Le Beau gestured toward the bunk that hid the entrance to the tunnel, then took another sip of his coffee. “He is still downstairs waiting for Carter and Newkirk. He said he wanted to make sure they had a friendly face waiting for them when they came back.”


Kinch smiled. “Friendly faces… and geraniums.”


Le Beau laughed. “Oh, of course… geraniums.”


“Right before he gets them started on calisthenics!”


The pair had relaxed enough to enjoy the joke when the bunk clattered and rose up, revealing a disheveled-looking Crittendon ascending the ladder. “By Jove!” the Englishman declared.


Kinch furrowed his brow and exchanged glances with Le Beau. “What is it, sir?” he asked.


“Are they back?” Le Beau added.


Crittendon climbed back into the barracks and brushed himself off. “Well, it’s the most extraordinary thing!” he said. “I knew that they’d gone off, most disheartened at being on their own, without me beside them—I still feel terribly guilty about not being able to be woken up, of course.”


Kinch shrugged. “That’s all right, Colonel; I’m sure they won’t feel slighted.”


“Well, that’s just the thing! I locked the tunnel exit above me, of course—wouldn’t want just anyone wandering in at all hours of the night—and settled in for bit of a kip. I knew as soon as they rattled the tree stump that I would wake up and be able to let them in—and give them a hearty welcome home. Well, look at the time—and still no Sergeant Carter or Corporal Newkirk!”


Le Beau and Kinch stared at the Englishman as what he was saying sank in. “Colonel Crittendon, are you saying you locked the tunnel entrance and then fell asleep?”


At Crittendon’s blank look, Kinch and Le Beau leapt practically as one out of their seats and headed for the ladder. “What’s the matter?” Crittendon asked, as the pair descended. When he got no answer, he shook his head, perplexed, and muttered, “What odd fellows.”


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


“I hate this idea, Carter,” Newkirk said for at least the tenth time in the last hour.


“I know ya do, Newkirk, but we don’t have any other choice!”


“Who would have been so stupid as to lock the tunnel entrance?” Newkirk shook his head. “It had to be Crittendon.”


“We don’t know that for sure, Newkirk. Maybe there was trouble at camp while we were away, and this is their way of telling us we shouldn’t be coming back in at all!”


“If that’s the case, Andrew, then why are going to give ourselves up at the gate as soon as it gets to be sunrise? So we can get shot for not escaping?”


“Well, what else can we do?”


“Run away and hide with Colonel Hogan at Stalag 9?” Newkirk sighed and rubbed his arms in a desperate attempt to get warm. He paused as the searchlight again swept past them. When it was safe, he said, “I don’t know; maybe it’s not such a bad idea, getting shot. It might warm me up a bit.”


Carter curled his lips in a wry grin. “Don’t even kid about it, pal.”


A long silence grew between the two. “What do you suppose they’re thinking back at camp?” Carter asked finally. “Do you think they figured we’re out here trying to get back?”


“I don’t know, Carter,” Newkirk answered. “I know if Colonel Hogan was in the barracks he’d have worn a hole in the floor of his office by now—if he hadn’t already come out to look for us.”


“We do not have to look for you,” came a voice. Newkirk and Carter nearly jumped as they saw the lid to the tree stump rise up. “You were too stupid to get farther away from the searchlights.”


“Louis!” Newkirk’s voice betrayed both his surprise, and his relief.


“Come on; hurry up before the tower guards see you.”


“You don’t have to ask me twice,” Newkirk replied, jumping onto the ladder as Le Beau disappeared below. “See, Andrew? I like this idea a whole lot better than the one we were gonna go with.”


“Yeah,” Carter said, letting just a bit of irony creep into his voice; “and you still don’t have to volunteer to be shot!”


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


Hogan rubbed his face hard again, trying to coax some warmth into his unshaven cheeks. Sitting propped up against a dirty wall, he looked around at the equally dirty floor that was both his bed and his chair, and looked up at the pale, cold, early morning sunlight streaming in from the single, small window well above his reach on the opposite wall. He scratched his head and tried to ignore the hunger gnawing at his stomach. The plain bread and the cup of water he had been given last night had hardly been enough to satisfy his hunger. And from the angle of the light, Hogan estimated he had at least another hour before he got another equally unsatisfying morning meal. He sighed and checked that his bomber jacket was completely zipped up, wishing for the comfort of at least a lumpy cot and a scratchy blanket. Then he dug his hands deeply into his pockets, drew his knees up a little tighter to his chest, and closed his eyes.


Another two days to go.


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


The day after their rendezvous with the Underground, Kinch emerged from the tunnel, surprised to find no one in the barracks at this late time of the afternoon. Did I miss something? he wondered to himself. He knew if there was a problem, someone would have signaled him downstairs so he knew to either get really quiet, or scramble back upstairs. But there had been no signal of any kind. He moved over to the door of the barracks and very carefully opened it just a crack to see if he could find out anything.


Ah, ha… Kinch laughed softly as he watched Newkirk struggling to get through what was probably his thirtieth jumping jack. Calisthenics.


Shaking his head, the Sergeant moved back toward the stove and poured himself a fresh cup of coffee. He smiled as he sat down at the table and warmed his hands on the cup. London’s thanks can wait just a little bit longer.


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


“Look,” Lovett said, gesturing toward the gate. “Who’s that?”


Grizone, who had been leaning, slumped, against the wall of the barracks, put both feet squarely on the ground as he strained to see the visitor. “Dunno,” he answered. “You wanna bet it has something to do with those stamps?”


“Only one way to find out,” Lovett replied casually.


Grizone’s eyes took on a sudden sparkle. “You think?”


“Yep. Grab a broom, buddy; offices can get dusty pretty quick in a POW camp.”


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


Grizone plowed into Meyer’s office carrying a broom, with Lovett close behind him, large basket and feather duster in tow. The uproar at the unexpected intrusion was immediate.


“What is the meaning of this?” the Captain exploded.


Grizone took in the scene before him in a flash: Meyer, crouched at the safe, clearly resecuring it; another officer, a Colonel, gently placing the envelope that the prisoners knew held the postage stamps into a briefcase he had open on the desk. The Colonel closed the case calmly, barely acknowledging the interruption.


Waving Lovett further into the room, the Sergeant said, “Oh—very sorry, Kommandant. It’s just that, you know, Colonel Hogan wants us to take pride in our Stalag, and we thought, well, the best place for pride and respect is, you know, the Kommandant’s office, and since this is the Kommandant’s office, we thought, uh, we thought we should start here.”


Now is not the time, and you are never to simply barge in here to carry out this work!” Meyer replied angrily.


“Oh—uh—I must apologize, Captain. We were just so focused on what we needed to do that we didn’t think. I’m—uh—sorry, sir. We’ll get out of your way. Sorry. C’mon, Lovett,” he said. Then, making sure that the pair had a good look at what had actually transpired in the office, the two of them backed out, full of apologies and bows.


And after the door was firmly slammed behind them, they exchanged broad grins and left the building.


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


“You mean you let us stand out there, shivering in the winter cold, doing star jumps and push ups and heaven-knows-what, while you were in here drinking a bleedin’ cup of coffee?”


Kinch couldn’t control the smile that he knew was driving the Englishman mad. “Well, by the time I came upstairs, you were nearly done anyway, so I thought you might appreciate it if a nice hot cup of joe was waiting for you. Forgive me if I’m wrong,” he said, succeeding in at least keeping his gleaming white teeth from showing as he stopped the kettle half way down to Newkirk’s cup.


“You’re not wrong,” Newkirk answered shortly, gesturing with his cup for the radio man to get pouring. Then, his own voice reflecting his resignation: “I just wish you’d been the one outside, and I’d been the one inside making it.”


Kinch nodded knowingly. “Well, there are plusses to being the one stuck downstairs in the cold most of the time.” He poured coffee for both Carter and Le Beau, then sat down at the table with them and asked, “Where’s Crittendon now?”


Newkirk made a face. “He’s trying to get the Krauts to do their exercises now.”


“Yeah—he says any group that’s led by Schultz needs to be exercising at least twice a day,” Carter added.


“Yeah? Well, they can do my star jumps.” Newkirk stretched his arms out slowly. “Blimey, I hate those things.”


Kinch laughed softly and sat down. “With all this complaining, you’ve forgotten why I was in the tunnel missing all the excitement in the first place. Do you want to know what London had to say, or not?”


Carter shivered as he shook his head. “You’ll have to wait for my ears to thaw out first.”


Still bundled up in his coat and scarf, Le Beau brought the steaming cup up to his face and looked at his friend. “You still have ears? I think mine froze and fell off.”


“Well, Carter’s must still be working, ’cause you haven’t stopped complaining to anyone who’ll listen,” Newkirk teased.


“Ha, ha,” Le Beau replied, deadpan. “What did they say, Kinch?”


“London says the stuff we sent back last night was dynamite.”


“Dynamite?” Carter echoed. “I thought they were plans for a new anti-aircraft weapon!”


“It’s just a figure of speech, Carter,” Kinch replied; “it means that London thinks what we found out was really important.”


“Oh.” Carter shrugged. “I was sure I would have been able to figure it out if it was really dynamite.”


“Well, you were on target about one thing, Carter: Wurfel was working on infrared.” He paused as the others reacted with disbelief. “Radio-controlled missiles that hone in on Allied planes—and then blow up when they’re about fifty yards in front of them.”


“So the pilots would fly the planes right into them!” Carter declared. “And they’d be so close they wouldn’t have a chance to get away!”


And there was preliminary work on homing devices in what we sent back, too,” Kinch continued. “London says having this information clearly before the Germans have perfected it is fantastic.”


“Good,” Newkirk answered. “Anything else?”


“Yeah. They wanted to know why we weren’t taking a couple of weeks off like Colonel Hogan!”


Newkirk laughed. “We’ve done our part now, mate,” he said. He stood up and stretched, feeling his muscles, unused to calisthenics, starting to protest. “I’m taking the next few days off—and when the gov’nor comes back, I might see if I can get him to be the one standing out in the cold doing exercises, while I get a nice couple of weeks of leisure!”


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


Hogan drew his knees in even closer to his chest, wondering if there was any possible way to get even an inch tighter into a ball. His head was tucked down as far as he could manage, and his hands were crammed under his knees. If there was one thing that drove him crazy, it was having hands that were so cold they hurt. But they had passed that stage in the extreme cold of last night, and now, after a bleak and sunless day, they were almost numb, even though the rest of him was shivering. And once, when he had lifted his head to give his neck just a second’s respite from the hunched-over position he was in, he discovered that his teeth were chattering. Those damned Germans’d better head straight for the Gustav Line, Hogan thought to himself. He shuddered a split-second smile onto his face as he remembered the work Andrews had managed to pull off just a couple of days ago, but another violent tremor shook the grin away, and he plunged his head down back into his curled-up body.


One more day… and night… to go.


Chapter Thirteen



Back to the Team



Shivering badly and blinking as he bowed his head away from the bright midday sun, Hogan focused only on getting himself back to Barracks Seven when he was released from the cooler the next day. Last night had been even colder than the night before, and the little sleep he had managed to get—which was actually, at times, fevered unconsciousness—had been brief and unrestful, interrupted several times by shudders that ran the length of his body and banged his head up against the wall, jolting him awake.


Coughing roughly, Hogan had his arms folded in front of him, his hands tucked in close to his sides, and he was vaguely wondering how he was going to convince himself to expose them to open the door, when Grizone suddenly appeared beside him. Without speaking, Hogan met his worried eyes, and the Sergeant gently took him by the elbow and guided him inside the hut.


“Just sit, Colonel. Here near the stove,” Grizone said softly, leading Hogan to a bench at the table. Hogan nodded, still trembling, and someone draped a blanket from a nearby cot over his shoulders. He instinctively grabbed at the warm cover and pulled it in around him.


“That Meyer was a real bastard, not giving you a bed or a blanket,” Lovett announced, coming to sit beside Hogan; “it’s been below freezing the last couple of nights.” He put a hot cup of coffee on the table. “Drink it slow, now, Colonel. You don’t want to scald your mouth.”


Hogan reached out unsteadily and put his hands around the cup, waiting for some of the heat from the coffee to seep into his fingers. It was too long in coming. Still shaking, he brought the cup up slowly toward his face and took a small sip, then put it back on the table and withdrew his hands back into the blanket. “Thanks,” he managed hoarsely. Then he coughed hard, making his already aching body shudder.


“It’s good to have you back, Colonel,” Grizone said, throwing another piece of firewood in the stove. “There; that should get you real toasty soon.”


As his shivering became less frequent, Hogan again nodded his thanks. “This room’s much nicer than the one at the Stalag 9 Hilton,” he said through chattering teeth. The others laughed. A silence fell over the prisoners. Hogan knew there was something he needed to ask, but his mind was still foggy from the last three days and he couldn’t remember what it was. Finally, the thought filtered through. “W-was it…” An unexpectedly large shudder cut him off. Squeezing his eyes shut and groaning softly from between clenched teeth, he struggled to contain the painful tremor. When he opened his eyes, he continued breathing sharply but finished determinedly: “…w-worth it?”


At this question, Lovett broke into a broad smile. “You bet it was, Colonel.” He gestured toward the lamp above the table and looked questioningly at Grizone.


The Sergeant shook his head. “It’s okay,” he said. He shrugged ingenuously at Hogan when the Colonel looked at him to make sure he understood what was going on. Hogan nodded approvingly, then burrowed a little deeper into the blanket.


“Some Kraut officer came yesterday and took the stamps back out of camp,” Lovett explained.


“Are you sure?” Hogan asked.


“Oh, yes, sir,” Lovett replied. “Grizone and I pretended we needed to clean Meyer’s office, and we just barged in, right in the middle of everything. We saw the Kraut putting the envelope in his briefcase.”


Hogan smiled briefly. “You fellas are great,” he praised, his voice weakening as he squeezed himself more tightly to smother another coughing spell.


The door to the barracks opened. Hogan turned away and shrank further into his blanket as Grizone demanded it be closed immediately.


“Sorry, sorry,” said Kent; “it’s the only way to get inside other than crawling through the window, and I thought that might take a lot longer.” He came up to the table and looked at Hogan sitting bundled up and pale with cold. “I thought you might like a bit of help warming up, Colonel,” he said. From his pocket the Corporal pulled a small flask.


“What’s that?” asked Grizone.


“Just something to help get the blood flowing freely again.” He grinned, self-satisfied. “Brandy.” As the prisoners’ faces lit up and a few of them laughed, the Englishman added, “I can take more than postage stamps from the Kommandant’s office.”


Kent opened the flask and held it out toward Hogan. The Colonel accepted it with a shaking hand and took a long, slow swallow, which resulted in a coughing spasm that made pain explode in his chest. Lovett gently eased the flask out of Hogan’s tightly fisted hand and gave it back to Kent, who then took a swig from the container himself. “Okay, now it’s official,” Hogan said when he could finally speak again: “you fellas are organized enough to handle Crittendon.” At their groans of dismay, the Colonel added, “don’t worry; I promised I’d talk to him about ‘helping’ with your escape attempts, and I will. Just make sure you’ve always got Kent around to get you a little liquid courage when you need it.”


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


Colonel Crittendon faced Hogan’s men with a look of complete satisfaction. “Well, old chaps, today’s the day. It’s been jolly good having the chance to cause trouble for the Jerries with you. Everything went splendidly; not a glitch or a worry all the way through. I think you’ll find Colonel Hogan terribly proud of you for pulling things off so smoothly. And getting those flyers out of the woods for the last two nights was the icing on the cake, so to speak. Well done, men, very well done.”


Resisting the temptation to retort that almost everything had had a “glitch or a worry” in the last two weeks, Kinch replied, “Thank you, sir.”


“Perhaps we’ll do this again soon, what?” Crittendon suggested. “I’ll ask Hogan to set up a date for this to happen again. Won’t be so much of a surprise next time.” The English officer misread the sickly expressions on the men’s faces as disappointment. “Oh, dear—you like that element of surprise, eh? Well, then, we’ll just have to see what happens. You never know—I could be in a different Stalag by then, and Hogan wouldn’t be able to find me!” He let out a laugh that made the others cringe.


“I’m sure the gov’nor will keep track of you from now on, sir,” Newkirk managed. Because there’s no way you’re coming back here again if I can help it. I’ll stick a bleedin’ homing device on your moustache if I have to.


“Anyway, can’t carry on with these sad farewells; there’s a truck waiting for me outside. And when it comes back, you’ll have Colonel Hogan, all ready to pick up where we left off. For King and country, gentlemen! Cheerio!” And Crittendon smiled warmly at the men, who tried to offer him some cheerfulness in return, and left the barracks.


The foursome immediately relaxed. Newkirk shook his head. “‘For King and country,’” he muttered. “Almost makes me want to become a Yank.”


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


Just before dusk, Hogan stepped slowly out of the truck and waited for Schultz to come around and unlock the restraints locked tightly around his wrists. Captain Meyer had insisted Hogan be handcuffed, and the American had been too anxious to get out of Stalag 9 to protest. He’d had less than ninety seconds to talk with Crittendon as they crossed paths, and all that had done was increase his worry, since the Englishman had been smiling so broadly. Although at least Hogan had kept his promise to the men he was leaving; he’d urged Crittendon to let them make their own mistakes and learn to escape on their own. “Otherwise, they might never understand what it takes to get all the way home.” Crittendon thought the idea was brilliant.


Now, tired and ill, Hogan wanted nothing more than to get to Barracks Two and his men, but there was protocol to follow first. He coughed, then breathlessly nodded his thanks as the cuffs were pulled away. “This way, Colonel Hogan,” Schultz prompted apologetically, gesturing loosely in the direction of the Kommandant’s office.


Hogan glanced back toward the barracks and sighed, gently massaging his wrists. “Right.”


Hogan’s eyes followed Klink’s secretary, Hilda, appreciatively as he made his way through to the Kommandant’s office. Now that was an improvement on Stalag 9; Meyer’s secretary, when he had one, was a dumpy, middle-aged, myopic man who had clearly been rejected for any duty more active than standing up. Unfortunate, Hogan remembered thinking; with those kinds of men on the front, the war could end that much faster. He smiled at the blonde woman’s friendly greeting as he stepped into the office.


Herr Kommandant, Colonel Hogan reporting as ordered, sir.” Schultz straightened as he faced his commanding officer, looking sideways at the unusually subdued American, who coughed into his hands. Schultz studied Hogan carefully, then relaxed for just a moment and smiled. “He is back, Herr Kommandant.”


“Schultz, I can see that,” Klink said, shaking his head, standing up immediately. “You are dismissed.” He came around the desk, shooing the big Sergeant out of the room. The guard went reluctantly. “Hogan, welcome back. Have a seat,” the Kommandant offered as though greeting a VIP.


Hogan eyed the German officer suspiciously but took up the offer of a chair, rubbing his throat. Klink smiled broadly and then held up his humidor. “Cigar?” he offered.


Hogan shook his head and cleared his throat. “No, thanks,” he answered, still cautious. Klink replaced the humidor on his desk and went back around to sit down. Should have taken one for later, the American thought belatedly. “You’re being awfully friendly, Kommandant.”


“Nonsense, Hogan; I’m being the same, efficient Kommandant that you knew two weeks ago. I simply want you to feel comfortable being back in camp.” Klink’s overly wide smile played false to Hogan’s eyes.


“Now I know there’s something going on. What’s happened to my men?” For the first time since he’d left Stalag 13 two weeks ago, Hogan got a real and sudden fear that something bad had happened that he could not even conceive of. He leaned forward in his chair and asked earnestly, “What’s going on, Kommandant?”


But Klink waved a hand dismissively. “Nothing, Hogan. Nothing at all. Now, I have sent a report back to Stalag 9 about our two weeks with Colonel Crittendon,” Klink said, with a touch of a verbal cringe in his voice. “And I have a report from Captain Meyer about your time away from Stalag 13. According to him, you spent a considerable amount of time in trouble.”


He created the trouble; I stuck to the rules,” Hogan replied.


“Do I detect a bit of anger in your voice, Hogan?”


“Nothing three nights freezing your tail off in the cooler as a ‘preventative measure’ wouldn’t justify,” Hogan replied, unable to stop another round of coughing. “With no bed and no blanket,” he added, gasping.


For the first time, Klink paused to take a good look at his senior prisoner of war. He hadn’t really taken particular notice of the American’s unusually pale appearance until now. Hogan was sniffling, with a barking cough rattling in his throat, and looking at the Kommandant with fever-glazed eyes. And if Klink wasn’t mistaken, Hogan had suffered from Le Beau’s lack of good cooking as well. “Go back to your barracks, Colonel Hogan,” Klink said now. “Then this camp will return to normal.”


Hogan’s glassy eyes narrowed as a thought occurred to him. “You’re not trying to be accommodating,” he accused; “you’re just happy to be rid of Crittendon, aren’t you?”


Klink didn’t even bother pretend it wasn’t true. “That man is nothing but trouble,” he said, shaking his head. “I actually almost missed you, Hogan.”


“Really?” Hogan coughed again, a rough, painful noise that Klink couldn’t help but wince at.


Klink had his mouth open to reply, then realized what he had just said—and what he was about to say. He stopped and tried to put a sneer on his face. “I said ‘almost,’” he answered instead. Hogan began to protest but he sneezed unexpectedly before he got warmed up. “Gesundheit,” Klink said automatically as Hogan rubbed his eyes. “Go back to your barracks, Colonel Hogan. Give your cold to your men, not to me.”


Hogan’s retort was ready. “I got it because of a Kraut; figured it was only fair to give it back to one.” But he stood up tiredly, and as he went to the door, he turned to the Kommandant and admitted, “Colonel Klink, believe it or not: it’s good to be home.”


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


“Enough, Louis, I’m starting to get wrinkly, and I’m not even in the bathtub!”


Hogan struggled to come out from under the towel that Le Beau had draped over his head just before he pushed a bowl of steaming hot water inches from his commanding officer’s face. The Frenchman just shook his head and rubbed Hogan’s back encouragingly. “It is the best thing to clear your sinuses, mon Colonel,” he persisted. “Just ten more minutes, I promise.”


Hogan groaned. “My whole face will have slid off by then!”


“And after that, you will have some nice hot soup, and then you will get bundled up into bed.”


“Louis, give the Colonel a break; he’s got a cold, not the plague.” Kinch shook his head as he saw Hogan still flailing about hopelessly; Hogan had barely been back in the barracks for five minutes when Le Beau had taken over. Moving the small Corporal aside gently, he pulled the towel off of Hogan’s head.


Hogan lifted his head gratefully and took in a deep, snuffly breath. “Thanks, Kinch,” he said. He looked at Le Beau. “It’s not that I’m not thankful, Le Beau, but I was starting to feel better, and this is making me feel worse.”


“Well, you will still have the soup,” Le Beau insisted. “You lost weight while you were away. What did you eat there: prison food?”


“Something like that,” Hogan answered. He pulled the towel out from around his neck and pushed it and the bowl of water away. “Look, I’m really sorry you fellas got Crittendon. I had no idea he was at Stalag 9. Every time the door opened for the first three days, I was expecting to see one of you fellas dressed up as a General, putting an end to the ‘exchange program’ early so you could get him out of here.”


“Now, where would the challenge have been in that, sir?” Newkirk asked from his bunk.


“Yeah, we could handle him,” Carter added, trying to sound nonchalant.


“Really?” Hogan asked. “He didn’t try to make you do anything odd?”


“No,” Kinch replied hastily, sending a warning look at the others as Hogan closed his eyes when more coughing raked fire across his chest and his throat. “He didn’t make us do anything.” True. “Nothing we couldn’t handle.” Also true. I’ll give him the whole story when he’s had a chance to recover from his “vacation” in the cooler at Stalag 9. “Nothing except calisthenics. And Newkirk had a harder time with that than anyone!”


The Englishman hopped down from his bunk and sat near Hogan at the table. “I just happen to be philosophically opposed to having me arms and legs flapping around in the middle of the day like that. It had nothing to do with being out of shape.”


“I’ll bet you didn’t have to do calisthenics when you were at Stalag 9, Colonel,” Carter surmised.


“You lose,” Hogan countered, nodding thanks at Le Beau as a steaming bowl of soup was placed in front of him. “My first day there—all put in place by the ever-proper and correct Colonel Crittendon. But don’t worry; I got rid of that little routine soon enough.”


“Sounds fair,” Kinch said. “You were promised time off.”


“Yeah, boy, and you were gonna get it,” Carter said, pleased with how the men had coped. “We weren’t gonna send Crittendon back early—not even if he blew the whole thing with Wurfel—”


“Carter!” Newkirk chastised harshly.


The Sergeant clamped his mouth shut. “Sorry.”


Hogan raised an eyebrow. “Wurfel?”


Kinch sighed. “Doctor Wurfel. He was a scientist who came into camp after you left. He went to back to Berlin a couple of days ago. He had a few plans… and we… found out about them and sent them back to London.”


“London?” Hogan repeated, his face taking on an amazed expression.


“Sorry, Colonel,” Newkirk said. “But it was just too good to pass up.”


Oui, we knew you would think the same, so we…” Le Beau paused, then finished, “…disobeyed orders and went snooping. Sorry, Colonel.”


Hogan smiled softly. “No apologies necessary.” His eyes felt hot. He rubbed them slowly with his fingers.


“At least you didn’t have to take care of it, Colonel,” Carter said. “If you were here and you saw what he was up to, you’d have never let it go.”


“I can’t wait to hear about it,” Hogan said. He spooned the last of the broth into his mouth and stood up. “Tomorrow. Sorry, fellas, but I’m beat. I’m going to hit the sack. I think having a two week furlough was just too exciting for me.”


Hogan’s men reluctantly agreed to let their commanding officer retreat for the evening. He had hardly spoken at all about what had happened at Stalag 9, at first satisfied to simply be back among his men, and then put under the strict supervision of Le Beau, who could not stand to see the Colonel so clearly not his usual robust self.


“You’ll have to tell us all about your holiday in the morning, gov’nor,” Newkirk suggested. “It’d be nice to hear what some real time off is like.”


The Colonel paused at his door and turned back to his men as the faces of Grizone, Lovett, Kent and the other men of Stalag 9 crossed his mind. “I’d like to know that, too.”


Hogan ignored the puzzled looks of the foursome. Then, listening with tired contentment to the predictable harmless bickering that erupted when he didn’t offer to elaborate, he smiled and slipped into his quarters for a long, deep sleep. His holiday was over; it was back to work at Stalag 13 tomorrow.


Text and original characters copyright 2006 by Linda Groundwater

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