Star-Crossed
Syl Francis

Papa Bear Awards 20032003 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Drama


Summary: Carter falls in love at first sight--with the daughter of an SS general!

 

Author's Note: Many thanks to Zoey Tranor for providing her usual scintillating editing skills. 

 

Disclaimer: Hogan's Heroes is owned by Paramount, Viacom and others; this is an original story that does not intend to infringe on their copyright. Feedback is welcome!

 

Copyright: July 2002

 

****

 

"...For never was a story of more woe

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

(Romeo and Juliet)

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2000hrs local

Grand Ballroom

Schloss Hammelburg

 

How did he know there was a Top Secret safe before I told him...?

 

****

 

Hogan took two glasses of champagne from the passing tray. He nodded at Carter who flashed him a look of sympathy mixed with amusement before moving on to the other guests. Thanks, buddy, Hogan grumbled silently, frowning in distaste. The next instant his disgruntled expression changed to one of magnetic charm.

 

Thus transformed, Hogan turned back to the elegant woman standing next to him. Gallant smile firmly in place, Hogan handed her one of the drinks. Annoyed, but trying hard not to show it, he handed her one of the drinks and wondered what it would take to discourage her. So far, nothing had tried worked.

 

Hogan sighed inwardly. He should have ducked for cover the minute she sidled up to him. She had 'predator' stamped on her, and he was the prey. I'm beginning to feel like the entree on tonight's menu.

 

Surreptitiously he checked his watch, and saw that it was almost time for Kinchloe to be in position outside. The last thing Hogan needed was to be tied up with a hungry female that had him in mind for her first course. Undaunted, he decided that it was time to initiate his fallback plan. Smiling, he held up his glass in a silent toast.

 

"Thank you," she acknowledged, returning the salute before taking a sip. "Tell me, Col. Hogan, what is it like? Being a prisoner of war, I mean?"

 

Hogan's eyes took on a faraway look. "What's it like?" he repeated with feigned wistfulness. "Why, lonely, Fraulein. Very lonely."

 

"Oh, you poor man..." she said sympathetically. "And it is 'Anna.'" He nodded. Wondering if he was showing just the right amount of pain in his eyes, Hogan gave her the same pitiful look that his dog used to affect when begging for scraps at the dinner table.

 

"Yes, Anna, the loneliness can be very difficult to bear at times," he admitted. "But that isn't the worst of it. Sometimes..." He stopped abruptly and looked away. "Oh, but I shouldn't be troubling you with my problems," he said with a shake of his head.

 

"Oh, please, Col. Hogan...it is no trouble at all--"

 

"You are so kind...and so beautiful." Hogan's voice was a silky caress, which held her enthralled.

 

"Please, tell me more," she breathed. "I really wish to know..."

 

"Very well...it's difficult for a soldier to openly admit this," he said with just the right catch in his voice to melt her final defenses. "But being a prisoner of war can at times be a bit frightening..."

 

"Frightening?"

 

"Oh, yes," Hogan said with the utmost sincerity. "After all...Stalag 13 is run by one of the most vicious kommandant's in all of Germany--Col. Klink!"

 

"Col. Klink!? That annoying man with the ridiculous monocle?" she asked in disbelief.

 

"Oh, don't let that incompetent, simpering act fool you. The man's a real monster," Hogan said quickly.

 

"You poor man," she repeated, placing her hand on his forearm, squeezing suggestively. "Is there anything I can do to help?" Hogan took her hand in his and brought it up to his lips.

 

"I don't know, but if you'll meet me upstairs later," he said with a twinkle, "I'm sure that I'll think of something."

 

Snatching her hand away as if insulted, she turned and stalked off. Not fazed in the least by her actions, Hogan followed her with his eyes, enjoying the view afforded by the dangerously low backed gown, and was soon rewarded when she turned to glance back over her shoulder. She gave him a long knowing look and disappeared into the next room.

 

"Still got it," he murmured with a slight smirk. Returning back to the job at hand, his eyes swept the grand ballroom of Schloss Hammelburg. In the background, he heard the opening strains to The Blue Danube. Soon the dance floor was filled to overflowing, and Hogan studied the guests as they waltzed by.

 

Of course, his was the lone American uniform in the large, brightly lit room. All around him uniforms of Germany's elite SS, Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, and Gestapo flowed past him. Black and red banners hung from the ceiling, displaying Swastikas, the dark symbol of Nazi Germany. 

 

"Now I know how Daniel must've felt like in the lions' den," he muttered. A hearty chuckle from behind announced that his 'guard,' Sgt. Schultz--who had discreetly stepped away when the beautiful woman first approached Hogan--had drunk a few too many glasses of champagne while he had been gone.

 

"Jolly Joker!" Schultz exclaimed a bit too loudly if a passing Gestapo officer's dark glare was any indication. Hogan glanced at his watch and saw that it was time to signal Newkirk.

 

"Schultz," Hogan said, his tone overly friendly, "I recommend you go inspect the kitchens. I hear that LeBeau's saving you a plate of strudel."

 

"Nein!" Schultz said with an emphatic shake of his head. "My orders are to keep an eye on you and the other prisoners this evening. So...here I am, and here I will stay." Hogan gave the portly guard a look of hurt surprise.

 

"So that's the thanks I get for arranging to have LeBeau save you a plate!" he protested. "Suspicion! Just what do you think I'm planning to do? Break into the Top Secret safe upstairs? Surrounded by all of these SS and Gestapo officers? D'you think I'm crazy or something?" Folding his arms, he glared at Schultz and looked highly offended. "Well then, I'll just have Newkirk go back to the kitchen and tell LeBeau to forget it!"

 

With that, Hogan signaled Newkirk who had been standing by within earshot. The Englishman, dressed in waiters' whites, came up to them easily balancing a tray of drinks over his shoulder. Before Hogan could speak to him, however, Schultz broke in.

 

"N-no, Col. Hogan!" he said quickly. "Of course, Kommandant Klink did not mean that I have to stand next to you the entire evening. After all, you would be crazy to risk any monkey business here, surrounded by SS and Gestapo!" Schultz smiled broadly. "Besides, it is time to inspect the kitchens, as you say." About to start walking away, he stopped and gave Hogan a frightened look.

 

"Col. Hogan..." he began, obviously hating to ask the question on the tip of his tongue. "How did you know that there was a Top Secret safe upstairs?"

 

"You just told me," Hogan said with a disingenuous smile. Newkirk nodded in solemn agreement.

 

"That's right, Schultzie," Newkirk said. "I just heard you, plain as day!"

 

"Oh." Shrugging, Schultz sauntered away, swaying slightly from the effects of too much champagne. "I just told him," he repeated, smiling, and then stopped suddenly, a confused look coming over him. "But if I just told him, then how did he know there was a Top Secret safe before I told him that there was a Top Secret safe--?" He rolled his eyes heavenward, and scrunched his face in confusion and fear. "I know nothing! Nothing!"

 

Newkirk gave Hogan an ironic look. "I never thought I'd agree with Schultzie on anything, Colonel. But he's right--this idea is crazy!"

 

"That's what I like about you, Newkirk," Hogan growled. "Always the optimist." Then, looking pointedly at his watch, he added, "Don't you need to be someplace just about now?" Newkirk sighed and nodded reluctantly.

 

"On my way, sir." Newkirk walked off and was quickly swallowed by the thick crowd of partygoers. About to follow Schultz into the kitchens, Hogan was stopped by a taunting voice from behind.

 

"Well, well, well...what do we have here, Uncle Emil? Do you believe that this is the vanguard for the much anticipated Allied Invasion?"

 

Hogan froze, his face darkening for a split second. He relaxed, took a sip from his drink, and turned to face the speaker, his expression now clear. A senior officer, an SS Oberstgruppenfuhrer and a Gestapo lieutenant were watching him with interest. Hogan saw that the gruppenfuhrer was openly appraising him. Hogan raised his glass by way of greeting.

 

"SS-Oberstgruppenfuhrer Emil Mueller, I presume?" he asked. The SS officer nodded in assent and returned a raised glass in greeting.

 

"I see you have heard of me," Mueller said.

 

"Everybody's heard of Gruppenfuhrer Mueller and his famed 434th SS Panzer Division, sir. Everybody, that is, who makes it his business to know the names of Germany's most dangerous men." At Hogan's words, the Gestapo officer visibly stiffened, but Mueller held out his hand in a staying gesture.

 

"I take that as a compliment, Col. Hogan," he said.

 

"You know my name?" Hogan asked, unable to hide his surprise.

 

"I have made it my business to know you: Colonel Robert Hogan, commanding officer of the 504th Bomb Group. Before you were shot down, your group was responsible for destroying one of my finest tank battalions."

 

"And don't forget the 'secret' fighter base," Hogan said helpfully.

 

"Was that you, too?" Mueller asked softly. "You set back our close combat air support for six months! Do you have any idea how many of our best pilots and planes we lost on that raid?"

 

"Fifty or so--give or take a few," Hogan said facetiously. Mueller's expression became thunderous. He was about to speak, when a soft, feminine voice interrupted him.

 

"Father! There you are! I have been looking everywhere for you!" A lovely young girl of about twenty ran up to them, and she threw her arms unselfconsciously around Mueller's waist. "Father, you promised me a waltz!"

 

"Please, Alyse...can you not see that I am busy at the moment?" he snapped, in annoyance. The girl immediately stepped away from him, her hurt expression apparent.

 

"I apologize, Father," she said softly. She was about to turn away, when Hogan stopped her.

 

"Wait, Fraulein..." he said. "I don't believe we were properly introduced."

 

"My cousin does not consort with the enemy, Colonel!" The Gestapo lieutenant who had fallen silent once Hogan and Mueller started talking suddenly stepped forward. "Alyse, be a good little girl and--"

 

"Wolfgang Mueller, I am not a little girl anymore!" she protested, her eyes flashing defiance. "And don't let that uniform go to your head, either," she added cagily. "If you don't behave, I'll tell Hanna how I used to beat you up while we were in the nursery!" She laughed merrily as she teased him, her presence practically lighting up the room.

 

Hogan caught Mueller's eye at the moment and both men smiled in mutual amusement at her words.

 

"Alyse, that is no way to address an important officer of the Third Reich!" Wolfgang protested rather pompously.

 

"That is true, dear cousin," Alyse said, her eyes lighting with mischief. "But whoever claimed that you were important?" Wolfgang made a grab for her, and Alyse instinctively let out a squeak of fright. She took refuge behind Hogan causing him to almost spill his drink. Wolfgang feigned to go right and Alyse fell for the ruse. Within seconds, she was laughing happily while he held her at arms length, pretending to scold her.

 

Hogan watched, fascinated by the unusual sight of a Gestapo officer actually showing a gentle, caring side. It was obvious that Wolfgang cared deeply for his cousin. He again glanced over at Mueller who had affectionately placed his arms around the two 'quarrelsome children.' The SS general spoke softly into Alyse's ear, and immediately, she again became the demure young woman that Hogan had seen earlier.

 

"Col. Hogan, may I present my daughter, Alyse, who is home on school holiday to celebrate my temporary homecoming."

 

Hogan offered a slight bow. "Fraulein...a pleasure."

 

"Colonel..." she murmured shyly. Turning to Mueller, she asked again, "Father...my waltz?" Giving a long, heartfelt sigh, Mueller rolled his eyes toward the ceiling.

 

"You see who is truly in charge here, Col. Hogan?" He smiled in tolerant amusement and took his daughter's arm. He started to lead her away, but paused when he noticed another Gestapo officer hurrying toward him.

 

"Wolfgang!" the newcomer called, coming to a sliding halt. "Am I glad that I caught you!" Spotting Mueller and Alyse, the officer immediately went to attention and clicked his heels. "Guten Abend, Herr Gruppenfuhrer!" Mueller nodded wordlessly. "Alyse," the young man added softly, giving her an appreciative look.

 

From where he stood, Hogan noticed Alyse stiffen. She raised her chin proudly and gazed down her nose at the newcomer. "Guten Abend, Leutnant Braun." Though her tone remained polite and her smile warm enough, Hogan sensed an undercurrent of contempt beneath.

 

"Karl--please, Alyse. How many times must I insist that my name is Karl?"

 

"I am sorry," she replied with a bright smile, "but I have a terrible head for names. Just ask Wolfgang. Isn't that true, Cousin?" Smiling affectionately, Wolfgang chucked her gently under the chin.

 

"Uncle Emil, Karl and I must speak with you--in private?" He turned to Alyse. "I apologize, dearest Cousin, but I must ask you to again put your waltz on hold. Will you forgive me?"

 

Alyse pouted prettily, but then smiled up at him. "Of course, Cousin. Father? Perhaps another waltz?" Nodding, Mueller leaned down and kissed Alyse tenderly on the cheek.

 

"I shall be back before you know it," he promised. "Col. Hogan...if you will excuse me?"

 

"Of course, sir," Hogan replied, glancing at his watch. "Oh my, look at the time. I'd best go check on my men. Fraulein, if you will excuse me?" At her nod, Hogan started towards the kitchen. After a few steps, he looked over his shoulder, saw that the three officers were heading upstairs, and immediately made a beeline to the outside courtyard gardens.

 

Ducking outdoors, Hogan sprinted across the immaculate, moonlit garden and hoped that he would be on time.

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2030hrs local

Kitchens

Schloss Hammelburg

 

You sure are swell, boy--uh, I mean, ma'am!

 

****

 

"Carter, take this out to table two!" LeBeau ordered, handing the perplexed sergeant a tray of hors d'oeuvres.

 

"But, Louis! It's Newkirk's turn!" Carter protested.

 

"Newkirk is--" LeBeau pointed up, not finishing his sentence.

 

"Still? I thought they were supposed to be done by now--?" Carter asked, suddenly worried. However, he spoke to empty air, because the diminutive French corporal had suddenly taken off, spewing a long string of French expletives at a cook's helper who had apparently committed a grave culinary blunder.

 

Carter looked at the tray in his hands and sighed. When Hogan had informed them that they were going to 'help out' at a fancy 'Kraut soiree'--as a cover to photograph a set of Top Secret plans for a massive German counteroffensive on the Eastern Front--Carter knew that he would probably end up doing most of the 'helping out' while Newkirk spent his time with the pretty frauleins, not to mention breaking into the safe located upstairs.

 

"Oh, well." Carter shrugged fatalistically. "At least it keeps him off the streets." Smiling, he balanced the tray over his shoulder and started for the exit.

 

As he stepped through the swinging doors that led from the vast kitchens to the luxurious grand ballroom out front, Carter was instantly accosted by Col. Klink, Kommandant of LuftStalag 13.

 

"Where have you been?" Klink demanded. "Do you not realize that we are almost out of food and drink out here? And if that happens, SS-Oberstgruppenfuhrer Mueller will be most displeased! That could mean the Russian Front for me!" Carter nodded distractedly as he made his way across the ballroom to the buffet tables. Klink followed closely at his heels.

 

"And where is Schultz?" Klink continued, waving his arms in distress. "I specifically ordered him to keep an eye on things--!" he stopped. "What am I saying? The fat dumkopf is probably the reason we're almost out of food!"

 

"Sir, isn't Gruppenfuhrer Mueller the commanding officer of an SS division in Russia? The 434th Panzer?" Carter asked.

 

"Yes," Klink nodded, his eyes searching the crowds for Schultz's head. Abruptly, his face became suspicious, and he sidled in close to Carter. "But how would you know that...? A prisoner of war?"

 

"Gosh, sir..." Carter thought quickly. "I thought that everybody had heard of the commanding officer of the 434th!" He gave Klink his most sincere look, which wasn't too difficult since that was his normal expression.

 

"Really?" Klink asked, taken slightly aback by the information.

 

"Oh, yes sir! We even learned about him in basic training."

 

"That is remarkable." Klink brought his hand up to his chin and nodded knowingly. "But, of course...what can one expect? The Gruppenfuhrer is a very great man, after all."

 

"Oh, yes, sir," Carter agreed. "Just think! If he transfers you to the Russian Front then it'll be because he wants you in his outfit! You know...on account of he was so impressed by the great job you did here tonight!" Seeing Klink's pained expression, Carter added weakly, "You know, like a reward...?"

 

Klink was white as a sheet. "Some reward!" he muttered, aghast. Not wanting to hear any more thoughtful comments from Carter, Klink left in search of Schultz.

 

"Boy...!" Carter muttered, letting out a sigh of relief. Once Klink was safely out of sight, he turned back to replenishing the buffet tables. As he worked, Carter thought suddenly about Newkirk and Kinchloe, and what they were probably doing at that moment--upstairs in Mueller's private study--and immediately began to worry. Unconsciously, he began whistling softly to himself, and started gathering empty trays and glasses. Soon, he was working happily at his task.

 

"What is that tune that you are whistling?"

 

At the soft voice next to him, Carter whirled round, almost dropping the heavily laden tray he'd been filling with empties. "What--?" he yelped, but was stopped by a pair of sparkling blue eyes. Instantly, he felt the air whoosh out of his lungs like he had been kicked in the stomach.

 

The lovely blue eyes smiled in pleased amusement. Abruptly, Carter became aware that the owner of the eyes was speaking to him.

 

"--whistling?"

 

"Um...uh--what?" he mumbled. He had no idea what she had said. His knees shook slightly at her close proximity, and Carter retreated a couple of steps to put a safer distance between them. As he did, he noticed that her sapphire eyes were framed by an exquisite face, which in turn was crowned by a golden cascade of hair pulled back in a simple, but sophisticated chignon. 

 

"The tune you were just whistling," she repeated gently, taking a step forward. "I have not heard it before. It seemed rather light and gay. What was it?"

 

"Tune...?" he asked, unable to think of anything except how the light from the chandeliers seemed to make her eyes dance.

 

"Yes..." she said softly, and took another step forward until they were practically toe to toe. "The tune...?"

 

Inexplicably, Carter felt a sudden urge to touch her and reached his hand out to her, but just as quickly dropped it again. As he did, he accidentally knocked over an empty glass and sent it crashing to the floor. The unexpected noise snapped them both awake from whatever trance they had fallen into, and almost as one, they each went down on their knees and started clearing the shattered glass.

 

"Sorry..." he muttered. "My fault--"

 

"Oh, no! I should be the one to apologize," she said, picking up pieces of glass without being asked. "It was entirely my fault...I distracted you from your duties."

 

"Oh, no, ma'am..." Carter said with a quick shake of his head. "I'm the clumsy one who--Hey, you shouldn't be doing that!" Gently he took the shards of glass from her hands. "You could cut yourself!"

 

"Oh, really! I am not so fragile as to need such protection! But I thank you for being so chivalrous."

 

"Chivalrous? Me?" Carter looked pleased at the idea; however, his expression instantly became serious. "Well, you should be protected! From getting hurt, I mean." Then, realizing he was speaking to a beautiful young woman, he dropped his eyes and immediately became tongue-tied. "Uh, um...I've, um, gotta get back--" He stood, and keeping his face turned determinedly away from her, finished bussing the table. Without another word, he started back to the kitchen.

 

"Wait."

 

Carter stopped. He willed his legs to take a step forward, but that single plea (or was it a command?) rendered him incapable of walking.

 

"The tune...I would really like to know its name," she said softly. "Please?" Carter turned slowly until he was facing her again. "You see, we are not allowed to listen to the wireless at school. The sisters are very strict."

 

"It's called 'Pick Yourself Up,'" Carter told her. "I heard it once, and it kind of stuck." He shrugged. "Whenever I'm feeling a little down, it just comes to me, and I start whistling it. Before I know it, I'm happy again."

 

"Thank you," she said. She walked up to him and gently placed her hand on his. "Now, I will have something to hum when I am feeling a little...down." Standing on tiptoe, she leaned forward, and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Carter's eyes popped open in shock. Rewarding him with a luminous smile that made her already beautiful features even more so, she stepped back and looked expectantly up at him.

 

"Gosh!" Carter stood awestruck, his hand automatically touching the spot on his cheek. "Gee...you didn't have to do that!" He knew that his whole face was flushed crimson, but did not care. As he looked down at her, Carter was experiencing so many new and conflicting emotions that he could not begin to sort them all. "You sure are swell, boy--uh, I mean, ma'am!"

 

"Alyse," she corrected.

 

"Alyse," he repeated, savoring the sound. Carter stared mutely into her eyes, completely lost in their depths. As if from far away, he heard LeBeau calling.

 

"Carter! Hurry with those empty dishes! I need you back here!"

 

"I have to get back to work, boy, um...ma'am, um, I mean, Alyse," Carter stuttered, mesmerized by how her golden hair shimmered when she turned her head.

 

"Yes," she agreed. "Carter...is that your given name?" He shook his head.

 

"Andrew."

 

"Andrew..." she repeated with a smile. "I know you'll think me terribly bold, but--"

 

"Alyse!" A young woman surrounded by several young men in Wehrmacht uniforms waved madly from the other side of the ballroom. "Alyse!"

 

"Carter!" LeBeau hissed, gesticulating angrily.

 

"I must go," Alyse said regretfully.

 

"Me too." Carter took a step back; however, before he could take another, she grabbed him by the arm and spoke breathlessly.

 

"I would like to see you again. Meet me outside in the garden after midnight. The guests should be gone by then!"

 

"After midnight--? But, I--!" However, Alyse had already turned and hurried to join her friends. "--won't be here," he finished lamely. Standing in the midst of the Nazi glitterati, watching her glide away, Carter was only certain of one thing. "Boy, she sure is swell."

 

Feeling suddenly ten feet tall, he started wending his way back to the kitchens, happily whistling 'their' song. As he did, he saw Schultz who was dreamily patting his large stomach coming out of the kitchen.

 

"Hey, Schultzie," he called, hurrying up to him. As he did, he searched the ballroom for Alyse and finally spotted her. "Schultz, can you tell me who that girl is? You know, the pretty one over there?" Schultz looked in the direction that Carter was pointing.

 

Giving Carter a knowing smile, Schultz tapped him lightly on the shoulder. "That, Sgt. Carter, is the young lady of the house. Fraulein Alyse Mueller--only daughter of SS-Oberstgruppenfuhrer Mueller."

 

Carter stared in shock at Alyse and shook his head. "She can't be," he murmured. "She's such a nice girl." Watching her moving from guest to guest, smiling in greeting, laughing merrily at a comment here and there, Carter realized that he did not care whom her father was.

 

He looked at his watch. Midnight seemed eons away.  

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2030hrs local

SS-Oberstgruppenfuhrer Mueller's study

Schloss Hammelburg

 

This bloke deserves killing!

 

****

 

At the same time that Carter was stepping through the kitchen doors leading to the grand ballroom, Newkirk was crouching very still behind a large divan in Mueller's study. Perspiration trickled from his temple down his cheek. He dared not make a move to wipe it, lest the three men who had walked in unexpectedly should hear him.

 

Hogan had appeared on the balcony barely in time to warn him and Kinchloe before the doorknob leading to the study began to turn unexpectedly. While Hogan and Kinchloe quickly ducked back outside onto the balcony, Newkirk first had to return all of the documents he had removed from the safe, then close and lock it before diving for cover behind the nearest sofa.

 

While Newkirk did what he needed to in record time, it had seemed an eternity before he was safely hidden. Now, his nerves quieting, Newkirk listened with interest to the conversation between Mueller and the other two men, both Gestapo officers.

 

"But Wolfgang, Alyse is much too young. She has not even finished school," Mueller said.

 

"Other girls of good Aryan stock who are younger than she have been given up for marriage, Uncle Emil. For the glory of the Third Reich!"

 

"Yes, yes," Mueller said with ill-disguised revulsion. "I am well aware of our beloved Fuehrer's breeding program." 

 

"Uncle--!?" Wolfgang gasped.

 

"Perhaps the Gruppenfuhrer disapproves of our Fuehrer's plans for a future Germany populated by a blood-pure Aryan race." The third man spoke in quiet, silken tones. Newkirk shivered involuntarily at the unspoken threat behind them.

 

"Don't be ridiculous, Karl," Wolfgang retorted. "Uncle Emil is one of Germany's most highly decorated and trusted heroes--a personal confidant of the Fuehrer, himself!" He slapped Karl on the back. "I can understand how he feels. Believe me...I have known and loved Alyse as a sister all of my life. The thought of another man taking our place in her heart, well...it is hard to contemplate--at first."

 

He walked up to Mueller. "However, my uncle is a soldier of the Reich. He understands that we must all do our duty--even our beloved Alyse." He addressed Mueller directly. "Is that not so, Uncle?"

 

Newkirk could not believe what he was hearing. The Gestapo officer, Wolfgang supposedly loved the girl, Alyse, like a sister, yet he was proposing that she be married off to the other Gestapo officer--much like breeding stock on a farm. Unconsciously, he squeezed the handle of the Luger in his hand. This bloke deserves killing!

 

Mueller glared wordlessly, his jaw working to bite back whatever retort he had in mind. Visibly bringing himself under control, he smiled suddenly--little more than a snarl. "But of course, my dear nephew...but of course." He took out a bottle of Schnapps from a cabinet and poured a shot. He then tossed back the contents.

 

"Just think of what a marriage between Karl and Alyse would produce, Uncle!" Wolfgang said excitedly. "They are both of solid Aryan stock--blond, blue-eyed! They will have beautiful children! Children born for the glory of the Third Reich--beloved by the Fuehrer, himself!"

 

Newkirk thought he was going to gag. The bloody, no-good--! Words failed him, however. Nothing in his experience had prepared him for such a sickening concept.

 

"Herr Gruppenfuhrer," Karl was saying, "have I your permission to ask Alyse for her hand in marriage?"

 

Like bloody hell! Newkirk fought an urge to jump up from behind his hiding place and start shooting.

 

Mueller did not answer for a long moment. Walking around his desk, he sat down and made a show of shuffling a stack of papers. Finally, he looked up. "Very well, Leutnant Braun--"

 

No! You can't agree to do this!

 

"--you have my permission to ask my daughter for her hand--

 

Are you crazy? What kind of a father are you?!

 

"--but on one condition."

 

Condition? Did he say 'condition'? What condition?

 

"That she give her consent willingly. Otherwise, no marriage!" Mueller stood.

 

"Very well, Herr Gruppenfuhrer," Karl said easily. "I shall ask. However, should Alyse say no, then I promise you there will be no marriage."

 

"I have your word of honor on that?"

 

"As an officer of the Reich." Karl's eyes suddenly glittered in ugly amusement. "Of course, should she say no, then I shall merely take her."

 

"What--!!??" Mueller raged. "How dare you speak thus to me--in my own house! I could have you shot for that!"

 

"On the contrary, Herr Gruppenfuhrer," Karl replied with a languid wave of the hand. "I have already been personally selected by Reich-Marshal Himmler himself for the Fuehrer's 'breeding program' as you put it. And I have been given free rein to select my Aryan bride. Or, should I wish not to be tied to such medieval conventions--I have orders to pick and choose amongst our most beautiful girls for my personal harem."

 

Turning purple with apoplexy, Mueller stared speechlessly. He glared at Karl, looking as if he would take him apart with his bare hands. Unconcerned, Karl lit a cigarette and lazily blew out a long stream of smoke.

 

From his position behind the divan, Newkirk caught a glimpse of Mueller's dangerous expression and silently urged him on. Go on, Guv'nor...right in the kisser!

 

"So you see, Herr Gruppenfuhrer...should you stand in the way, it is not I who will be shot, but you." He paused for effect. "And I shall still have Alyse."

 

With an animal snarl, Mueller made a move towards him, but Wolfgang intervened. Struggling uselessly with his nephew, he demanded, "Did you know about this?" At his nephew's nod, Mueller's expression became ugly. "Get out! I want you both out of my house this instant! And don't think that you will get away with this. As you said, Nephew...I am a personal confidant of the Fuehrer, and I have many friends on the General Staff--"

 

"I wouldn't count on that, Uncle," Wolfgang said reluctantly. "You have been gone for a long time, and your unit has suffered many setbacks in the Eastern Front. I am afraid that there are few who will speak for you--if any. Please, Uncle, if you would only talk to Alyse...I know that she would listen to you. I would much rather that my beloved cousin gave her consent willingly than--"

 

"Enough! Get out! Get out or I will--!" The door opened and Alyse walked in.

 

"Father, what is all the shouting? I could hear you halfway down the hall." She looked curiously at the three men, becoming worried. "Father, what is it? Wolfgang?"

 

"Alyse, we are discussing important business," Mueller said carefully. "You know that you are not permitted to listen in on military matters. Now please, return to our guests--!"

 

"Wait!" Karl stepped forward. "Alyse stays. Since this concerns her." He took her hand in his. "And me."

 

Alyse gave a small gasp of fear and snatched her hand from his with a look of utter revulsion. "What do you mean?" she demanded. "Father--?" Mueller walked around his desk and took her protectively in his arms.

 

"Wolfgang, Karl...if you will excuse us? I must speak with my daughter in private." Before Karl could protest, he added, "We will discuss this matter tomorrow." When the two junior officers did not jump readily, he added sharply, "I said, 'Dismissed'!"

 

Both men bowed stiffly and clicked their heels simultaneously, then turned as one and walked out of the study. Sadly, Mueller turned to his daughter and held her for long moment. Finally, he began to break the grim news about her future.

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2130hrs local

SS-Oberstgruppenfuhrer Mueller's study

Schloss Hammelburg

 

Hey, war is hell!

 

****

 

After nearly an hour of tearful arguing between father and daughter, Alyse ran out of the study, followed by a much more subdued Mueller. Newkirk waited a few seconds, then stood and hurried to door. He quickly checked the hallway to make sure that it was clear before he locked it and signaled Hogan and Kinchloe.

 

"Man, oh man," Kinchloe muttered, "I never thought that I would ever feel sorry for an SS general."

 

"You'n me both, chum," Newkirk agreed.

 

"Don't waste your sympathy on that monster," Hogan growled. "I'm only sorry I won't be present at his war crime's trial when this lousy war's finally over." His mouth twisted into a savage grin of satisfaction. "Still, you gotta admit that this is a kind of poetic justice." The other two gave him stunned looks. Unrelenting, he glared them down. "Mueller is one of those fat cats whose star suddenly rose when Hitler first came to power. He's been riding the Fuehrer's coattails ever since. Now, it's time to pay the piper."

 

"You're right, of course, Colonel," Newkirk said quietly. "But the girl...I can't believe that he's even considering marrying his own daughter to that--that person!"

 

"Well what did you expect? That he'd suddenly start acting like a human being? Look around this place!" Hogan demanded, suddenly feeling angry at having to justify himself to his men, but more angry at himself for feeling this way. He waved his arms around, a gesture that took in the entire castle.

 

"D'you think Mueller inherited this shack from dear old Dad? Much less paid for it?" Hogan glared at Newkirk. "The family that owned this castle for almost seven generations didn't believe in der Fuehrer's race policies. They were shot for treason--the whole family! Father, mother, children--including a two-year-old."

 

"How do you know?" Kinchloe asked.

 

"Local underground contact briefed me when he informed me about the party and the Top Secret plans," Hogan said. "Three guesses as to who the arresting officer was that hauled off the previous occupants." He gave them an ironic smirk.

 

"Mueller." Newkirk answered with a look of distaste. He picked up a framed photo of Alyse that was sitting on Mueller's desk and studied it for a long time before finally returning it to its place of honor. He then faced Hogan.  "Sir, it isn't the girl's fault her father's a high-ranking Nazi."

 

"Maybe not...but she's his daughter, isn't she? Do you think she's suffered any hardships these past few years? Better yet...how much of Daddy's activities do you think she might be privy to?"

 

"Sir...?" Kinchloe said softly. "She's just a kid. What could she know?"

 

"Plenty!" Hogan insisted. "Or, else she's got blinders on."

 

"Or maybe she's what she appears to be, sir," Kinchloe argued. "Just an innocent schoolgirl."

 

"Kinch is right, Colonel. Even Mueller said that she's still not out of school." Hogan nodded a bit guiltily.

 

"Okay, okay...you have a point. I met her earlier..." Hogan paused, then added reluctantly, "Seemed like a nice kid, but--?" He shrugged and shook his head. The three men stood in silence for a minute each lost in thought. Finally, Hogan pointed at his watch. "Okay, fellas...back to work. Get those plans photographed but fast. Then Newkirk, make sure that you're seen by Klink downstairs. We don't want him to think that you've been up to something naughty. And Kinch--back to base as soon as you're finished here. Got it?"

 

"Yes, sir," both men said together.

 

"Good. And speaking of being seen..." Hogan said with a grimace of distaste. "I know just the lady with whom to get caught in a compromising position." At his men's raised eyebrows, he shrugged, "Hey, war is hell!"

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2200hrs local

Kitchens

Schloss Hammelburg

 

I wonder if Fred ever falls on his face?

 

****

 

"That's the last of it, Louis," Carter sighed tiredly. He gave the giant pot a final swipe and hung it up on its peg over the large kitchen sink.

 

"Good!" LeBeau said, nodding with approval. "Now I need you to--"

 

"Hey, just a doggone minute!" Carter protested. "Even the camp guards give us breaks from time to time."

 

"Oh, very well," LeBeau agreed. "Ten minutes, no more!"

 

"Gee, thanks, buddy!" Carter said gratefully and stepped outside for a smoke. He paused for moment to adjust his collar against the February chill, and started walking slowly across the immaculate gardens. It was a clear moonlit night, the sky sprinkled with thousands of stars.

 

The sound of men's voices approaching from the opposite end of the garden warned him--the outside roving patrol! Quickly, he ducked into a small cul-de-sac where the castle's rubbish bins were stored. The sharp ~click-clack~ of heavy boots echoed in the stillness, punctuated by occasional laughter and soft murmurs.

 

"...It was not so funny to me!" a male voice protested.

 

"That is because you have no sense of humor!" another replied.

 

Soon Carter caught sight of two silhouettes in the moonlight. The distinct shape of steel helmets glinted momentarily as the guards walked their route in a slow, steady pace. A brief red flare indicated that one of the men had just taken a puff from his cigarette.

 

"Well, next time you need a date for your fraulein's roommate," the first voice responded, "you can just forget about asking me--!" The other's amused laughter interrupted whatever else he was about to say. Meanwhile, Carter waited tensely, holding his breath. He finally let it out again when the two guards disappeared around the corner.

 

Taking a deep, shaky breath to steady his nerves, Carter carefully stepped out into the open once again, keeping an alert ear for any other unexpected noises. He stopped at a garden bench and sat down. After a moment, he lay back and just gazed at the stars.

 

He tried to recall some of the constellations that his uncle, a full-blooded Sioux--had taught him when he had visited the reservation. Soon, Carter spotted the Big Dipper, the North Star, and Orion's Belt. He thought he recognized Gemini, but could not be entirely sure and eventually gave up.

 

"Boy...some Sioux Indian," he muttered in self-disgust. Sitting up, his thoughts turned to Alyse, and before long, he was whistling. Suddenly filled with energy, he stood and began doing what he considered an imitation of Fred Astaire. Feeling giddy, he attempted to jump over a garden bench just like he had seen Fred and Ginger do once, and failed to clear it, falling headlong into the trimmed hedge.

 

He lay face down for a moment, catching his breath, and mentally kicked himself. I wonder if Fred ever falls on his face? Looking around to make sure that no one had seen him, Carter stood and carefully extricated himself from the thick branches. Once free, he shivered and realized that his clothes were damp from the evening dew.

 

Sighing at his clumsiness, he was about to return to the warmth of the kitchens, when he heard a brokenhearted sob coming from directly overhead. Looking up, he saw a large balcony running the length of the second story. Climbing the garden bench, he stood on tiptoe and fruitlessly searched for the source of the soft whimper. At first he could not see anyone; however, after a few seconds, he finally made out a small form huddled against the farthest corner.

 

There was just enough illumination from the half moon for Carter to recognize Alyse's blonde head. Feeling his heart stop, Carter looked around for a quick means to go to her. Spotting a trellis along the outer wall from ground level to the second floor, he ran to it and promptly started climbing.

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2200hrs local

SS-Oberstgruppenfuhrer Mueller's study

Schloss Hammelburg

 

A real hero. Almost the stuff of legends...

 

****

 

Hogan meanwhile was in a position he never thought that he would be in--fending off the amorous attentions of a most determined woman. When he had been about to leave the study, he first opened the door just a crack in order to check the hallway. That was when he saw her--Anna--at the far side of the hallway, checking all of the doors located on the floor. Most peculiar, he thought. She's either a thief or a Gestapo agent.

 

"Looks like the lady just can't stay away from me, fellas," Hogan muttered, waving them to silence.

 

"What d'you mean, Guv'nor?" Newkirk asked softly.

 

"It means that I'm about to sacrifice myself for the good of the mission," he said pointing out the lovely enemy agent who was busy checking all of the rooms located along the corridor. "I'll go out there and distract her, while you two stay here and finish copying those plans."

 

"It does my heart good to see an officer who would never ask one of his men to do something that he himself wouldn't do," Newkirk said solemnly.

 

"Yeah...a real hero. Almost the stuff of legends," Kinchloe agreed straight-faced.

 

"Almost--?" Hogan asked, looking faintly insulted. The next instant, he flashed them a devilish grin. "It's a dirty job..." And seeing that Anna's back was to him, quickly slipped out into the hallway without finishing. He saw her step into the ladies' room, and timing his actions just right, Hogan 'accidentally' bumped into her as she walked out again.

 

"Col. Hogan, what a surprise!" she said, not looking or sounding surprised in the least. "I was hoping to see you again tonight." As she spoke, her hands traveled slowly up his chest, stopping midway, fingering his wings and numerous decorations. "So many ribbons, Herr Colonel...You must be a real American hero." She pointed at one--the Victoria Cross, which Hogan had received while serving with the RAF--and asked wide-eyed, "What do call this one?"

 

"Borrowed," Hogan quipped. Anna's eyes flashed in annoyance, but then she gave a small, throaty laugh, and her hands continued their interrupted journey up the front of his jacket until they came to rest around his neck. "You are most amusing, Colonel. Tell me...what are you doing up here? This floor is off limits to guests."

 

"You're up here," he pointed out.

 

"Yes, but I am with the security detail--" She stopped, realizing she had said too much. Smiling seductively, Hogan intimately ran his hands down her arms, then down the length of her torso, past her waist, until finally coming to rest on her hips.

 

"Like I said...you're up here," he said, his lips close to her ear. "I sort of followed you." She gasped as he ran one finger with seductive slowness down her exposed back. He felt her tremble as he leaned down and kissed her softly on the on the nape of her neck. "I wanted to see you again before I went back to my lonely existence."

 

As he spoke, he traveled up the side of her face, kissing each spot until at last he reached her lips. Anna willingly returned his kiss, and to Hogan's chagrin, began to take the initiative.

 

"Let us not lie to each other, Col. Hogan--" She said between kisses, her breath hot on his cheek. "--We both know that you are up to something."

 

"Lady--" Hogan managed, "--if what I'm up to isn't obvious by now--" He kissed her on the hollow of her neck causing her to shiver once again. "--Then I must be losing my touch."

 

"I am supposed to keep an eye on you," she said softly, closing her eyes against the sensations he was stirring in her. "--Interrogate you about sabotage in the area..."

 

"I must say...I like your methods..." He then touched her in such a way that almost sent her over the edge. Abruptly, she broke off from him, and without uttering a word, grabbed his hand and began leading him down the corridor.

 

"Um, uh, hey...where are we--?" he asked.

 

"To my guest quarters! Where we can continue this 'interrogation' further." At his sudden look of worry, she added, "Never fear, Colonel...You shall be perfectly safe with me." Hogan pulled back suddenly, halting their progress. He pointed at his watch.

 

"Gosh! Will you look at the time! My dear, lovely Anna, I must be heading back downstairs. The Kommandant will be looking for me. The man is like a hawk--when you least expect it, he swoops down out of nowhere!" Hogan shook his head regretfully. "For the sake of my men, I must return. Otherwise...the punishments he will mete out to the entire camp--! Golly, it's too terrible to contemplate! I tell you, the man's a monster!"

 

"But he seems--as you said--like such a simpering fool." Anna shook her head in amazement. "I just find it so hard to believe." Hogan nodded.

 

"Oh, that's what he wants you think," Hogan said. Cupping her face gently, he said disappointedly, "I'm sorry, Anna. Another time, another war perhaps--? Things might have turned out differently." Taking her into his arms once more, Hogan again kissed her, this time with all the fervor he could muster.

 

Within a few moments, he realized in the back of his mind that she was again starting to take control of the situation and told himself that he needed to break away, that it was time to return to his men. However, when she once again began to lead him down the hall, somehow Hogan could not find it in himself to resist her. When she opened her door, he was about to follow her in, when as luck would have it, Klink, followed by Schultz happened to reach the second story landing.

 

"Col. Hogan!" Klink gasped. "This is most disgraceful!" He gaped at Hogan who looked up blearily, his face smudged with red lipstick. Smiling goofily, Hogan waved at Klink.

 

"Kommandant..." he slurred. By all appearances, his uniform disheveled and stumbling slightly, he looked completely drunk. "Sure took you long enough to get here!"

 

"Col. Hogan...! You are drunk!" Klink looked scandalized, and Schultz clucked his tongue in fatherly disapproval.

 

"Can't put nuthin' over on the ol' Bald Eagle, eh?" Hogan said, stumbling towards Klink and practically falling in his arms. Klink rolled his eyes in exasperation.

 

"Iron Eagle!" he corrected automatically, pushing Hogan into Schultz's arms. "And what do you mean by--?"

 

"Geshtapo tryin' to get dirt on you through the pri-shoners--"

 

"What?" Anna gasped. "That is not true!"

 

"Gestapo?" Klink whispered. "What do mean, Col. Hogan?" His eyes turned to Anna. "You are Gestapo?"

 

"Yes!" she admitted. "But we have no interest in you--!"

 

"But I could shee right through her, Kommandant!" Winking knowingly, Hogan waggled his finger at Klink. "Yep, kept tryin' to make me shay you were incom--incomp--that you were an idiot!" Taking a step forward, he almost fell face down, but Schultz caught him in time and struggled to keep him on his feet.

 

"I protest, Fraulein!" Klink said. "I assure you that my loyalty is beyond question! And as for my being an 'idiot'--there has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13--a record that no other camp kommandant can claim!"

 

Anna threw her hands up in exasperation. Glaring at Hogan, she spun around and pulled her door open. "The only idiot here, Kommandant, is myself!" With that she flounced in and slammed the door behind her.

 

"I'll call you!" Hogan yelled after her. Giving Klink a completely disingenuous look, he smiled a bit smugly when the irate Kommandant ineffectually waved a closed fist under his nose.

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2200hrs local

Balcony Overlooking the Castle Gardens

Schloss Hammelburg

 

We are out of our minds!

 

****

 

"What are you doing here?" Alyse gasped, startled at Carter's appearance. "If the guards see you, you could be shot!"

 

"Don't worry," Carter reassured her. "They've already passed through here. They won't return for awhile yet." He knelt next to her, and tentatively, ran the back of his hand down her cheek. "What's the matter? Why are you crying?" She sniffled and quickly turned her head away.

 

"I'm not crying," she sobbed.

 

"Tell me," he insisted. "Maybe I can help." Looking up suddenly, Alyse's tearful eyes alighted with hope for an instant, only to be quickly dampened.

 

"No...no one can help me," she said, eyes cast down.

 

"Well, I gotta admit that I'm not the smartest guy around," Carter said gamely, "but even Col. Hogan says that when the chips are down, I'm the kind of guy the others can always depend on." He paused. "Well, maybe most of the time..." He thought about it. "No...more like some of the time..." He shook his head. "Okay...maybe when the chips aren't quite all the way down--!"

 

Raising her chin proudly, Alyse got to her feet. "I am the daughter of an SS-Oberstgruppenfuhrer. I must do my duty as a loyal German for the Fatherland." This last was spat out bitterly.

 

"What do you mean?" Carter asked. "What duty?"

 

At his question, her inner strength abruptly crumbled, and Alyse threw herself into his arms, sobbing quietly once again. "You can't help me, Andrew! No one can!" Carter held her closely, unsure about what he should do. She came to just below his chin, and without conscious thought, he rested his cheek on her head.

 

"Alyse, I-I know that this is crazy--but I feel like I've known you all my life. I don't know why, but it's how I feel. I know that you're the daughter of some big-shot Kraut general--um, no offense--but I don't care. You're just a nice girl in trouble. And I want to help you. Please, Alyse. Let me help?"

 

At Carter's soft, pleading tone, Alyse gradually quieted down until at last, she stopped crying altogether. As she looked up at him, her tear-filled eyes glistened in the moonlight. Again, Carter felt like he had been kicked in the stomach and could not seem able to catch his breath.

 

"Andrew...?" She slowly reached up and touched his cheek, looking at him as if seeing him for the first time. "Do you mean that?" He nodded. The next moment, she was leaning forward on tiptoes, her lips parted slightly. Carter bent down until their lips met in a tentative kiss. Instinctively, his arms tightened about her small waist, and their kiss deepened. As he kissed her, Carter realized why Alyse seemed so familiar to him.

 

Because I've loved her all my life. Or since he had first laid eyes on her--and in Carter's mind, his life began the moment he saw her. At last they broke apart, hearts hammering, eyes wide at their mutual discovery.

 

"Is such a thing possible?" Alyse whispered. "I thought it only happened in fairy stories."

 

"Only in the best stories." Caressing her cheek, Carter smiled down at her, wondering if everyone felt this way when they fell in love. A shadow suddenly crossed her face, and she shook her head.

 

"We are out of our minds!" she declared. "This cannot be. We cannot be. You are an American prisoner of war, and I am the daughter--"

 

"--Of some SS bigwig! Yeah, I know!" Carter cut in. "Tell me something I don't know. Like why were you crying? And do you really love me?"

 

"Of course I love you. I think I must have loved you from the moment I heard you whistling that silly tune."

 

"Really?" Carter looked pleased. He took her hands in his. "I guess I loved you the moment I saw you. I was just too dumb to know it, though. It's hard to think clearly around pretty girls...and almost impossible around the really beautiful ones."

 

"You think I'm beautiful?" It was Alyse's turn to look pleased.

 

"Well, heck yeah! I mean look at you!" He raked her admiringly with his eyes, and then pointed at the sky. "Even the stars don't stand a chance when you're around. And the moon--gosh, I don't think the moonlight has ever looked so good!"

 

"Andrew, what lovely words! I do believe that you are a romantic."

 

"Romantic? Me? Nah!" Carter said, looking down and shuffling his feet in embarrassment. "I'm just reporting the facts--like the colonel would say."

 

She smiled sadly. "If only we could love each other, but--" She shook her head.

 

"But what?" Carter held her by the upper arms. "What's wrong, Alyse? Please, won't you tell me?" At last, she nodded mutely and began to tell Carter what her father had said in the study.

 

"So you see...it is my duty as a good little Aryan girl to marry this pig--Karl Braun and bear his beautiful Aryan children. Oh, I hate him! I hate what he stands for!" She stopped, deflated. "Sometimes, I think I could hate my own father." She walked to the railing and leaning on her elbows, looked out on the lovely, silver-drenched garden.

 

"I know now what my father is," she said. Her words were spoken so softly that Carter moved in closer to hear. "Oh, I've always known that he was an SS officer, but until recently, I did not really know exactly what that meant." She looked up at Carter, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "He sent me away to a convent school in Bavaria when I was very little, shortly after my mother's death. The sisters there are very strict but wonderful. They have tried to protect us all from the war--and from some very ugly truths. But they couldn't protect us forever. I saw...in the small hamlet one day, I saw..."

 

Her voice caught, and she did not continue for a long time; instead, she just stared silently out at nothing. Finally, she spoke.

 

"My friend Magda and I slipped out of the convent grounds one Saturday afternoon and went to town on holiday. We thought ourselves very clever for having done so. We knew that we did not have much time before we would be missed, so we hurried to all the places we wanted to visit as fast as possible. We were laughing and having a wonderful time, when we saw them. Men in Gestapo and SS uniforms were hauling these poor people out of a building. They were shouting, 'dirty Jews!' and other vile things. They began to beat them with their rifles, and when they fell on the street, they kicked them."

 

Alyse brought her hands up to her ears. "It was horrible! They just kept kicking them and kicking them--! Magda and I were so terrified. We ran back to the convent and told Mother Superior. She tried to comfort us, but we were much too upset. I begged her to contact my father--that he would make sure that those responsible would be punished." Alyse gave a short sigh. "Mother Superior looked at me for a long time. Something in her eyes...like that of someone who is suddenly in pain. I didn't understand it. Before I could ask her about it, she sent Magda to her room and asked me to stay."

 

Alyse raised her chin, almost as an act of defiance. In the soft moonlight, Carter glimpsed a single tear coursing down her chin. 

 

"That's when she told me about the SS and Gestapo. And about our 'beloved' Fuehrer's insane hatred for the Jews and...others." She looked up at Carter. "That's why I came home when father wrote to tell me that he was returning from the Eastern Front on R and R. I wanted to speak to him. I wanted to give him the chance to tell me his side. I wanted him to tell me that it wasn't true..."

 

She turned away and Carter saw her shoulders shake slightly. "Instead, he showed me tonight just how true it was. He ordered me to marry Karl Braun. If I don't, then Karl will simply force me to live as his--" She gave a small cry, unable to finish.

 

Angrier than he believed it would ever be possible for him to be, Carter grabbed Alyse and spun her around to face him. "No! You're not going to marry him! Your father can't make you, y'hear? I won't let him. You said you loved me." He gave her a little shake. "Well, do you?"

 

"Yes, of course I do!"

 

"Then we'll find a way." Carter thought a moment, then snapped his fingers. "The colonel! He'll know what to do! Look, Alyse, I know the situation looks pretty hopeless, but you can't give up. The best thing for you to do is go back inside and tell your dad that you'll marry this guy--"

 

"Never--!" she protested. "I did not tell you...! But one of the men I saw that day was Karl Braun. I will never consent to--!

 

"Simmer down! You're only agreeing to do it in order to buy time. I mean, a girl's gotta have a big wedding and everything, doesn't she? There's gonna have to be weeks of planning...you've gotta reserve the church, there's the reception--" At Carter's words, a dim smile of hope slowly began to light Alyse's features.

 

"Of course! And there are the dress fittings--lots of dress fittings!" She pecked Carter lightly on the cheek. "You are truly wonderful! Brilliant!" Smiling demurely, she added, "I guess you were correct earlier when you said that I needed protecting."

 

Taking her into his arms, Carter felt happier than he ever had in his life. "Don't forget to pick the prettiest gown, though. 'Cause when you walk down the aisle, I'll be waiting for you." Without hesitation this time, he sealed his promise with a reverent kiss.

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2300hrs local

Kitchens

Schloss Hammelburg

 

Playin' with all those explosives has finally rattled his poor old head...!

 

****

 

"Where have you been?" LeBeau shouted, shoving a tray of drinks into Carter's hands before he had a chance to reply. "Even Newkirk's returned! Now, hurry up and take these out there. As soon as you're done, I've got a few other things for you to do here in the kitchen." Carter opened his mouth to speak, but LeBeau beat him to it. "Well?? What are you waiting for? Go!"

 

Shrugging and nodding at the same time, Carter made his way out to the grand ballroom, carefully balancing the tray on his shoulder. On his way out, he saw Newkirk returning with an empty tray.

 

"Carter, where have you--?"

 

"No time for that!" Carter interrupted. "Look, I'm getting married, and I need you to be my Best Man. Meet me outside in the garden after midnight." Not waiting for a reply, Carter disappeared into the thinning crowds.

 

"After midnight?" Newkirk almost shouted. "But we'll be back at Stalag 13 by then--!?" A shocked look suddenly dawned on him. "Gettin' married? Andrew? Blimey! Playin' with all those explosives has finally rattled his poor old head...!"

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2310hrs local

Grand Ballroom

Schloss Hammelburg

 

You are a dangerous man...!

 

****

 

"Colonel?" Carter said tentatively. He had spotted Hogan standing off by himself in the grand ballroom, quietly observing the crowd. Knowing his CO, Carter reasoned that Hogan was probably studying each dancer as they twirled by, attempting to match faces to the names on the guest list. "I've really gotta talk to you, sir...about something really important."

 

"Carter..." Hogan spoke from behind the façade of a smile. "This place is crawling with enough Gestapo and SS to start another Front. Whatever's on your mind, unless it has a direct impact on tonight's mission, it'll have to wait until we get back to Stalag 13." He took a sip of the water that on Klink's orders his men had been passing him since his 'drunken' episode. "Got it?"

 

Crestfallen, Carter nodded. "Yes, sir...I understand, sir. But--"

 

"Hold it! I've got in-coming," Hogan said sharply. Carter saw that Mueller was headed towards them. "Make yourself scarce," Hogan ordered with a slight jerk of his head.

 

Dismissed, Carter nodded in disappointment and turned to go. Not watching where he was going, he promptly tripped over a flowerpot. Thrown forward, Carter went flying through a set of heavy brocade curtains into another, darkened hallway. Desperately fighting to maintain his balance, he clumsily shuffled his feet, while juggling the tray this way and that. To his pleasant surprise, he managed to stay upright, drinks and all.

 

Rolling his eyes at his clumsiness, the young sergeant bent down to right the flowerpot that had somehow sneaked up on him unawares. He set the tray down, and quickly took a look around to see if anyone had observed him make a fool of himself. To his relief, he saw that because he had inadvertently fallen through the heavy curtains, his pratfall had gone unseen. Smiling happily, he was about to step out into the open and continue his rounds when he heard Mueller on the other side.

 

"So, my dear, Col. Hogan!" Mueller said.

 

"My dear, Gruppenfuhrer Mueller!"

 

"I see that you are still here," Mueller said. "Tell me...what ever became of that lovely young woman you were speaking with earlier--Anna, I believe?"

 

Realizing how suspicious it would look for him to appear suddenly from behind the curtains, Carter immediately withdrew and peeked through a slitted opening. Mueller was standing almost directly in front of him, his back to Carter.

 

"I'm not sure, Herr Gruppenfuhrer," Hogan said blandly. "The last time I saw her, she seemed to be suffering from a headache." From his vantage point, Carter saw Hogan's eyes twinkle briefly, before his head shook in mock distress. "Probably comes from not having tortured anyone tonight. You know how these Gestapo agents are."

 

"Gestapo?" Mueller spat out. "How did you--?" Hogan gave Mueller a smug look.

 

"I forced it out of her," Hogan said straight-faced. A beat passed, and then Mueller began chuckling in appreciation.

 

"I was right, Col. Hogan. You are a dangerous man--dangerous around women!" He raised his glass in mock salute. Hogan nodded in acknowledgement. "I take it that she did not offer much resistance?" Smiling, Hogan shook his head.

 

"But then you know how women are..." he said with a shrug. "They just can't be trusted to keep a secret. As my father used to say...'Son, there are three ways of delivering a message today: telephone, telegraph, and tell a woman!'"

 

"Oh, no sir! That can't be true!" Carter broke in excitedly. Before Hogan realized what he was doing, Carter walked out from behind the heavy drapes, this time carefully sidestepping the flowerpot. Luckily, Mueller's back was to him, but Hogan gave him a look that usually stopped men dead in their tracks.

 

"Carter...!" Hogan murmured with a brief, warning shake of the head. However, in his eagerness to further explain, Carter completely missed it. Surprised, Mueller turned at the interruption.

 

"I mean, back home--my Mom--"

 

"Carter--!" Hogan repeated sharply, but Carter kept blithely on. Mueller glanced at Hogan, a single eyebrow raised.

 

"--She could never get a message straight!"

 

"Carter--!" Hogan's silky tone carried a dangerous undercurrent. Mueller made a strange noise, sounding suspiciously like laughter. Hogan glanced quickly at him, but Mueller quickly brought his hand up to cover his mouth and coughed weakly.

 

"Why, ask Mom to stop by the store on the way home to get some eggs, and she'd bring home bacon, lettuce, tomato, but sure enough she'd forget the eggs!"

 

"Carter--!" This time Hogan's tone chilled even Mueller, but still Carter's dissertation continued unabated.

 

"Heck, I remember one time, Mom--"

 

"Carter!" Hogan yelled.

 

"What?" Carter blinked at the interruption. Unnoticed by either man, Mueller jumped at Hogan's commanding tone. Scowling, the embarrassed SS general quickly looked around to see if anyone had witnessed his discomfiture. If so, he would have to be executed--tonight!

 

The guests danced on, quite oblivious to him. Recovering, Mueller turned back to Hogan who was hinting coldly between clenched teeth, "Carter, aren't you needed in the kitchen?"

 

"Oh, um, uh--I'm sorry, sirs," Carter said, nervously looking from Hogan to Mueller. "I guess I sorta got carried away. I mean...you know, talking about my Mom--"

 

"Carter--!" Hogan snapped.

 

"Yes, sir! I know, sir! I'm needed in the kitchen, sir!" Carter spun around and quickly headed back to the kitchens. As he skidded around a corner, he spotted a Gestapo officer entering the ballroom through the garden entrance. He was about to shrug it off, when something in the man's demeanor made him duck back behind the corner. The officer looked carefully right and left, then quickly moved towards the ornate staircase that led to the second floor.

 

Before he started climbing, the Gestapo officer took one last furtive glance around, giving Carter a clear look at his face. Alyse's cousin, Wolfgang!

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2330hrs local

Kitchens

Schloss Hammelburg

 

'Married,' indeed!

 

****

 

"The boy's gone completely daft," Newkirk murmured to himself. Shrugging, he stacked the empty glasses, cups, and dinner plates on the gleaming aluminum counters. "'Best Man,' he said..." He shook his head and started filling the large sink with soapy water. As he waited for it to fill, he found an apron and put it on. "'I'm getting married,' he said..." Newkirk grabbed a sponge and started on the first plate when he stopped in mid-wash.

 

"'Married'! Andrew said, 'I'm getting married'!" Newkirk's eyes narrowed suddenly. "Blimey! I've got to find him. The boy's probably hooked up with some female barracuda who's tryin' to pump him for information." He threw the sponge in the dishwater with a resounding splash and quickly removed the apron.

 

Looking around for LeBeau, he spotted him on the far side of the vast kitchens. The diminutive French corporal was directing the small army of cooks' helpers on the final touches for his piece d'resistance, the flaming dessert. Standing on a step stool in order to be seen by the others, he looked like Napoleon conducting the order of battle.

 

Newkirk made a face. There would be no disturbing LeBeau for several minutes, he knew. LeBeau might be a hotheaded Frenchman who hated the 'dirty Bosche' with all his heart, but he was also a gourmet chef who took great personal pride in his craft.

 

Checking his watch, Newkirk realized that Carter was overdue. Making up his mind, the British corporal grabbed a tray filled with empty glasses and headed out in search of his friend. "And when I get my hands on that lad, I'm going to have a nice long with him! 'Married,' indeed!"

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2345hrs local

Grand Ballroom

Schloss Hammelburg

 

Okay...it's not tomorrow, yet!

 

****

 

Not stopping to think about what he was doing, Carter abandoned his tray and quickly followed Wolfgang up the stairs. Alyse had told him that her father had ordered both her cousin and Karl out of the house. They were not to return before tomorrow. Carter checked his watch. It was a quarter of midnight.

 

Okay...it's not tomorrow, yet! Feeling justified in his actions, Carter paused at the top of the second story landing, and then ducked back when he spotted Wolfgang knocking quietly at a door further down the hall. Alyse opened the door.

 

"Wolfgang, what are you doing here?" Alyse hissed. "Father said that you--!"

 

"I know what he said, Cousin! But I must talk to you. Please, may I come in?" Nodding reluctantly, Alyse admitted him into her room.

 

Carter heard voices coming up the stairs at that moment, and not knowing exactly what to do, he sprinted down the corridor, trying several doors. At last, one opened easily, and he hurriedly went inside. Outside, he heard feminine laughter heading his way. Looking around for a place to hide, he suddenly realized he was in the Ladies Room!

 

The doorknob started turning. Desperately, Carter ducked into one of the two stalls. Stepping up on the toilet seat, he crouched low so as not to be seen from below or above. The women entered the Ladies Room, still laughing.

 

"But Dagmar, you can do so much better! He is only a lieutenant. What you need to do is set your cap for no less than a major!"

 

"I care not for his rank, Trude...it is his 'decorations' that interest me!"

 

"Decorations? I don't remember seeing any--?"

 

"That is because you did not look in the right place!" At her suggestive tone, the two women burst into further peals of laughter.

 

Carter heard the door to the neighboring stall open and close. To his dismay he saw that the lock to the one he was hiding in was broken. Having no other choice, he grabbed the mechanism and prayed. Luckily, he need not have worried.

 

"Oh, will you look at my hair? Trude, hurry up and come help me! I do not know what that old hag at the beauty salon was thinking when she arranged this mess!"

 

"Oh, stop fussing, Dagmar! Your hair looks deliciously wonderful, and you know it!" Carter heard a loud flush from the next stall, which was quickly followed by the door opening and closing once again. Light footsteps hurried in the direction that the other voice was coming from.

 

"Are you sure, Trude?" Dagmar asked. "You're not just saying that because I never told you of that time your dress rode up your back?"

 

"My dress did what?! Dagmar what are you talking about--?"

 

"Oh, nothing! Nothing!" Dagmar quickly said, backtracking. "I didn't say anything! Quick! We must be heading back! My 'decorated' war hero will be waiting for me!" Carter heard the main door suddenly open.

 

"Dagmar Ritter! You better tell me what you meant--!" The voices disappeared into the hallway as the main door closed behind them. Breathing a sigh of relief, Carter stepped off the toilet seat, carefully checked to make sure they were gone, and then hurried out again, heading towards Alyse's room.

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2350hrs local

Alyse Mueller's private chambers

Schloss Hammelburg

 

You don't understand because you refuse to see!

 

****

 

Inexplicably nervous around her cousin, Alyse walked towards the open French doors and stood just inside, her back to him. A chill breeze suddenly blew in from the outside, bringing with it the smell of rain. As if to prove its point, a cloud passed over the moon and the garden was quickly shrouded in darkness. Alyse shivered slightly and brought her wrap up closer about her.

 

"Cousin, you shall catch your death!" Wolfgang scolded and promptly closed the French doors. "Really, Alyse...Sometimes you act as if you are still ten years old." He shook his head affectionately. "Perhaps that is why I am so fond of you. You always remind me of how it used to be...before..."

 

"Before...?" she asked.

 

"Before Aunt Wilhelmina passed away," he said softly. Alyse gasped at the mention of her mother and looked up at him quickly. However, he had his back to her and was pensively looking out the windows. "It was all so different then. You and I the best of playmates--like brother and sister. Auntie and Uncle more mother and father to me than mere guardians. Then she died and everything changed. You went away to the convent school, and I--I was suddenly alone."

 

"Alone? But you were here with Father!" she protested. "Oh, how I envied you. Your letters were always so gay about the many rallies you attended together. About your HJ club meetings...everything! While I was stuck in a convent school...no wireless, no music...I felt as if I'd been dropped on the other side of the moon!"

 

"Maybe you were, Alyse," Wolfgang said. "You haven't changed at all, did you know that? Oh...you are much bigger," he teased, moving his hand from about waist high to chest high. Alyse giggled in spite of herself. "And much more beautiful--you were such a chubby little girl!"

 

"Ooh! You take that back! I was not chubby!"

 

"You most certainly were. But you've lost all that baby fat." He looked at her critically. "Or, at least, it's been redistributed--?" He made a shape of an hourglass figure in the air. Alyse blushed furiously.

 

"You are incorrigible, Wolfgang!" she snapped and turned her back to him, crossing her arms.

 

"And you are a German," he said softly. Her back stiffened. Slowly, she dropped her arms and faced him.

 

"What do mean, Cousin?" she asked fearfully.

 

"That you are no longer a child, Alyse. And that it is time for you to take your rightful place with the rest of the Mueller family."

 

"I don't understand--"

 

"Bah! You are not naïve, Alyse!" Wolfgang snapped. "You know--or you must know--what is happening! We are losing the war, Cousin!" He held up his hand to forestall interruption. "Yes...we are. Or we will eventually. Things are going badly for us in the East, and since the Americans joined the fight, North Africa has suddenly started going against us as well. Logically, they will invade Italy, and not long after that France."

 

"But what does that have to do with me? With us?" she asked.

 

"Uncle Emil has had many setbacks in the East," Wolfgang explained. "Things have been going very badly, in fact. That is why he was brought back--not on R and R, as you believed, but to personally brief his plans to the General Staff of his next counteroffensive, and to hopefully gain approval. Should his latest campaign fail, he will probably be relieved of his command and--" He did not need to finish.

 

Alyse went suddenly white. "But they cannot do that! Father has given them everything! He is a loyal German!"

 

"He is an obedient soldier," Wolfgang corrected. At her look of incomprehension, he added, "He will perform his duty as ordered, because he is a soldier. If ordered to take his own life to avoid any embarrassment to the Fuehrer, he will do so."

 

"Take his own life--?" Alyse gasped, tears welling of their own accord. Wolfgang nodded grimly.

 

"However, there may be an alternative," he said quietly.

 

"What is it? Whatever it is...how can I help?"

 

"By agreeing to marry Karl and having his children," Wolfgang said bluntly. Alyse shook her head in bewilderment.

 

"But how would that help father?" she asked.

 

"It would prove to the General Staff and the Fuehrer, himself, that the Mueller family is One--united in blood as well as in spirit! It would show them that while your father fights bitterly in the Eastern Front, you and I work in the Home Front for a better Germany. I, in the Gestapo, ferreting out disloyal criminals who would work to bring the downfall of the Fatherland from within, while you--!" He smiled down at her, and affectionately placed his hands on her shoulders. "While you, dearest Cousin, work towards the betterment of the future of Germany! Bearing the children who will one day become our nation's leaders!"

 

Alyse shook her head in dismay, and knocked his hands from her shoulders. She backed away from him as the tears began to fall unabated. "No..." she whispered, then louder, "No--! You cannot mean that! You said that the war goes badly, that it is inevitable that we will lose--? I don't understand!"

 

"You don't understand because you refuse to see!" Wolfgang's expression hardened. His blue eyes, so like her own, had suddenly become cold and flat. "If we lose the war, then those of us who are loyal to the Cause will have to go underground--deep underground. In the open, we will have to live as if we have accepted defeat, and drudge out our lives under the yoke of occupation." A maniacal light had suddenly appeared in his usually mild eyes, frightening her further. "But we will be training in secret, preparing for the day when an army comprised of a new generation of pure-blooded Aryans is ready to rise up and retake the country in the name of Adolph Hitler!"

 

"No...You're mad," she whispered.

 

"And you, Cousin--and other young women like you of pure Aryan stock--shall be the vanguard for others who shall follow in the future. Others who shall give their bodies to the Cause in order to produce hundreds, maybe thousands, of blond, blue-eyed children who will grow up to be--!"

 

"No!" Alyse shouted, covering her ears in agitation. "Stop it! Stop it! You are mad! I will never consent! Never!"

 

"It is too late, my dear Cousin," Wolfgang said with a chilling smile. Alyse's eyes widened at the sight of a pistol in his hand. It was pointed directly at her. "I have already consented for you. Now be a good little girl and keep quiet. After the guests leave and Uncle Emil goes to bed, you and I will take a little ride to Gestapo Headquarters, where your groom awaits you."

 

"I wouldn't be too sure 'bout that, Bub!"

 

****

 

Sunday 14 FEB 1943/2350hrs local

Grand Ballroom

Schloss Hammelburg

 

I know we're enemies, but I thought that we were also friends.

 

****

 

Rounding a corner, Newkirk spotted Carter sneaking up the ornate staircase. About to call to him, the English corporal stopped as soon as he saw a pair of women following just a short distance behind Carter. The women's heads were conspiratorially close as they whispered in champagne-induced amusement. Worried, Newkirk was about to start trailing after them, when he was suddenly sidetracked by Schultz.

 

"Cpl. Newkirk...!" Schultz called, out of breath. "I have been looking all over for you and Carter. Where have you been? Where is Carter? You are not up to something are you?" Looking around helplessly, Schultz found a straight-backed chair and in a show of great exhaustion, settled into it.

 

"What do you mean, 'Where have I been'?" Newkirk sounded insulted. "Just where do you think I've been? I've been right here, delivering drinks. Look!" He held up his tray of empty glasses, relieved that he had thought about grabbing it before walking out of the kitchen. "And I just saw Carter," he added truthfully. "Really, Schultzie...sometimes I think that you don't trust us. And after all we've been to each other." His expression suddenly doleful, he brought his hand up dramatically to his heart. "I know we're enemies, but I thought that we were also friends."

 

Visibly moved, Schultz took out a large handkerchief and blew his nose with a resounding honk. Wiping his eyes, he shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Newkirk, I apologize. I should not have--" He stopped, a sudden dreamy expression overcoming him. He sniffed the air around him, and then took a deeper whiff of the heavenly aroma wafting from the kitchens.

 

Knowing the answer to his question before he asked it, Newkirk sighed ruefully and nudged him. "What is it, Schultzie?"

 

"Dessert! Cherries jubilee, I believe! And it is wunderbar!" Schultz glanced around, and then slyly beckoned Newkirk in closer. "Newkirk...would you--? Could you do a little favor for an enemy who also a friend?" As he asked, Schultz delicately held his hand up before him, lightly squeezing his thumb and forefinger together to indicate how 'little' a favor he was asking.

 

Impatient to get going, Newkirk nodded. "Yes, yes! What is it, Schultzie?" Newkirk rolled his eyes in exasperation when Schultz told him.

 

"Do you think that maybe you could sneak a teensy taste...um, a double serving perhaps...of dessert without the cockroach noticing? You know how he gets when I try to take just a little taste. He becomes so angry!" Schultz closed his eyes and shuddered, remembering LeBeau's past tantrums.

 

Hurrying to do as requested, Newkirk rushed into the kitchen, and to LeBeau's Gallic ire, grabbed two dessert plates and promptly dumped the contents of one into the other. Not taking time to explain, Newkirk then ran back out to Schultz, his ears determinedly closed to LeBeau's rapid string of invective French. 

 

The dessert raid cost Newkirk precious minutes and to add to his frustration, Schultz decided to prop his ample bulk on a chair with a direct view of the staircase. There was no way that Newkirk could now follow in Carter's wake.

 

Thinking rapidly, Newkirk began backing away from the blissfully ignorant sergeant. "If that's all for now, Schultzie," he said as he retreated, "then I guess, I'd best be getting back to me rounds." With that, Newkirk disappeared through the kitchen door and narrowly missed LeBeau. The Frenchman was at the head of a train of wheeled trays, which were being pushed by his army of cook's helpers, and heavily loaded with his sumptuous confection.

 

"Where are you going?" LeBeau demanded. "I need you to--"

 

"No time, Louis!" Newkirk snapped. He dumped the tray on the spotless counter and quickly made his way through the vast kitchens to the garden outside. If I can't track Andrew by conventional means, then I guess I'll just have to make use of something a bit more unconventional. After all, what was the point of having learned so many new tricks under Hogan's tutelage if he could not make personal use of them every now and then?

 

He cleared the distance from the kitchen door to the ornate hedgerow in the center of the well-kept garden. The next instant, he was forced to put his new abilities to use when the roving guard suddenly appeared on their normal rounds. Newkirk dove into the hedges, ending up behind and almost immediately at the base of a concrete garden bench.

 

His nerves jumped a notch, when the guards decided to take an unscheduled break and sit on the bench directly over him. If they happened to glance down, they would easily discover him! Spontaneous cheers and applause erupted from inside the castle. Newkirk surmised that LeBeau had probably just presented his spectacular cherries jubilee flaming dessert to the guests. Above him one of the guards sighed in envy.

 

"This must be the life, Heinrich! To live in a place such as this!"

 

"Ja...too bad, it is not your life, eh, Otto?" Heinrich teased. Otto sighed.

 

"I am a Schutze in the SS--the lowest grade in the service. I will never in the thousand years of the Third Reich live in such a place!"

 

"Ja...that is true, Otto. But who knows--in the second thousand years of the Reich, perhaps--?" The two soldiers gave a short laugh of disbelief and stood to go. Heinrich took out a cigarette and began patting his pockets for a match. "Otto, do you have a light?"

 

"Ein moment, bitte," Otto murmured. He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a lighter. He tossed it casually to Heinrich who promptly missed it. It landed less than an inch from Newkirk's nose. Eyes wide, the Englishman tensed and waited for the inevitable.

 

At that moment, a cloud miraculously passed over the moon and quickly enveloped the courtyard in almost absolute darkness. Dropping to his knees, Heinrich began searching blindly under the bench. After a fruitless minute, he cursed under his breath.

 

"Otto, let me have your flashlight, please," Heinrich said. Newkirk held his breath and stayed absolutely still as the German guard's hand passed just to the right of his chin, barely missing both him and the lighter.

 

"What? So that you can drop that, too?" Otto teased. Laughing, he reached behind him and pulled his flashlight from his belt. Newkirk's adrenaline shot up even higher. Once the guard turned on the beam, he knew that he had less than a second before he would be found and maybe shot.

 

Taking an enormous risk, he carefully reached for the lighter and gently pushed it in the direction of the uselessly seeking hand before him. To his exasperation, it seemed that as soon as he pressed the small object in one direction, the German's questing fingers would move in the direct opposite. About ready to give up, Newkirk was suddenly galvanized into action when he heard Otto mutter, "Here's the flashlight."

 

Grabbing the lighter, he practically shoved it into Heinrich's still moving hand. Newkirk's expertise as a pickpocket in relieving others of their hard-earned goods also stood him well in re-uniting unsuspecting victims with objects they never knew they had lost. In this case, his nimble fingers ensured that the lighter magically found its way into Heinrich's hand without the German guard ever being the wiser as to how it got there.

 

"Got it!" Heinrich called out.

 

"It's about time," Otto grumbled. "Come on...we've got to get back on patrol, before the Corporal of the Guard places us both on report."

 

"Ja, ja!" Heinrich said annoyed. "I'm coming." As the guard stood to go, Newkirk slowly closed his eyes in relief. Hearing the two soldiers move away, he opened his eyes again in time to see the moon emerge once more from behind the cloud cover. Another second and he would have been caught! Rolling onto his back, Newkirk ran a hand across his forehead at the close call.

 

"Carter, when I get my hands on you..." He left the threat unfinished and slowly got to his feet. His eyes having become adjusted to the dark, Newkirk searched the second story balcony for a means to get up to it. From where he stood, he saw movement in one of the rooms--two shadows. Okay, whatever I do, that's the room to avoid.

 

Slipping in and out of the deep shadows, Newkirk ran his hands along the outer wall. At last, he found a vine-covered trellis that went from ground to balcony level. Grabbing hold, he began climbing. Reaching the balcony railing, he easily vaulted over it, and crouched low, listening. From the direction where he had seen the two shadows, he suddenly heard voices raised in anger--a man and woman.

 

They were not exactly shouting, but Newkirk recognized the heat of argument when he heard it. With quick, light steps, he moved along the wall until he was standing just outside the French doors. Through the gauze curtains, he was finally able to make out the occupants.

 

He instantly recognized the Gestapo officer--Mueller's nephew, Wolfgang. The young woman he also remembered from Mueller's study. The little girl they're all in such a hurry to marry off to that other Gestapo prig--! A gun suddenly appeared in Wolfgang's hand! Newkirk recognized the make and style--a Luger.

 

He fought a natural impulse to jump in and come to the girl's rescue. This isn't our fight, he reminded himself. The colonel was very clear about that. Reluctantly, Newkirk was about to turn away, when to his infinite shock, he saw Carter burst into the room!

 

**** 

 

Monday 15 FEB 1943/0020hrs local

Alyse Mueller's private chambers

Schloss Hammelburg

 

Oh, please...! He's my cousin...

 

****

 

"Was?" Wolfgang whirled toward the door, startled.

 

Carter slammed into him, a runaway steamroller. His hand automatically went for the gun that the German officer was holding. The two men struggled for several seconds neither gaining the upper hand.

 

"Andrew!" Alyse cried. "Wolfgang...! Please! Stop!"

 

Outside, Newkirk watched in growing horror. He had to do something! Carter was about to blow the whole mission. The sound of motorcars pulling up the courtyard drive drew his eyes. Several guests emerged and began making their way to the waiting cars. A few women called out and waved to each other, making luncheon dates, while their high-ranking husbands impatiently held the passenger side doors open.

 

As staff cars pulled away, others drove up. One in particular caught Newkirk's attention. It parked away from the rest of the cars and a lone figure climbed out. Newkirk's eyes widened as he recognized the second Gestapo officer who had been in the Mueller's study earlier that night--Karl Something-or-other. The officer took out a cigarette and lit it. Taking a long drag, he casually leaned against the staff car and waited.

 

To Newkirk's alarm, Karl looked up in his direction, or rather, in the direction of Alyse's room. Automatically, Newkirk's eyes followed Karl's for a split second, and then turned back. The spot where the Gestapo officer had been standing was now empty! Newkirk hurried to the balcony railing and vainly searched for him. 

 

Oh, that's just bloody, double charming! Newkirk's adrenaline jumped another notch. Blimey! That's all we bloody well need!

 

His heart hammering, Newkirk peered back inside, and saw that the skirmish had grown fiercer. Carter and Wolfgang were now rolling on the floor, the gun loose. The men fiercely grappled to reach it, while Alyse stood helplessly by, pleading with them to stop. The brawlers suddenly slammed against her dresser, spilling all of its contents onto the floor. The lamp fell with a crash, plunging the room into darkness!

 

On his knees, Carter gained a temporary advantage over Wolfgang. Exploiting his momentary edge, he held the Gestapo officer in a headlock, his arms slowly tightening around Karl's neck, cutting off his air supply.

 

Wolfgang's efforts began to slow down as he felt himself blacking out. Sensing the world start to darken, he groped weakly with his free hand for a weapon.

 

From his hiding place, Newkirk strained to see what was happening inside. As his eyesight adjusted, he dimly made out two figures in a silent tableau. Realizing that Carter had Wolfgang in a firm headlock, he silently cheered his friend on. That's the way, Carter! You've got 'im, lad!

 

"Stop it! Andrew! You're killing him!" Alyse cried. "Oh, please...! He's my cousin..." At the pleading tone of her voice, Carter loosened his hold, and Wolfgang took the opportunity to close his hand around something smooth and heavy. Without hesitation, the Gestapo officer swung and connected solidly with Carter's temple. The heavy leaded glass vase shattered, and Carter went down instantly.

 

"Andrew!" Alyse ran to him and cradled his head in her arms. She glared accusingly at her cousin. "He's hurt! Wolfgang, you must help him."

 

"Help him?" Wolfgang gasped. He had taken the opportunity to make a mad scramble for the weapon. "My dearest cousin...I am going to kill him!" He raised the pistol and pointed it directly at Carter.

 

"No!" Alyse shielded Carter with her own body and shut her eyes. As the gun went off, she jerked automatically at the sharp report. However, to her amazement, she was not hit! Startled, she turned at the sound of yet another scuffle. Wolfgang and another of the Allied prisoners!

 

****

 

When Newkirk saw Carter go down, that did it! The mission and any sense of caution were forgotten. His best friend was in deadly danger and that was all Newkirk needed. He jerked the French doors open and dove into the fray, barreling into Wolfgang with a flying tackle.

 

As he did so, the gun went off, the shot wild. Newkirk fought with desperation. He was unarmed and the Gestapo officer had every intention of killing them. Worse, the castle was crawling with Gestapo and SS--whichever way the fight went, he and Carter would never be able to talk their way out of this.

 

"Andrew! Please...wake up! Please!" Alyse pleaded. Her words began to sink into Carter's consciousness as if from far away. Alyse needed him. She was in trouble. He had to help her. At this, Carter's eyes snapped open, and hearing the sounds of a fight nearby, turned his head. Newkirk and Wolfgang were wrestling for the gun.

 

"Peter!" he croaked, attempting to regain his feet. To his horror he saw that Wolfgang had positioned the gun barrel until it was pointed at Newkirk. Not stopping to think, Carter hurled himself into the two combatants. As he did, the gun went off almost next to his ear.

 

For an instant, the universe went deathly still. The next, he heard Alyse scream.

 

Somehow, he realized that he was still in the midst of mortal combat. And Newkirk? Where was Newkirk? Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his best friend and confidant lying, bleeding on the floor. Carter's whole being suddenly shook with a white-hot rage, and he turned on the man responsible. With a savagery he did not know he had, Carter firmly gripped Wolfgang's gun wrist and steadily brought it round until it was pointed directly under his heart.

 

In the back of his mind, Carter heard heavy boots pounding down the corridor. Voices shouted as fists hammered on doors on the far end of the hallway. The guards were checking each room, Carter realized. Alyse pleaded with them to stop.

 

He shut out the background noise. The world shrank to just him and the derisive pair of blue eyes before him--blue eyes that reminded him so much of Alyse's. But eyes that lacked any warmth or humanity.

 

The next second, a resounding crack snapped him out of his rage, and he saw Wolfgang's mocking blue eyes suddenly take on a questioning, shocked appearance as the light left them.

 

Alyse screamed.

 

The heavy boots began running in their direction. Soon insistent fists banged on the door, accompanied by loud, angry shouts. Carter recognized Hogan's voice, demanding to be heard over the din. Almost lost in the cacophony, Klink's whimpering stutter broke through for a second, only to be drowned out by Mueller's enraged bellows.

 

Alyse roughly pushed Carter aside, and she knelt down next to Wolfgang, sobbing quietly.

 

Newkirk stirred and groaned in pain.

 

Outside the shouting and pounding grew louder.

 

And Wolfgang lay still, utterly still...

 

Carter's eyes found Alyse's. He thought his heart would break as he saw the painful accusation in them. About to turn away in agony, a sudden joy dawned within him when he saw her hurt look of betrayal turn to one of trust and love.

 

"Andrew, you must get away! Now!" she pleaded. Newkirk groaned softly, and Carter hurried to him. He checked his friend's wound and quickly began to stop the bleeding. It was serious enough, but not life-threatening if treated quickly.

 

"I can't," Carter said. "My friend's hurt. I won't leave him here alone." Alyse moved to them, kneeling on the other side of Newkirk. Hurriedly, she tore a long piece of cloth from the hem her gown to help stem the bleeding. And on the other side of the door, the pounding changed from fists to rifle butts.

 

"Alyse...!!" Mueller shouted. "Open the door!!" Other voices she did not recognize could also be heard.

 

"Are you hurt?!"

 

"Do you need help?"

 

Alyse grabbed Carter's arm. "Andrew, please...! Before it's too late. I will try to explain to my father what happened--"

 

"--And leave my friend?" Carter shook his head firmly. "No, siree, boy--um, I mean, um, Alyse--I just can't--!"

 

Despairingly, Alyse reached across Newkirk and threw her arms around Carter's neck, kissing him fully. To his surprise, Carter responded in kind without any hesitation.

 

"You must go, my darling," she insisted. "A secret passage leads to a small cottage at the far north end of the property. It used to be the caretaker's, but it has been abandoned for years. I will meet you there later tonight." Placing two fingers gently over his lips, she shushed him before he could protest, and kissed him again. "We can leave together then," she said. "Leave the war and all the hate behind us...! Everything that would keep us apart."

 

"You're both daft," Newkirk mumbled, reaching for Carter's shirtfront. "Andrew...she's an SS-general's daughter! Could be a trap...!"

 

"I know who she is, Peter," Carter said quietly. "She's the girl I love."

 

"Listen...a female Gestapo agent has been nosing 'round the colonel all night. Asking questions--! Andrew, think about what you're doing...!" Carter held Alyse's eyes and caressed her cheek tenderly. They seemed suspended in time. Finally, he looked down at his friend.

 

"I have thought about it, buddy. Can you stand?" Before Newkirk could reply, Carter began helping him to his feet. "Good, 'cause no one gets left behind! Alyse, we're all leaving together, so you might as well grab a coat or something. You'll never last in that dress!"

 

****

 

Monday 15 FEB 1943/0105hrs local

Alyse Mueller's private chambers

Schloss Hammelburg

 

I am afraid that you are now my prisoner, Col. Hogan.

 

****

 

A long burst of automatic gunfire reverberated in the room, followed by a brief moment of silence. The next instant, the door was unceremoniously kicked open and several men in Gestapo uniforms stumbled in, assuming defensive positions, their weapons held ready.

 

Their shouts and screams were met by an eerie stillness. The room was empty. It had obviously been the scene of a violent struggle--chairs, lamps, and tables were overturned. The entire contents from the dressing table were strewn across the floor, a vase shattered. Next to it lay the still form of--

 

"Wolfgang!" Mueller shouted, alarmed. Hogan saw the prone figure and made a move towards it, but a Gestapo soldier held him back. Anna shoved her way through and seeing Wolfgang, hurriedly knelt by his side, checking for a pulse. Her shoulders sagging slightly, Anna looked up at Mueller and regretfully shook her head. "He is dead?" It was a statement, rather a question. At Anna's sympathetic nod, Mueller stared down at his nephew in stunned disbelief.

 

Anna stood aside to make room for Mueller. The proud SS general slowly knelt down next to Wolfgang's body, his stooped shoulders and pained expression showing the true depths of his despair.

 

"He was a son to me..." Mueller said softly. "My brother's son. My wife, Wilhelmina, and I raised him since he was a child. He was such a good boy...So proud the day he put on his uniform." Mueller touched the dead man's cheek and ran his fingers lightly through his hair. "He was a loving brother to Alyse." As the others stood back in respectful silence, Mueller looked around in sudden confusion. "Alyse...? Where is my daughter? She has been taken!"

 

Abruptly, the SS general's grief-stricken demeanor became outraged, and he started shouting angry orders at the guards. "I want the grounds surrounded! Now! I want road blocks set from here to Stalag 13--!"

 

"Stalag 13--?!" Klink and Hogan shouted at the same time.

 

"But--?" Klink stammered.

 

"What's the idea?" Hogan demanded.

 

"Quiet!" Anna snapped, taking a threatening step towards Hogan.

 

"Klink! I am holding you personally responsible for the murder of my nephew! I want all of the Allied prisoners who were here tonight downstairs for questioning!"

 

"Hey! Just a doggone minute!" Hogan began. "I protest, Herr Gruppenfuhrer! My men--!"

 

"--Starting with Col. Hogan!" Mueller raged. "Guards! Seize this man! I want him arrested immediately!" Anna snapped her fingers at two Gestapo guards, who instantly grabbed Hogan by the arms, each twisting with unnecessary force.

 

"With infinite pleasure," Anna purred, running her hands suggestively down Hogan's arms as she securely handcuffed him. Stepping in front of him, she struck a provocative pose, and with a derisive smile, raised her skirt thigh high, exposing a small caliber handgun. With slow, deliberate motions, Anna flicked off the safety and snapped back the bolt. Tossing her head so that her silky hair tumbled over her shoulders in a flowing cascade, Anna calmly raised the pistol and held it against Hogan's temple. "I am afraid that you are now my prisoner, Col. Hogan." She gave the American a cold grin of triumph.

 

"On what charge?" Hogan spoke between gritted teeth. Klink stood by too frightened and astonished to interfere. "Kommandant! Are you going to stand by while the SS arrests a prisoner under your command?" Hogan glared with ill-disguised fury at Anna, tugging uselessly at his restraints.

 

"He has no other choice," Anna said amused. "If he interferes, he will be shot." With cobra speed, her gun was suddenly pointed at Klink. "Is that not so, Herr Kommandant?"

 

"But-but-but--I-I-I--!" Klink stuttered.

 

"--Shall stay out of our way!" Mueller finished. Klink nodded hurriedly, his head jerking up and down like a marionette. Terrified, he watched as the guards led Hogan towards the door.

 

"Y-y-y-yes, of course, Herr Gruppenfuhrer..." Klink shakily acknowledged, shrugging his shoulders helplessly at Hogan's accusing eyes. "I-I-I shall stay out of your way!"

 

"Oh, brother! Thanks a lot, Kommandant!" Hogan shouted over his shoulder. "For nothing!"

 

"Mein Herr!" A lieutenant who had been investigating the connecting rooms ran up to Mueller. Pointing in the direction of Alyse's dressing room, he spoke in rapid German. "~A secret passage, Herr Gruppenfuhrer--!~" Before the young officer could continue, Mueller was hurrying towards the opening.

 

"Herr Gruppenfuhrer!" Hogan shouted. "I demand to be allowed to go with you! If my men are involved, as the senior POW present, I have the right to be there when you find them."

 

"You are in no position to be making demands, Col. Hogan," Anna reminded him. Hogan refused to back down. Ignoring Anna, he addressed Mueller directly.

 

"Herr Gruppenfuhrer...if you don't allow me accompany you, and if anything happens to my men, I'll hold you personally responsible." Mueller glared at Hogan for a long moment. Finally, he nodded in acquiescence. 

 

"Very well, Col. Hogan," he said. "But I want your word that you will make no attempt to escape." Hogan nodded.

 

"You have my word," he agreed. Anna walked up to him and jammed her pistol against his ribs. Leaning in until her lips were brushing against his ear, she spoke softly.

 

"And you have my word that I will kill you if I even think that you are thinking about escaping. Do I make myself clear, my dear Colonel?"

 

Angry, Hogan turned to respond, but his lips accidentally brushed against hers. She had obviously been 'lying in wait' for him. He jerked back in disgust. Amused, Anna laughed softly at his reaction.

 

"Oh, you American men are so predictable," she taunted. "You play at seduction with all the subtlety of a herd of cattle, but when a woman gains the upper hand, you behave like a callow schoolboy."

 

"Maybe so, Lady...but at least I don't try to seduce anyone when there's a dead man lying in the middle of the floor. Or when my men's lives may be in danger." Anna looked as if the words had struck a nerve. "Besides, I'm an old-fashioned kinda guy--I like to lead when I dance."

 

****

 

Monday 15 FEB 1943/0135hrs local

Secret Passageway

Schloss Hammelburg

 

Don't you love her enough to tell her the truth...?

 

****

 

With Newkirk held precariously between Alyse and Carter, the three fugitives moved awkwardly along a dank tunnel. Newkirk's arms were thrown around the others' shoulders, while their arms in turn supported him soundly around his waist. They urged him headlong through the secret passageway, while he struggled uselessly, protesting against their actions. He had to make Carter understand that they were deserting in the face of the enemy.

 

As his legs automatically moved forward, half-dragged/half-carried, Newkirk thought back to the incidents of just a few moments before. With the incessant pounding on the door, accompanied by angry shouts, Carter had decided that they would all leave together.

 

That was when Alyse surprised them both. She led them to a curtained off dressing room that lay adjacent to her bedchamber. Placing a finger delicately to her lips, she implored them to be quiet and then calmly indicated that they follow her behind a privacy screen. There she pressed three stones along the wall, and to Newkirk's astonishment, a secret entranceway slowly opened.

 

"Wolfgang and I discovered the passageway when were children," she explained. "It leads directly to the caretaker's cottage and has several branches to other rooms in the castle. We have never told anyone else."

 

That had been less than thirty minutes ago, but it seemed a lifetime...

 

"It's just a little farther," Alyse said.

 

"No! Andrew, we can't--! I can't--!" Newkirk protested weakly. He fought feebly against Carter's firm support. "I won't...leave the colonel...!" With that Newkirk found the strength to break Carter's hold, only to collapse in a heap on his knees.

 

"Newkirk!" Carter immediately crouched next to his friend, and placed his arms around him. "What'd you do that for? You okay?"

 

"No, I'm not okay!" Newkirk said, shaking his head and while again breaking free of Carter's grip. "And neither are you! Not if you're thinking about deserting, and not if you're dragging me with you!"

 

"Deserting?" Alyse sounded unsure. "What are you talking about? I thought the duty of all prisoners of war was to escape!" Carter and Newkirk looked up at her and then at each other.

 

"Shall you tell her, Romeo?" Newkirk asked ironically. "Or shall I?"

 

"Tell me what?" Alyse asked. She watched them curiously, first one then the other. "Andrew...? What is he talking about?"

 

"What's the matter, Carter?" Newkirk taunted. "Don't you love her enough to tell her the truth? Or do you love her just enough to leave the colonel to hang for something you did?"

 

Carter stared at him in mute shock. Wordlessly, he faced Alyse and cupping her face in his hand, he looked into her eyes for an eternity. Finally, he dropped his hand and his eyes. Softly at first, then with growing strength, Carter informed Alyse of their activities and the reason they were at Schloss Hammelburg that evening.

 

"...So, in other words, we were here to steal your father's plans. Everything went according to plan, I guess, until...well, until I met you."

 

"You mean, you used me to get my father's plans?" Alyse asked softly. She moved stiffly away and turned her back on him. Laughing with bitterness, she barely managed to choke out her next words. "I guess tonight is my night for having all the men I love betray me."

 

"No! No, that's not true! Alyse, you've gotta believe me!" Carter pleaded. "We'd already accomplished our whole mission before I even met you." He shrugged helplessly. "I never should've climbed that balcony. You're the daughter of an SS general. I'm an American POW. My duty to my country, my mission, and my friends should've come first. But--" He stopped.

 

"But what?" she asked. Tenderly, he placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her so that she was facing him.

 

"But my heart wouldn't listen." With a cry, Alyse threw her arms around his neck.

 

"I knew it! I knew that you could not betray me. That you could not betray our love." She spoke with a burning intensity that even Newkirk could feel from where he sat looking up at them. "Andrew, we must flee! Leave this place! Before it's too late!" Carter gently extricated her arms, and with regret stepped away from her.

 

"I can't do that, Alyse," he said. "I can't desert my friends or betray their trust. Newkirk's right--we have our duty. I have my duty. I'm sorry, Alyse...I really am. But I have to go back."

 

"We have to go back," Newkirk corrected.

 

"Back?" she cried. "But you will surely be killed!"

 

"On the contrary, my dear," spoke Karl as he stepped out of the deep shadows, his gun aimed steadily. "First, they will be arrested and taken to Gestapo Headquarters for interrogation. Then, they will be killed--slowly and painfully, I assure you."

 

****

 

Monday 15 FEB 1943/0135hrs local

Secret Passageway

Schloss Hammelburg

 

I am afraid that I have never been a very good guesser.

 

****

 

Hogan stumbled awkwardly through the dark passage. Keeping up with Mueller and his goons was a little difficult with his wrists handcuffed behind him. Maintaining his balance took more concentration than he could afford, especially since he was mostly focused on what he was going to do to Newkirk once he got his hands on him.

 

Of all the idiotic stunts to pull, Hogan fumed! After he had specifically ordered the Englishman to keep his nose out of the Mueller family quarrel. But no-oooo-o! Okay, I feel sorry for the girl, too, but this time Newkirk's gone too far! He's placed the whole mission in jeopardy--not mention our entire operation. When I get my hands on him--!

 

Hogan's dark thoughts were interrupted by Klink taking yet another misstep and stumbling to his knees. As usual, his death grip on Hogan's sleeve did not loosen, and the irritated American was dragged along. Hogan somehow kept his balance and managed to save them both from falling face-first onto the tunnel floor. "Danke," Klink said gratefully.

 

"You're welcome," Hogan growled, not meaning it. This was the third time that Klink had tripped over his own two feet, and forced Hogan to save him.

 

Klink latched tightly onto one of Hogan's arms and began leading him timidly down the tunnel. Or rather, he followed the annoyed POW's uncanny sense of direction, because he was unsure of his own footing.

 

"This is all so terrible, Col. Hogan," he said, speaking in low tones. "Gruppenfuhrer Mueller's nephew is dead, his daughter is mysteriously missing, along with Sgt. Carter and Cpl. Newkirk. How could they do this to me? After everything that I have done for them?!" He stopped suddenly, and in a desperate gesture shook Hogan's arm. "Please, Col. Hogan...if you have a simple explanation for all this--do not keep it to yourself. There is a very good chance that we could all end up in front of a firing squad before morning."

 

"Believe me, Kommandant," Hogan muttered out of the side of his mouth. "If I knew what was going on, I'd tell you. But as it is...?" He sighed and shook his head. "Your guess is as good as mine." Klink gasped in fear at his words, and Hogan peered closely at him. The look on the kommandant's face reminded Hogan of on an escaped prisoner caught in a searchlight.

 

"I am afraid that I have never been a very good guesser," Klink managed. Hogan nodded tiredly.

 

"That's what I was afraid of--" A sudden shout from further up ahead interrupted him.

 

"Herr Gruppenfuhrer!" An older noncom ran up to Mueller and saluted smartly. "The passageway branches up ahead, mein Herr."

 

"How many branches?" Mueller asked.

 

"Three in addition to the trail that we are on, Herr Gruppenfuhrer!"

 

"Very well. Anna, divide the search into four groups. I will remain on the main passageway, while you and two other senior officers lead a search. Follow the branch tunnel to its end and investigate wherever it comes out on."

 

"What if it leads to a dead end?" Anna asked.

 

"Then return to the main tunnel and link back up with us," Mueller replied.

 

"Jawohl, mein Herr!" Anna saluted and then began shouting orders to the rest of the group. Within a few moments she had divided them into four groups of three.

 

"Herr Gruppenfuhrer, I'd like to remain with your search team," Hogan said.

 

"But of course, Col. Hogan," Mueller said. "I would not have it any other way. Klink, he is your responsibility. Try not to lose him in the dark."

 

"Y-Yes, s-sir..." Klink stuttered. "M-My responsibility." He turned to Hogan and added sotto voce, "Col. Hogan, please...! Do not lose me!" Hogan rolled his eyes.

 

"Don't worry, Kommandant," he soothed with just a touch of irony. "Stay close and don't let go of my arm." He saw the dark outline of Klink's head bob up and down. "Oh, and Kommandant--?"

 

"Yes?"

 

"Try not to trip."

 

****

 

Monday 15 FEB 1943/0145hrs local

Secret Passageway

Schloss Hammelburg

 

Because in spite of everything...I know that deep down he still loved me.

 

****

 

"How did you--?" Alyse began, staring at Karl.

 

"Know about your little secret?" he finished. Alyse nodded. "I am sorry, my dear Alyse...truly I am," he said with a regretful shake of his head. "But I am afraid that even in this small childhood secret, Wolfgang betrayed your trust."

 

"I don't believe you," Alyse replied.

 

"Oh, very well, have it your way," Karl said, shrugging nonchalantly. "I climbed the balcony and saw you disappear into your dressing room. When you did not reemerge, I investigated." From his position on the tunnel floor, Newkirk looked up at him in disgust.

 

"I wondered where you'd disappeared to," he grumbled. "Lousy Krauts--always up to something sneaky!" Karl bowed in mock acknowledgement of the backhanded compliment. Keeping his eyes steadily on the Gestapo officer, Newkirk surreptitiously began searching for anything that might serve as a weapon.

 

Alyse's expression mirrored her inner conflict. Had Wolfgang betrayed her even in this small confidence? Or had Karl simply followed them as he now claimed? And why should she care about Wolfgang anymore, she asked herself? Because in spite of everything he did, I know that deep down he still loved me.

 

Giving her a wolfish grin, Karl shrugged once again. "What can I say? I am an incorrigible liar." He pinned the two men with a cold look. "However, gentlemen, I assure you that my promise of a most unpleasant visit with us at Gestapo Headquarters is not a lie. Come. It grows late."

 

"Karl...please..." Alyse said softly. "Let them go. I promise that I will go with you, do anything that you ask. Just please, let them go."

 

"Alyse, what are you saying?" Carter protested. "You can't!" Karl grinned in amusement at their naiveté. However, while his attention was on the two young lovers, Karl failed to notice Newkirk's hand close around a sharp, jagged stone. Keeping his eye on the German officer, Newkirk worked by feel alone, his broad shoulders concealing his actions. Hefting the stone in the palm of his hand, he tested it for weight. Satisfied, he tensed and waited for an opening.

 

"You place a high price on your personal worth, Alyse," Karl said cruelly. "I am afraid that your value has gone down considerably in the past few minutes, but--"

 

"Why you--!" Carter made a move towards him, but froze as soon as Karl aimed the weapon directly at his midsection.

 

"Please try that again," Karl purred. "I would love to have to shoot you." Smiling evilly, he addressed Alyse. "My dear, as I was about to say before I was so rudely interrupted...I believe that I can still find some personal use for you despite your current state of disgrace."

 

"You're a slimy piece o' work, you are!" Newkirk sneered. "Picking on a poor, defenseless girl like her. But that's all you bloody Gestapo are--nothing but rotten cowards, the whole lot of you!" Karl whirled on him in sudden fury, but as he did, Carter momentarily distracted him by coming to Newkirk's defense.

 

"H-He didn't mean that--" Carter began, but was shoved aside by the infuriated Gestapo officer. In that split second, Newkirk saw his opening and threw with all the strength that he could muster. The jagged stone struck Karl on the temple, sending him to his knees.

 

"Carter, now!" Newkirk shouted, but Carter had already pressed their advantage with a solid kick to Karl's head. Without uttering a sound, the Gestapo officer fell over like a rag doll. At the same time, they heard the distant sounds of pursuit further down the tunnel. "Go!" Newkirk hissed. "Leave me here! I'll only slow you down!"

 

"No way, buddy," Carter said, helping his friend to his feet. "We either all go, or we all stay. Now, shut up for once and just do as you're told!"

 

****

 

By the time Karl came to, the others were already gone. However, his internal clock told him that he had only been out a few minutes, not long enough for them to go far. Behind him, he heard the sound of approaching voices and caught a brief glimpse of what might be a flashlight beam.

 

Alyse's father with a search party, he realized. No! She is mine! I will not let him take her from me!  Without much hope, he hurriedly searched the tunnel floor around, and to his surprise, found his weapon. The others must have been in too much of a hurry to bother looking for it. Staggering to his feet, Karl continued after them.

 

****

 

I'll have them both court-martialed! Hogan fumed.

 

Thirty days in the cooler! Klink fretted. No, sixty...! I know! I'll have them shot and then hanged! He smiled happily at the thought.

 

If they hurt her, I'll have them drawn and quartered! Mueller raged. Their carcasses fed to the dogs!

 

****

 

Monday 15 FEB 1943/0225hrs local

Caretaker's Cottage

Outside grounds of Schloss Hammelburg

 

I will always be grateful to have loved you.

 

****

 

"My friend needs rest, Alyse," Carter said. They had just entered a dusty basement through a secret door, which was hidden behind a utility shelf. Nodding, Alyse led them to a flight of stairs.

 

"This way," she said. "The stairs lead to a trapdoor which opens into the caretaker's cottage." A few minutes later, Carter was helping Newkirk through the trapdoor and onto a narrow cot. Alyse lit an oil lamp, and it immediately cast a soft, warm glow. The rustic surroundings spoke of a simpler age, of peaceful days. Carter checked Newkirk's wound, growing concerned.

 

"Don't frown, Andrew," Newkirk mumbled, half-smiling/half-grimacing. "...Tends to worry the patient..."

 

"I'm sorry, buddy," Carter said gently. "The wound's bleeding again." Newkirk managed a weak grin.

 

"You have a lousy bedside manner, mate. Anyone ever tell you that?" However, his irreverent words could not hide the pain he was obviously experiencing. Smiling down at him, Carter shook his head.

 

"I usually blow things up," he joked, "not put them back together." Newkirk laughed in spite of himself, and instantly regretted it.

 

"Oh...double bloody charming," he muttered. 

 

"Andrew, what are we going to do?" Alyse asked, sitting down next to him.

 

"First thing is, we've gotta stop the bleeding," he told her. His eyes fell on the sheets and blankets. "Here, help me tear some strips for bandages." Newkirk's voice stopped him.

 

"Y'don't have...bloody-frigging-time!" he said, grabbing Carter by the wrist. "Just leave me here...!" When Carter made no effort to leave, Newkirk implored him further. "Go on, mate--Go!" As soon as he uttered these words, the Englishman's eyes fluttered closed and his body went limp. Carter at once checked his friend's pulse.

 

"He's passed out," he said relieved. "Come on. Help me change his bandages." Alyse nodded. As they worked, Carter's eyes kept glancing worriedly towards her. He noted the dark circles under her eyes, the listless way she carried out his requests, how pale her complexion seemed under the light of the oil lamp. "Alyse? Are you all right?" he asked.

 

"Yes," she said softly. Hearing the slight catch in her voice, Carter turned his full attention on her. Taking her in his arms, he felt her shoulders shake, and to his dismay heard a soft sob.

 

"What is it?" he asked. "What's the matter?" Alyse broke away, and shaking her head, sniffled in embarrassment. 

 

"Nothing, Andrew," she said with a small laugh. "I am being a silly girl." Carter caught her chin between his thumb and forefinger.

 

"Tell me," he insisted. Alyse dropped her eyes, then slowly looked up at him.

 

"It will never work--" The tears began to spill. "--You and I."

 

"What are you talking about?" he demanded. "Of course, it'll work. Everything's gonna be all right. You'll see. As soon as we get to Stalag 13, Col. Hogan...he'll help us. He'll know what to do. Just wait 'n see! " She took his hand in both of hers, and smiling through her tears, tenderly kissed his palm.

 

"You are the kindest, gentlest man I have ever known, Andrew. I will always be grateful to have loved you. I hope that one day, you will be grateful to have loved me."

 

"Alyse...! Don't talk like that!" Carter begged, taking her fiercely in his arms. "It's not over yet. You'll see...The colonel will know what to do. He always does--!"

 

"Then, what a pity that your colonel is not here to help you."

 

Startled, Carter and Alyse whirled towards the sound of the hated voice. His expression cruelly mocking, Karl slowly emerged from the trapdoor, steadily holding a gun on them. Carter held Alyse protectively in his arms, shielding her as best he could.

 

Karl shook his head and made a tsking noise. "Sergeant, I believe that you have something that belongs to me." Keeping his eyes on Carter, he then addressed Alyse. "My dear, you have not already forgotten your pledge? If I let the Allied prisoners escape, you will go with me--?"

 

"--You're crazy!" Carter shouted, making a sudden move towards Karl. Without any show of emotion, Karl fired. With a surprised cry of pain, Carter was spun round by the force of impact. He crumpled, unconscious, a deep bullet graze across his temple.

 

"Andrew!" Alyse fell on her knees beside him, sobbing in terror. "Andrew...oh, my darling, what have I done?"

 

"I believe that those were your terms, were they not?" Karl asked, ignoring the interruption. Cradling Carter by the shoulders, Alyse looked up at Karl, her beautiful eyes reddened with crying. Her ball gown, which had looked so exquisitely radiant earlier that evening, was now torn and bloodied.

 

"Karl, please! He needs a doctor!" She fought in vain to stem the flow of blood from Carter's wound with her small hand. "Please...I promise to do whatever you ask--"

 

Karl chuckled softly at her request, his laughter growing louder, until he was almost doubled up in merriment. "Alyse...!" he guffawed. "You are priceless, my dear!" At her looked of incomprehension, he covered his mouth while trying to get himself under some semblance of control.

 

"Don't you see--? You have no choice! My dearest girl, you are mine for taking, to do with as I please!" He vaguely indicated Carter and Newkirk. "As for your two friends here, they are already as good as dead, but do not worry--" He deftly pulled back the bolt and chambered another round. "--I will put them out of their misery."

 

With a faint sneer, Karl walked towards them in slow, measured steps. As he stood above them, he deliberately aimed between Carter's eyes, the gun held centimeters from Alyse's face.

 

"No-ooo-oo!" she screamed. Leaping to her feet, Alyse made a desperate grab for the gun, fighting like a wildcat! With one hand on the gun, she lashed out with the other, nails fully extended, gouging Karl's face. Enraged, he struck her with the back of his hand. Stunned, Alyse fell back but kept her tight grip on the gun, refusing to let go.

 

"I won't let you kill him!" she shouted, struggling to release his hold on the weapon. "I won't--!" The jerked suddenly, as if punched in the stomach by a giant fist. The world around seemed to slow down. A loud explosion rang in her ears, drowning out all other sounds, except the beating of her heart.

 

The room began to spin around her like a children's carousel. Somewhere from far away, she heard Andrew calling her, "Alyyyyssssssss...!" Other shouts echoed in her head, sounding strangely distorted and muffled, as if she were underwater.

 

And the world continued to spin.

 

Karl suddenly jerked backwards, accompanied by another loud explosion. His painful grip on her wrists was released, and abruptly she was free. She felt herself floating backwards...falling, falling, falling for an eternity.

 

"Alyse--! No-ooo!" Father?

 

"Carter! Newkirk!" Andrew's colonel...

 

"Colonel...help her...please..." Andrew? Everything will be all right now. She smiled, feeling at peace. I love you...

 

"I love you..." The words were the barest of sighs.

 

"I love you, too, my daughter. Please forgive me." Alyse's eyes fluttered open. Her father was holding her gently, rocking her back and forth. She smiled at him, with the tenuousness of one who is already partly of another realm.

 

"I...forgive you, Father," she breathed. Suddenly, her face lit in indescribable joy, and she stared rapturously as if gazing upon a breathtaking panorama that only she could see. Closing her eyes against the ethereal glory that pulled at her soul, Alyse clung to this world by a mere gossamer thread. "Andrew...?"

 

Startled, Hogan stared from Alyse to Carter. What the--? Both young people were reaching towards each other, but neither had the physical strength to close the distance that separated them. Carter--? Hogan shook his head in stunned amazement.

 

"Sir..." Hogan turned at Newkirk's weak voice. "Help him...He needs you, sir..." The usually cocky Englishman spoke with soft earnestness before his eyes fell closed in exhaustion. Turning to Mueller Hogan saw the SS-general nod his permission.

 

Hogan glared at Klink and impatiently indicated that he should remove the handcuffs. Fumbling nervously, Klink did as requested. Hogan took a brief moment to massage his wrists to restore circulation. As soon as he could feel his hands again, he gently assisted Carter to Alyse's side.

 

Carter took her hand in his and kissed it tenderly, a single tear coursing down his cheek. "I'm here, Alyse."

 

"Andrew, do not...grieve for me..." Her blue eyes sparkled with an inner luminescence as she spoke. "I will always be grateful...to have loved you..." With a quiet sigh, the light left her eyes.

 

****

 

Monday 15 FEB 1943/0300hrs local

Caretaker's Cottage

Outside grounds of Schloss Hammelburg

 

A father should not outlive his child...

 

****

 

Mueller stared unmoving as his daughter's lifeless body was loaded onto the ambulance. A second ambulance carrying Karl and Wolfgang had already left. A third was pulling up to the drive and to await its human cargo.

 

Carter and Newkirk were to be transported to the Hammelburg Hospital until they were well enough to be transferred to the camp clinic. Both men were in bad shape, but considering that they had risked their lives to save the daughter of an enemy officer, it was the least that the Third Reich could do for them.

 

At least, these were the words that Mueller had used when Anna suggested that Carter and Newkirk be placed under arrest for murder, kidnapping, and attempted escape.

 

"Murder!? Kidnapping!? Attempted escape!?" Hogan sputtered. "What are you talking about? If it weren't for my men--!"

 

"--If it were not for your men, Col. Hogan," Anna interrupted, "I would not have two dead Gestapo officers and a dead girl--the daughter of a hero of the Reich--on my hands!"

 

"You are partly correct, Major," Mueller said, addressing Anna by her rank for the first time. "We would not have two dead Gestapo officers, certainly. But what of my daughter?" He spoke evenly, almost as if he were dissociated from the whole situation. "I think we know. Or at least, I do. And that is enough for me."

 

"But how can we be sure?" Anna argued. "All we have is the word of the Englander. The other one--the American sergeant is not talking." Mueller glared at the coldly beautiful Gestapo officer.

 

"I heard enough before I killed Karl," he bit out savagely. "Because Alyse refused to marry Karl, both he and my nephew decided to take her by force. Somehow the Allied prisoners discovered their plans and risked their own lives to come to her rescue." He stared at the ambulance bearing his daughter as it drove off into the night. "Now she is dead, along with her would-be abductors. And the men who tried to save her are badly wounded. I believe, Major, that allowing them to live is the very least that our glorious Reich can do for them. Don't you agree?"

 

Anna stared long and hard at Mueller, but finally nodded. About to turn to go, her gaze fell on Hogan who was helping load his men into the waiting ambulance. On impulse, she walked up to him.

 

"What Gruppenfuhrer Mueller is doing is for the best. Do you not think so, Col. Hogan?" she asked.

 

"And what exactly would that be?" he asked, feigning disinterest.

 

"Why, the very generous gesture of allowing your men to live." She laughed softly. "However, as for you...I am not entirely sure that you should be allowed to just walk away. As Major Hochstetter has harped time and again, you are a most dangerous man. And one that will bear watching." She moved in close and teasingly walked her fingers up his chest. Her hand eventually came to a rest along the back of his neck. Hogan stoically withstood her forward advances.

 

"What is more, I am still not certain what you were up to this evening." Hogan grabbed her by the wrist and squeezed just hard enough to cause her to gasp involuntarily. He then removed her hand from around his neck and lowered it to her side where he released it.

 

"I told you already," he said. "My men were here tonight to earn extra rations and special rec-room privileges. All very innocent and well within the provisos of the Geneva Convention. If you're looking for any skullduggery, Anna, I suggest you look no farther than your own backyard." Anna smiled in wry amusement at the transparent prevarication.

 

"Perhaps your activities this evening were entirely innocent, Col. Hogan. Perhaps not. Either way, I will figure it out in time." Then, before he could push her away, she took his face in her hands and quickly pulled him down for a kiss. "Until then...auf Wiedersehen, my dear colonel."

 

The touch of her lips still on his, Hogan stood by as she climbed into her car and roared away. He thought of the vast chasm that separated them and let out a long sigh of relief.

 

You were lucky, Colonel. That's one dangerous dame. Nevertheless, as he watched the taillights disappear into the night, he recalled her feminine softness against him and experienced a strange pang of desolation. Life can sure play some funny tricks on people. He thought suddenly of Carter and Alyse. And what about them? How could Fate play such a cruel cosmic joke on two swell kids like them? He shook his head at the capriciousness of life.

 

"It was the Top Secret plans for the counteroffensive." Hogan jerked back to the present and faced Mueller who was looking at him with certainty. "That was what you were after."

 

"I don't know what you're talking about, Herr Gruppenfuhrer." Hogan kept his expression carefully neutral.

 

"That is quite all right, Col. Hogan. It is only important that I know. And do not worry...I will neither betray you, nor alter them in any way." Hogan's mask slipped briefly, his eyes flickering in surprise. As the last of the ambulances pulled away, Mueller made his way slowly to his waiting staff car. He appeared to have aged twenty years in the course of a single night. Pausing at the open door, Mueller addressed Hogan, bridging the gulf of war and animosity that lay between them.

 

"I lost everything tonight," he said softly. "A father should not outlive his child, Col. Hogan. It is more than a man was ever meant to bear. Now, all I have left is to die in battle with my men." His eyes lit briefly with a touch of Prussian arrogance that was extinguished the next instant.

 

As SS-Oberstgruppenfuhrer Mueller climbed into the rear passenger seat, all that remained was a tired old man.

 

****

 

Monday 15 FEB 1943/2000hrs local

Prison Ward

Hammelburg Hospital

 

Don't let her love for you be buried along with her.

 

****

 

Hogan shook hands with Newkirk and bade him good night. "Get plenty of rest, Newkirk," he said. "The sooner you're on your feet, the sooner that I can kick your butt." Newkirk grinned weakly.

 

"Then I'll have to make sure I heal extra slowly, sir."

 

Hogan smiled in turn. "I got a look at the nurses here. If this is what a Kraut hospital looks like, I might just look into getting myself shot." He held onto Newkirk's hand a little longer. "Get some sleep, you malingering Limey."

 

With a final squeeze of Newkirk's hand, Hogan turned to go and felt a sense of dread come over him. He had put this off long enough. Visiting hours were almost over, and he knew that Sgt. Schultz was growing impatient for his supper.

 

"Sir...?" Newkirk's soft voice called him back. "Sir...he was hit pretty hard, sir. Carter, I mean. The girl...well, it hit him pretty hard." He shrugged helplessly as he grasped for words that failed him. Hogan nodded in understanding.

 

"I know, buddy...God help me, I know." Taking a deep breath, he straightened his shoulders and crossed the room to Carter's bedside.

 

The young American sergeant lay still, staring unseeing at the ceiling. As Hogan approached him, Carter waited without turning. After he sensed more than saw Hogan hesitate disturbing him, Carter spoke calmly and clearly, as if just whiling away an idle afternoon.

 

"She was really swell, Colonel. Not like other pretty girls, you know? Nice--not mean or stuck up. Did you know that even after everything he did, she still cried when he died? She forgave him and everything. That's the kind of girl she was, Colonel...the kind who could love you and forgive you, no matter what...even if you hurt her." By now the tears had started, unnoticed and unchecked.

 

"And we all hurt her, sir. Even me...I betrayed her on account of we were there to--" He stopped, remembering who he was, a wounded American prisoner of war in an enemy hospital. "I wanted to forget all about it...and for awhile, I almost did. I wanted to forget about everything except her." He turned to Hogan, his face reflecting confused hurt.

 

"And she died because of it," he finished.

 

"No! Carter, listen to me," Hogan said soberly. "Alyse's death is not your fault! She died because--"

 

"--Because I loved her," Carter said. "If I hadn't loved her, she would still be alive."

 

"Carter, I won't let you blame yourself." Hogan sat carefully on the side of the bed and forced Carter to look at him. "You and Alyse did what young people around the world are supposed to be able to do. You met and fell in love." He leaned in closer, never taking his eyes off Carter's. "She loved you, buddy. Always remember that. Always keep the memory of her love close to your heart. Carter, Alyse said that she was grateful to have loved you...?" He made it a question, quirking an eyebrow at Carter who nodded.

 

"How about you? Are you grateful to have loved her?"

 

"Of course, sir! Alyse is the greatest girl I've ever known!"

 

"Then fight for her, dammit!" Hogan hissed. Carter stared him, clearly not understanding. "Don't let her love for you be buried along with her. Think of the millions of other young men and women around the world who are being denied the right to fall in love because of this lousy war! They would risk anything to have had the chance at love that you and Alyse had. Carter, you have to hold onto her love, but you must let go of the guilt."

 

Carter turned away unable to face the truth of Hogan's words.

 

"Carter, I need you, buddy--physically healthy and mentally focused on the mission. But more importantly, I need you, Sgt. Andrew Carter. I need you on my team." Hogan sat back, studying Carter's profile. Sighing, he stood to go. "Think about it, buddy."

 

Just as he was about to knock on the locked security door of the prison ward, Hogan paused. Strange, he thought he heard someone whistling. He glanced back. Newkirk slept peacefully, while Carter lay still, staring quietly up at the ceiling. Shrugging, Hogan knocked and requested that the guard let him out...

 

Images of Alyse danced before Carter as he stared at the ceiling. He saw her in the Grand Ballroom, attempting to whistle the tune he had taught her; on the balcony in the glowing moonlight; in his arms as they kissed for the first time.  His expression softening in a sad smile, Carter began to whistle. As he did, the words to the merry tune echoed silently in his head:

 

Nothing is impossible I have found

For when my chin is on the ground

I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again...

 

****

 

The End

 

 


Text and original characters copyright 2002 by Syl Francis

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.