Games of the Heart
Margaret Bryan, Patti Hutchins


Authorís Note: This story has been re-edited to adhere to the new guidelines specified by FanFiction.net. As of September 12, 2002 the site decided that it would remove all stories with the rating of NC-17 by April of 2003. Weíve chosen to re-edit this story to fit it into a PG-13 rating, so it could remain as an integral part of our continuing Hoganís Heroes Games Universe.

Valentineís Day 1945. This effort was designed to tie up some character threads left unresolved in our previous stories -- Mind Games and Post Game. We are still offering the challenge at the end of Post Game and would enjoy seeing your efforts. But, this was one story we had to finish for ourselves. We again do not make any claims on the original Hoganís Heroes characters. All other characters are ours. But again, those characters are free for anyone to use, if you so choose.

This effort contains strong language and some graphic violence. Our rating would be PG-13.

 

In what has been an endless battle for supremacy in WWII ravaged Europe, people continue to fight for what they believe in, each giving their heart and soul to free the World from Hitlerís Tyranny. But sadly, even those purest of heart and kindest of soul sometimes fall prey to the evil that war is. Leaving only sorrow behind for their friends, their families, and their comrades.

Grafenrheinfeld, Germany, Gestapo Headquarters, Office of Colonel Frederick Vogel,

February 13, 1945, 0900 Hours

Colonel Frederick Vogel sat quietly at his desk, musing about how it's been almost two years since he was transferred here to Grafenrheinfeld. He had never understood how that transfer occurred. He suspected collusion on someone's part, but had never been able to prove anything. He had always thought it strange that he and the former commander here, a Colonel Feldcamp, had been ordered to swap positions.

I guess I should be glad of that, Feldcamp met with an untimely death soon after taking over for me in Hammelburg. His vehicle was sabotaged and rumor had it that a Wehrmacht General was responsible. If I really thought hard enough about that occurrence and my transfer, I might suspect that that American Colonel Hogan from Stalag 13 had something to do with it. Even the present Gestapo Commander in Hammelburg -- Whatís his name? Hochstetter -- believes Hogan to be a menace. We've talked, but neither of us has any concrete proof. I have since given up wondering.

Besides, if Hogan was responsible for my transfer here, I would thank him. I have found a niche here in Grafenrheinfeld. It's a somewhat small out of the way town. Not much happens here, which has given me a lot of freedom. My superiors have 'no use' for this small town. I've been able to create my own little 'operation' here. So far, it's been very pleasurable, profitable and empowering. I so enjoy seeing the faces of the townspeople who know their very lives rest in my hands.

Colonel Vogel looked down at the papers on his desk. Today could turn out to be a very profitable one indeed. Vogel finally had proof that Professor Otto Kessler was going to defect and supply important information to the Allies. Vogel had plans to 'commandeer' the information that the professor had before he could disappear with it. Kessler and his colleagues had been working on atomic research. They were very close to being finished. Word had it that Kessler was planning on 'leaving' the area soon. The information that Kessler had could change the direction of the war, which at present wasn't going well for the Third Reich.

Vogel was planning on taking the plans from Kessler and 'offering' them to the highest bidder. He didn't really care who won the war, as long as it remained profitable for him. Vogel had had the Kessler home under surveillance for a week now. He was just waiting on confirmation from his team that the entire family was together at home this morning. He would then join his men and they could put his plan into motion.

Grafenrheinfeld, Germany, Home of Professor Otto Kessler, February 13, 1945, 1000 Hours

Otto Kessler and his wife Carla had just finished explaining to their five children, a boy and four girls, about the danger they were in. Professor Kessler knew of Gestapo Colonel Vogel's agenda. But he knew that he couldn't let the Colonel have the information he possessed. Otto had removed all the plans for the heavy water experiments from his office. He had just given them to his oldest child, his son Karl. The girls were really too young to understand, even if they could sense their parent's fears. Karl was only sixteen, but knew only to well the evil that was Gestapo Colonel Frederick Vogel. Karl also knew how important the information he now carried was. His father had made sure that Karl knew that the information he carried needed to reach the underground agent known as Papa Bear. And that, only there, would it be safe.

Otto and Carla wanted Karl to start his siblings on their way, this morning, to Schweinfurt, to a safe house there. Otto and Carla were going to stay behind and create some confusion to give their children some time to escape. Their plans were then to meet with them in Schweinfurt. Otto had wanted Carla, who was seven months pregnant, to go with the children. But she had steadfastly refused wanting to help Otto cover for their children's escape.

Time was not to be on their side.

Otto heard the sounds of a vehicle pull up in front of the house. Gestapo! So soon? Otto and his wife quickly hid their children in a hollowed out crawl space in the living room behind a false wall. Only the children will fit there, thought Otto sadly. I only wish that I could save Carla and the baby from what I believe to be the inevitable conclusion to Colonel Vogel's 'interrogation'. She understands as well what is most likely the outcome. We have promised each other not to give in to the Gestapo. The information I have is too dangerous and many many lives would be lost, if it fell into the wrong hands. Colonel Vogel certainly represents the 'wrong hands'.

The girls had scurried into the crawlspace first. Otto quickly made Karl promise to do nothing, and stay put. He wanted Karl to promise to care for his sisters no matter what happened. Otto took a hold of his sonís neck and quickly kissed him on the forehead before he ushered him into the crawlspace. But that was all there was time for. Neither Otto nor Carla had time to comfort the girls. No goodbyes. No nothing.

For it was then that five Gestapo burst into the house from every direction.

Sadly Karl could see everything through a small crack in the wall. He didnít want his sisters to see what was to happen. So he blocked the small crack with his body, but positioned himself so that he could still see. He feared terribly what was about to happen. He knew of others who had tried to defy the Gestapo Colonel. But he had only heard those stories from eavesdropping on his parents. Those 'others' were no longer able to tell their own stories. Terror engulfed him and his whole body turned numb. He watched in horror as the 'interrogation' played itself out before his eyes.

Both Otto and Carla were bound, with their hands tied behind their backs and their feet lashed together. Carla was also gagged and thrown aside like a discarded rag onto the living room couch. She could only lie there, unable to move, with her terrified eyes focused on her husband, and fearing the inevitable.

Otto was repeatedly asked the whereabouts of his children and the plans containing the atomic research. He repeatedly told Vogel that he would find neither close by. Then for each repetition of the 'lie', Otto was severely beaten. He now lay on the floor writhing in pain, bleeding profusely from multiple contusions, and was barely conscious.

Vogel smirked evilly at the dying man by his feet. Unbeknownst to his victim, the Colonel had gotten a very important piece of information. In his anger and pain, Otto had blurted out that Vogel would never find his children or the plans, as they were already safely in the hands of the underground agent known as Papa Bear. I know the children are still here, thought Vogel. They could not have gotten past my men. So maybe this day will be even more profitable than I ever expected. My men and I will watch this house. When the children emerge, we will follow them. Hopefully they will lead us to the infamous Papa Bear. I could end this day with both the plans and also the prestige of being the one who brings about 'The Fall of Papa Bearí. What a tale to be told!

Vogel's attention was drawn away from Otto to his pregnant wife Carla, who was lying sprawled on the couch. I no longer need to garner any information from her. Kessler has really told me all I need to know. Pity. But I guess I could always continue the interrogation regardless. An evil sadistic smile appeared on Vogelís face. A thought so vile came to him as he looked at the pregnant woman lying vulnerable in front of him. He instructed two of his men to hold Carla still on the couch as he pulled a large knife from a sheath on his belt. He approached her and used his knife to slash violently at her clothes, exposing her pregnant belly.

Carla could only lay there vulnerable, her arms and legs bound, her mouth gagged, as well as her belly fully exposed and bleeding from where Vogelís knife had cut her. Her eyes were wide with shock and pain. She had the looked of a trapped animal when a predator was ready to strike. Oh God, Carla prayed. No. Please no. She couldn't and didn't want to believe the look she had seen in the Gestapo Colonel's eyes. She had hoped for a quick death for her and her baby. But it was quite obvious that Vogel had other plans. Forgive me Lord. Please. Please take the baby before it can feel Vogel's wrath. I pray to you. Please.

Vogel signaled for his other men to rouse Karl's father.

Otto's head was grabbed from behind and his face slapped until some awareness returned to his eyes. Otto was forced to watch as Vogel made a show of gently rubbing the palm of his hand over Carla's stomach, almost in a soothing motion, as a lover might. The only effect it had was to spread the blood from the open wounds. Carlaís blood now covered her entire belly. "I will spare you, your wife and your child Kessler," Vogel said staring mesmerized at his hand as it continued its blood-soaked massage of the womanís stomach. "Just tell me where the plans for atomic research are."

Vogel, of course, had no intention of sparing any of them.

"Never you bastard," Otto yelled with what strength he had left, searching frantically for his wifeís face. "Iím so sorry Carla. I love you. We will meet again in heaven." Otto tried to hold his wifeís gaze for as long as possible, but his last vision was of Vogel thrusting his knife deep into Carla's belly. The last thing he heard was his wifeís muffled scream of pain. For it was then that the officer holding Otto slashed his throat and let his head drop so it thudded heavily on the floor.

Vogel slowly and methodically removed his knife. He stood enthralled watching as an odd mixture of Carlaís blood and other bodily fluids flowed from the deep wound. He completely ignored Carla as she writhed in agony and her life began ebbing away slowly. A frenzied look of fascination appeared in his eyes, almost as if the devil had taken hold of him. Vogel took his knife and made another quick deep thrust into Carlaís stomach. He removed the knife slowly to again watch as more of that odd mixture steadily flowed. He kept repeating the same purposeful mutilation of her body, over and over again. It continued until one of his own men grabbed hold of his arm and stopped him.

Carla and her unborn child were long since dead.

Awareness slowly returned to Vogelís eyes. His men looked expectantly at their commanding officer. They knew that the children were still in the house. They were waiting on their commanderís next order. But what they finally saw was a Ďlookí that convinced them that Vogel had come up with another grand scheme. He waved his men out of the Kessler home, commenting rather loudly to them about how he had wished the children were home, and how he would have enjoyed 'interrogating' them as well. Evil laughter resounded as they left the house.

As the five Gestapo got outside the Kessler home, Vogel quietly told them of his plan. Then all but Vogel dispersed into hiding places around the Kessler home. Vogel drove the staff car away. He hid it close by, returned on foot and concealed himself as well. Waiting to begin the quest for the glory that will be mine, when Papa Bear falls as my prey.

Karl had watched the murders of his parents as if a movie had played itself out in front of his eyes. He still felt disconnected from the events that transpired. He turned away from the crack in the wall to face his sisters. Their faces were all filled with fear and streaked with tears. For even though they hadnít seen anything, they all heard the sounds that heralded their parentís deaths. And Karl knew that he wouldnít be able to hide the truth of their parentís final moments from his sisters. The only way out of the crawlspace was through the living room.

Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Senior POW Officerís Quarters, Barracks Five,

February 13, 1945, 2200 Hours

Colonel Rodney Crittendon sat quietly in his private quarters waiting on the diversion he had orchestrated. He and the men at Stalag 5 had worked out a plan for the Colonel to escape through the barbed wire fence between guard towers eight and nine. He had only been at Stalag 5 for two weeks. His plan since arriving was to escape. He only took the title Senior POW Officer as a smoke screen. He knew he would never be content in one place. He had made sure that the 'former' Senior Officer knew of his plans, so as not to disrupt the status quo here at Stalag 5. Other than that, Crittendon had hoped to convince some of the men here to escape with him.

At first they all seemed enthusiastic, but as the time for the escape got closer, I saw the fear appear in their faces. They're good lads. I told them I would complete the escape route and get word back to them of my success, so they could then follow my route to freedom -- unafraid.

"Come," Crittendon said when he heard a knock on his door.

Captain Jeffrey Malone entered and saluted. "Colonel Crittendon sir. We are all set for the diversion. Sergeantís Connors and Fitzgerald are all set to start that fire. It should cause enough of a distraction sir. You should have no problem escaping sir."

Crittendon returned the salute. "Thank you Captain Malone. Good show. You and your men are still not willing to venture this escape with me?" asked the Colonel.

"Sorry sir. I won't leave my men. I'm sorry to say sir, that we've all been here too long. We don't have the drive or desire to escape sir. I hate to admit that the Krauts have most of these men frightened sir. I've tried to convince them to follow you sir. It hasn't worked. And I will not leave them stranded sir," replied Captain Malone. Damn. I can't believe I have to lie to this guy. He seems like a decent guy that means well. And I do wish him well. But, he's just the most inept, accident-prone, horseís ass I've ever met. Since he's been here, he's almost burnt down one of the barracks; he's tried digging two tunnels and luckily wasn't caught when he tunneled right up under the guard's barracks. The man is a menace. But I hate to admit that I like the guy. His heart is in the right place. We'll do what we can to get him out. But, I honestly don't think the Krauts are going to miss him either. Hopefully, heíll make it safely back to London. "I just wanted to come by and wish you luck sir," Malone said honestly.

"Thank you Captain Malone," Crittendon said. "I do promise to get word back to you about the best escape route."

"That would be most appreciated sir," Malone replied. "Good luck sir." Malone saluted and left the office.

Just a few more minutes, thought Colonel Rodney Crittendon. Another escape eh Rodney? How many does this make? Ten? You've been a 'guest' of almost every POW camp in Germany. Yeah. And I've met some fine lads in each one. I'm just sorry that I have never been able to convince them that I do know the way out of Germany. Granted I keep coming back and getting caught. Repeatedly. And always by farmers. What blasted luck?

At 2230 hours, as expected, the men of Stalag 5 started a fire in barracks eleven. Colonel Rodney Crittendon made another successful escape. He was soon on his way to meet an underground contact in Schweinfurt that should get him on the road back to London. It was going to take him a number of hours on foot to get from Stalag 5 to the small farmhouse in Schweinfurt. Itís lucky that it has been a mild winter or this trip to Schweinfurt might have even been more difficult.

Grafenrheinfeld, Germany, Outside the home of Professor Otto Kessler,

February 14, 1945, 0100 Hours

It has been a long wait for the quest for glory to begin, Colonel Vogel thought. He and his men had waited close to 15 hours before they saw five small shadowy figures emerge from the Kessler home. The wait had given Vogel more time to organize his plan of attack. His men were now equipped with walkie-talkies and anything else they needed for a sustained chase. He assumed some of the surveillance was to be done on foot and that the trail to glory would have in it many twists and turns. He had ordered three of his men to follow the children on foot, then he and the other man would follow discreetly in the staff car. But his men were not to make any move unless authorized by him personally.

We have to be very cautious, thought Vogel. We can't jump to soon. We have to make sure that Papa Bear is in our trap before we strike. We will have to bide our time. From what I've heard his network is large, we want to be sure we don't corner the wrong prey.

Schweinfurt, Germany, On the banks of the Main River, February 14, 1945, 0300 Hours

Rodney Crittendon crouched behind a large boulder bordering the side of the river and road. A long patrol of German soldiers was passing on the road. Heíd nearly been taken by surprise, but heíd heard the men just in time to duck behind this rock. The only problem was that the rock was nearly in the water, and the ground he was standing on was beginning to cave into the river, five feet below. He looked at the swirling black water again, the current was strong and he was sure the water was icy cold. The ground beneath his right foot suddenly disappeared, leaving him clawing desperately for purchase. Finally just as he thought he was going swimming for sure, his right hand found a crack in the rock and he was able to regain his balance. But it was a temporary fix at best.

The patrol was still passing on the road when he sneaked a peak, but he couldnít stay where he was. He needed to find some stable terrain. So Rodney began to edge his way to his left until he found firm ground in the deep shadows of the stand of pines. He had to keep low, as those pines were all that was now between him and the road. The patrol continued to pass by.

Almost an hour later after several hundred men and equipment passed him by, the road was clear again. It had been more than just a patrol. It was an entire blooming company! He got to his feet and shook the snow off his shoulders that had fallen from the boughs of the trees above him. He still had a long hike ahead of him, and he wanted to complete it in the relative safety of the darkness.

Well, stiff upper lip and all that, Rodney my boy. Get crackiní and stop wasting time! Rodney moved to the side of the road and continued on his way.

Schweinfurt, Niederwerrner Strasse, Schlossburg Farm, February 14, 1945, 0430 hours

Early morning found Rodney many miles away from Stalag 5 and very near to his destination. The Schlossburg Farm lay just about a mile and a half from here. Once there, he would be able to rest and they would start him on the way to the coast and ultimately England. This would be his third trip through this portion of the underground chain that assisted Allied servicemen back to London, so they can return to their own units. It is a shame that I couldnít convince the lads back at Stalag 5 that I know exactly how to get out of Germany. Getting out has never been a problem; it was avoiding capture every time I returned to Germany that I seem to have the most difficulty with!

Rodney rounded the corner of the road, leaving the wooded area surrounding the farm, and entered the Schlossburgís barn. He had made good time and he expected Girta would be feeding the chickens shortly. He had already left the proper signal outside, a single piece of firewood on the ground before the barn door. It was meant to let them know that someone was hiding in the barn. He seated himself on a bale of straw in the corner to wait.

It was close to a half hour before he saw a sliver of light from the kitchen door. Briefly he saw Girtaís slim outline framed in the doorway. The light disappeared as she closed the door behind her.

Girta crossed the yard almost tripping over the piece of wood. She picked it up and returned it to the woodpile before entering the barn. When she entered the barn, she lit the lantern and closed the barn door. "Hello," Girta called out in German. "It is safe to come out now."

"Right-O," Rodney replied coming into the light. "Hello Fraulin Girta."

"Colonel Crittendon, what are you doing back here again?" Girta asked with a smile as she recognized the outrageous English Colonel.

"Keep turning up like a bad penny, wot?" Rodney replied. "Just escaped from Stalag 5 and Iíve always liked your hospitality so I hurried right along."

Girta smiled. "Danke. You can wait out of sight in the secret room." She opened the hidden panel. "Thereís food and water inside as you know. Iíll feed the chickens and then Iíll go in to tell Grandpapa that you are here. Heíll be out in a while to make arrangements for you."

"Danke schonÖ" Rodney began only to turn around startled as the barn door was pushed open.

Four girls scampered into the barn, followed by a young teenage boy. The boy closed the barn door and then heard one of his sisterís sharp intake of breath. He turned quickly, pulling his smallest sibling behind him. There were already two people here.

"Easy," Girta said reassuringly. "You are safe here. Are you the Kesslerís?"

Karl relaxed slightly, still shielding his youngest sister Marie. He nodded his head at the girlís question.

"Good. We were expecting you to come yesterday though. Is everything ok?" Girta asked hesitantly, as she could tell the five of them were very frightened. They had received word that a family would be defecting; taking with them atomic research plans to give to the Allies.

Karl shook his head. "Our parents wonít be coming. But I have the information that needs to get to Papa Bear."

Girta nodded, she wouldnít make him tell her what had happened. There was only one thing that would prevent the parents from coming. They must be dead. "What are your names?" she asked.

"Karl, Gretchen, Sarah, Rose and Marie," Karl replied indicating each of his sisters.

"I am Girta. This is Colonel Crittendon. You will all have to share the hidden room while we make arrangements to get you to where you need to go. You are safe," Girta said indicating the entrance into the hidden room. "Colonel Crittendon has been here before and can help you."

Karl nodded his head, and motioned his four sisters inside the room. He then entered the room followed by the RAF Colonel. Girta closed the panel, hurriedly fed the chickens and went back to the house to get her Grandfather.

Hammelburg, Germany, LuftStalag 13, Tunnel under Barracks Two, February 14, 1945, 0630 hours

Kinch shut down his equipment with care. He had just received word that the Kessler children had indeed turned up at Canaryís location, a day late and without their parents. The family had been due in yesterday from Grafenrheinfeld. There was no need to ask where their parents were, but Canary had reported it anyway. The parents had been caught, interrogated and then executed by the Gestapo in Grafenrheinfeld. Before the executions though, Colonel Vogel and the rest of his men Ė those bastards -- had tortured a pregnant woman in front of her husband -- before killing them both. And the children, though hidden, had seen it all. Damn -- Five children, none above the age of sixteen -- Damn Nazi Bastards! Kinch thought savagely. Why do they have to prey on their own civilians? Wasnít there already too much death out there? And those kids, what did they do to deserve witnessing such horror?

"Whatís the word, Kinch?" Hogan asked coming into the offshoot of the main tunnel that housed the radio equipment. Roll call was over, and heíd just returned from an early morning meeting with Klink. Yet another lecture on the discipline of the men. Carter, LeBeau and Newkirk followed after him.

Kinch handed over his clipboard and watched the Colonelís face as it darkened in rage. Hogan threw the clipboard so that it skidded across the worn table. That bastard Vogel!

Hogan stood silent for a long moment and then finally began giving orders. "Those kids have been through Hell. Tell Canary that weíll meet them halfway. Klink mentioned that we were expecting a lot of snow over the next 28 hours. Tell them to use the warehouse in Rutschenhausen, on Berneard Strasse. Weíll meet them there tonight at 2100 hours.

"Yes sir," Kinch replied as he powered up the radio again.

"Carter, get a truck from the motor pool," Hogan continued.

"Yes sir," Carter replied with a nod.

"LeBeau, weíll need two Wehrmacht uniforms. Make one a Corporal and the other a Sergeant. LeBeau, youíll be the Corporal driving. Carter, youíll be the Sergeant watching the prisoners in the back of the truck. The rest of us will go as prisoners," ordered Hogan.

"Oui," LeBeau replied.

"Yes sir," Carter replied again.

"Newkirk, make sure they have all the necessary paperwork. The orders should read that theyíre transferring prisoners," Hogan finished.

"Right," Newkirk acknowledged as Kinch handed the Colonel another message.

"God damn it," Hogan said annoyed as he read Canaryís message. Colonel Rodney Crittendon is also a guest of Canaryís and has generously volunteered to escort the children to their rendezvous with Papa Bear. I guess from Canaryís viewpoint it seems like a blessing. Someone who knows Papa Bear, and more importantly knows how to find him. The children couldnít be any safer than that, could they? I only wish that was indeed the case. That man was a walking disaster area. With Crittendon anything could happen and probably would. "Why did he have to turn up now?"

"Who?" LeBeau asked, surprised at the Colonelís annoyed tone. Hogan handed off the note and LeBeau paled.

"Colonel Crittendon! Itís going to be a complete disaster," LeBeau predicted with a groan. Those poor kids.

"Crittendon? Govínr we should go and pick those kids up from Canary," Newkirk volunteered immediately. "Colonel Crittendon couldnít possibly see them to the warehouse alone. The man is an accident waiting to Ďappen."

"Kinch, tell Canary that theyíre to send Crittendon along the chain back to England. Ask one of them to see the children to Rutschenhausen," Hogan ordered.

Kinch shook his head after several minutes. "I canít get through. Thereís a lot of disturbance this morning. The storm moving in, I should think," Kinch replied.

"Wonderful. Keep trying," Hogan ordered. "What else can possibly go wrong?"

Schweinfurt, Germany, Schlossburg Farm, February 14, 1945, 1000 Hours

Vogel's men had kept him informed of the chase. It was a number of hours before his men informed him that the children had taken refuge in a barn on a small farm in Schweinfurt. Vogel instructed his men to spread out and surround the barn to watch all possible exits. His men had told him that the only movement so far was that of a young girl who appeared to be doing her chores, but no other sign of movement.

When Vogel arrived in Schweinfurt, he and his driver stayed away from the farm. Vogel had had trouble pinpointing the exact location of his men, as they had followed the children across country through many fields and farms. He had one of his men locate the nearest crossroad to give him a location. Vogel and his man had just found a secure hiding spot along that crossroad.

His other men had continued to keep an eye on the barn, only to report that the small girl and an older man had made a few trips into the barn. They reported that it looked fairly innocent on their part, because each time they entered into the barn, they indeed had exited with something, be it eggs or milk. His men couldn't be sure that the owners of the farm knew of their unannounced guests. The children had not approached the house at all before they had gone to ground inside the barn.

We will bide our time with this family, thought Vogel. I won't authorize their arrests until Papa Bear is in my grasp. I need to make sure that they are innocent of wrongdoing. Of course, I could just execute them anyway for harboring fugitives. That might be the easiest thing to do. But still I will wait until Papa Bear is no longer a threat.

Vogel was informed by his men of the approach of a milk truck to the farm. We must have just missed the truck as it passed on the road, thought Vogel. The owner of the milk truck backed it up to the barn. Vogel ordered one of his men to get as close as possible. It could be innocent, but this underground has kept the Gestapo guessing for years. A milk truck could be used as an escape route. His man acknowledged that the Kessler children and an RAF Colonel had indeed boarded the milk truck and hid under tarps. Where did the RAF Colonel come from? Another on the route to Papa Bear? How many does this route hold? Ah well, an added bonus.

Vogel ordered his men back to his vehicle. They wouldn't need to continue this chase on foot. There was only one road out from the farm. The fugitives would have to pass by them.

Schweinfurt, Germany, Pfeiffer Farmhouse, February 14, 1945, 1900 Hours

Again the quest for glory was delayed. Another nine hours of waiting. Vogel and his men had kept a close surveillance on the truck all day. After many deliveries, the owner returned home. And there the truck sat for the last five hours. Vogel was sure the fugitives were still in the truck. Only once since returning home had the owner come out to the truck, and he only appeared to be carrying milk crates. These people are very cautious. That is probably why they have succeeded for so long. I will enjoy the capture and interrogation of these people when this is all over and Papa Bear is mine.

It was sometime after darkness fell that Vogel and his men heard the milk truck startup. It pulled onto the small dirt road that ran by the farm with no headlights visible. Vogel and his men followed discreetly. Finally the truck turned onto a main road and turned on the headlights. Vogel and his men followed quite a distance back without turning on the lights to their vehicle. Again, another long wait for glory. They followed the milk truck for close to fifty miles before the milk truck veered of the main road into the woods. By the time Vogel and his men had found the truck, the fugitives had made their escape. He ordered his men to search everywhere in the surrounding countryside.

Rutschenhausen, Berneard Strasse, The Warehouse District, Abandoned Warehouse,

Valentineís Day, February 14, 1945, 2015 hours

It had just begun to snow when Rodney Crittendon and his Ďchargesí arrived at the abandoned warehouse where Papa Bearís operatives were to meet them. He had needed to get rid of the milk truck they Ďborrowedí from Sigfreid Pfeiffer. They had traveled the last two miles into town on foot. Time had been of the essence with a winter storm brewing. There had been no time to Ďacquireí a different truck. Especially, if he was to get to this meeting place on time and safely with his five young Ďchargesí. Sigfreid would call into the Gestapo a stolen truck report tomorrow morning.

Hopefully that will give us the time we need. Hogan and his men are to meet us here tonight at 2100 hours. Hogan had wanted to meet us halfway to Stalag 13. With the storm approaching, he and his men were risking coming out this far from camp to ensure the safety of the children. And the plans, of course. Brave resourceful lads, that group of men. But, Iím still very worried. I know these children are being looked for. I have a bad feeling about this. I canít help but feel we were being followed. I kept an eye out and saw nothing. I tried my best to camouflage our two-mile hike to this warehouse. Let us hope that will be enough. It would be even better, if I was just being paranoid.

Rodney was glad he had picked up enough German over the years, to at least try to comfort the children. Their contacts, the group known only as Canary, had explained to the children what was to happen. Rodney just kept trying to keep them calm.

It has been hard on them. From what I was told, they had seen both their parents violently murdered by the Gestapo in Grafenrheinfeld. Their parents had hid them away, knowing that the inevitable would happen. They had succeeded in only deflecting the Gestapo with their lives. Their oldest, Karl, had to take charge and get his sisters to the Schlossburg farm. Poor Karl is only sixteen. The oldest of the girls, Gretchen, is only nine. And the twins, Sarah and Rose, are only seven. And then there is Marie, the youngest, who is only five. And sheís so frightened -- I wish I could do more -- They are all too damn young for this kind of madness.

Rodney had the children hide behind some of the large crates that cluttered the warehouse floor. He made sure they understood not to come out until he gave the proper signal. They already knew that a group of five men would be meeting them, but Rodney didnít want to take any chances until he was sure of the identity of those men. If by chance, the situation was compromised, he hoped to turn himself in as an escaped POW.

Hopefully, that will be enough of a Ďfindí for the Germans and they will leave with only me in tow. It isnít the greatest plan, but I know Hogan and his men will then be able to move the children to safety. Letís hope it doesnít come to that, eh Rodney?

Rutschenhausen, Berneard Strasse, The Warehouse District, Abandoned Warehouse,

Valentineís Day, February 14, 1945, 2030 hours

Luckily, we picked up the fugitives trail as it lead from the woods back onto the main road, Vogel thought. The trail had been cleverly disguised from the truck until that point, but luckily the lightly falling snow gave away their escape route. We watched the six shadowy figures turn the corner and enter an abandoned warehouse. Glory may have to wait for another day as the warehouse is large and we can't leave this to chance. We will need to search the warehouse and locate our fugitives. There are too many entrances and exits. We need to be sure our prey does not get away. I need to at least return with the atomic research plans to make this chase worthwhile.

Vogel had his man pulled the staff car up to the building, not even trying to disguise their approach.

Rutschenhausen, Berneard Strasse, The Warehouse District, Abandoned Warehouse,

Valentineís Day, February 14, 1945, 2030 hours

It was almost 2030 hours when Rodney heard a vehicle approach the warehouse. The children got very nervous and little Marie started to cry. Rodney tried to console her, but had to hand her to her older brother. Karl knew instinctively how to quiet his youngest sibling. Rodney couldnít spare them another glance; he needed to check on the status of the vehicle. Slowly he crept out of the hiding place and moved to the window on the other side of the floor. He quickly signaled to the children to stay hidden.

Damn it to Hell. Gestapo. Only five. Only? What are you thinking Rodney? Two are being stationed outside. That means three inside. Hogan and his men should be here soon. Should I try to disarm the three inside? Or just give myself up? Bugger. It was so much easier when I didnít have to worry about someone else. Lord. This time itís five small children. Maybe thatís why youíve been lucky all this time. Donít think like that. Yeah. Yeah. Confidence man. -- I will never forsake these children. No matter what happens.

From his vantage point at the window, Rodney could see the two men stationed outside. He could also see that the other three were entering the building on the far side, opposite their position.

Maybe Iíll hold off doing anything for a few minutes. Maybe the reinforcements will arrive. It will take a few minutes for the three inside to make it to this side of the building. Then I will have to set my distraction into motion. -- Giving myself up -- At least that way, I might be able to keep the Gestapo talking and not searching. Lord, I hope so anyway.

Rodney glanced back in the direction of the children. Their terrified faces were all he could see. He motioned for them to stay low to the ground and quiet. He listened intently for some minutes for the sounds of boot heels clicking on the floor. He glanced nervously out the window.

Oh Lord no. The guards are gone. Did I miss Hogan and his men or are there now five Gestapo searching the building? Damn it to all hell, Rodney. This is too important and you werenít paying attention! Pull it together man.

Rodney continued glancing out the window and still he was trying to hear the sounds of boot heels. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw five shadowy figures dispersing in different directions.

I need to let Hogan know that there are only three others. Maybe they already know?

After another few minutes, Rodney heard the sound of clicking boot heels.

Only one?

It was a Gestapo Colonel. He had just entered this section of the warehouse.

Where were the other two?

The Gestapo Colonel was still a little out of range. Then, out of the corner of his eye, Rodney saw Colonel Hogan sneaking around the crates where the children were hidden.

Lord no. Hogan is going to frighten them.

Rodney signaled to Karl to stay quiet. Colonel Hogan wasnít looking in his direction. The Gestapo Colonel was getting too close. He would see Colonel Hogan.

Bloody Hell. Here goes nothing.

"Kamerad!, Kamerad!" yelled Colonel Crittendon loudly. As he exited his hiding spot, he saw Colonel Hogan blanch in surprise. Hogan dove behind a crate.

Good. Heís close to the children. Please take care of them Hogan.

Colonel Crittendon continued with his surrender. As the Gestapo Colonel approached Rodney, all hell broke loose. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Marie came running and screaming into the center of the room from behind one of the crates. The Gestapo Colonel turned his weapon on the little girl. Colonel Hogan dove from behind a crate and tried to cover the little girlís body with his own. Colonel Crittendon lunged for the Gestapo Colonel. Colonel Hogan was able to drop and roll and fire on the Gestapo Colonel, hitting him in the shoulder and knocking him off balance. The Gestapo Colonelís weapon had gone sliding across the floor out of his reach. But, before that happened, the Gestapo officer had gotten the opportunity to fire a single round from his weapon.

"No!" yelled Colonel Hogan, as he watched Colonel Crittendon fall to the ground clutching his chest. As he got up, his men came running into that area of the warehouse. Hoganís eyes were on Colonel Crittendon, but he said. "Get the children to the truck. Now!" Then he turned quickly, pointing at the Gestapo Colonel on the floor and said, "Keep an eye on that Bastard!"

Carter and LeBeau rounded up the children and herded them quickly outside to the truck. Newkirk and Kinch needed to only worry about the Gestapo Colonel, as the other four Gestapo officers had already been eliminated.

Hogan had made it quickly to where Colonel Crittendon had collapsed. Hogan knelt down beside him. Crittendon was still clutching his chest with his left hand, and his breathing was very erratic.

There isnít much blood. Thatís a good sign. Everything will be okay, thought Hogan.

But somehow Crittendonís eyes were telling him a different story. Crittendon held up his right hand to Hogan. Hogan grabbed for the proffered hand. "Hogan," Crittendon choked. "Is little Marie alright?" His breathing coming in painful rasps. His body was beginning to shake.

"Sheís fine. Itís all right Colonel. Donít worry," Hogan said trying to comfort.

"Your men? Are they safe?" Crittendon gasped, his body now racked with pain.

"Yes Colonel. They are fine," Hogan said. "Everything is going to be okay Rodney. Youíre not bleeding badly. Weíll get you to a doctor." Hogan turned quickly to Kinch. "Kinch help me. Weíll get him to the truck and get him medical attention." Hogan watched as Crittendon laid his head back onto the floor. Crittendon had been trying to fight the pain to talk to Hogan, but then he gave in.

Kinch approached quickly. Hogan went immediately to grab the Colonel by his shoulders and Kinch to grab his feet. But as Hogan started to lift the Colonel, he heard what sounded like a Ďpopí and Colonel Crittendon hollered in utter agony. Crittendon grabbed for Hogan to make him stop moving him.

"Oh God," Rodney gasped in shock as he raised his left hand slightly from his chest and saw the amount of blood now covering his hand.

Hogan put him down and knelt beside him, grabbing his hand once again. Crittendon was gasping for breath. His body was shaking uncontrollably and his eyes were showing pure agony. But all that Hogan could see was the massive amounts of blood welling from Crittendonís chest. Hoganís first reaction was to try and quell the blood flow. He covered Rodneyís left hand with his own, applying pressure.

"No Hogan donít," Crittendon croaked almost as an order. Rodney continued to hold tightly onto his American counterpart. As the pressure on his chest eased Rodney continued, "Take care of those children, Hogan." Each word came with a painful gasp of breath. "Keep them safe."

"Donít worry Colonel," was all that Hogan could reply. He had seen the specter of death appear in Crittendonís haunted eyes. There was nothing more he could do. Damn. Bloody Hell.

"Damn Hogan," Crittendon continued gasping. "Donít let those Nazi Bastards win this war. Promise me, that Papa Bear wonít let that happen."

"I promise Rodney. They wonít. If Papa Bear has anything to do with it. They wonít," Hogan replied sadly. Hogan then heard a whispered Ďgood showí and watched as Rodneyís head fell back to the floor and his life ebbed away. Rodneyís haunted eyes still stared up at Hogan. "Nazi Bastards."

Hogan closed Rodneyís eyes and removed the Colonelís dog tags. He then offered a small prayer, "Rodney. Your heart has always been in the right place. Now it is time that your soul found its true resting place. Heaven is waiting for you my friend."

Hogan paused, stood up and pulled his gun. "God forgive me for what Iím about to do."

Hogan approached the Gestapo Colonel. Colonel Vogel was sitting on floor, leaning against a crate, and clutching his injured shoulder. Vogel said snidely, "So. We meet again Colonel Hogan or should I say Papa Bear? Too bad, I never got a chance to be properly introduced to your friend." Vogel smirked and quickly nodded his head in direction of Colonel Crittendon's dead body.

Hogan didn't react. He just aimed his revolver at the Gestapo Colonel's face, and said dangerously, "So Vogel." Vogel stared back at Hogan defiantly. Hogan re-directed his aim slightly and pulled the trigger twice quickly. Both bullets hit the crate beside Vogel's head. Hogan then continued even more dangerously, "That was payback for the first time we met." Vogel still tried to remain defiant, but fear welled-up from inside as Hogan placed the revolver in his face a second time. Hogan's aim never wavered this time. He pulled the trigger two more times. Hogan watched transfixed as Vogelís face shattered from the bullets' impact splattering the crate behind his head. Hogan continued to watch until Vogelís body slowly slumped to the ground.

Newkirk and Kinch stared at Colonel Hogan in shock. They hadnít expected that from him, but they quickly regained their composure as the Colonel started spouting orders.

"We canít take the bodies with us and this place is no longer useful. Weíve got to burn it down," Hogan ordered quickly, all business. "What did we bring with us? Anything capable of taking down this building?"

"Iíll check with Carter sir," Newkirk said as he quickly left the building, glad to be out from under Colonel Hoganís gaze. The Colonelís eyes looked angry, haunted, sad, vengeful, and shocked. All at the same time.

Kinch approached Colonel Hogan. "Are you all right Colonel?" asked Kinch worried. Sadly, Iíve seen the Colonel assassinate someone before, but only on direct orders from London. And even then he was never Ďcomfortableí with doing what was his duty. This time though, it was very different. This assassination was governed by pure revenge on the Colonelís part. Granted that bastard deserved to die, after hearing what he had done to the kidsí parents and now poor Colonel Crittendon. I just donít know how Colonel Hoganís is going to deal with it.

Hogan jumped down Kinchís throat. "What?! Iím fine! Letís get this show on the road! Go find out whatís taking them so long!"

"Yes sir," Kinch said as he turned and left quickly. I guess itís just going to take some time for him to drop his guard and deal with it.

Without much more comment from Hogan, his men used the extra gasoline they found in the truck to set fire to the warehouse. The bodies were doused in gasoline and set on fire first. Within 15 minutes, they were on their way back to Stalag 13 and the building was ablaze. There was silence for the long ride back to camp.

Hammelburg, Germany, Stalag 13, Barracks Two, February 15, 1945, 0100 hours

Hogan and his team, along with the five children entered the tunnel system under Stalag 13 quietly.

Newkirk and Kinch disappeared quickly to check the camp's status as the five of them had been gone longer than normal. Also to make sure that Matthews and Marlow were ready to meet the courier that London was sending to pick up the plans. The courier would then head back immediately to London on the normal route from Stalag 13. London wanted a quick turn around, this time. The plans would be back in London by the 17th.

Carter and LeBeau had charge of the children, who at this point, appeared almost catatonic. Poor kids, thought Hogan. They are in shock. Hogan began in German, as not to frighten the children anymore, "Carter. LeBeau. Please take the girls and get them whatever they need. I need to talk to Karl." Hogan turned to the oldest child. Damn, he's not a child anymore. "It is Karl Kessler, is it not?"

Karl only nodded, but his eyes grew wide as his sisters were lead away. Panic almost set in when he realized that he was now alone with the American Officer.

"Your sisters will be fine Karl. Truly. You don't need to worry anymore," Hogan said quickly. "I'm sorry I didn't introduce myself before. I'm Colonel Robert Hogan, also known as Papa Bear. I think you have something for me," Hogan said softly, extending his hand to shake Karl's. Go slow here Hogan. This kid is only tenuously holding it together. God after what he's seen. It's amazing he's even still coherent.

Karl's face began to quiver. He was trying hard to keep composed. "My father said I was only to give these plans to you." Karl pulled the papers from his inside jacket pocket and put them in Hogan's outstretched hand. As Hogan grasped the papers, Karl almost collapsed. It was as if all his strength was in those papers. Like it was the only thing he had left that connected him to his parents.

Hogan grabbed for Karl to steady him. Hogan quickly found himself being embraced tightly by the young boy, whose whole body now shook. Hogan returned the embrace and held Karl until Karl wanted to let go. Hogan couldn't tell whether poor Karl was frightened, sad, or angry. Probably all that and more. Damn. Nazi Bastards. "It's alright son. Let it out."

Finally Karl let go. His eyes were red, his face tear stained. Hogan went and got him a towel to wipe his face and made him sit in a chair. Goddamn. The kid is going to collapse. Hogan knelt down in front of Karl and put a hand on his shoulder, "I'm so sorry Karl. I can't imagine what is been like for you the past two days. I want to tell you that everything will be all right, but I can't. Your life has just changed forever. I know your mother and father would be very proud of you. You got your sisters here safely and you got the plans here as well," Hogan said trying to comfort.

Karl's face just fell. "But I did nothing to stop what happened to my mother and father. Nothing. All I could do was watch. And then your friend... If I had held Marie tighter, he would still be alive." Karl got up from the chair and walked away from Colonel Hogan deflated, his shoulders slumped. He was crying.

Goddamn, that is way too much guilt for a sixteen year old. Hogan came up behind Karl and put his hands on his shoulders. "Karl. I know this won't make you feel better right now. But you need to realize that you did exactly what you needed to. Think son. What would have happened if you tried to fight those five men at your house? You would not have survived and your sisters would be dead as well," Hogan explained. "You did the right thing. Your parents knew you would, that's why they entrusted your sisters to you. Your parents made the right choice Karl."

Hogan turned Karl to face him. "As for Colonel Crittendon. You are not responsible for him. He made his own choice to confront Vogel," Hogan said sadly. "You need to realize that Colonel Crittendon gave himself up, so I would know where you were. Marie getting scared was not your fault. It wasnít anyoneís fault. Had Rodney not done what he did, I could have unknowingly given your position away. If that had happened more people could have died. The Colonel made his own choices Karl. That's what you need to remember. You are not responsible."

Hogan reached out and put his arm around Karl. "Let's go check on your sisters. You can all get some sleep. It will be okay. I want you to know that we have a safe place for you and your sisters to go from here, where you can all stay together. Karl, you are going to have to take care of your sisters from now on. You need to be strong for them. I know itís a lot to ask of you, but I promise you will have help. Okay?" Hogan consoled. Karl just nodded as Hogan led him in the direction he had seen Carter and LeBeau go.

Damn, thought Hogan. This bloody war has left deep scars everywhere. I want to comfort these children. But how can you comfort when youíre not sure what they are feeling. At sixteen, would I have been able to see that happen to my parents? My father - beaten to death? My mother and her unborn child murdered? - Hell no. A boy of sixteen is supposed to be chasing girls and playing sports. -- And the girls? -- Hell. They arenít even old enough to completely understand. -- What can I say? -- I donít know.

I was assured by my contacts in Heidelberg that the children will be cared for and kept together. Sadly this isnít the only family it has happened too. They have made contingency plans. They already have someone lined-up to take them in as Ďchildren of a deceased relativeí. I hope it works out. Someday Iím going to have to meet these people in Heidelberg. And thank them. It seems that in some ways they have a harder job than we do. I donít have to worry about people after I send them to London. They have to make contingency plans that affect the rest of the lives of their charges.

Hogan left Karl in Carterís hands and went to locate Kinch. Kinch hopefully has already contacted London to confirm the meeting with the courier. If I know him, heís already told them of Colonel Crittendonís death too. Iím going to have Matthews and Marlow carry Rodneyís dog tags with them as well as the plans. I will recommend him posthumously for the Victoria Cross. He deserves it. The man really came through. Thanks Rodney.

It was another almost three hours before everything was settled. Matthews and Marlow just returned from meeting the courier. The kids were finally sleeping or at least pretending to be asleep. Hogan didnít even want to pretend. So he was sitting quietly at the map table in the tunnel under barracks two. He had had a good excuse at first that he was waiting on Matthews and Marlowís return. Now he had no such excuse. He just couldnít sleep.

I tried to tell poor Karl that he had nothing to feel guilty about. I should try to take my own advice, but all I can think about is the terror, death, and agony that the people of Grafenrheinfeld must have suffered at the hands of Vogel. Damn it. I should have killed that bastard early on. Instead, I had him transferred out of my hair, which allowed him to wreak havoc on the people of that town. And then poor RodneyÖ

Hoganís thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of Kinch, Carter, Newkirk and LeBeau. They had gathered quietly, as they knew the Colonel was deep in thought. Hogan pulled himself out of his funk. "What can I do for you fellas? Something wrong?" he asked.

"Well Colonel," Kinch said quietly. "We were all feeling pretty awful about Colonel Crittendon. We know the man was a pain in the ass sometimes. But, he was a good guy and didnít deserve what happened. But it wasnít your fault sir. He made his own choice to help those kids. I guess we all just wanted you to know how we feel."

"Thanks fellas. I appreciate it. It will be okay. Iím just sorry I ever let that bastard Vogel loose on the people of Grafenrheinfeld. I canít help but think that this whole thing could have been avoided if I did what I did tonight -- two years ago," Hogan explained shaking his head.

"You know sir. Colonel Feldcamp was no prize either sir. You canít know what might have happened if Feldcamp stayed in charge in Grafenrheinfeld. As it was he came close to blowing our whole operation, so Iím not sure if those people would have had it any better with him in charge," Kinch stated.

"Maybe youíre right Kinch. Burt right now, itís still too close. Iíll work it out. Donít you guys worry," Hogan said knowing he needed to help boost morale, even if he didnít feel like it. "Hey LeBeau. Go break out some champagne and weíll toast to Rodney. Give him a good send-off. Okay?"

LeBeau nodded and left. He returned quickly with five glasses and some champagne. He poured each of them a glass. When they were ready Hogan began, "To Rodney." Then he paused, thinking. "You know Rodney -- Yesterday was Valentineís Day. -- There is no day better, to give your heart and soul for a worthy cause. -- Good show, indeed. -- You died bravely, my friend. You saved my life and the lives of those kids. -- And possibly many more lives as those research plans are now safely on the way to London. -- Iím so sorry that you couldnít find your way home to London this last time. -- But you will never be forgotten. -- Cheers."

"Cheers," replied the rest of the group quietly. They stood together in silence for a long moment after the toast.

Carter finally broke the silence. "Hey. Do you guys remember that time when we were to help Colonel Crittendon kidnap Feildmarschall Rommel and exchange him for Admiral Toddley. And we kidnapped Admiral Toddley without knowing it!" Carter looked at the other four men expectantly. At first they gave him their normal humoring look, but soon smiles reached the men's faces. It became a free-for-all with each man sharing a memory of Colonel Crittendon. Before they knew it, the champagne was gone and they were all due out for roll call.

Hogan was the last to leave the tunnel under barracks two. He glanced back at the empty champagne bottle and glasses. Well Rodney, Iím truly sorry. -- But if the truth be told - Giving oneís life for the sake of children, isnít a bad way to go. -- Good show old man -- Good show. Hogan turned back and headed up the ladder to Barracks two, determined to keep his promise to Rodney. These Nazi bastards wonít win this war -- I owe you that Rodney -- At the very least -- I owe you that.

The End

Sorry, we just had to tell this story.

Donít be mad at us!

We hope that we gave Colonel Rodney Crittendon a good send off.


Text and original characters copyright 2002 by Margaret Bryan, Patti Hutchins

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.