2004 Papa Bear Awards - Second Place
Best Original Character - Jeff Malone
2004 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Original Character - Horst Funfstuck
2004 Papa Bear Awards - Third Place
Most Unique Story
This Game was written as a brief follow-up to our story Game Double Play. The action takes place at Luft Stalag Five late in the war. We again do not make any claims on the original Hogan’s Heroes’ characters. All other characters are ours. But again, those characters are free for anyone to use, if you so choose.
Many thanks, as always, to our Beta-readers Lauren and Kits
Our rating for this story would be PG-13. Contains strong language and violence. Enjoy!
The shaft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagle's own plumes.
We often give our enemies the means of our own destruction.
The Eagle and the Arrow ~ Aesop (620 BC - 560 BC)
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5,
Senior POW Officer’s Quarters, Barracks Five,
April 10, 1945, 0615 Hours
Captain Jeff Malone, the Senior POW Officer at Luft Stalag Five, had just spent another long sleepless and stressful night sitting at the desk in his quarters. For the last month or so, tension in camp between the POWs and their German guards had been rising steadily, as more and more rumors of the end of the war filtered through to those POWs. And even though it certainly looked as if the Allies would win, the fate of the POWs detained at Stalag Five was still firmly in the hands of the Germans. It just hadn’t made for a good night’s sleep.
Although begrudgingly, Malone did have to admit to himself, that even though the Kommandant of Stalag Five, Horst Funfstuck, had run the camp with an iron hand… he and his men had been treated reasonably well by the German Major. Still it had always been an uphill battle for him with Funfstuck, as the man never gave an inch in terms of what he felt was his duty as a POW Kommandant.
But the Captain knew that at those times when he’d clearly and cleanly one-upped the German Major; the man took it on the chin, although… never without resorting to disciplinary actions. And Jeff knew by personal experience that discipline could be fierce at Stalag Five. But he also knew that only Funfstuck’s inherent decency had kept those disciplinary actions well within the military tradition, something Malone had learned early on in his POW experience was not always honored by other German officers.
Right now though, the American Captain was truly worried, for he also knew that the last few months had not gone well for Horst Funfstuck. Or for the POWs themselves… for that matter. Many of Funfstuck’s men had been re-assigned, actually commandeered was the more appropriate word for it. And only three days ago, a squad of SS troops arrived and removed twenty-five more of his already depleted contingent. With the war going badly for Germany, Funfstuck had seemed to take most of the earlier transfers from Stalag Five in stride, each transfer having been done by the book, with the proper paperwork, and within the proper chain of command.
Only this last transfer was the first time that Funfstuck’s men had been removed by force, and by the SS, not the Luftwaffe. Clearly to Malone, that hadn’t sat well with the Kommandant, as the man’s whole demeanor changed. He’d been barely visible for the last few days; his only real appearance was to order that the POWs spend most of their time confined to barracks. No one conducted any roll calls and even when the POWs were allowed some freedom of movement, Funfstuck’s men appeared confused and on edge.
But, Jeff also knew that his own men were equally as confused and on edge. And he just didn’t know what more he could do about it. He, for the most part, had tried to keep them clinging to the promise of victory, freedom, and just plain… going home. It was all he could offer them at this point, as everything else that they had wrought here, had come to a crashing halt during the past few months. First they had lost contact with some members of the underground, when the civilians were all released from their jobs in the POWs mess hall. And then the POWs escape route to London had been severed in early March, with no explanation. And with that… all contact was lost with the underground, as the civilians all seemed to just disappear into the woodwork.
And still, it just keeps getting harder and harder, Malone thought as he rubbed his tired eyes with both hands, trying to relieve the stinging. Food and water are becoming scarce. Rationing is now at an almost desperate level. And the Red Cross packages have stopped coming. I really don’t know how much longer I can keep it all together. I’m just lucky the guys are still listening to me. I’m not sure what I’m gonna do if they start balking at my orders. I just hope this war ends before that happens and that I can keep my promise to get them all home safely.
“Captain!” yelled Sergeant Danny Kelso as he barged through the Captain’s door without knocking. “Can you hear it sir?”
“What are you talking about, Kelso?” Malone asked and then turned his attention to the silence emanating from the compound. “I don’t hear anything,” he said dismissively, then stood quickly and made his way out of his office and into the crowd of nervous POWs standing at the main door of barracks five. Silence just isn’t a good thing at this time of the morning. The Germans always drill now, regardless of whether roll calls were happening or not.
As the Senior POW Officer pushed through his men, what he saw in the compound, he almost didn’t believe. The compound was littered with discarded weaponry, uniforms, and equipment. The compound gates were wide open and there wasn’t a German soldier in sight.
“Brighton!” Malone yelled at the first man he saw. “Assemble the barracks commanders. Keep the rest of the men inside until we know what’s going on.”
“Yes sir,” Corporal Brighton answered almost by rote.
Malone turned quickly to another of his men, never even hearing the acknowledgement of his young Corporal. “Johnson,” he called to one of his Lieutenants, but couldn’t help but notice, out of the corner of his eye, that Brighton had not actually moved from his position.
“Didn’t you hear me Corporal?” Malone asked in a clipped angry tone as he turned back to face Brighton, though he couldn’t miss the paralyzing fear in the young man’s face, he had to pause. And thankfully before the Captain could bring himself to say anything more, Ken Stephens, the POWs Physician, appeared out of nowhere and gave young Brighton a gentle unobtrusive shove, that sent him on his way.
Jeff nodded his relieved thanks at Ken, knowing that the doctor always had a better way with the young kids in camp, and was always there to keep his commanding officer from losing his temper in times of stress. Not to mention, being there to support him, especially when Jeff wouldn’t have known what to say to ease the fears of those young kids. Malone had to admit to himself again, that he just didn’t know how he would have survived here, without Ken’s steady friendship to keep him focused.
So after getting a quick understanding nod from Ken in return, Jeff continued with his orders. “Johnson,” he repeated as he turned back to his Lieutenant. “Take enough men with you to check ammunitions storage, the guard’s barracks, as well as the mess and recreation halls. Make that check everywhere and report back here to me. I want to know everything that you see. If it’s safe, leave men stationed in pairs outside each building. No one, but no one, gets in those buildings unless I say so. Put people in the towers too.”
“Yes sir,” Lieutenant Johnson replied.
“Arm yourselves,” Malone continued ordering loudly. “And protect yourselves if need be. But I want no unnecessary gunplay. Understand?”
“Of course Captain,” Johnson assured, quickly selecting his contingent as he made his way through the crowd that had spilled into the compound behind Captain Malone.
“And close the bloody gates,” Malone added calling after Johnson, when he remembered that the gates protected them as well as imprisoned them. And knowing full well that he could open them again if need be.
“Kelso,” he ordered of his ever-present Sergeant before acknowledging any of the barracks’ commanders already gathered around him. “Get these men back inside hut five. Now.”
Malone watched until the men began their retreat into barracks five before looking into his barracks’ commanders’ worried faces. “Wait,” Malone ordered sternly, trying to contain the anxiety he could feel in those around him. “Wait until everyone’s here.”
Malone stood quietly and took another long look around the compound. It certainly looked as if the Germans had deserted. Why? Hell maybe the end is here! Could it be true? After all this time?
When he finally returned his gaze…
Malone found all his barracks’ commanders staring intently at him. “Everyone here?” Malone asked with a quick glance, knowing that he had indeed given them enough time to gather. “What we have here… is what could only described as a conundrum,” Malone began as he used his hand to indicate the equipment littering the compound. “Did the Germans desert?” he asked distracted, almost as if he was talking to himself. “Are they planning something? Is the war over? We’ll need to evaluate everything once Johnson and his men have made their sweep of the grounds. We’ll have to set up patrols. We’ll need to get some communications up and running. We need to see if we can get word on the position of our own forces.”
Malone paused and finally really focused in on the men around him, knowing that he needed to give them something to do now, instead of just waiting for Johnson to return. “But first, we need to make sure the men in each of your barracks know what’s happening. The last thing we need now is panic. At this point it looks to be quiet and that the Germans have indeed deserted. So go back to your barracks. Tell them what you know. I’ll have more information passed on, as soon as I can. Right now it’s more important to keep everyone focused. Okay?”
Surprised, Malone received only dutiful nods before his men dispersed. To him it seemed as if his men were taking all this in stride or at least taking his orders in stride. Only wish I could do the same, he thought as his churning stomach become a tangle of knots. He really didn’t trust what he saw in the compound. And although Jeff Malone certainly couldn’t deny what he saw, he somehow felt that any decisions he made today would make a huge impact on the lives of his men. And he couldn’t shake the feeling that even though the war’s end was near, they may all be in more trouble now than ever before.
“Captain!” Johnson hollered, as he approached from the direction of the Kommandant’s office, barely able to stop his headlong rush as he got to the Captain’s position. “Sir,” he continued out of breath as he came to attention.
“What Johnson?” Malone asked apprehensively as he knew Johnson was generally calm as a cucumber.
“Sorry sir,” Johnson offered. “Funfstuck is in his office with the windows wide open. He’s just sitting at his desk, not moving. Couldn’t be an easier target Captain. I left Billingsly on point. He’s got the bastard in his sights sir. I even think Funfstuck knows that he’s been targeted. He had to hear us take up defensive positions, but he hasn’t moved a muscle. Should we take him out sir?”
“Whoa. Hold your horses Johnson,” Malone ordered. “Is he the only one left?”
“The others are still making their rounds sir,” Johnson reported. “So I’m not really sure. But the Germans are certainly in hiding if they’re still here,” he finished and stood waiting for a response from his commanding officer, who now stood silently staring across the compound at the Kommandant’s office. As Johnson’s own anxiety grew, he was unable to wait any longer for an answer and blurted out, “What should we do sir?”
Malone responded with a curt, “I’m going in to talk to Funfstuck. I need to know what’s going on here. And I’m sure he knows.” He started to walk across the compound as if he expected no dissention from Johnson, but he was wrong.
“Captain! You can’t go in there alone and un-armed,” Johnson said as he caught up and grabbed Malone’s shoulder, pulling him back around to face him. “That’s suicide.”
“Calm down Johnson,” Malone scolded as he slowly removed his arm from Johnson’s grasp. “You said Billingsly has him targeted. And that Funfstuck knows that, right? I’m safe then. The guy could have easily been taking pot shots at us the whole time we’ve been standing in the compound. And he hasn’t. I think he’s waiting for me. And I’m not going to disappoint him.”
Malone put a hand to his Lieutenant’s shoulder. “But I’ll take a pistol with me,” he offered to placate his companion, and took hold of the handgun that the Lieutenant had. “So don’t worry. Okay? Just make sure Billingsly is on his toes.” With that Malone walked away, leaving Johnson speechless, and headed for the Kommandant’s office without a backward glance. As Malone made his way up onto the porch of the Kommandant’s office though, his own insecurities surfaced. As much as he felt that Funfstuck wouldn’t try to shoot him, his logical nature was starting to war with his emotions. But he knew that he could only get the answers he needed from the man sitting in Kommandant’s office. So he resolutely pushed his way into the outer office, holding the pistol at the ready and carefully scanning the room as he entered. Whew. No one’s here.
Okay, he thought as he took a deep breath and made his way slowly to the Kommandant’s door. Although, while standing quietly at the door before making his next move, he heard Funfstuck say… very calmly, “Come in Captain Malone. There is no reason to fear me. It is you that has me at a distinct disadvantage.”
Malone looked at the gun in his hand and in a moment of pure instinct, put it away, by tucking it in his pants, behind his back, and under his bomber jacket. Slowly he opened the office door to find Horst Funfstuck sitting at his desk, with both arms resting palm down on the desk’s blotter. Malone was surprised at how composed the Kommandant was, and thankful, that Funfstuck did not appear remotely threatening.
As Funfstuck watched Malone’s eyes scan the room warily, he said quickly, “I assure you Captain… you have no reason to fear me. I am fully aware of the man you have stationed outside. And I am most certainly aware of how quickly he could pull the trigger of the weapon he has trained on me. So again I assure you Captain… I pose no threat to you -- or your men. And as I’m sure you can easily see, our relationship has now drastically changed. The ball is now fully in your court.”
Malone’s own sensibilities told him not to completely trust the German, but something in his gut was willing to let it go for now, because Funfstuck was right… Billingsly most certainly had the upper hand. And Funfstuck just didn’t appear on edge enough to try anything. But maybe that should make me even more worried. The man appears too calm.
After closing the office door behind him, Malone took only a single step into the office, wanting to keep the entire office in his field of vision, expecting what he didn’t know. “So Major,” Malone began forthrightly. “I’m hoping that what I see around me is not a deception on your part. It certainly appears that your men have deserted.”
“Regardless of what you believe to be apparent, Captain… the obvious truth is that you will find that I am indeed the only German left at Stalag Five. That information I will offer to you openly,” Funfstuck said matter-of-factly.
“Are you implying that there was another reason for your men’s disappearance?” Malone asked skeptically.
“I imply nothing,” Funfstuck offered somewhat defensively.
“So tell me then,” Malone countered. “Why is it that you’re still here?”
“Only to maintain a measure of my own dignity Captain,” Funfstuck began. “As an officer, I will not desert my post. And as the Kommandant of this Stalag, I still have one last duty to perform, a duty that honor demands of me.”
“Impressive Major,” Malone said sarcastically, not really wanting to hear Funfstuck’s reasoning. He just wanted some direct answers to his questions. “So where do we stand? What do you know? Why surrender now? What the hell is this last duty?” the American Captain asked, all his questions just piling on top of one another. He hated the fact that he had to count on the German Major as his only source of information, but he and his men’s entire worldview had been limited to the barbwire that surrounded Stalag Five for far too long. We have certainly felt the consequences of Germany’s impending loss for the past few months. But still no concrete information has ever come our way, only rumors.
“Whether you believe it or not Captain,” Funfstuck offered. “My duty was first and foremost to the men under my command. And most certainly as well, to maintain a secure hold on you and your men until this war had been won - or lost. But it was also to keep you and your men alive and healthy, so you could safely return to your own homes and families.” Funfstuck shook his head negatively. “But now there is no longer any way for me to fulfill my duty… to my men or to yours. The only option left was for me to allow you the freedom to determine your own futures.”
“Determine our own futures? What the hell are you talking about?” Malone asked anxiously.
Funfstuck sighed, “Madness has gripped my country Captain. One can no longer think to accept loss honorably. Death is one’s only option in opposing the madness of one’s superiors.” Funfstuck still not moving at all in his seat, looked deeply into the eyes of his American counterpart. “I know you know that the SS have commandeered many of my men recently. All were sent to the front, most likely only to die in service of this country. The war is over Captain. And if honor reigned, we should have surrendered by now. Instead we send our youngest to die for no reason.”
Funfstuck paused, again allowing himself a deep sigh. “But know Captain, that isn’t all my government has done in its refusal to accept defeat. I know of some Kommandants that have succumb to the will of the SS and allowed many of their prisoners to be taken. Most to be sent on long marches, with no food, no water, no rest. Supposedly to be used as unsuspecting targets for your own bombers or even as hostages against the inevitable surrender.”
Funfstuck paused in dismay at the waste of it all, then continued saying, “It is true madness Captain. So today, I offer you the freedom to choose for yourselves how to best to survive this insanity. You need to know that I have tried to resist the SS in their demands to surrender this camp. But the madness continued unabated and I was given an ultimatum. Tomorrow is the last day I was given to abide by their insane agenda. But as you can see, I am no longer in control of this situation. With my men gone, I can force nothing upon you. I can only offer you the truth. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring. Will the SS come? I do not know. Are you and your men safe staying here to wait on your Allied liberation force? I do not know. Would you be better off beginning your own march from here to find your Allies? I do not know.”
Malone just stood stunned in front of the German Major, his stomach cramping as if Funfstuck had just hit him. “So what do you know?!” he blurted out angrily, his anxiety rising to new heights.
Funfstuck heaved yet another sigh, “I know the war is over Captain. I know that I can no longer stand by and support what my countrymen are doing. I know you and your men have the right to go home to your families in victory. I know that my men deserved the same, even in defeat. I know right from wrong Captain. And what my countrymen have stooped to… is wrong.”
Malone stared into the eyes of his German counterpart, sensing almost a confession of sorts, but yet not. “Are you telling me that all of this,” Malone said using his hands to indicate the German-less compound, “was your idea? And that you ordered your men to leave? Is that what you want me to believe Major?”
Funfstuck stared expressionless at Malone for a brief moment and then began quietly, “I’m not asking you to believe anything Captain. I have only stated the facts as I see them. My men are gone. The SS may come. And you have a decision, as to the disposition of your men, to make. I can no longer do anything more to stop what may happen.”
“So that’s it, huh? We either, stay to fight and die or take flight and die,” Malone accused glaring angrily into the empty, emotionless stare of his German counterpart. Reaching behind his back, he pulled out the handgun concealed there. Pointing it directly at Funfstuck, his finger unwavering on the trigger, he said, “Thanks for the choice Major.” But as Malone went to pull the trigger, his hand froze, almost as if something was stopping him from making that choice. What it was he wasn’t sure, but whatever it was… it had given him a chance to focus.
And Malone couldn’t help but notice that Funfstuck had never flinched when he leveled his weapon at him, almost as if the man had been waiting for that to happen. And right now, Malone could easily see that Funfstuck was clearly poised and ready for the end to come.
Shaking his head, Malone’s own sensibilities returned after he realized that the German had actually done what he could in this situation, by offering them a choice. Not a perfect solution by any means, but it is a choice never the less. There were certainly a lot less pleasant choices that he could have made. He could have easily caved to the SS, but he didn’t. He could have had us all shot, but he didn’t. He could have just deserted without giving us an explanation, but he didn’t. Any of those choices would have given him an easy out. And left us for dead. But here he sits, offering me choices.
Malone decided to offer the German his own choice in return. Waving his weapon toward the door he said, “Let’s go Major. Whether you believe it or not… it’s your lucky day. You get to leave here alive. But it’s got to be now, before I change my mind. So get up. Go home to your own family.”
Funfstuck exhaled heavily and slowly sat back in his office chair. Casually placing his hand in his lap, he took hold of the handgun that he had kept concealed there. “You are an honorable man, Captain. I thank you for my life. But honor demands that I not leave this place. The coward in me had hoped that you would have just followed through with your threat. Dying at your hands would have been true justice and a fitting end. Dying by one’s own hand is of course… the coward’s way out.” Leaning forward, Funfstuck slowly raised his weapon to desk level so Malone could see it, but also kept it close to his body, and he hoped, out of the view of Malone’s men stationed outside.
“Put the gun down Major,” Malone threatened, only he found that it did not come out as a threat… more of a plea.
“No Captain,” Funfstuck said calmly. “My life is forfeit. But I want to again offer you a choice.” Funfstuck fell silent for brief moment, and then continued, “You can leave me to my own devices. And I assure you I will not fail in this endeavor as I failed in my duty to your men - and mine own.” Another sigh. “Or you can offer your men the glory of the kill Captain. All it would take is for me to threaten you with this,” he said with a small twist of the gun in his hand. “No one would be the wiser. You see… I could die with some pretense of honor, and your men will have saved your life. Everyone wins.”
Malone’s first thought was that maybe Billingsly and Johnson could overhear what was happening in the office, but he suspected that neither actually could, having stationed themselves at least 15 yards away, behind the water well to the right of the Kommandant’s window. And Malone knew from his position just inside the door that he would never be able to waive them off in time, as his men’s first instinct would be to shoot.
Malone could see in Funfstuck’s face that the Kommandant knew that as well.
So, reading the commitment in his counterpart’s face, Malone thought next of shooting the gun from the German’s hand. But realized, that even that, would cause his men to react, so he decided on a more passive approach. He put his gun away, raised his hands as if in surrender and tried once again to change the man’s mind. “Come on Major. Put the gun down and we can both come out of this alive.”
Funfstuck’s only reply was, “No.”
Malone was now hoping for an opening to make a grab for Funfstuck’s gun, but knew there probably wouldn’t be one as the man was being very careful. So Malone decided on an even more casual approach. “Let’s talk about this, okay?” he asked, taking a small step forward, only planning to make his way to the chair across the desk from the Kommandant.
But that move proved to be a mistake.
Things from that point on occurred in slow motion for Jeff Malone. The last thing he heard Funfstuck say was, “So you’ve made your choice.” He then watched as Funfstuck quickly raised his gun and pointed it in his direction threateningly. All Jeff heard then was a gunshot. For a brief moment, he expected to feel a bullet from Funfstuck’s gun rip through his gut. Only he felt nothing. He could only stare as Funfstuck’s whole body stiffened and his eyes registered the shocked surprise -- and pain -- of a bullet’s impact.
At first, Malone was not sure where Funfstuck had been hit, but as he stood there, blood began to well from the German’s left temple. Jeff Malone then watched as the man slumped forward, his head landing hard against the desk with such an empty thud that he knew Funfstuck was already dead. “Goddamn it,” Malone yelled, not knowing what else to say. Recovering his senses, he reached the desk to confirm the German’s status, just as his two men reached the window to the office.
“Are you alright sir?” Johnson and Billingsly said almost simultaneously.
Malone never answered right away, as he had a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. Jeff removed the gun still clutched in Funfstuck’s hand. Checking the chamber, he realized that the chamber was empty, and that the gun had not been fired recently. Jeff now knew for sure that Funfstuck had made his choice long before he’d arrived in his office today. The German wanted to die, with some dignity, at the hands of the enemy, but not before fulfilling what he felt was his final duty.
So… to die well. Was that what this was all about Major? Well, never fear. You did do just that.
Malone’s thoughts were interrupted by another worried ‘Are you alright sir?’
And you can die on your own terms, Malone thought as he put the Major’s empty gun in his jacket’s pocket before he turned to his men and finally said, “Yeah. I’m fine. He never got a shot off. Good work Billingsly. You saved my hide.”
So in the Libyan fable it is told
That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,
Said when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
"With our own feathers, not by others' hands, are we now smitten."
AEschylus: Fragm. 123 (Plumptre's Translation).
To be continued…
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.