Notes: This was written for the 2017 Short Story Speedwriting Challenge; the prompt I chose was "Funny-it doesn't seem like it's ten o'clock."
Newkirk gave along, unblinking stare at his watch as he silently tried to will the hands to move forward.
No such luck.
He let out a quiet grumble.
"Stop that," a French accent beside him grumbled. "All that complaining only makes this worse!"
"You ain't exactly casting a ray of sunshine upon us, Little Mate," Newkirk returned. "Blimey, 'ere I was thinking there'd be an amount of danger and intrigue, and instead we're out in the ruddy cold, waiting on some dim-witted general to get off 'is drunken backside long enough for us to raid the safe of 'is 'otel room!"
"You are telling what I already know," LeBeau chided. "I have been sitting here with you for the past two hours, in the freezing cold, in these bushes!"
"Two hours?" a third voice on Newkirk's other side asked. "Gosh, that means it's ten! Funny – it doesn't seem like it's ten o'clock."
Newkirk gave him a long stare now.
"Thank you, Andrew, for reassuring us that you can tell time," he said, at last.
"Well, excuse me for staying positive," Carter whispered, with a shrug. "We're here, on a mission; I thought we might as well make the best of it. It really hasn't felt like we've been here that long; maybe if you guys lightened up."
"You ask me to 'lighten up' when I was dragged from me freezing-cold bunk to this even more freezing-cold batch of shrubbery?"
"Louis and I are here, too," Carter pointed out.
"Because you volunteered us!" LeBeau hissed back, icily.
"Well, I didn't mean to," Carter whispered, trying to defend himself. "I mean, come on, you know how Colonel Hogan is. He asks for 'volunteers' and then does everything short of twisting your arm to get you to 'volunteer.' You two would've ended up out here whether I'd said anything or not, and you know it!"
The two corporals exchanged glances. Yes, they knew it—but they weren't about to admit it. They sat in silence some more, and Carter just shrugged.
At last, something began to happen in the room; the silhouette of the general now appeared to be gathering things. He was swaying slightly, but eventually left the room and locked it behind him, singing boisterously.
The trio, seeing this unfold, exchanged glances again and simultaneously nodded, leaping into action. After making sure the coast was clear; Carter tossed up a grappling hook, which secured itself to a piece of metal grating. The sergeant tested it a few times, and nodded; it would hold their weight. Newkirk nodded back.
"Alright, Louis," he said. "Andrew and I will use this grappling line to get into the room; you keep an eye on things down 'ere and pull that line down if need be. And for pity's sake, if you've got to warn us about something, warn us in English, will you? We might not be able to afford the time for a mental translation."
Satisfied, Newkirk turned to Carter and nodded. Carter clambered up the rope first, opened the window of the general's room, and crept in. Newkirk was next, and once he was inside, looked over the room and headed to the safe.
"Think you can get that open?" Carter asked.
"May take a few more minutes than I'd like, but the answer is yes," Newkirk determined. "Keep watch by the door, won't you?"
"Right," Carter said, and he headed there, pausing to listen if anyone was going to approach them. Satisfied that the coast was clear for now, he signaled to Newkirk.
The Englishman nodded and started getting to work on the safe. It was a different model than what he was used to, so it was slow going—but steady.
Time ticked by, but at what seemed like a drop of molasses from a bottle, in spite of how fast Newkirk tried to work. He ignored the perspiration breaking out on his face and continued trying to focus on the tumblers of the safe. He couldn't afford to get distracted by anything else… except for one thing—
"Pierre! Andre!" LeBeau quietly yelped from outside.
Newkirk indicated Carter to answer him; the American crossed to the window.
"The general! He has come back!" LeBeau warned. "And he is going back inside the hotel!"
"Is he coming back to this room!?" Carter asked, his eyes going wide.
"I did not ask him," LeBeau said, sardonically. "You had best come back here now! Quickly!"
"Tell him I've almost got the ruddy thing cracked," Newkirk threw over his shoulder. "I can't leave it now!"
"I heard him!" LeBeau hissed. "Pierre, you fool-!"
"Look, Andrew, you go on out the window," Newkirk said. "I'll be out of 'ere in two shakes…" He trailed off as he got the safe open. "Go!"
Carter clambered out the window but clung onto the rope, watching as Newkirk quickly took a few photographs of the battle plans and put them back in the safe as loud, drunken singing emanated from the corridor. Newkirk had been heading for the window just as the key turned in the room door's lock.
Cursing under his breath, Newkirk slid under the bed, and Carter clambered down, out of the line of sight of the window. He cast a worried glance at LeBeau, who glanced back up at the sergeant with a look of exasperated worry.
As Carter dared to take a peek, he saw the drunken general, still singing, place a bottle of schnapps on his bedside table and begin to undo his uniform. He was going to sleep—and with Newkirk and the incriminating film right under the bed.
Carter quickly rappelled down the rope and unhooked the grappling hook, much to LeBeau's ire.
"What are you doing!?" the Frenchman hissed.
"Figuring out a way for Peter to get out of there," Carter replied, getting into the bushes beside LeBeau. He pitched his voice to a falsetto and called up, "Liebschen?"
"Have you taken leave of your senses!?" LeBeau hissed, but Carter shushed him.
"Shh, just trust me," he whispered, and he called up to the window again. "Liebschen? Hallooo, Liebschen?"
The general leaned out of the window, inquiring who it was. Carter responded by pulling his sleeve up and sticking his arm out of the bushes, beckoning the general with his finger.
"I just had to see you again, Liebschen," he squeaked. "You remember me, yes? The young heiress you met at the Hofbrau?"
"Hmm? Oh, ja! Ja! Come out of the bushes, Fraulein!"
"Oh, I can't do that! Someone might see me here!" Carter responded, sounded affronted. "They would tell my Papa that I was hiding in the bushes, speaking to a man in his room! No, we must meet respectfully! Come to the lobby of the hotel, I will meet with you there! Do hurry, Liebschen; I have to go back soon, and I have something important to tell you! It simply cannot wait!"
The general quickly buttoned up his uniform, grabbed the bottle of schnapps from the bedside table, and tottered out the door of the hotel room. Within seconds, Carter sent the grappling hook up again, and Newkirk had practically jumped out of the window onto it, and clambered down as though the room had been set afire. They took the rope and ran, heading back in the direction of camp.
"Andrew," Newkirk said. "Sometimes, you're a ruddy menace. But you're an invaluable ruddy menace."
"You're welcome!" Carter responded, cheerily.
And he listened with a smile on his face as LeBeau launched into a bilingual chiding of Newkirk for taking such a risk.
It was just another night for the Unsung Heroes—an unpredictable existence… but rarely dull.