The Ties that Bind by boasamishipper
Summary: In a strange turn of events, Private Tully Pettigrew is captured on a mission and sent to Stalag 13, rumored to be one of the toughest POW camps in Germany. The guards are fierce, the punishments are ruthless, and no prisoner has ever escaped. But is everything what it seems?
Author's Note: Hi, everyone! Sorry for the delay, but I'm pleased to welcome you back to another chapter of The Ties that Bind. It's mostly a transitional chapter this time, but things are starting to heat up and I'm really excited to see where things go from here. Shoutout to snowleopard13 and We'retheDesperateMeasures-ODST for their follows, klester1987c for their favorite, and Meg, 2lieutenant, and snowleopard13 for their reviews. You guys rock!
Disclaimer: I am not nor have I ever been in the military, so some of the procedures described may not be accurate. The German used in this chapter comes straight from Google Translate, so I can't be sure regarding its preciseness. And although it pains me, I unfortunately do not own Rat Patrol or Hogan's Heroes. I'm just playing, with love and respect to those who brought these characters to life.
"You walk cool, but darlin', can you walk the line / And face the ties that bind…"
Private Andy Collins had been sent over from Sergeant Simmons' unit yesterday, and neither group seemed too happy with the current arrangement. Hitch couldn't really blame Moffitt and Troy for not giving Collins the time of day—Moffitt had been quieter than normal since their visit to Dietrich and Sarge was stressing himself out trying to write a letter to Tully's mother, saying it was his responsibility even though Captain Boggs had already offered. That left it up to Hitch to make friends with the kid.
Collins was from Chicago. He was nineteen, barely a year younger than Hitch himself. He had auburn hair and a smattering of freckles across his nose, and, to differentiate himself even further from the man he'd replaced, he never stopped talking. Not while driving, not while on a mission. He even muttered to himself when no one was listening. It was apparently driving Moffitt up a wall, and Hitch couldn't blame the sergeant one bit.
Two days after Collins' arrival, they were sent on a mission to steal some microfilm from a German HQ in the middle of nowhere. Troy and Moffitt had snuck in to steal it while Hitch and Collins were ordered to stay behind and act as getaway drivers when the moment arrived. The two of them sat in silence on the hood of Hitch's jeep for a while before Collins spoke up. "Say, Hitch?"
Hitch popped a piece of bubble gum in his mouth, bracing himself for another rambling anecdote or lengthy question. "Yeah?"
"Who was the guy that I replaced?"
His head snapped up and he looked slowly over at Collins, sizing him up. "His name is Tully Pettigrew," he finally said. He refused to mention Tully in the past tense; if there was still a chance that his friend was alive then he wasn't about to tempt fate. "He's a private like me and you."
"Oh." Collins blinked. "My CO told me he got killed."
"He's not dead," he snapped. His throat was so tight that he was kind of surprised any words had managed to escape at all. "He's just—missing. MIA. He'll come back." He has to.
"Right," Collins said. He didn't sound like he believed him; not that Hitch expected him to. But instead of pushing the matter further, he just brushed some sand off his face and said, "Did you meet each other here?"
Hitch shook his head. "Commando training." The anger that had flared up in his gut so recently was now fading away, and he cast his thoughts back like a fishing line through time. "We both enlisted after Dunkirk," he said, neglecting to mention his parents' reactions when they found out he dropped out of Yale to enlist in the army. They'd threatened to cut him out of their wills, but he'd remained steadfast. He could count on the fingers of one hand how many letters they'd sent him since he'd been deployed. "Got sent to commando training in Texas and became friends from there."
"I was sent to commando training in Texas too," Collins revealed. "I enlisted a year after Dunkirk, though. Probably missed you and Pettigrew by a bit." He stretched his arms over his head, reawakening stiff muscles. "What's he like?"
"Quiet. Smart. Funny. Best jeep driver this side of the desert—no offense." Collins held his hands up to show that no offense was taken. "I always trusted him to watch my back." He looked down at the gun in his lap. "He got taken by the Gestapo when we were on a mission recently." He chuckled, but it was without any humor. "I don't know if he's still alive, actually. All we've got is hope."
"Yeah, well," Collins said, clapping a hand to Hitch's shoulder. "A little hope never killed anyone, right?"
Hitch smiled despite himself. "Right."
He still missed Tully like hell, but maybe this kid wasn't so bad after all.
Over the past couple of years, Tully thought he had seen it all. He'd broken out of prisoner of war camps, impersonated German soldiers, held people hostage, and was part of a unit with a reputation for accomplishing six impossible things before breakfast could be served in the mess hall — but when Olsen had told him that Colonel Hogan had wanted to see him, he hadn't thought that it would lead to a conversation like this.
It was amazing how much a no-escape record hid. Secret tunnels beneath the camp. Docile guard dogs. Constant reconnaissance missions. A bug in Klink's office. Sneaking out soldiers in Tully's situation to other POW camps or back to England, where they resumed fighting. And all under the nose of the Gestapo, the Luftwaffe and the Iron Colonel himself. It was enough to make anyone a bit lightheaded, and he suspected that was why Hogan had insisted that he sit down before beginning the meeting.
Lord, and here I thought that we were all that, he thought, shaking his head in disbelief. Colonel Hogan and his crew make us look like a bunch of amateurs, and they've been playing the kommandant like a fiddle this whole time.
"...and that's what we're trying to accomplish here, Tully," Hogan was saying. Tully sat up straight, forcing his shell-shocked brain to return to the conversation and stop thinking of what Troy and Moffitt and Hitch would say if they knew what was going on here. "I want you to think carefully before you make your decision. Do you understand the risks involved?"
He'd have to be an idiot to ignore the risks of what these prisoners were doing, but he simply nodded and said, "Yes sir."
"If you don't feel you're up to this, we can arrange for a transfer to another camp where you won't have this kind of responsibility. Where you can just be a regular POW. Or we can help you escape to England, if that's what you want."
Wait. Was the colonel asking him—was he being asked to be a part of their operation? It made sense in a way. Hogan had said that he'd had Kinch (who apparently operated their communications systems in the tunnels below) radio London and look into him, and he'd talked to Olsen, so they definitely knew of his ability to throw a wrench into German operations.
And what if he did stay here? He didn't speak German well enough to accompany Hogan and the members of his main crew (Carter, Newkirk, Kinchloe, LeBeau — all of whom had probably been sizing him up his first night in the barracks) outside the fence, but he could learn. He could be a getaway driver, be a silent spy. He could help destroy the cause of the war at its roots.
He could stay here. He didn't have to go back. But even as Tully considered the opportunity before him, he knew he ought to turn it down. Hitch and Troy and Moffitt didn't deserve to forever wonder why and how he'd disappeared off the face of the earth. They were probably worried sick about him—and they were his friends, the closest ones he had. He couldn't do that to them. And he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he chose to stay here and his friends got killed when he couldn't watch their backs.
"Colonel, I really admire what y'all are doing here." Tully let out a breathy laugh at that understatement. Admiration didn't cover it; he was utterly blown away. "And I appreciate your offer, don't get me wrong, but I have to get back to my side of the war." He stuffed his hands in his pockets and gazed at the colonel imploringly. "I know you've sent soldiers back to England and other POW camps before, but is there any way to get me back to North Africa?"
When Hogan didn't reply for several seconds, Tully worried that he'd gone too far, but then the colonel spoke. "I've never had to get someone to North Africa," he began. The ball of hope that had started to form in Tully's gut withered. "But I'll see what I can do. I'll have Kinch radio London tonight."
"Thank you, Colonel."
Hogan waved him off. "Don't thank me yet," he warned, but Tully couldn't stop himself from grinning. Maybe he could get out of this situation alive after all.
Mrs. Sarah Pettigrew
122 Farmdale Rd
Clay County, Kentucky
Dear Mrs. Pettigrew:
My name is Sergeant Sam Troy of the Long Range Desert Group. Over the past year and a half, I have been your son's commanding officer, and the duty of writing this letter has fallen to me. Eleven days ago Tully was declared MIA after he disappeared on a mission. I understand that you've probably received a telegram from the Army by now, but I figured I'd do the courtesy of telling you in person.
I don't know if Tully is dead or alive, but I promise you that no matter how long it takes, the rest of the unit and I will do our absolute best to figure out what happened to him and, if possible, bring him home. You have my word.
I'll write you again when I have more news.
This paperwork was enough to drive a lesser man mad. Ever since he'd returned from North Africa with the American soldier that he'd given to Klink, he had been stuck at his desk writing reports and filing paperwork. Never mind that he had been in Tunisia on the orders of the Fuhrer's personal staff—General Burkhalter would probably send him to the Russian Front if he left his paperwork undone for another day.
Hochstetter put down his glass of brandy, sighing. Sometimes he regretted that he'd given the American to Klink before he could interrogate him at Gestapo Headquarters. Even a private was bound to have useful information, and if the North Africa campaign would end in victory for the Axis Powers based on Hochstetter's ingenuity, he would probably be promoted to general. But he sensed that the time for that had passed, even if he took Pettigrew out of Stalag 13 now.
His gaze shifted between a letter that his secretary had brought in yesterday and the remaining stacks of paperwork on his desk—the decision was an easy one. Using the letter opener nearest him, he tore open the envelope and began reading.
I would like to once more extend my thanks for visiting my troops in Tunisia recently—I believe that your presence raised morale in more ways than one, and my men are now more ready to fight against the Allies than ever. (I do regret that your visit ended with such commotion, however; is the American that you captured still alive or did you dispose of him?)
I wish you luck with your work and I hope that we both come out of our respective campaigns with ease.
Hauptmann Hans Dietrich
He had not expected to hear from Dietrich so soon, if at all; nor did he expect the captain to ask after Pettigrew. He certainly wouldn't care if Hogan was taken out of Germany. Perhaps all of that time in the desert had made Dietrich soft, and that would not do. Not at all. He took out a fresh piece of paper and began to write back.
I am always willing to help the cause, no matter the distance from the Fatherland. Good luck in Tunisia, and do not worry about the American. He has been disposed of.
Major Wolfgang Hochstetter
He set the paper aside, satisfied. Good, he thought. Now to make this a reality.
Klink had ended roll call early to answer an important phone call from Hochstetter, which had interrupted Hogan's favorite part of the colonel's morning speech (how they'd be fools to try to go against him and Stalag 13). Nevertheless, he'd herded everyone back into the barracks and told Carter, Newkirk, Kinch, and LeBeau to set up the coffee pot. As an afterthought, he invited Tully too. He was willing to bet a week of hot showers that Hochstetter's phone call had something to do with the kid.
LeBeau stood guard by the door, and Tully leaned against the wall, fiddling with the zipper of the jacket that Olsen had loaned him. Newkirk was teasing Carter about how badly he'd lost at cards last night, and Hogan signaled for everyone to be quiet when Kinch looked up and gestured that the coffee pot was connected.
"—Herr Major, I don't understand," Klink was saying. "Why do you want to remove Pettigrew now?" Wordlessly, everyone turned to look at Tully, whose face paled considerably at the sound of his name. "Under my leadership there have been no incidents here and—"
"Klink, I did not call to listen to you brag about yourself!" Hochstetter snapped. "Your Stalag may have an excellent reputation but since I cannot say the same about its kommandant, I believe that Private Pettigrew would be better situated at Stalag 8 under the watch of Major von Scherbach."
"Major von Scherbach?" Klink repeated, sounding more stunned than angry. Hogan bet that his monocle was in danger of falling off. "But Herr Major—"
"Enough! I will be at Stalag 13 in three days to collect Pettigrew, and I do not want to be accosted with more whining when I arrive. Heil Hitler."
After Klink hung up the phone, Hogan felt rather than saw everyone look at him for guidance. Tully looked more confused than frightened, and Hogan was suddenly reminded that the private wasn't fluent in German like most of the men in the barracks were by now. "Seems you'll be leaving camp sooner than expected," he commented. "Major Hochstetter wants to take you to Stalag 8."
A bit of color returned to Tully's face. "What's Stalag 8 like?"
"Not great," Newkirk told him. That was a bit of an understatement. They'd gotten several escapees from Stalag 8 over the years and if there was one thing their stories had in common, it was that Major von Scherbach was fearsome enough to make even Hochstetter proud. That Stalag actually deserved the reputation that Stalag 13 had—fierce guards, ruthless punishments and all. "This place is a bloody hotel in comparison."
Hogan turned to Kinch. "Any word from London about getting Tully to North Africa?"
"They say he can hitch a ride there on a supply plane, but it leaves on Friday." Friday. That was five days from now, and it would take at least two days to get Tully to London... Damn. "What should we do, Colonel?"
"We could have him hide in the tunnels," Newkirk suggested.
Tully shook his head. "I have a feeling the major would tear the camp apart looking for me, 'specially after all the trouble he went through to bring me here."
"Maybe you ought to fake your death," Carter put in.
Newkirk gaped at Carter like he'd taken leave of his senses. "You can't be serious, Andrew. That has to be the—"
Hogan held up his hand for quiet. "Say that again, Carter." Carter repeated himself, and he nodded, his brain working overtime and formulating different possible situations. It would be difficult to pull off, but not impossible. They could make it work. He turned to look at Tully, who also appeared to be taking this idea into consideration. "How do you feel about taking a temporary trip to the other side, Tully?"
A quicksilver grin. "Hope the grass is greener over there, sir."
Hogan grinned too. The energy in the room was infectious, and the jazz of planning another mission was already pumping through his veins. "Alright, gents," he said. "Let's give this a shot."