Title: Sticks and Stones
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Summary: A Gestapo officer's strange agenda involves Colonel Hogan.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. I'm just playing with them.
Colonel Robert Hogan, senior prisoner of war in the German POW camp Stalag Thirteen, leaned one shoulder against the window frame and sighed. Light snow had begun falling outside Barracks Two, softening the harsh landscape of the camp, but the drifting white flakes barely registered on his awareness.
He was bored. Bored out of his mind. It had been over two weeks since London or the underground had called upon him and his men to perform a covert operation, and the welcome respite had changed to dull routine.
The place actually feels like a POW camp lately, Hogan mused, without humor.
With a quiet sigh, he turned from the bleak window view to give his men an appraising glance. Corporal Peter Newkirk of the British RAF was engaged in a game of cards with their resident Frenchman, Corporal Louis LeBeau. Sergeant Andrew Carter was propped up on his bunk, preoccupying himself with a crossword puzzle. None of them looked the least bit interested in what they were doing, and Hogan sympathized. He too was tired of sitting around, thinking and wondering.
Newkirk and LeBeau actually started when Sergeant James Ivan Kinchloe emerged from their secret tunnel system, by way of the hidden entrance beneath one of the bunks. Hogan chuckled. At times in the past few days, even he had almost forgotten that they had a tunnel.
"Carter, watch the door. What's the word, Kinch?" Hogan asked the black man, who had been minding the radio equipment down below.
"We've finally got ourselves something to do." Kinch handed over a sheet of paper on which was scrawled a message. "A German scientist named Stroheim is defecting, and we're supposed to process him through here."
"Wow. This one's in on atomic research." Hogan began pacing thoughtfully. "The Krauts are going to knock their heads together for a while trying to find this one. We may have to keep him in our basement a few days before we ship him out… At least the rendezvous is a chance to get out of camp." He turned to Kinch. "Radio London back, and tell them we'll pick up Stroheim tonight."
"Yes sir." Kinch started back down into the tunnel.
Hogan picked up his cap from the table and headed for the door. "I think I'll just saunter on over and sound out our beloved Kommandant's agenda for the evening. We need a surprise bed check like we need a hole in the head."
"That's exactly what we'll get if he does pop in and finds any of us missing," Newkirk murmured.
Chuckling grimly, Hogan stepped out into the snow.
When Hogan arrived at the office of Colonel Wilhelm Klink, the Kommandant was sitting at his desk, fretting over a six-inch stack of paperwork.
Middle-aged, tall, and trimly built, Klink possessed the appearance of a bureaucrat. He was almost entirely bald, and wore a monocle in his left eye. He made up for his unimposing appearance with the most powerful set of lungs in the Third Reich; he was a loud man, who often shouted to give an impression of authority. It rarely worked.
He was in a bad mood today. "What do you want, Hogan? Can't you see I'm terribly busy?"
Hogan nonchalantly dropped his cap on the desk and reached for Klink's humidor. "Oh, yes sir. As a matter of fact, that's exactly what I wanted to talk to you about."
Klink looked up, and promptly swatted Hogan's hand away from his cigars. "What are you talking about?" he snapped, glowering suspiciously at the senior POW.
The American gave him a one-shouldered shrug. "The men and I are starting to worry about how hard you're working."
"A likely story."
Hogan took a deep breath, and launched into his hyperbole. "It's true, sir! The men all admire your kindness and your compassion, and they have nothing but admiration for how hard you work to make their lives as prisoners of war a little better. But look at you! You've been working so hard for our benefit, you're starting to neglect yourself. You're not even eating right—"
"Hogan, I had an excellent lunch only an hour ago!" Klink retorted.
"Oh, yeah, prison food. Do you honestly think that's good enough to keep a strong, fit man like you healthy?"
"Besides, that's not your only problem. You're working so hard, you'll tire yourself out. And you need a change of scenery! The only thing worse for a man's health than overwork is overwork in a monotonous environment. I mean, here you are, staring at these four walls day after day…"
"Hogan." Klink raised one hand for silence, rubbing his temple with the other, and Hogan suppressed a smile. The Kommandant was now psychologically ripe for suggestion.
"You may be right, Hogan. I have been working too hard. I should take a little time to relax."
"Absolutely right. What you need is to go out for a real dinner tonight. Enjoy yourself! Then come back and get a good night's sleep."
"That's an excellent idea." Klink paused, giving Hogan a suddenly suspicious look. "But why do you care?"
"Because the men and I don't want to lose our beloved, caring Kommandant to a stress-induced heart attack, sir!"
That was the clincher. Klink grimaced uneasily, placing a hand on his chest, then slowly nodded. "I see, Hogan. Well, not to worry. You can assure your men that I intend to give myself plenty of proper rest from this moment on!"
"I'm glad to hear it, sir." Hogan rose, picked up his cap, and headed for the door. Upon opening it, he nearly collided with the immense bulk of Sergeant Hans Schultz.
"Hiya, Schultz," Hogan greeted, backpedaling quickly lest he bounce off the rotund German's stomach. A flip remark was on the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed it back as he read Schultz's anxious expression. "What's up?"
Schultz waddled up to Klink's desk, ignoring the American. "Herr Kommandant," he stammered, "you have a visitor. A Gestapo man is here!"
Klink shot out of his chair. "Gestapo! Hochstetter?" Major Wolfgang Hochstetter, while not the most proficient of secret police agents, had been a thorn in both his and Hogan's sides for a long time.
"Nein, Herr Kommandant."
"That's worse then," Hogan observed obliquely, folding his arms.
Klink scowled at him. "What could the Gestapo want now? Things have been running perfectly!"
Without waiting for an answer, he bolted for the door, followed by Schultz. Hogan shrugged and went after them. As he stepped onto the porch, he saw Kinch, Newkirk, LeBeau, and Carter emerge from Barracks Two, aware of the impending visitor.
The snow had stopped falling, and prisoners and Germans alike now watched as a long black staff car pulled up in front of the Kommandant's office. Two black-clad Gestapo aides spilled out and opened the car door for their superior, a major.
Hogan appraised the officer thoughtfully. He was a tall, pale man with a crooked mouth, unreflecting ice-blue eyes, and a long scar on his left temple. He moved with glacial grace, and his gaze wandered little before fixing itself upon the Kommandant.
A silently frantic Klink lurched into his hospitality mode, without even knowing the Gestapo officer's name. "Welcome to Stalag Thirteen, Major! It's always a pleasure to receive distinguished visitors. I'm afraid I wasn't informed that you would be coming—"
"I am Major Frolich," the man interrupted, rolling his eyes almost imperceptibly. He had a quiet, steady voice that was filled with authority—and an undercurrent of tempered steel. "You are Colonel Klink, the Kommandant, ja?"
"Yes sir, I most certainly am. May I ask what brings you to my humble stalag? Anything I can do to assist you in any way will be—"
"That is all I needed to hear." Frolich's gaze shifted, slowly passing over a wide-eyed Sergeant Schultz, then lighting on Hogan with a look of cold deliberation. "This is your senior prisoner of war?"
"Hogan, Robert E.," Hogan answered for himself, cutting Klink off. He locked gazes with Frolich, trying to discern some glimmer of intent, but the man's blue eyes were an empty void.
Frolich let the mutual gaze linger for a moment, in a manner that almost seemed patiently tolerant. Then his attention snapped back to Klink, who physically flinched.
"This man is under arrest. The Gestapo wishes to question him."
Hogan's heart skipped a beat. In front of Barracks Two, his men gasped and exchanged horrified glances.
"Question him?" Klink repeated. "For what reason? The man is a prisoner! He's already been questioned thoroughly and repeatedly by myself as well as the Gestapo, and…" His mouth snapped shut as Frolich lanced him with a stare.
"The Gestapo does not explain its reasons to jailers," Frolich said slowly, in a moderate, conversational tone that terrified Klink more than any degree of shouting. "The very fact that you seem so concerned for this prisoner inclines me to question you as well. Do not further convince me."
"Yes, sir," Klink whimpered, giving Hogan a pained glance. "Of course. I will be glad to release him to you. But… when, Major, shall I… expect him back?"
Frolich's eyes narrowed. "That will depend on Colonel Hogan's stamina. But you may rest assured, he will be restored to you… or whatever is left of him." He turned to his aides. "Take Colonel Hogan into custody."
The two men stepped forward to take Hogan by the arms, but he shook them off. "I'll go myself, thank you very much." He glanced over to his men, drawing in a deep breath.
"Take care of things," he said firmly.
The rest of the men stared back at him in shock, but Kinchloe raised his hand in a small salute. Hogan responded in kind, then turned and stepped into Major Frolich's car.
The long car ride was none too pleasant—especially after Hogan's hands were cuffed behind his back, and a blindfold pulled over his eyes. It was an irrelevant gesture. He knew precisely where the Gestapo headquarters in Dusseldorf were located. The challenge that lay ahead of him was to keep them from finding that out… along with about a million other things.
In spite of what he faced, his worry was for his men. He desperately hoped they would stick to the night's planned mission instead of coming after him. They had to know by now that he would find some way to return alive, if not without some bruises, from this latest interrogation.
Yet there was something about this man Frolich that set his nerves on edge. An intelligence, a cunning that was frighteningly familiar—because, somehow, it mirrored his own.
When the ride was finally over, Hogan was dragged from the car and led up a short flight of low, broad steps, then through a doorway and into a building. A few hallways followed; Hogan memorized the turns they took, for future reference. At last, somewhat to his surprise, he was led into a quiet, carpeted room and roughly thrown down onto a cushioned seat. The guards left, and the door clicked shut behind them.
He lay quietly for a few brief moments. Despite the blindfold and the complete silence, scent and touch gave him clues to use in orienting himself. He decided he was in some kind of office—and an unusually nice one, for the Gestapo.
The door opened again just as he was making an effort to sit up straight.
"Welcome to my sanctum, Colonel Hogan." The smooth, hard voice was Frolich's. The blindfold was pulled away, and Hogan blinked in the sudden brightness. After a few moments, he could see well enough to realize he had been correct about the nature of his environment.
The room was small, windowless, perfunctory but comfortable, colored in muted grays. He was sitting on a sofa. Adjacent to it stood an immaculate desk and a well-stocked bookshelf—but what caught Hogan's eye was the large glass case taking up most of the wall to his right. It contained an impressive array of katanas, tantos, shuriken, and other blades of traditional Japanese design.
"Presents from your allies?" Hogan remarked wryly. This earned him a backhanded blow across the mouth, delivered by one of Frolich's two thugs.
"Patience," Frolich said quietly to the guard. Then he turned and sauntered closer to the display case, giving his collection a fawning glance. "A hobby, let us say. Two things I admire of the Japanese. They create weapons as beautiful as they are lethal… and they respect honor."
"Funny, a Gestapo agent talking about honor."
"I might yet surprise you, Hogan." Frolich folded his arms. "I believe in honor. And I suspect you have a fairly strong sense of it as well. You Americans call it duty, but essentially it is the same."
Hogan was tiring of the psychological waltz. "Hogan, Robert E., Colonel. Serial number—"
"Now, now, Colonel. We would both prefer you to say nothing at all rather than things we both know. Stand up."
In reply, Hogan rolled his eyes to one side and set his jaw. Frolich sighed and gestured to one of the guards, who yanked Hogan to his feet.
"Remove the handcuffs," Frolich ordered. The other guard stepped behind Hogan, and a moment later the handcuffs fell away. Rubbing his wrists, he gazed warily at Frolich, allowing a question in his eyes but nothing more.
"We both know you are helpless. Later, when you are in pain and I offer a reprieve, I want you to remember the comfort which I first allowed you."
"I know the routine," Hogan murmured. "Save your breath. I don't feel any more like talking to you than I did to the dozen other dipschnitzels who've given me this song and dance."
"Perhaps. But I shall see for myself." Frolich sat down on the sofa. "Let us begin with the munitions factory explosion in Gelsenkirchen last month…"
In the tunnel beneath Stalag Thirteen, Sergeant Kinchloe sat forlornly at the table that housed his radio equipment. Hours after his first report to London that Colonel Hogan had been arrested, their superiors had finally responded, with orders that were no comfort.
On the other side of the man-made cavern, Corporal Newkirk was restlessly treading a groove in the bare dirt floor. Kinch sighed and gazed across his radio set at the Englishman. "Sit down, Newkirk. You're makin' me dizzy."
With a woebegone expression, Newkirk stopped pacing and sat down, only to begin anxiously twisting his hands in his lap. "It's not right, Kinch, and you know it. You saw that bloody Gestapo man—you saw the look in his eyes. He's going to kill Colonel Hogan!"
"Not if the Colonel can help it, and knowing him, there's a good chance he can." Kinch shook his head. "I know how you feel, but you heard the reply London just gave us. Our top priority is to get this guy Stroheim. And even if it wasn't an order from London… it's an order from Colonel Hogan."
"It's what he said before they took him away. 'Take care of things.' Don't you get it? He was talking about the job to pick up Stroheim."
Newkirk dropped his gaze. "That's a hard order to handle, Kinch, but… you read the Colonel better'n me." He shrugged sadly. "When do we leave?"
Kinch glanced at his watch. "It's nearly lights-out upstairs. We go just as soon as LeBeau and Carter get back and give us the all-clear." He had sent them topside to scout for any extra guards or other surprises.
"Right." Newkirk stood up slowly, his lips twisted into a worried frown. "This Kraut egghead better be worth it."
Kinch frowned. "Colonel Hogan will be okay, Peter. If he's managed to keep our hides out of trouble all this time, taking care of himself oughta be easy."
Although he nodded resolutely, Newkirk didn't look any more convinced than Kinch felt.
The interrogation was everything Hogan had expected.
He was handcuffed to a hard metal chair. Time eventually became nonexistent, but he felt sure the questioning proceeded for hours. Frolich did not once look him in the eye or touch him; it was the guards who delivered the punishment for flip remarks, denials, and sheer refusal to answer questions. Hogan had to admit they were skilled. They knew how to inflict an amazing amount of pain, and they did it without causing a great deal of physical damage—but it was not lost upon him that the guard at his right delivered decidedly weaker blows than his partner.
Hogan fixed his concentration on fantasies of killing Frolich, in a multitude of creative ways.
An unexpected reprieve finally came when Frolich's telephone rang. Gesturing for the guards to back away from Hogan, Frolich moved to his desk and picked up the receiver.
"Major Frolich speaking… Ah, Major Hochstetter…"
The name penetrated Hogan's haze of exhaustion and pain. He tilted his head in a furtive effort to observe Frolich's expressions.
"Ja, Herr Major, I did. He is here… What?" A scowl spread across Frolich's face. "Ja… Ja… Very well, Major. As you wish."
"I think you're in trouble," Hogan rasped, tasting a thin film of blood on his lip. One of the guards raised a hand to strike him, but Frolich intervened.
"Nein, leave him alone. I have new instructions regarding this man." Folding his arms behind his back, Frolich gave Hogan a direct gaze. "You seem to hold the interest of a particularly nasty colleague of mine."
"Wicked Wolfie Hochstetter? Sure. We're old pals."
To Hogan's surprise, Frolich chuckled quietly. "Colonel Hogan, you are a most refreshing specimen. I truly wish I could keep you for my own amusement… but this annoying little man Hochstetter seems to consider you his own personal plaything." He grunted disdainfully.
"Well, what do you know… Hochstetter to the rescue."
"Hardly. He wishes to supervise your interrogation, not to stop it. However, it does mean you will be given respite until he arrives in the morning." Frolich gestured for the guards to remove Hogan's handcuffs.
His upper body was a solid mass of soreness, but Hogan slowly stood up by himself. Frolich stepped close to him, giving him an appraising look.
"My compliments on your high threshold of pain, Colonel. You just might die without breaking."
Hogan squinted at Frolich, through a swollen left eye that was quickly taking on the darkness of a bruise. "I don't think I'll do either."
Frolich's pale eyes darkened with cold malice. In one swift, sweeping movement, he caught Hogan's left wrist and twisted his arm, with such force that Hogan was physically wrenched against the Gestapo officer's chest.
The accompanying pain was exquisite.
Despite the power of his will, Hogan's muscles gave way to the onslaught, and he slumped to the floor as Frolich let go of him. New agony exploded through his body as a boot impacted once, then again, with his ribs. After that, mercifully, he felt nothing more.
Dressed in civilian clothes, Corporal Newkirk wandered into the vegetable market in Hammelburg and casually began to shop. In reality, he was going through the motions of making a contact. Max, the proprietor and an agent of the underground network, was patiently watching him from the cash register. After filling his basket halfway with salad fixings, Newkirk made his way over to the counter.
"Guten abend," he murmured, in his best German. "Tell me, have you a fresh shipment of carrots yet?"
"Not yet, I'm afraid." Max lowered his voice and added in English, "Herr Stroheim is a bit late."
"Bloody charming, that." Newkirk moved away from the counter. For another five minutes he wandered about the market, poking at the produce, occasionally tossing a few more vegetables into his basket.
At last, a new customer stepped in—a small and bookish man wearing a black coat, the brim of his hat pulled down in a feeble effort to conceal his bland face. The nervousness in his eyes, behind his thick glasses, marked him as Newkirk's target. A nod from Max confirmed it.
Newkirk sidled toward the arrival. "Abend. I suggest you avoid the cucumbers today…" He lowered his voice, slipping back into his usual Cockney lilt. "Papa Bear sends his regards, Herr Stroheim."
"Ah, at last…" Stroheim glanced around anxiously. "How will this be done?"
"Give me two minutes after I leave, then follow me out. Go to the car waiting across the street."
"Whatever." Newkirk shrugged and moved off, switching back to German. "Ja, these prices are a crime. What can one say, war is costly…" He trailed off into a murmur as he thumbed through his wallet, heading for the counter.
After paying for his purchases, he walked out of the market and crossed the street, where he climbed into a car that had been borrowed from Stalag Thirteen's motor pool.
LeBeau gave him a stern look from the passenger seat. "Did you get everything on my list?"
"Yes, Mum…" Newkirk rolled his eyes and shoved the bag of vegetables into the Frenchman's arms.
"What about Stroheim?" Kinchloe was slouched in the back seat, making his best effort to be invisible.
"He's coming. If you ask me, he's even more of a shrimp than LeBeau."
"Hey!" LeBeau punched Newkirk in the shoulder. "Just for that, you get none of my bouillabaisse for dinner tomorrow night."
"Alright, knock it off," Kinch growled. "Newkirk, is this our man?"
Newkirk glanced at the figure who had just stepped from the market doorway, silhouetted in the pale light of the streetlamps. "That's him, alright."
Looking around anxiously, Stroheim crossed the street and came over to the car. Newkirk gestured for him to get into the back seat, then started the engine.
Stroheim heaved a sigh of relief as he slammed the car door. "I am so glad that is over."
Kinch sat up slightly. "I'm afraid you're only halfway in the clear, Herr Stroheim. We'll have to hide you until it's safe to send you on your way to the sub. Even then, you'll have another dangerous trip ahead of you."
Stroheim shook his head. "I don't care. I would rather die in this escape than continue to use my knowledge for the Fuhrer's insanity."
"I think it's only fair to tell you, we've got some troubles of our own." Kinch folded his arms. "Papa Bear was taken in for a round of Gestapo questioning today. He's always managed to weasel his way out of it safely, but… I don't like the looks of the guy who arrested him. Things are pretty uncertain for us right now."
"I shall try to be as small a burden as possible," Stroheim replied solemnly.
Newkirk chortled without humor and glanced over his shoulder. "Any smaller, mate, and we'll lose you completely."
LeBeau, sensitive to size jokes—and almost anything else that ever came out of Newkirk's mouth—gave the Englishman another swat. Kinch closed his eyes tightly and sank down in the seat, praying they would at least make it back to Stalag Thirteen without a car crash.
"Colonel Hogan, wake up."
Uttering a groan of pain, Hogan stirred and unwillingly crept toward consciousness. The surface on which he lay was hard, cold metal, causing a deep chill to seep into his body through his uniform. He longed to sit up and escape that discomfort at least, but he couldn't find the energy to move. Compromising, he opened his eyes.
He was inside a bare, dimly lit prison cell. There was a guard at the door—the man who had been on his right during the interrogation. And Major Frolich was seated on a chair beside the metal shelf that passed for a bunk.
The sight of his captor motivated Hogan to action. He sat up quickly, only to be rewarded with a wave of dizziness and several stabs of pain from varied locations. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and sat still.
Among his pains was a dull, throbbing ache when he moved his left arm, which was encompassed by a strange heaviness. Slowly he glanced down at it, taking in with dim astonishment the bland white surface of a cast that extended from his wrist up past his elbow.
"You broke my arm…"
Fury rising, he looked up at Frolich, contemplating a dive for the man's throat. As if reading Hogan's thoughts, the guard shifted his weight, deliberately exposing the machine gun tucked against his side.
Frolich raised a hand to calm the lieutenant, then rose from his chair and reached up toward the rusty light fixture dangling from the ceiling. He tugged at a loose wire, dislodging it, then gazed pensively at Hogan.
"Now, Colonel, we may speak freely."
Something in the Gestapo officer's face had changed. His lips were thinned solemnly, and the once-cruel eyes were softer, almost weary. In spite of himself, Hogan lapsed into a puzzled quietude and waited.
"Your arm was not broken," Frolich murmured. "Merely sprained, of necessity. I apologize for your pain… for all of this. But there is a just cause."
Hogan glowered warily at Frolich. The German sighed and looked away.
"Colonel Hogan, I learned long ago that to most effectively fight a thing, one must become a thing. That is why I am here. I have sought to use against the Gestapo the very power they have given me."
The conversation, if it could be called that, was taking a turn that unsettled Hogan in unexpected ways. Rallying his exhausted wits, he studied Frolich through narrowed eyes. He was convinced this was some form of ploy, a deception, but he was at a loss as to its nature.
When he said nothing, Frolich sighed. "I didn't expect you to believe. I can only be content that you have no choice but to play out the events I have set in motion." He closed his eyes, and now, the weariness could not be mistaken.
Hogan took a breath, refusing to wince from the pain in his ribs, and slowly counted to ten. "If you want to play games, Frolich, have Smiley here bring us a deck of cards."
"This is no game." Frolich opened his eyes, and a trace of the former coldness was lurking there. "I brought you here to give you something, Colonel—and I have. Incorporated into that cast on your arm are ten strips of microfiche, containing over fifty highly guarded Gestapo documents."
Taken aback, Hogan glanced down at the cast. Its unmarked white surface did nothing to either confirm or deny Frolich's startling claim.
"Perhaps now we shall get someplace," Frolich murmured.
Setting his jaw, Hogan lifted a renewed glare of suspicion to his jailer. "After what you've done, you can't possibly think you're going to convince me of what you just said."
"No. But I don't have to." Frolich frowned, fixing his gaze on his steepled fingertips. "It has taken me three years to gather the information you now carry. To get it, I had to become what you saw in me today. I had to do things…" He faltered abruptly and paused, lowering his head. When he continued, his voice was quiet.
"I have paid with my soul for the information, but even this was not enough. There are a few who have begun to suspect me, including Major Hochstetter. A month ago, I could have fled Germany with what I had; but I was convinced I could gain more if I only waited a little longer. So I did… but my time has now run out."
A chill that was not just from the cold abruptly slithered down Hogan's spine. In Frolich's eyes, he recognized the look of a man who knew that his own death was imminent.
"They're going to come after you," Hogan murmured, as the pieces of Frolich's puzzle began to fall into place. "And you needed a carrier pigeon."
Frolich looked up at him. "Yes. I am being watched too closely to pass on the files. I needed someone with the contacts and the cunning to see them delivered safely to the Allies—and you, Colonel, are the ideal choice."
The remark stirred a familiar defensiveness. "I'm a prisoner of war—"
"Not to mention a very active saboteur and spy." Frolich gave Hogan a vaguely reproving look. "Come now, I know everything about the operation you have forged at Stalag Thirteen. And I'm not the only one. Even Hochstetter thinks he knows; he has simply failed to prove it."
Hogan sighed. "You're the one talking. Not me."
"Still no trust. That's good. At least I can be sure that the files are now in very secure hands."
"Let's assume I accept what you're saying," Hogan allowed, with an edge creeping into his voice. "You had better have a perfect explanation for the little show of force you've put me through."
"Quite simple. The other guard you were—shall we say, acquainted with today. He answers to Hochstetter, and his job is to watch me. He required convincing of my… enthusiasm."
"That explains why my left side is a lot more bruised than my right." Hogan cast the guard by the door a sour glance. "And Smiley works for you?"
"You might say that Lieutenant Stiegler and I share certain philosophies." Frolich leaned forward. "So. You may or may not choose to believe the things I've told you, but the fact remains, once you are returned to Stalag Thirteen you will learn that it is true. By that time… I will already be dead. Hochstetter's agent will report to him that I had a private talk with you, and I cannot risk questioning."
"In case you hadn't noticed, neither can I," Hogan snapped. "You said it yourself, he wants in on my interrogation—and I don't think he's going to pass up this chance to get back at me."
"You'll think of something. You always do."
"Suppose he wants to examine this cast?"
"That too has been allowed for." Frolich's lips twisted in a faint, bitter smile. "Aside from the microfiche, the cast carries an explosive—Lieutenant Stiegler's design, light and thin but very efficient. It would probably kill you; it would certainly destroy the microfiche, your arm, and any meddling hands in the way."
Hogan felt a knot of horror twist in his gut.
Oblivious to the reaction, Frolich gently ran his fingers over the plaster shell that suddenly felt very tight on Hogan's arm. "Attempt to remove the cast, and the charge will detonate. Only Stiegler knows how to defuse it, and he will do so when he takes you back to Stalag Thirteen. If Hochstetter detains him, then he will come to you when he is able. Failing that, unfortunately, you will have something of a challenge on your hands… or should I say, on your arm."
Shock gave way to rage, and Hogan drew a deep breath, clenching his fists. "I could kill you right now, Frolich."
"It makes no difference to me—but that would be of no help in getting you back to your camp." Frolich's grim expression faded to resignation. "I will be dead by dawn, Colonel Hogan. And you have more important concerns."
Frolich stood up slowly and moved toward the door, but then he paused and glanced back at Hogan. "I should think you might find it rather interesting. You learn now what it feels like to be used, in much the same way that you yourself have used so many others." He gestured for Stiegler to unlock the door of the cell.
"Frolich," Hogan murmured, and the Gestapo officer looked back at him one last time.
"I wish I could say I'm sorry… but I'm not."
Frolich smiled sadly. "I am," he replied in a soft voice, and disappeared into the corridor. Lieutenant Stiegler followed him, closing the heavy steel door, and Hogan was alone.
In solitude, he leaned his head against the cold concrete wall, hesitantly touching the cast on his arm. He felt truly overwhelmed, for the first time he could remember.