Author's note: Others own the Hogan's Heroes characters. All other characters are my creations.
Accident of War - Part 4
By: Diane Maher
The next morning after roll call, Newkirk watched as Schultz headed for Klink's office and Kinch and Blackman went inside the barracks. Newkirk pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from inside his jacket. He turned the pack upside down and gave it a tap so he could pull a cigarette from it.
"Hey, Newkirk!" Carter called.
Newkirk looked to his right and saw Carter approaching. Putting the cigarette in his mouth, cupping his hands around the end of it, and then lighting it, he replied, "Yeah, what is it?"
"This new officer is nothing like Colonel Hogan," Carter replied.
"I know, mate. 'e's gonna take a bit 'o gettin' used to, that's for sure," Newkirk commented solemnly.
Kinch and Blackman went below to receive the latest assignment from headquarters. Listening to the transmission, Kinch scribbled the assignment on his blue pad of paper, and when headquarters signed off, he powered down the radio. He handed the pad to Blackman, who read it and then went over to a table where a map was laid out.
"Kinch, bring the others down for a meeting," Blackman ordered.
"Yes, sir," Kinch replied. He then stood and went above to gather the other members of the unit. Newkirk and Carter were chatting at the corner of Barracks 2. LeBeau was nowhere to be seen.
"Hey guys, the Commander wants us down in the radio room to discuss our latest mission," Kinch said. "Where's Louis?"
"He's on KP duty," Carter replied.
"Wait a minute, Kinch," Newkirk said.
"What?" Kinch asked.
"It seems to me that this officer is jumping into things awfully quick without knowing the facts of the situation. Should we be ready to follow him at a moment's notice?" Newkirk asked. "I mean, he seemed a bit overbearing when he arrived in the barracks yesterday."
"He is our superior officer," Kinch replied with a shrug. "I think the Commander knows what headquarters expects of him. Look at the bright side; at least he's not Colonel Crittendon. He's new here, so let's give him a chance. Keep in mind that we're not really what he expected either."
"How do you mean?" Carter asked.
"It's just the impression I got. I think he was expecting us to be more formal than we're used to," Kinch replied.
"All right, mate," Newkirk said.
Kinch and the rest of the crew went down to the radio room where Blackman was leaning over a map and making some notes. When the men were assembled, Blackman straightened and said, "This assignment will require quick action to complete it in the specified time." Pausing, Blackman looked around and asked, "Where's LeBeau?"
"He's on KP duty this week, Carter replied. "And I was there when Schultz told LeBeau that he was to start cooking the food for a big party in the NCO club tonight. He won't be finished early."
"I see," Blackman said. He indicated the map on the table. "Here, we have the bridge over the Düsseldorf River and a few miles to the east of Hammelburg, we have a train station and ammunition depot, both of which serve the troop trains bound to the Eastern Front. Our mission is to destroy them."
"Wow! That's a lot of work! How much time do we have?" Carter asked. "We need some explosives to do all these jobs."
Blackman replied, "We have to destroy all the targets in the next forty-eight hours. Can we get explosives that quickly?"
Kinch wrote on his notepad and replied, "I'll contact London and have them do a drop tonight."
Blackman nodded his approval. "Will you go out and make the pickup?"
"Yes, sir," Kinch replied.
"I'll need to measure you for a uniform, sir. Unless we're going out for the mission in our regular uniforms," Newkirk volunteered.
Blackman considered this. "That will be fine, Newkirk. We should also do some reconnaissance tonight. I think we'll have to send out two men," Blackman said. "It will be up to Carter and Newkirk."
"Yes, sir," Newkirk and Carter replied in unison.
"Good. Let's go above until after lights out later tonight and then we'll get cracking," Blackman said.
Everyone except Kinch went above to the barracks and just after the tunnel was closed, there was a flash of lightning that illuminated the window, followed shortly by a loud thunderclap. Newkirk picked up his tape measure, a pad of paper and a pencil.
"We can take care of your measurements now, Commander. Step into your office," Newkirk said.
Kinch came up from the tunnel a few minutes later and headed for the office at the far end of the barracks. He entered and found Newkirk taking Blackman's measurements.
"Commander, headquarters reports that they are having weather problems and all flights have been grounded for the next forty-eight to seventy-two hours," Kinch said.
"Did they say anything about our missions being cancelled?" Blackman asked.
"No, sir. We're to continue and destroy the targets we were given. They said that we must destroy all three by the original deadline," Kinch replied.
Blackman considered this. "Are there any places locally that might have obtainable supplies of explosives?"
Kinch replied, "Other than the ammunition dump itself, the only place I know of is the arsenal here in camp or the underground might be able to help."
Blackman stepped down from the stool and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Newkirk, you will not be doing recon tonight. I need you to get a uniform together for me as soon as possible."
"What kind of uniform?" Newkirk asked.
"Hmmm. I'm not sure. Who is the most likely to need something from the ammunition dump?" Blackman replied. "Are there any war games being conducted in the area?"
Kinch shook his head. "The only German activity in the area at the moment is the SS battalion who is staging for active duty at the train station."
They heard the sound of an airplane above, then a loud clap of thunder. Then the rain began pelting the metal roof of the barracks. Carter opened the door and sheets of rain were falling outside. He closed the door and the compound was rocked by a tremendous explosion, throwing them to the floor.
Klink came out of his quarters after the explosion. "Schultz!" he bellowed. "SCHULTZ!"
Schultz ran over and saluted. "Yes, Herr Kommandant?"
"What happened?" Klink asked.
"The arsenal exploded, sir," Schultz replied.
"What caused it to explode?" Klink demanded.
"I don't know," Schultz replied.
Klink frowned. "Arsenals don't explode by themselves. Inform the guards that all prisoners are confined to the barracks until further notice. Find out what caused this catastrophe, you dummkopf!"
"Jawohl!" Schultz replied with a salute. He turned and headed back towards the burning building.
Klink went back into his quarters and came out a few minutes later with his coat on and holding his riding crop tucked under his arm. He crossed the compound and headed for Barracks 2.
"What was that?" Blackman asked, standing up and brushing the dirt from the floor off himself.
Carter stood up and eased the door open. Through the rain, he saw a building burning. "There's a building on fire."
Blackman and the others rushed to the door and pushed it open further. "Is it one of the barracks?" he asked.
Kinch looked over Blackman's shoulder and replied, "No, that was the camp arsenal."
Blackman looked at him and smiled. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Kinch grinned and replied, "Yeah, I think I am."
"What?" Carter asked, mystified as they retreated away from the door and he closed it.
"The destruction of that building will give us a chance to get some explosives," Blackman replied.
"What are we going to do?" Newkirk asked.
"I'm going to have Klink give us the explosives we need," Blackman replied with a grin. "Because of this building blowing up, Klink will have to requisition some more ammunition right away, and we're going to add to that requisition."
"Jolly good show," Newkirk replied.
"How will we do that?" Carter asked, confused.
"If you'd shut up, maybe the Commander could tell us!" Newkirk replied sharply.
"If the two of you are finished, I'd like to continue," Blackman said as he glared at the two men. Newkirk and Carter subsided and Blackman continued, "We need access to Klink's office so we can lay our hands on that requisition--"
The barracks door opened then and Klink strode in, firmly grasping his riding crop, which was tucked under his arm. "Good morning, gentlemen."
"Kommandant," Blackman replied.
"I am sure that you're all wondering what the commotion is outside," Klink said.
"Yes, we saw there was a building on fire. Do you need help putting it out?" Blackman asked.
"No, I'm here for a different reason," Klink replied. "I am here to inform you that all prisoners are confined to the barracks until further notice."
The men grumbled and Blackman ordered, "Quiet." To Klink, he asked, "Why are we being confined to the barracks? Is it because of that explosion outside?"
Klink frowned. "Yes. I will give you an update at the evening formation as to how long your confinement will be. The afternoon roll call will be done inside the barracks. Any prisoner found outside the barracks will be put into the cooler for thirty days. Is that clear?"
"Perfectly clear, sir," Blackman said. Klink nodded in satisfaction, turned and left the barracks. Blackman sighed and went to stand at a window to reconsider the plausibility of his plan under the current circumstances.
"We need access to Klink's office so we can lay our hands on that requisition," Blackman began.
"Carter can volunteer for cleaning detail tomorrow morning," Kinch said.
Blackman nodded. "Good. Kinch, do you have a way to make another requisition form?"
Kinch went over to a bucket and lifted the fake wood lid off. "Yes. We have all sorts of forms that we've stolen from the Krauts." He thumbed through the file and pulled a sheet of paper from it. "Here's a blank requisition form."
"Good. In the meantime," Blackman began.
"I can get the stuff we have now ready to blow!" Carter interrupted, with some explosion sound effects added for good measure.
Blackman chuckled. "You obviously enjoy blowing things up." He sat down at the table next to Carter and continued, "Cancel the recon mission tonight. I want Carter to prepare enough explosives to take out the bridge only. Once that is complete, we'll work on the details of how to destroy the bridge."
After receiving the initial call from Colonel Klink, Major Horst sent out patrols to locate the missing truck. Within an hour, his phone rang. The man he spoke to said that his patrol had found the remains of a burnt-out truck on the road leading towards Stalag 7 from Heidelberg. When Horst hung up, he called Colonel Klink as he had promised to do when he had any further news of the missing truck.
"Herr Oberst, this is Major Horst at Stalag 7. One of my patrols has found the remains of a truck on the road leading to here from Heidelberg. We are examining the wreckage now. Can you give me any other information about the missing truck?" There was a pause as Horst picked up a pencil and listened to Klink's reply. He scribbled some notes on a pad of paper, and said, "Danke, Herr Oberst. I will check this information against the truck's remains if possible. I will let you know the results of my investigation into this matter. Auf Wiedersehen. Heil Hitler."
Horst hung up the phone for a moment, then picked up the receiver again, and ordered his staff car to be brought to the administration building at once. He copied the information given to him by Klink onto a second sheet of paper, tucked it into his tunic pocket, put on his coat, left his office and climbed in the back of the car. He gave his driver directions to where the truck's remains were. The driver drove out the front gates, headed toward Heidelberg, and several minutes later, stopped the car a short distance away from the burnt out truck.
When Horst climbed out of his staff car, he saw the twisted metal and smelled the burnt flesh of the victims. His nose wrinkled in disgust at the acrid scent. He asked, "Sergeant, how many men were in this vehicle?"
The Sergeant came over to Horst and saluted him. "We found the remains of three men in the wreckage, Herr Major. The driver was in the front and two others were in the rear."
Horst nodded. "One of the men aboard was to have been a prisoner being transported from Stalag 13."
"There was no evidence of a prisoner among the three victims, sir," the Sergeant replied.
Horst frowned. "I see. I have this information about the truck." He pulled the paper with the information from Colonel Klink from his tunic pocket and handed it to the Sergeant. "Check this information against any markings or engravings on the truck. When you are finished here, return to camp. I expect a full report from you at that time."
"Yes, sir!" the Sergeant replied with a salute.
Horst climbed into his staff car and directed his driver to return to camp. He decided to go to his office to wait for the Sergeant to contact him with his report. An hour later, his phone rang and he picked it up.
"Herr Kommandant, this is the guard at the main gate," the man said. "There is a Major Hochstetter of the Gestapo requesting entry to the camp. He wishes to see you, sir."
"Send him to my office," Horst replied. The Sergeant who had been at the site of the wreck entered the office a moment later and handed him several pieces of paper.
"Here is the report you requested on the truck," the Sergeant said, saluting him.
"Danke. You are dismissed Sergeant," Horst said.
Horst read the report. A few minutes later, there was a knock at his office door. Horst said, "Come."
Major Hochstetter came into the office and saluted. "Herr Kommandant."
"Herr Major, what can I do for the Gestapo?" Horst asked.
"I understand that an American prisoner named Colonel Hogan was to be transferred from Stalag 13 to here, and that the truck he was being transported in did not arrive," Hochstetter replied.
"That is correct, Herr Major," Horst said. "We found a truck nearby that was destroyed during last night's air raid. According to the Sergeant investigating at the scene, the truck is the one from Stalag 13; the plates match those that Colonel Klink gave to me. However, when I ordered the remains of the men in the truck checked for handcuffs, there were none. No loose handcuffs were found in the wreckage either. It is our standard procedure that all prisoners being transferred to this camp arrive in handcuffs."
Hochstetter gaped at him, "If that's the case, then the most dangerous man in all Germany is loose!"
Horst shrugged, and said, "According to my information, Colonel Hogan is only a pilot. What's the big deal?"
Hochstetter glared at Horst and his eyes were narrow slits when he muttered angrily, "You have no idea what that man has done!"
"If Hogan is so dangerous, why hasn't the Gestapo arrested him?" Horst asked.
Holding a hand up, Hochstetter counted off the reasons. "First, Hogan was interned in Stalag 13. Second, as a POW, the Geneva Convention protected him. Third, we have no physical or eyewitness proof that links Hogan to any of these crimes!"
Horst's lips curled into a slight smile when he said, "That means you can't arrest Hogan."
"Right," Hochstetter admitted reluctantly. He put his palms on the edge of the desk as he paused to consider the situation for a moment and then wondered aloud, "Where will Hogan go?"
"Do you seriously believe that you can predict Hogan's moves?" Horst asked.
Hochstetter stared at Horst. The Gestapo man's voice was supremely confident when he replied, "Yes, I do."