A/N: I do not own Hogan's Heroes or it's characters. They are the property of CBS and Ryscher Entertainment.
***Silver Papa Bear Award winner Most Unique Story***
***Bronze Papa Bear Award winner Best Drama***
A LIFE BLOWN APART - PART 1
The explosion rocked the tunnel area directly under barracks two. Smoke and dust billowed out from the exposed tunnel entrance inside the barracks causing both LeBeau and Kinch to race over and peer down into the opening, trying to see through the thin veil of dust. They spotted Newkirk, covered with dust and coughing, climbing up the ladder.
"Newkirk, what happened?" asked Kinch, concern on his face. He and LeBeau each grabbed one of the Englander's arms and helped him out.
"Where are Carter and Colonel Hogan?" LeBeau was frightened.
Newkirk dusted himself off. "The Colonel and Carter are still down there!" he said preparing to go back down into the tunnel. "Help me find 'em!" He disappeared back down the ladder with Kinch and LeBeau behind him. Before he disappeared, LeBeau motioned to Baker to keep watch at the door. Then he too, joined the others. Below ground, they both followed Newkirk to what used to be the lab area and was now a mass of fallen beams, mounds of dirt and debris. There was no sign of anyone. A deathly silence greeted the trio.
"Where are they?" Kinch was horrified at the mass of utter destruction he saw.
Newkirk looked around wildly. "We were all in Carter's lab while he was preparing some explosive devices. The Colonel was with him. I decided to head back to the barracks and was almost at the ladder when there was an explosion. They could be anywhere!"
"We'd best split up and look for them," LeBeau said, fanning dust out of his face. He was overwhelmed by the catastrophic scene. "Colonel! Carter! Where are you!" he shouted. His calls were met with silence.
Newkirk struggled to make his way to where he believed Carter's lab table used to be. "Andrew! Colonel Hogan! Can either of you hear me?" he looked around fearfully.
"Colonel Hogan!" Kinch shouted. "Andrew!" Silence greeted him as well.
LeBeau got down on hands and knees and crawled amongst the debris, careful to check everything. "Mon Colonel! Andrew! Can either of you hear me?"
After what seemed like an eternity, Newkirk noticed a human hand sticking out from under a pile of dirt and debris. Dropping to his knees, he began digging furiously with his hands until he uncovered the person's head. "It's Carter!" he shouted. He pressed his fingers against the young man's neck. He was relieved to find a pulse. "He's alive!" Kinch started to make his way towards him, but Newkirk waved him off. "Keep looking for the Colonel!" he shouted.
After several minutes of searching, LeBeau suddenly spotted something sticking out from beneath dirt, debris and a support beam. Pulling on the item, LeBeau found it was Hogan's crusher cap. "Kinch, I think I found the Colonel! Help me dig him out!"
Kinch hurried to where LeBeau was now digging with his hands, and dropping to his own knees, began digging as well. It took them a good fifteen minutes before they had unearthed their Senior POW officer. Hogan, lying face-down, was unconscious. Kinch pressed his fingers against Hogan's neck. He exhaled when he found a pulse, though thready.
"He's alive….just!" Kinch hollered to Newkirk. "What about Carter?"
"He's still breathing!" Newkirk replied. "But he's unconscious as well."
"So's the Colonel." Kinch and LeBeau both studied the heavy beam laying across Hogan's lower back. Struggling, they unsuccessfully tried to move it. Kinch looked at LeBeau. "We're gonna need help lifting this beam."
"Oui," LeBeau wiped persperation from his brow. He got up. "I'll get some others to help us." He quickly made his way back to the tunnel entrance and yelled up. Chris Tucker, one of the newer prisoners-of-war in barracks two, leaned over and looked down at LeBeau. "Did you find Carter and Colonel Hogan?" he asked, concerned.
"Oui. But the Colonel's pinned under a heavy wooden beam. We need help lifting it."
"Hang on, LeBeau. I'll round up a few of the guys and we'll be right down."
"Merci, Christopher!" LeBeau raced back to his commanding officer.
A low moan came from Hogan. Opening his eyes just a slit, he began coughing from the dust. His eyes fell on his radioman. "Kinch…" his voice was raspy. "….Carter?"
"Take it easy, Colonel," Kinch said gently. "Carter's alive. Are you all right?"
Hogan licked his dry lips. "My head hurts like hell," he said softly.
LeBeau returned in time to hear Hogan's last sentence. He stroked Hogan's dusty black hair to try and keep his commanding officer calm. "We are going to get you out, mon Colonel. Just take it easy."
Turning his head slowly towards LeBeau, Hogan looked at the little Frenchman. He reached out and gripped LeBeau's arm. "Never mind me," he said. "Take care of Carter first."
"Newkirk is seeing to Carter, Colonel," Kinch told him. "And LeBeau and I will see to you." He paused momentarily when he spotted Tucker and four other prisoners making their way into the area. They were overwhelmed by the mass destruction. Kinch waved them over. As the men carefully made their way to Hogan, Kinch looked at his commanding officer. "Colonel, what happened? We heard an explosion."
Hogan suffered another bout of coughing as some dust was caught in his throat. "Carter was preparing some detonation devices and one of them went off. I got thrown against a beam across the tunnel area before everything collapsed around us. The last thing I remember seeing was Carter being blown across the room. Are you sure he's all right?"
"Positive," LeBeau replied. He moved aside as the other men all got in position to help try to move the beam off of the Colonel. When everyone was ready, LeBeau put a hand on Hogan's shoulder. "Mon Colonel, we need to get out of this area. This part of the tunnel might be unstable after the explosion. But we first have to move this beam off your back that has you pinned."
"Do what you have to," Hogan muttered.
It took a tremendous effort on their part, but the seven men were able to lift the heavy wooden beam and move it off of Hogan.
"Okay, Colonel," Kinch said. "We better get out of here. Can you get up?"
Hogan tried to move. His entire body ached. A look of panic suddenly crossed his face. Something definitely was not right. He turned toward Kinch.
"Something's not right," he said, concerned.
"What's wrong, Colonel?" asked LeBeau.
Hogan's brown eyes looked directly into LeBeau's. "I can't move my legs," he said.
The men all exchanged frightened looks. Even Newkirk paused in his digging to look up.
Tucker touched Hogan's shoulder. "Colonel, are you sure?"
"I'm sure," Hogan murmured, scared for the first time. "I can't feel anything from my waist down."
"What are we gonna do, Kinch?" Tucker asked. "We have to get the Colonel and Carter out of here. This whole tunnel area could come down at any moment."
"I know, I know," Kinch was wracking his brains trying to think. He looked at one of the other men. "Benson, you and Tucker see if you can find two backboards and we'll need several long strips of cloth to use as straps. Before we attempt to move the Colonel, we'll need to immobilize him. If he's got a back injury we can't take a chance moving him otherwise. The other we'll use to move Carter." Kinch then motioned for the other men to help Newkirk.
Tucker and Benson returned after a few minutes carrying two of the boards used to brace up areas of the tunnel and several strips of cloth torn from two extra blankets which were kept in a supply area. Benson took one of the boards and several strips of cloth to where Newkirk and others were working while Tucker placed three strips of cloth on the ground and lay the other backboard on top beside Hogan.
Kinch glanced at LeBeau. "Go above and find Wilson. Tell him what happened and to meet us in barracks two."
"Oui. Right away." LeBeau got to his feet and hurried out of the area to find Sergeant Wilson, the camp medical officer. LeBeau paused at the entrance of the lab area. Looking over his shoulder, a single tear rolled down his cheek. Biting his quivering lower lip, he disappeared.
Kinch looked at Tucker. "Okay, Chris. We've gotta move the Colonel onto the backboard and be as careful as you possibly can. When I count to three, we move him. Okay?"
Kinch looked down at Hogan. "Colonel, let us do everything. Don't move at all. Understand?"
"I couldn't if I wanted to," Hogan murmured at his attempt at a what he knew was a bad joke.
"Okay," Kinch grabbed Hogan's upper torso and Tucker the legs.
"One…two…three." Together, the two men eased Hogan onto the backboard placing him on his stomach. Kinch then proceeded to secure the Colonel to the backboard by tying the cloth straps tightly around him. Once that was done, Kinch looked over his shoulder to where Newkirk was. "How's it coming, Newkirk?"
"We've got Andrew from under all that dirt and debris," Newkirk mopped his sweaty brow with a sleeve. "We can handle it, mate. Get the Colonel outta here. We'll be along in a few."
"See you upstairs, then." Kinch said. He and Tucker each grabbed the make-shift stretcher, and made their way out of the area. Coming to the ladder leading up to the barracks, Tucker carefully climbed up the ladder and between him and Kinch were able to manuever the make-shift stretcher up the ladder and into the barracks where LeBeau and others were there to help. As Kinch climbed inside, he saw Sergeant Wilson. The barracks medical officer had dropped everything when LeBeau told him what had occurred below in the tunnel area, and that Colonel Hogan could not move his legs. Carter's injuries were yet to be assessed since he was still below.
"Take Colonel Hogan to his quarters," Wilson ordered. "I'll examine him there." He followed Tucker and LeBeau into Hogan's quarters where the backboard was placed onto the lower bunk. Wilson then shooed the men out of the room and closed the door behind them.
Alone, Wilson placed his medical bag on the desk near the bunk. "Colonel Hogan, I understand from LeBeau you can't move your legs."
"Never mind about me, Wilson," Hogan reached out and gripped the medic's arm. "Check Carter out first. I'm worried about him."
"Colonel, Carter hasn't been brought up yet. When he is, I'll examine him. Until then, I'm going to examine you. So there's no point in being difficult because I'm use to it when it comes to you."
After a lengthy examination, Wilson sighed as he pulled the chair away from Hogan's desk and sat down, facing the Colonel. He ran a hand over his hair. "Colonel, you've got what is called a complete injury to your spinal cord. What that means is that you have no function below the level of the injury. There is a lot of swelling in the area. The swelling could be putting pressure on the spinal cord, or there could possibly be a fracture of the vertebrae causing the pressure. I need to get you to the hospital and have x-rays taken of your back to know exactly what I'm dealing with to be sure. I will also want x-rays taken of your head as well."
Hogan massaged his temple. He looked at Wilson. "Will the paralysis be permanent?"
"I can't answer that, Colonel. Nobody can at this point."
There was a knock on the door.
"Come in," Hogan replied. The door opened slightly and Kinch looked in. "Colonel, Newkirk and the others just brought Carter up from below."
Hogan looked around. "How is he?"
"He's still unconscious, but he's breathing."
Hogan laid his head down on top of his hands. He didn't look at the medic or Kinch. "Wilson, check on Carter," he said. "Maybe something can be done for him."
Sighing dejectedly, Wilson grabbed his bag and started out the door. Kinch grabbed his arm as the medic passed him. "Wilson, how's Colonel Hogan?" he asked softly, having noticed the Colonel's mood.
Wilson motioned to Kinch to close the door. As the radioman did, LeBeau and Newkirk joined them.
"I need to get Colonel Hogan to the hospital right away," he explained. "There's a lot of swelling in his lower back area which could be putting pressure on his spinal cord or there could be a fracture or possibly something else going on. Whatever it is, it's causing him to be paralyzed from the waist down."
"Will he recover?" Kinch asked once the shock of Wilson's news had worn off.
"I don't know. As I told the Colonel, nobody knows the answer to that." Wilson rubbed his tired eyes. "I'd better examine Carter now," he said.
While the medic made his way to the bunk where Carter lay under a blanket, and Tucker sitting with him, LeBeau, Newkirk and Kinch all stood outside Hogan's closed door.
"What do we do, Kinch?" LeBeau asked. "There's no way we can explain this to Klink."
"LeBeau's right," Newkirk added solemnly. "Anything we say is gonna sound like a lie."
"Maybe not," Kinch replied. A thought had occurred to him. "Newkirk, remember that tunnel we began in barracks four last month but closed off last week?"
"What about it? Kinch, what have you got in mind?"
"Just this. We tell Klink that one of the men dug a tunnel in barracks four and was trying to escape. The Colonel and Carter both went after him to stop him, there was a cave in, and both the Colonel and Carter were injured. Of course, that person will probably get thirty days in the cooler for trying."
"I'll take the rap," Newkirk volunteered. "For the Gov'nor and me mate, Andrew, I'll gladly do the time."
"You sure, mon ami?" asked LeBeau, touched at Newkirk's sacrifice.
Newkirk nodded. "Right now, I think we should see how the Colonel's doing." Reaching out, he opened the door to Hogan's quarters. The three of them quietly entered. Hogan didn't acknowledge their presence.
"Colonel?" asked LeBeau softly. When he got no answer, he looked at the others. "Colonel…. Newkirk, Kinch and I wanted to see if you needed anything?"
Hogan spoke without looking at them. "There's nothing." His voice was void of any emotion except at the end. "What about Carter?"
"Sergeant Carter doesn't seem to seem to have any injuries that I could find except a good sized bump on his head," Wilson explained. He had quietly entered the room without being heard. "I think he'll be all right. But I want to get him to the hospital as well to be sure."
Newkirk smiled slightly. "That's me mate, Andrew," he said. "Always told 'im he had a hard head."
Kinch touched LeBeau's shoulder. "Louie, you better go see Klink and tell him the story so we can get Carter and the Colonel to the hospital quickly."
"Oui." Before he left, LeBeau looked over his shoulder at Colonel Hogan's inert form. "Don't worry, mon Colonel," he said loud enough for all to hear. "We will take care of both you and Carter." He then left the room.
LeBeau burst through the outside door of Wilhelm Klink, Kommandant of Stalag 13, who liked to brag to anyone who would listen, that there was never a successful escape from Stalag 13. LeBeau stopped at the desk of Klink's pretty blonde secretary, Hilda. Having run all the way from barracks two, LeBeau struggled to catch his breath.
"Is the Kommandant in?" he said, out of breath. "It's an emergency!"
"Jawohl," Hilda replied. The little Frenchman's agitated state concerned her. She started to get up from her seat, but LeBeau could not wait. He flung open the Kommandant's door. Klink looked up from his paperwork, startled at the sight of one of his prisoners bursting in without waiting to be admitted.
"Kommandant! We need an ambulance! Colonel Hogan and Carter have been seriously injured!"
Klink looked at the Frenchman, stunned. "Corporal LeBeau, calm down. Now tell me again, what happened to Colonel Hogan and Sergeant Carter."
LeBeau managed to catch his breath a bit. "One of the prisoners dug a tunnel and was trying to escape. The Colonel and Sergeant Carter went after him to stop him, and there was a cave in. Colonel Hogan cannot move his legs and Sergeant Carter is unconscious. Wilson is with them. He says both must be taken to the hospital immediately."
Klink stared at LeBeau, at first not believing what he was hearing. But the mention of Sergeant Wilson's name, he immediately realized what he was told was true. It would be too easy to check. That, plus the fact that Hogan could not move his legs was not something the Frenchman would lie about. Klink hurried out of his office and as he passed Hilda's desk he ordered her to telephone the hospital and demand an ambulance be sent to Stalag 13 at once, and then to have Sergeant Schultz report to him at barracks two. He followed LeBeau out of the office and to barracks two. Entering, Klink was met by Wilson.
"What can you tell me, Sergeant Wilson?" he asked.
"Kommandant, Sergeant Carter is unconscious and has been since the cave in. However, he doesn't seem to have any injuries from what I can tell other than a large lump on his head. Colonel Hogan, on the other hand, is more seriously injured. He is suffering from paraplegia. That is paralysis of the lower part of the body, affecting both his legs. There is a lot of swelling causing pressure on his spinal cord or it could be from a possible fracture of a vertebrae."
Klink was horrified, especially at the diagnosis regarding his Senior POW officer. "An ambulance is on the way, Sergeant." He then looked around at the other men. "I want to know who is responsible for this tunnel and attempted escape, and I want to know now!"
Newkirk slowly raised his hand. "I'm afraid I am, Colonel," he admitted hoping to be believed. "I didn't mean for Colonel Hogan and me mate, Carter, to get hurt trying to stop me. Really I didn't."
The barracks door opened and the rotund figure of Sergeant Hans Schultz entered. He had been briefed on what had occurred. He saluted Klink. "Herr Kommandant, Sergeant Schultz reporting as ordered."
Klink returned the salute. He then turned his attention back to the Englander. "Newkirk, exactly where is this tunnel you dug?"
"In barracks four, sir. If you want, I can show Sergeant Schultz."
"You will do exactly that, Newkirk." Klink then looked at Schultz. "Sergeant Schultz, after Newkirk has shown you the tunnel, I want you to take him to the cooler where he will begin serving a 30-day sentence for trying to escape. You will then have that tunnel filled in with cement. Understood?"
"Jawohl, Herr Kommandant." Schultz paused momentarily. "Herr Kommandant, how are Sergeant Carter and Colonel Hogan?"
"Sergeant Carter seems to be all right. But Colonel Hogan right now is paralyzed from the waist down."
Schultz took a deep breath. He was secretly very fond of Hogan, LeBeau, Carter, Newkirk and Kinch, and the thought of anything happening to any of them upset him. And especially the news of the American Colonel possibly being paralyzed from the waist down upset him worse of all. He could only imagine how Newkirk felt knowing it was his escape attempt that caused the injuries to both Carter and Colonel Hogan. He took Newkirk's arm. "Let's go," he said sadly. Together, the two men left the barracks.
Klink watched them leave. Then, he headed for Hogan's quarters. Opening the door, he saw Hogan lying on his stomach, head resting on his hands. Going inside, Klink approached the bed. He sat down in the chair beside the bed. "Hogan?" he said softly. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
Hogan's eyes focused on Klink. Hogan didn't want anyone's pity, especially Klink's. "You want to do something for me, Kommandant," he murmured. "Give me back the use of my legs."
Klink paused. He didn't know how to respond to Hogan's remark. He had never seen his Senior POW officer like this. "Hogan, I will accompany both you and Sergeant Carter to the hospital, and make certain you both receive the best care possible."
Hogan didn't reply. He just went back to staring into space.
It had been a week since the explosion in the tunnel's lab area had occurred. Colonel Klink had been to the hospital on a daily basis to check on both Hogan and Carter and made sure upon his return to Stalag 13, he went immediately to barracks two to update Hogan's men on their progress. Klink, during this time, was quite patient with the men of barracks two. Word of the seriousness of Hogan's injury had spread amongst the prisoners, and other than showing up for roll call, the men pretty much kept to themselves. Even Klink had to admit he was concerned about his Senior POW officer. What if this is all the recovery there is? What if Hogan never walks again? What if… Klink massaged his temple. He didn't want to think about the 'what ifs' anymore. Breaking with his usual tradition, and after speaking with Kinch, Klink even released Newkirk from the cooler after three days feeling that the Englander not only had learned his lesson, but that knowing it was his actions which caused the injuries to Sergeant Carter and Colonel Hogan and that Newkirk would have to live this knowledge, was punishment enough.
It was on this day as Klink made his way to barracks two after visiting his two prisoners in the hospital. His face was grim. Entering the barracks, he was immediately surrounded by Hogan's men.
"I've just come from the hospital," he said, eyeing each man individually. "Sergeant Carter is being released from the hospital tomorrow and other than a mild headache, should be fine." Klink paused before he spoke again. "Colonel Hogan, as you are aware, underwent surgery and had fluid and bone fragments removed that were pressing on his spinal cord. According to the doctors, he will probably be released by the end of the week."
"Will he be able to walk, Kommandant?" asked Kinch, fearfully.
"To answer your question, Sergeant Kinchloe, the doctors don't know if Colonel Hogan will walk again. It's just too soon to tell. They've removed the pressure from his spinal cord, but until the swelling goes down, they just don't know. I'm sorry I couldn't have better news for you regarding Colonel Hogan."
"It's all right, Kommandant," Kinch murmured softly. "Thank you for keeping us informed on both of them."
"You're welcome. If there's anything else I can do, please let me know." Klink replied. Turning sharply, he left the barracks.
Alone, the men were quiet. While the news was great about Carter, they were distressed about the Colonel. LeBeau, Newkirk and Kinch all sat at the long table in the center of the barracks. Newkirk lit a cigarette. He needed and wanted a smoke badly. LeBeau wiped a tear as it rolled down his cheek. Kinch rubbed his eyes. It was a long time before anyone of them could speak.
"Do you think he will be different from the Colonel we know?" asked LeBeau quietly.
"I wish I knew," Kinch replied. "He's gone through a traumatic event and I'm sure it'll have an effect on him in some way."
Newkirk took a long drag on his cigarette. "Nevertheless, he's still our Gov'nor, and we have to make sure he knows that to us it doesn't matter that he can't walk right now."
"Newkirk's right," chimed in LeBeau, nodding. "We must make the Colonel understand that to us, nothing has changed."
"But something has changed," Tucker said as he poured himself a cup of coffee. He joined them at the table. "Colonel Hogan may never be the same man he was before the accident, not emotionally anyway." He took a sip of coffee to allow his words to register with the others. He saw them looking at him. "Look, I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but I had an older brother, Derrick, who was paralyzed after a car accident eight years ago. He was about the Colonel's age. Never walked again. He was never the same emotionally afterwards either."
"What happened to him?" asked Kinch. He never heard Tucker speak of his brother. Never even knew he had a brother.
Tucker sighed sadly, recalling the incident. "He killed himself a day after finding out he would never walk again."
"We're all sorry about your brother, Chris," replied Newkirk sincerely. "But that won't happen with Colonel Hogan."
"I'm not saying it will, Newkirk," Tucker sighed. "All I'm saying is that the Colonel's got a tough road ahead of him. Perhaps the toughest he's ever faced. That's all I'm saying. And it's important that we all be there for him."
"Hey, everybody, Carter's home!" somebody yelled as Klink's staff car pulled up inside the compound outside of the Kommandant's office. The door on the driver's side opened, and Schultz emerged just as a door on the passenger side opened. The men all hurried forward to greet one of their walking wounded. Carter slowly, and with Schultz's assistance, emerged from the car. He paused momentarily as he took in the greeting of his fellow prisoners, then smiled embarrassingly.
"Hi, gang," he said tiredly. There was a small white bandage on his temple above his right eye.
"Hey, Andrew!" Newkirk pushed his way forward and draped an arm around the younger man's shoulders. "We missed you. Good to have you back home, so to speak."
Though smiling outwardly, Carter's feelings were just the opposite internally. He had been told of Colonel Hogan's condition while in the hospital and felt responsible.
"Do you need any help walking to the barracks, Carter?" asked Schultz, concerned.
"It's okay, Schultzie," said LeBeau, smiling. "We can take things from here. Thanks."
"You're welcome. No problem." Schultz left to report to the Kommandant's office.
Carter let himself be led back to and inside the barracks. He sat down at the long table. LeBeau cheerfully poured a cup of coffee and placed it in front of Carter. "We made it fresh this morning," he said. After receiving pats on the back and several 'welcome backs' from well-wishers, the other men went about their business leaving Kinch, Newkirk, Carter and LeBeau alone.
"You all right, Andrew?" asked Kinch. "You haven't said much since you got back."
"I'm okay," Carter muttered, shrugging his shoulders. He took a sip of hot coffee.
The others exchanged concerned looks. LeBeau put a hand on Carter's shoulder. "Talk to us, mon ami. We are here for you."
"I know you are." Carter looked up. His eyes were brimming with tears.
"LeBeau's right, Andrew," added Newkirk. "We care…."
"Why don't all of you just cut it out!" Carter yelled, jumping to his feet. Tears began running down his cheeks. "I know all of you blame me for what happened to Colonel Hogan! Why don't you all just come out and say so!"
The men were startled by Carter's outburst. Kinch stood up and reached out to touch Carter's arm, but the young man pulled away before he could do so. "Carter, we don't blame you," he said. "And I'm sure the Colonel doesn't either. Nobody does."
"Well, if you guys don't blame 'im, I sure do!" a nearby voice said.
The men turned and were not surprised to see Roger Carruthers, a corporal who had been assigned to their barracks a month ago approaching. His face darkened as he looked at Carter. "He crippled the Colonel and you all stand there and say he's not responsible? And you call yourselves Hogan's friends!" He was clenching and unclenching his fist as he now stood face-to-face with Carter.
Kinch, LeBeau and Newkirk separated the two men. "I suggest you keep your opinions to yourself, Carruthers," Kinch said seriously. "We don't like that kind of talk around here and neither would Colonel Hogan."
Carruthers stood close to Kinch. "Well, Colonel Hogan isn't here, is he?" he looked at Carter. "And we know why, don't we?"
"Knock if off, Carruthers!" yelled Chris Tucker, moving towards the others. "We all know it was an accident. Why don't you just lay off!"
But Carruthers wasn't listening. He started to open his mouth again, but stopped when he saw Kinch's face.
"Just keep in mind, Carruthers," Kinch explained, a look of warning flashing in his eyes. "Until Colonel Hogan returns, I am the ranking prisoner-of-war in this barracks. And that makes me the Acting Senior POW officer. And mister, you're dangerously close to insubordination!"
Carruthers exchanged looks with the others and, seeing he was alone with his opinions, walked angrily away and outside the barracks, slamming the door behind him. After he was gone, and tempers had calmed down, Kinch, LeBeau, and Newkirk all looked at the young Sergeant.
"Don't listen to him, Andrew," Newkirk said softly. "Nobody else is. It's only one person's bloody opinion. But I would just stay bloody clear of 'im if I were you, mate."
Carter hung his head. "It doesn't matter," he said softly. "Because he's right. I did cripple the Colonel. And nothing's gonna change that fact. So just leave me alone." Carter walked away and curled up in a fetal position on his bunk.
Sighing wearily, Kinch, LeBeau and Newkirk all sat down. Newkirk light a cigarette. "That was just bloody marvelous!" he said of Carruthers attack on Carter. "That ruddy bastard had no right going after Andrew like that."
Kinch sighed. He kept his voice low so Carter wouldn't hear. "What did you expect, Newkirk? Things have been pretty intense around here since the Colonel was injured. I've been hearing talk from everyone. Carruthers isn't the only one blaming Carter for what happened."
Newkirk eyes flashed with anger. He stared at Kinch. "Just what is it you're saying, Kinch? Are you blaming him too?"
"Of course not. I'm just saying…."
"I know what you're saying," Newkirk's voice was rising.
"Stop it! Both of you!" said LeBeau, concerned. "We never argued with each other like this before. We should be sticking together. More now than ever. Colonel Hogan will be home by the end of the week and we must not let him see us turning on each other."
"LeBeau's right," Tucker added. "This kind of stress won't be good for the Colonel's recovery."
Kinch and Newkirk both looked at LeBeau and Tucker, then looked at each other.
"I'm sorry, mate," Newkirk apologized. "I know you'd never blame Carter for what happened."
"I'm sorry, too. I didn't mean for what I said to sound like I was." Kinch looked over at the young man on the bunk to see if he had heard the argument between him and Newkirk. It didn't appear so as Carter's eyes were closed and he seemed to be sleeping….at least Kinch hoped he was. He turned back to Newkirk. "Since the Colonel will be coming home at week's end, I guess we'd better talk to Wilson and find out what to expect and what we need to do. Chris, find Wilson and have him meet us here as soon as he can. Tell him we need to discuss what to do for Colonel Hogan when he comes back."
"Right away, Kinch." Tucker gulped down the last of his coffee before hurrying out the barracks door.
It was nearly two hours later before Sergeant Wilson was able to come to barracks two. He explained he was going to stop by anyway to check on Carter, but wasn't able to earlier. He sat down with Kinch, Newkirk and LeBeau at the table. LeBeau had placed a cup of coffee in fron of him.
"How is Sergeant Carter doing since he came back?" he asked.
Kinch sighed wearily. "He's been pretty quiet. He blames himself for what happened to the Colonel. And to be honest, some of the others are as well."
Wilson shook his head sadly. People could be so stupid and cruel he told himself. "Carter doesn't need to hear that," he said. "I understand he felt that way the moment he found out about the Colonel while in the hospital. He needs to realize what happened was an accident, nothing more."
"We'll do our best for him, Joe," Kinch replied. "Now, what can we expect when the Colonel comes back? Is there anything we should know?"
Wilson sighed. "It's gonna be rough, and I don't mean just on Colonel Hogan." He sipped his coffee and studied each man's face separately to let his words sink in. "He's suffered a tremendous trauma. From what I understand, he could suffer the entire range of emotions from denial, depression, hopelessness, fear to possibly even thoughts of suicide. He'll be angry at anyone and everyone." He waited a moment before continuing. "He'll even take out his emotions on you men as you're the closest to him. So you must be prepared and understand he's not angry at any of you, but at his situation. So don't take it personally."
The men were silent for what seemed like forever. Finally, Kinch let out a deep breath. "Wow." He then shook his head and smiled grimly. "Well, we did ask you what could we expect."
LeBeau was thoughtful for a moment. "Joe, will he ever be the same Colonel we knew before the accident?"
Wilson was silent for a moment. "That's hard to answer, LeBeau. I think until he adjusts to and accepts his situation, you may not even recognize him at times."
Newkirk rubbed his temple. "What can we do for the Gov'nor?"
"Being patient with him is the best thing I can tell you to do. You may have to be patient for awhile." He held up a hand. "And before anyone asks me, I have no idea how long 'for awhile' will be. There's one final thing. Colonel Hogan will be confined to a wheelchair. Until he becomes accustomed to it, he will probably fight against using it. He must become accustomed to it in order to have some mobility. Don't let him lay in bed all day. The day he comes back it'll be okay for him to relax. But after that he should begin becoming use to the wheelchair." Finishing his coffee, Wilson stood up. "I need to see the Kommandant after I leave here," he said.
"What for?" asked Newkirk.
"I need to tell Klink he should have some kind of a ramp constructed so that Colonel Hogan has wheelchair access to his office." That said, Wilson left the barracks and Hogan's men each alone with their own thoughts.
The German military ambulance entered through the main gates of Stalag 13 and came to a stop outside of Klink's office. There was a growing excitement among the prisoners outside the barracks as they moved close to the vehicle. The arrival of the ambulance meant only one thing. Colonel Hogan was back. The ambulance driver and his assistant exited the front of the vehicle and, glaring at the prisoners, made their way to the back of the ambulance. They detested having to transport an American, much less one who was a POW, but orders were orders. They both just wanted to get the job done and get out of here and away from these animals. The driver opened the back door and climbed inside. The prisoner lying on the stretcher ignored him completely and continued staring into space. In fact, he had been silent from the time he had been loaded into the ambulance.
But that was okay with the driver. He really didn't want to talk with the American anyway. He slid the stretcher forward towards the other man. "The sooner I am rid of you, the happier I'll be," he muttered half to himself.
"I heard that," a voice said. Looking up, the man noticed a German Luftwaffe Colonel with a monocle staring at him, unsmiling. "And I don't appreciate you speaking to my Senior POW officer that way. Now I want you to carry him into the barracks, and then get out of my prison camp. And be careful with him. Is that understood?"
"Jawohl, Colonel," the man replied, "I didn't mean…"
"I don't care what you meant!" Klink said. "Just do what you're told!" He turned sharply and walked away, aware that the eyes of the prisoners were on him. If only he knew how proud the prisoners were that their Kommandant stood up for their Colonel.
Hogan appeared not to have heard the exchange, yet, he swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. His eyes glistened with unshed tears.
The driver muttered something under his breath and shook his head. He gripped one end of the stretcher while his partner gripped the other end. Together, they emerged from the ambulance and, quickly but carefully, made their way towards barracks two with the prisoners following. Kinch held the door open for the stretcher to pass by. He noticed the Colonel didn't look at him or anyone else, but continued staring at nothing.
Inside the barracks, the driver looked around at the men. "Where do we put him?" he asked. Newkirk opened the door to Hogan's quarters. "Right in here, gentlemen," He explained with as much self control at these two as he could muster. "The lower bunk will be fine."
Once inside the Colonel's quarters, the two men carefully transferred their charge onto the lower bunk, well aware they were being watched by other prisoners who seemed to be making sure nothing happened to this American. Once the transfer was complete, one man collapsed the stretcher and the two men hastily left the barracks.
Now alone with their Colonel, Newkirk, LeBeau and Kinch motioned for the others to leave them alone and give Hogan a chance to relax. They closed the door after everyone had left. "Welcome home, mon Colonel," LeBeau said, smiling as best as he could. "We missed you."
"Glad to have you back, Gov'nor."
"Anything we can get you, sir?" asked Kinch.
Hogan closed his eyes momentarily, then opened them again. Turning his head towards his men he looked at them with a completely blank stare. The men noticed Hogan's brown eyes, usually so full of life, were now completely devoid of life. He swallowed. "You want to get me something, Kinch," he said in an somewhat bitter voice, "Give me back my legs. Can you do that?"
Kinch hesitated for a moment. "No, I can't do that, Colonel. I'm sorry."
Hogan let out a deep breath. "I didn't think so," he replied.
The men exchanged concerned looks. They each knew they were playing this by ear, and they had to tread lightly. They remembered what Wilson had told them. The Colonel was not angry at them, but at his situation.
"Would you like something to eat, mon Colonel?"
"What I want you can't give me! So why don't all of you just get the hell outta here and leave me alone!"
Kinch licked his suddenly dry lips. "Sure, Colonel," he said. "We'll let you get some rest. Just yell if you want or need anything." He and the others quietly left the room.
Alone, Hogan covered his eyes with a hand and let his quiet sobs wrack his entire body in anguish.
Later that evening, Carter got up from his bunk and quietly made his way to Hogan's quarters. He hesitated as he stood outside the Colonel's closed door. He knew he should have welcomed the Colonel home, but he was afraid to face him. How do I face someone I've cripped possibly for life? he thought. Sighing, he turned away from the door and was startled to come face-to-face with LeBeau.
"Why don't you go say hello to the Colonel, Carter," he said. "I know he would like to see you."
"I can't, Louie," Carter replied, fear showing on his face and in his voice. "I mean, I know he blames me. Every time he sees me he'll be reminded I'm the one who crippled him, possibly for life."
LeBeau grinned. "You know Colonel Hogan doesn't hold grudges, Carter."
"That's true." Carter seemed to mull over his decision. "Would you come with me when I see Colonel Hogan, LeBeau? I'd kinda feel better not facing him alone."
"Oui. Of course I will. Wait here. I'll see if the Colonel is awake."
LeBeau knocked on the door. There was no answer. Opening the door quietly, LeBeau peeked inside. "Colonel?"
Hogan turned to him. "What is it, LeBeau?"
"Carter would like to see you. Is it okay?"
Hogan really didn't want any visitors. Not now anyway. He sighed wearily. "Have him come in."
Carter slowly and cautiously entered Hogan's quarters with LeBeau who stood in the far corner.
Nobody said anything for quite awhile. Finally, Carter swallowed an imaginary lump in his throat. "I'm glad you're back, Colonel," he said in a small voice, barely audible.
"Are you okay, Carter?"
"Yes, sir. Other than a headache, I mean. Colonel…." he paused, not quite sure how to continue.
Hogan rubbed his temple. "What is it, Carter?"
"…. Colonel, I'm sorry. I never meant for you to get hurt."
"Sorry? Sorry for what?"
"For one of my detonation devices exploding like it did. I don't know what or how it happened."
Hogan closed his eyes as he continued massaging his temple. His head was beginning to ache something fierce. I don't want any damn apologies! I just want my life back the way it was! And nobody can give it to me! Opening eyes now full of anger, Hogan found himself glaring at Carter. "You don't know what happened? Is that the best you have to offer? Damn it, Carter! I'm a cripple thanks to your carelessness by having that damned stuff so close!"
LeBeau saw the stricken look on Carter's face as he suddenly bolted from Hogan's quarters. LeBeau watched him leave before turning to Hogan. "Colonel," was all he could get out of his mouth.
Hogan groaned as his head fell back on his pillow. "Oh, God," he moaned. "I didn't mean what I just said. LeBeau, tell him I didn't mean any of it!"
LeBeau shook his head sadly. "Oui, Colonel. I will tell him what you said." The little Frenchman quietly left the room closing the door behind him leaving Hogan alone with his jumbled thoughts.
Why did I lash out like that at Carter? He didn't do it on purpose. What happened was an accident. Accidents happen. And I laid into him like he did this to me on purpose. I hope LeBeau can make him understand I didn't mean it.
Later that same evening, Sergeant Joe Wilson entered barracks two and found LeBeau, Kinch, Newkirk & Chris Tucker seated at the table. He had passed Carter outside, seated alone on the bench. The young man was seemingly totally withdrawn into his own little shell. He hadn't even acknowledged Wilson when he spoke to him.
"I saw Carter sitting alone outside," he said pouring himself some coffee. "He didn't even speak to me. What's going on?" He joined them at the table.
LeBeau let out a deep breath. "Colonel Hogan jumped on Carter. Blamed him for him being crippled by being careless."
Wilson, who had been drinking his coffee, almost choked when he heard what LeBeau said. He looked at the Frenchman. "I don't believe it!"
"Believe it, mate," Newkirk puffed on his cigarette. "LeBeau told us Carter was practically in tears as he ran out of the Gov'nor's quarters. After that, Carter wouldn't speak with any of us. He just keeps to himself."
"Thing is…." LeBeau continued. "Right after Carter ran out, the Colonel was sorry for what he said. Wanted me to tell Carter he didn't mean what he had said to him. Problem is, when I told Carter the Colonel apologized, I don't even know if he heard me."
Wilson raised an eyebrow. "I told you. The Colonel's angry at everybody and anybody. Believe me, he knows Carter didn't cause the explosion on purpose. It's just that in his anger, he can't see that. How's he been otherwise?"
"Hard to say," Kinch told him. "He won't talk to any of us. And the one time he did, he ordered us out of his quarters."
Wilson checked his watch. It was still early. "Think I'll pay the Colonel a visit and see if he'll talk to me." Finishing his coffee, he got up and approached Hogan's quarters. His knock on the door was met with silence. He opened the door anyway. The thin stream of light from the barracks illuminated the man lying on his back on the lower bunk. Wilson noticed Hogan's eyes were closed.
"What do you want, Wilson?" Hogan asked without opening his eyes.
"How did you know it was me?"
"I figured you'd be dropping in sooner or later." Hogan licked his lips before continuing. "So state your purpose and then get the hell out and leave me alone."
Closing the door, Wilson turned on the small desk lamp. He pulled out the chair and sat down, facing Hogan. "How are you feeling, Colonel?"
"How the hell do you think I feel!" Hogan said, opening his eyes, raising his voice in anger. He looked at Wilson. "And don't give me any of that it's okay to feel that way garbage. Because unless you've ever been paralyzed from the waist down, you have no idea how I feel!"
Wilson hesitated. "No, I've never had happen to me what happened to you, Colonel. But yes, I can tell you what you're feeling is perfectly normal."
Before Hogan could reply, Wilson said, "Colonel, I understand you and Carter had a brief talk today."
"Yeah, we did. Look, I already asked LeBeau to apologize for me and tell Carter I didn't mean what I said."
Wilson chose his next words carefully. "But did you apologize to him yourself?"
Hogan sighed wearily. Laying his head back down, he massaged his temple. "I told you…." There was an edge to his voice.
"I know what you told me, Colonel. But you have to see it from Carter's side. Having LeBeau apologize for you makes it look to him like you're not sorry at all, and LeBeau's just saying you are to maintain peace."
"I know you're right, Joe. It's just that I feel like a part of me has died, y'know? And every time I think about what I've lost, I think about the explosion. And when I think about the explosion…." Wilson could see Hogan's eyes were bright with unshed tears.
He finished Hogan's thought. "….you think of Carter." He smiled grimly. "That's normal."
Hogan wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "I can't live like this," he said softly, his voice now breaking. "I don't want to live like this!" he turned to the medic. "I'm no good to my men this way. Joe, is there something you can do to….do I have to say it?"
Wilson sighed. "No, Colonel. I will not help you do what I believe you're asking me to. And neither will any of your men. Give yourself time, Colonel. You've recently come out of surgery, and there's still a lot of swelling in your lower back. You must wait until the swelling goes down before we know whether or not you'll walk again."
Hogan looked at Wilson again. "How long before you know?"
"That's a question I can't answer. There's no way to tell how long before the swelling goes down."
Hogan swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. "So there's the possibility I could never walk again"
"Yes. There's a chance."
"I see." Hogan squeezed his eyes tightly shut. "Joe, please leave. I want to be alone."
Wilson didn't want to leave Hogan alone in his current frame of mind. "Colonel Hogan…." he began.
"Joe, get out! I'm asking you nicely. Don't make me say something I might regret!"
Wilson sighed sadly. He got up.
"Turn off the desk lamp before you leave."
Wilson switched off the desk lamp and quietly opened the door and left, closing it behind him. Standing outside Hogan's door, Wilson was lost in thought for a long time before he realized the men in barracks two were looking at him. He walked over to the stove, grabbed a coffee cup and filled it. Taking a sip, he sat down where Newkirk, LeBeau, Kinch and Tucker were still seated. Newkirk had lit another cigarette and Kinch was in the middle of a game of solitaire. They all waited for Wilson to say something, anything.
"Well?" Kinch finally had to ask when the silence became too much.
Wilson sighed. "Colonel Hogan was quite depressed when I left him," he said. "He even asked me to help him take his own life without saying so in so many words."
LeBeau, Kinch and Newkirk exchanged frightened looks. Only Chris Tucker wasn't surprised. He had lived through it before. All he could do was shake his head.
"What are we gonna do, Joe?" asked Kinch. "We can't watch him twenty-four hours a day."
"In that case, the only thing I can think of is to have him sent back to the hospital where he can be watched twenty-four hours a day."
Hogan's men all looked at each other. Finally, LeBeau looked at Wilson. "We will not send the Colonel to any hospital. You know as well as we do that prisoners-of-war are not as well treated as Krauts in a German hospital. How can you even ask us to have the Colonel sent there?"
"It was just a thought," Wilson said, shrugging his shoulders. "Has he eaten anything since he got back?"
LeBeau shook his head. "We asked. He refused."
"Can you fix him something anyway, LeBeau?"
"Oui. I still have some soup left over from dinner. I can prepare the Colonel a cup."
"Good. I don't know if he'll eat it," said Wilson. "But bring it to him anyway. Okay?"
LeBeau's face brightened a bit. "Oui." He hurriedly got up. "I will heat some up right now."
Newkirk put out his cigarette. "Did he mention Carter at all?"
"Yeah, he did. He's fully aware the explosion wasn't Carter's fault. But keep in mind he's angry. And unfortunately, right now he sees the explosion and Carter as one in the same."
Tucker let out a deep breath. "Joe, would it be okay if I talk to Colonel Hogan tomorrow? I mean, I lived through with my older brother what Colonel Hogan's going through now."
Wilson raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you had an older brother, Chris."
"He was a paraplegic like the Colonel is. He killed himself the day after he learned he would never walk again. I don't want to see the Colonel go through what Derrick went through. I think I might be able to help as I lived through it."
"Y'know, Chris," Wilson tilted his head slightly. "You just might be able to help Colonel Hogan because you know what to expect and you're not as close to him as LeBeau, Kinch, Carter and Newkirk are. Maybe you can reach him. You think you can?"
Tucker smiled. "Colonel Hogan is the finest man I've ever met, Joe. I'd sure like to try."
"Then go ahead. But wait until tomorrow. Other than LeBeau taking some food to him this evening, I rather he rest for the night."
LeBeau returned to the table and sat down. He shook his head sadly. "I took a cup of soup into his quarters and put it on his footlocker beside his bunk where he could reach it. He wouldn't touch it. He's just staring at the bottom of the upper bunk."
"Leave it there for him. If he gets hungry later it'll be there. If not…." Wilson, finishing his coffee, got to his feet. "I'd better say goodnight. I want to talk with Carter before I turn in. I'll check with you guys tomorrow."
Kommandant Klink was reviewing and signing the papers on his desk when he threw down his pen and massaged his temple. Who was he kidding? He was just going through the motions anyway. He didn't even know what the papers were he was signing. His mind was on his Senior POW officer. He hadn't been to see Hogan since his return, and he felt guilty about that. Getting up, he strolled over to the window and opened it. Looking out at the prisoners going about their business in the compound, he spied Carter sitting alone on the bench outside barracks two. Klink had noticed the young man had been doing that a lot since Hogan's return. He then noticed Kinch, LeBeau and Newkirk join Carter. Klink stroked his jaw, lost in thought. Had there been some kind of rift between Carter and Hogan? Possibly. The young man was certainly spending a lot of time alone since Hogan's return, and that, in itself, was unusual as Hogan and his men were inseparable.
So lost in thought was Klink, he didn't hear the knock on his door. Whoever it was knocked again, louder this time. Klink turned around. "Come in," he said as he sat down behind his desk. The door opened and Sergeant Wilson entered. He saluted Klink.
Klink returned the salute. "What can I do for you, Sergeant Wilson?" He paused, suddenly concerned. "Has something happened to Colonel Hogan?"
"Yes and no. May I sit down, Kommandant?"
Klink motioned towards the chair in front of his desk. "What's happened?"
"I went to see Colonel Hogan yesterday evening. He's very depressed right now. He wanted my help to commit suicide even though he didn't say so in so many words."
Klink was stunned. Wilson's words had thrown him for a loop. He had no idea things were this bad with Hogan. Licking his suddenly dry lips, Klink folded his hands atop his desk. "Sergeant, exactly what are you asking me to do for Colonel Hogan?"
"Well, in his present state of mind, he's going to have to be watched twenty-four hours a day. His men are willing to do that and are hoping you'll cut them some slack as far as the regular routine here."
Klink was thoughtful for a moment. "Perhaps Colonel Hogan should be back in the hospital if he's doing as badly as you say."
"Colonel, you and I both know how German hospitals are when it comes to treating POWs. His men want to try to help him themselves. They're not quite ready to admit defeat yet. How about it, Kommandant?"
It didn't take Klink long to answer. "Whatever it takes to help Colonel Hogan, Sergeant. You may inform the men that I am willing to be flexible regarding normal camp routine as long as it's within reason. But keep in mind, that if Colonel Hogan's condition deteriorates to the point where his life is in jeopardy, I will not hesitate to have him returned to the hospital immediately. Is that understood?"
"Thank you, Kommandant." Wilson made no attempt to get up and leave.
"Was there something else, Sergeant Wilson?"
"Yes, sir. Is there any possibility of getting a wheelchair for Colonel Hogan? He should become accustomed to one as soon as possible if he's to have any kind of mobility at all."
Klink looked at the medic for a long time before answering. "I don't know how or where, Sergeant, but I will see that he gets one. Just give me a few days. Now, is there anything else?"
"Only one more thing, Kommandant. I mentioned it to you a few days ago. Is there a possibility of constructing a wheelchair ramp outside your office?"
"I didn't forget our conversation, Sergeant. The ramp will be constructed by the end of the week."
Wilson got to his feet. This had been easier than he thought it would be. "Thank you, Colonel. I thought you might not agree with my requests."
Klink smiled warmly. "Sergeant Wilson, whatever you or the men might think of me, I am concerned about Colonel Hogan. And I am willing to see that he has whatever he needs at this time. After all, I am not as unsympathetic to his situation as some might think."
"I know that, sir."
"In fact, Sergeant, I thinking of stopping by later today for a visit with Colonel Hogan. Is he up to having visitors?"
Wilson sighed. "It's difficult to tell. The Colonel's moods are everywhere these days. While I believe he'd like to see you, I can't guarantee how he'll react once you're there."
"I understand, Sergeant. However, I'll still stop by later today."
Wilson smiled. "Yes, sir, Thank you, sir." He saluted Klink who returned the salute and watched the medic leave his office. Now alone, Klink picked up his telephone. "Fraulein Hilda, I want you to place a call for me."
Chris Tucker knocked on the door of Hogan's quarters. There was no response. He opened the door and looked in. Hogan was staring at the bottom side of the upper bunk. The cup of soup LeBeau had brought in the night before was still where LeBeau had put it, untouched and now cold. Hogan didn't acknowledge Tucker's apearance. The young man pulled out the chair from the desk and sat down, facing Hogan.
"Colonel, how are you feeling today?" he asked.
Hogan didn't respond. He continued staring at the bottom of the top bunk.
"I see you didn't touch any of the soup LeBeau brought you." He smiled slightly. "It was really delicious. You don't know what you were missing. Maybe you'd like some breakfast. I think LeBeau's fixing all of your favorites. "
"I wasn't hungry then, and I'm not hungry now," Hogan continued to stare upward.
Tucker studied Hogan's face. The Colonel was developing dark circles under his eyes, and had at least two days of stubble on his face. Tucker bit his lower lip as he recalled eight years ago. Just like Derrick. Refused to eat anything and didn't care about his appearance either.
"Colonel, you have to keep up your strength. You need to eat something. I can have LeBeau…."
Hogan's brown eyes flashed angrily as he raised his head and stared at the young blonde-haired man. "Leave me alone! I don't need your pity, Sergeant! I don't need it and I don't want it! So get the hell out and leave me alone!"
But Tucker didn't move. "You can yell at me all you want, Colonel Hogan, if that makes you feel better. But I'm not going anywhere. And neither are LeBeau, Kinch, Newkirk or Carter."
"Don't you understand? I can't lead my men in this condition. I can't lead anybody. Not now! Not ever! Don't you get it? I'm never going to walk again! I'd be better off if I was….Oh, God!" His head fell back on the pillow as he rubbed his eyes. Tucker could almost hear the Colonel's quiet sobbing.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Tucker reached out and gripped Hogan's hand in his and squeezed it tightly. "It's okay, Colonel. Really. It's okay to be angry or whatever else you want to feel. It's really okay."
"I'm never going to walk again, Chris. Never." Hogan's voice was cracking. "And no amount of time is going to change that. None. So why doesn't everybody just let me end it? Is that too much to ask? I just want to end my life instead of having to live it this way. My men don't need me to be a burden on them. They need a leader who they have confidence in."
"Is that what you think, Colonel? That you can't lead because you can't walk? Let me tell you, sir, whether or not a person's legs function don't make him a leader. You're mind's still as sharp as ever and you can still think quickly. A leader leads by example." He paused for a moment. He felt he might have Hogan's attention a little bit. At least he hoped so. "And you've set a fine example for your men. They know what type of leader you are, sir, as well as what type of man you are. And I know for a fact, sir, that they don't think any less of you because you can't walk."
"Sergeant Tucker," Hogan replied, his voice cracking. "Just leave me alone. I'm tired and really don't want to hear any more. You and I both know the man you're describing doesn't exist any more. He's been replaced by someone who can't function at the level he needs to. Besides, how can the men have confidence in half a Colonel."
Tucker let out a deep breath. He was dismayed. "Colonel Hogan, sir…."
"Please…. get…. out! Now!" Hogan turned his head away from Tucker. He stared at the far wall.
Tucker shook his head as he walked out the door. I'm not giving up on you yet, Colonel. I'm gonna get through to you one way or the other. I won't lose you like I lost Derrick.
Tucker wearily sat down at the long table. He folded his hands atop of the table. He had to think. This isn't going to be easy. Colonel Hogan is more deeply depressed than Derrick ever was. But I know I can reach him and get him to understand he can still lead his unit. I just have to find a way. I have to.
"Have any luck with the Colonel, Chris?" Kinch asked, pouring himself a cup of coffee. He sat down across from Tucker.
"Not much. For a brief moment I thought I had gotten through to him, but then I lost him again."
"Morning, gentlemen," Newkirk said as he sat down. He lit a cigarette." he looked at Tucker. "I saw you go into the Gov'nor's quarters earlier. Any luck?"
"Chris was just telling me he thought for a brief moment he had gotten through to the Colonel, but no such luck." He sipped at his coffee.
"We have an even bigger problem than that," Tucker explained, concerned. "Colonel Hogan believes he will never walk again and that he cannot lead this unit anymore."
"That's bloody ridiculous!" Newkirk exclaimed. "The Gov'nor's still got his mind and it's as sharp as ever. And we'll do all the work until he can walk again no matter how long it takes."
"I told him that. I also told him his men have just as much confidence in him now as they did before. But he doesn't believe it." Tucker paused before continuing. "He asked me why doesn't everyone just let him end his life because he can't take living as he is now."
Both Kinch and Newkirk exchanged concerned looks. Newkirk rubbed his forehead. "Blimey, this situation keeps getting worse and worse."
Kinch pursed his lips. "Things aren't going any better with Carter either. He's pulling further and further away from us, Chris. If something doesn't give soon, I'm afraid we might lose both Carter and the Colonel."
The men looked around when the barracks door opened and LeBeau and Wilson entered. Wilson poured himself a cup of coffee and then joined LeBeau and the others at the table.
"What's happened?" Wilson asked, concerned at the worried faces of the others.
"We were discussing Chris's visit with the Colonel this morning, Joe. For a brief moment he thought he might have reached the Colonel, but then he lost him," said Kinch. "Chris also says the Colonel asked him for everyone to allow him to end his life because he can't live as he is now."
"Carter's not doing any better, either," LeBeau added. "He just sits and stares at nothing. It's almost as if he's in his own world."
"Did the Colonel eat anything today?" asked Wilson.
"When I saw him, he hadn't touched the soup LeBeau brought in yesterday. I asked him if he wanted anything and he said no." Tucker sighed. "But I'm not giving up. I can't."
Wilson glanced at LeBeau. "Louie, from this moment on, I want you to take Colonel Hogan's meals in to him every day and put them where he can reach them. Try to get him to eat something. Even if it's only a little."
LeBeau got up. "Oui. I will prepare breakfast for him right now and take it into him."
The others smiled despite their concern.
"I do have some good news, though," Wilson added. "I spoke with the Kommandant this morning. He's going to get a wheelchair for the Colonel and have a wheelchair ramp built outside his office. He also said he will cut everyone some slack regarding camp routine as long as it's within reason. But he made it quite clear that if the Colonel's life appears to be in danger, he won't hesitate to ship him back to the hospital. He's also planning to visit the Colonel later today."
The men all looked at each other. "How did you get him to agree to all that?" asked Newkirk, amazed.
"It wasn't difficult, Newkirk," Wilson replied, smiling. "Beneath that act he puts on for everybody, I believe Klink is very concerned about Colonel Hogan."
The men, with exception of LeBeau who was sitting with Colonel Hogan in his quarters, were seated around the table when the barracks door opened, and Kommandant Klink and Sergeant Wilson walked in. Klink paused as all the men in the barracks looked at him. "Good evening, gentlemen," he said trying not to sound too cheerful.
Kinch, Newkirk and Tucker greeted Klink. "Kommandant," said Kinch. "We would like to say we appreciate not only what you've done for Colonel Hogan, but what you're continuing to do for him. We know it can't be easy."
"There's no need to thank me, Sergeant Kinchloe. Colonel Hogan may be a prisoner, but he's still a human being. And to be perfectly honest, Sergeant, I find it distressing to see him this way."
"No more than the rest of us, Kommandant," agreed Kinch. "Would you like some coffee. We made a fresh pot an hour ago."
Klink smiled grimly. "No thank you. Is Colonel Hogan awake? I'd like to see him."
"Sure, Kommandant. Go right on in. LeBeau's with him trying to convince him to eat something," Kinch added.
Klink's face expressed his concern. "He won't eat?"
"Not a thing, sir," Tucker said. "He's refused food for two days now. And frankly, sir, he's not looking well at all."
Wilson headed towards Hogan's door. "Before you visit Colonel Hogan, Kommandant, I'd like to examine him."
"Of course, Sergeant Wilson," said Klink. "I'll wait out here until you're done." Sitting down at the table, Klink looked at Kinch. "While I wait, Sergeant Kinchloe, maybe I will have some coffee."
"No problem, Kommandant." Kinch grabbed a coffee cup from the table and filled it with hot coffee. He handed it to Klink.
"Danke, Sergeant." Klink took a sip of the coffee. He looked around the table. "Colonel Hogan's well-being isn't my only concern."
"What's bothering you, Kommandant?" asked Newkirk as LeBeau joined them at the table.
"I'm concerned about Sergeant Carter. He seems to be withdrawing for lack of a better word. Did something happen between Sergeant Carter and Colonel Hogan?"
The men exchanged looks. They weren't prepared to answer this particular question, at least not right now. But it was Newkirk who thought quickly. "Me mate Carter's taking what happened to the Colonel pretty hard, that's all, sir. He sort of worships the Gov'nor. Y'know how it is. He'll be all right after awhile." At least I hope he will be, Newkirk told himself.
Klink seemed to accept Newkirk's explanation. "If there's anything I can do for Sergeant Carter, please let me know."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," replied Newkirk.
Wilson emerged from Hogan's quarters. His face was grim. Running a hand over his hair, he approached the table.
"How is he, Joe?" asked Tucker, worried.
"If we can't get some food into him soon, he'll have to go back to the hospital. He'll starve to death at the rate he's going which is what he may be trying to do."
"You mean because he wants to end his life and nobody will let him," Tucker replied.
"Exactly." Wilson looked at Klink. "You can go see him now, Kommandant," he said. "Maybe you can talk some sense into him."
"I'll certainly try, Sergeant Wilson. Thank you," Klink replied getting to his feet and heading in the direction of Hogan's quarters. He went inside. When he saw the man lying on the bed it caused Klink to catch his breath. He couldn't believe the man he saw was the same man he was accustomed to seeing.
Colonel Hogan had three days growth of stubble on his face and his usually neatly combed hair was in disarray. Also, he had the beginnings of dark circles forming under eyes which were beginning to appear a bit sunken in. In fact, he had the appearance of the walking dead.
Recovering from the shock, Klink sat in the chair beside the bed. "Colonel Hogan, it's Kommandant Klink. How are you feeling?"
"Just peachy, Kommandant." Hogan replied sarcastically. He didn't look at Klink. "Never felt better."
Klink ignored the sarcasm. "Colonel Hogan, I understand you're refusing to eat anything."
"That's right. It's my personal do-it-yourself health program."
"You will not commit suicide in my prison camp! I won't allow it! You will from this moment on eat regularly or else."
This time Hogan turned his head and looked at Klink. "Or else what?!"
"You have two choices, Colonel Hogan. You can either be sent back to the hospital and I'll make sure you're force fed. Or I will visit you three times a day and force feed you myself with Schultz's help. What's it going to be?"
For a moment Klink thought he saw a bit of the mischievous gleam in Hogan's eyes. "You wouldn't dare!" he muttered.
Klink leaned close to Hogan's face. "Just try me, my friend. Just try me!"
For the first time in days, a faint smile appeared on Hogan's face. "You're serious, aren't you, Kommandant?"
Hogan gave Klink one of his famous smirks. "You win, Kommandant," he said wearily. "I'm too tired to argue with you. Tell LeBeau to fix me something. I don't care what."
Klink leaned back in the chair, a slight smile on his face. "That's better. Your men will be glad to hear this." He slowly got to his feet. "I don't want to tire you out, Colonel, so I guess I'll be leaving and visit you again soon." He headed towards the door. As he gripped the doorknob.
Klink turned. "Yes, Hogan?"
Hogan sighed. "I just wanted to say thank you for what you said to the ambulance driver when they brought me back to Stalag 13. I head what you said to him."
Klink faced Hogan. "We might be enemies, Colonel, but despite being an American, you are still an officer who deserves the respect of his rank. I could not allow that man speak to you that way."
"Whatever. Thank you just the same."
"You're welcome." Klink, smiling in relief. Before he left, Klink gave Hogan a warning look. "Remember, Hogan. I will be checking on you with Corporal LeBeau and Sergeant Wilson to make certain you are eating as you promised you would." He turned and exited the room.
The men looked up from what they were doing as Klink approached them.
"Why are you smiling, Kommandant?" asked Kinch.
Klink looked at the Frenchman. "Corporal LeBeau, I want you to prepare a light meal for Colonel Hogan and take it in to him. He's agreed to start eating, and promises he'll do so on a regular basis."
The men all exchanged looks. "How did you get him to do that?" asked Tucker, confused.
"Quite simple, really. I threatened to either have him sent back to the hospital and make sure he's force fed, or I would force feed him myself with Schultz's help."
LeBeau managed to stifle a laugh that the others could not. "Kommandant, with Schultz there would be no food to force into the Colonel. You would have to force him to give it to the Colonel instead."
Klink shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps you're right, Corporal." He grinned for a moment at the thought of forcing Schultz to surrender food, but then wiggled a finger at LeBeau. "Just make sure you and Sergeant Wilson keep me apprised as to whether Colonel Hogan eats regularly. I intend to make good my threats if he doesn't!"
"That we'll do Kommandant," replied Wilson as LeBeau went about preparing what leftovers there were for his injured Colonel. For the first time since everything had happened, LeBeau actually found himself humming softly while going about his task. Sighing, Klink bade the men goodnight and quietly left promising to visit Colonel Hogan again soon.
Tucker ran a hand over his blonde hair. "I still don't believe it," he said, admiringly. "I just don't believe it."
"Neither do I," Wilson replied. "But if the Colonel does what Klink said he promised he would, I don't really care. Whatever works is what I say."
LeBeau, carrying a plate of food, knocked on Hogan's door. He was surprised to hear Hogan's permission to enter. He opened the door and looked in.
"Colonel?" he asked hesitantly. "I brought you some salad. I figured since you haven't eaten in two days you might not want anything heavy."
Hogan looked at the Frenchman. "Thanks, LeBeau." He watched as LeBeau sat the plate down on top of his footlocker. Hogan sighed wearily.
"I'm sorry, LeBeau."
"For what, mon Colonel?" LeBeau asked, gently easing the pillow from beneath Hogan's head and fluffing it as best he could. It was hard to fluff a piece of cardboard. Then, with an equal amount of care, he helped the Colonel into a sitting position. He then made sure the Colonel's back rested against the 'fluffed' pillow. Pulling the pillow from the top bunk, he placed in Hogan's lap to use as a tray and put the plate on it. Sitting on the footlocker, LeBeau watched his Colonel begin eating.
"Sorry for what, mon Colonel?" he asked Hogan again.
"For being such a burden on you and the others," Hogan said between bites. "This salad's delicious, LeBeau. I'd almost forgotten how good food can taste when you prepare it."
"Merci, mon Colonel, on both accounts. But in response to your statement, you could never be a burden to us, sir. Never. You are our leader and our friend. We're worried about you." LeBeau debated whether or not to tell Hogan about Carter, but decided against it. He felt Hogan couldn't handle anybody else's problems right now with his own problems still to be dealt with. "Your place is here with us. And you will walk again, Colonel. But you must be patient."
Hogan sighed. He let the back of his head press against the wall behind him. "I don't know if I can wait indefinitely, LeBeau. I mean, I could be waiting for something that may never happen."
LeBeau bit his lower lip and his eyes glistened with unshed tears. "Even if that is true, Colonel, you are still our commanding officer. Don't ever forget that. You don't need your legs to run this unit. We will do whatever you need us to do."
Hogan turned to the Frenchman. Reading the sincerity in LeBeau's eyes, Hogan found his own eyes were brimming. He let out a deep breath. "Thanks, LeBeau," he said softly. "But you need a commanding officer who is whole. With me you only have half a Colonel."
"Don't you ever say that!" LeBeau suddenly exploaded with such anger it even startled Hogan. He jumped up from his seat. "Don't you ever put yourself down like that in front of me, Colonel! Do you understand me? Never!" Then, realizing he was shouting at Hogan, LeBeau sat back down and hung his head. "I apologize for my outburst, Colonel."
Hogan let a slight smile come to his face. "I never knew you had such a temper, LeBeau," he said. "Remind me never to get on your bad side."
Looking up, LeBeau smiled. He begin thinking it just might be possible for his commanding officer to overcome his problems after all.
Kinch was laying on his bunk in the radio room, reading, when his radio began beeping, indicating a message was coming in. Jumping up, he put on his headset and began copying down the incoming message. It was London.
As he was furiously writing, LeBeau approached, putting a cup of coffee in front of him. He watched Kinch copy down the message. When he was done, Kinch tossed his pen aside and tore the paper off his pad.
"What's it say?" asked LeBeau.
Kinch sighed. "London wants us to sabotage a German supply train. Seems the Krauts are using it to transport arms and a secret cache of weapons to their troops at the front."
LeBeau shood his head sadly. "What did London say about the Colonel?"
"I haven't told them," Kinch said taking a sip of coffee. "Things had been so crazy lately, and I didn't want to do anything without speaking with the Colonel first. But in his recent frame of mind…."
"Oui. I understand. So, what are we going to do, then?"
"Do about what, gentlemen?" asked Newkirk who suddenly appeared.
"Message from London. They want us to blow up a 'munitions train," LeBeau explained. "But to top it off, they don't know about the Colonel."
Newkirk stared at Kinch. "Blimey. You didn't tell 'em?"
"No. I was going to, but between what happened with Carter and Colonel Hogan, and things being so crazy, I didn't want to bother the Colonel." Kinch suddenly looked at Newkirk, concerned. "You didn't leave the Colonel alone, did you?"
Newkirk rolled his eyes, exasperated. "Of course not. What do you think I am? Bloody crackers or something? Chris is sitting with him."
"I just thought of something," LeBeau said.
"What's that?" Newkirk remarked, lighting a cigarette.
"London wants us to blow up a train. Who's going to prepare the explosives? In his condition, Carter won't do it. Not after what happened last time and especially not after the Colonel yelled at him."
"That isn't the only problem we got, mate," Newkirk took a long drag on his cigarette. "One, do we tell Colonel Hogan about London's message? Or two, do we contact London and tell them what's happened to the Gov'nor and hope they won't send us a permanent replacement for the Colonel."
Kinch and LeBeau exchanged concerned looks. They realized, until Newkirk mentioned it, neither of those thoughts had ever occurred to them. "I think we better speak with Wilson," Kinch said matter-of-factly. LeBeau and Newkirk agreed.
Tucker sat at Hogan's desk watching the Colonel as he slept. According to LeBeau, Hogan had eaten his dinner and followed it with a cup of hot coffee. Afterwards, the Colonel said he was tired and wanted to take a nap. So, with some help from LeBeau and Tucker, Hogan laid down and was within minutes, sound asleep.
It's amazing. He's so much like my late brother. So strong, so sure of himself, and so intelligent. In fact, Tucker never realized how much Colonel Hogan reminded him of his late brother. Is that the reason I so desperately want to save Colonel Hogan? Because he reminds me of my brother? Maybe losing the Colonel would be like losing Derrick a second time.
Looking down at the floor and sighing, Tucker massaged his temple. When he looked up, he noticed Hogan watching him. "I hope I didn't wake you, sir," Tucker said sheepishly.
"You didn't, Chris," Hogan rubbed his eyes. "How long have I been asleep?"
Tucker smiled. "Several hours, sir. But it's okay."
Hogan smiled faintly. "No, it's not. Have you been here the entire time?"
Hogan sighed. "You don't have to stay, Sergeant. I promise I'm not gonna try anything."
"Never thought you would, Colonel," Tucker let out a deep breath. He felt Hogan had tried to get rid of him a little too quickly. He suspected the Colonel had made a decision about taking his own life. "Can I talk with you, sir?"
"Of course. What is it?" Hogan's head was beginning to ache.
"Colonel, just what makes you so sure you can't lead your men anymore? I mean, your mind is still as sharp as ever."
Hogan let out a deep sigh. "Because I can't just assign someone to do something I should be doing. I don't like sitting on the sidelines. My men know that."
"But Colonel, how many times have you had to sit on the sidelines as you put it, when you've had to send one of your men out alone, or as a group because there was some reason you couldn't go?"
"That's different," Hogan was beginning to get annoyed with the questions. His headache was intensifying. His annoyance didn't escape Tucker.
"How? I'll tell you how, Sergeant! The old Colonel Hogan at least had the choice as to whether or not he would go. The new and not-so-improved model doesn't have that choice! Now, any more questions?!" Hogan found himself shouting at Tucker. But Tucker continued sitting and showed no reaction to being yelled at.
"Just one, Colonel." Tucker slowly got up from his seat and headed for the door. "Do you think so little of yourself since your accident that you can't see what you still have to offer? That you're still the same man you were before? That you can still do the job?"
Hogan, more angry than he had ever been since the explosion, forced himself up to a sitting position. Right now, his head pounded so fiercely, he thought it might explode. "Sergeant Tucker! I am still your commanding officer, and you are bordering on insubordination! How dare you speak to me like that!"
A slight smile appeared on Tucker's face. The old Colonel Hogan was emerging. He turned away from the door and faced the Colonel. "What's the matter, Colonel Hogan? Did I strike a nerve? I thought all you wanted was to feel sorry for yourself and take your own life because you couldn't handle a curveball being thrown your way."
Hogan's brown eyes were blazing as his face darkened. "You're out of line, Sergeant!"
The door to Hogan's quarters opened, and Kinch, Newkirk and LeBeau all stood in the doorway, attracted by the shouting coming from inside. LeBeau started forward but was stopped by Kinch. Both Hogan and Tucker seemed oblivious to their audience.
"So what, Colonel? If you're so much of a coward you want to take your life, don't let any of us stop you. But if that's what you want to do, then perhaps you're really not fit to lead this unit anymore!"
"Stop it!" Hogan suddenly cried out, wrapping his arms around his pounding head. "I can't…can't…." He allowed himself to fall back flat on the bunk. His entire body semed to be shaking from mental and physical exhaustion. "Why are you doing this to me? Why?" he looked at Tucker, confused and eyes wet." Somebody help me!"
Tucker approached the bunk and sat down beside Hogan. "I'm here, Colonel." He gripped Hogan's hand tightly in his own. All of us will help you. We want to help you. But you have to let us in."
Hogan turned his head and noticed his men standing in the doorway. He wiped his wet cheeks with his free hand. He let out a deep breath. "What do you fellas think?" he asked.
"Just tell us what you want us to do, mon Colonel," said LeBeau, tears running down his own cheeks.
"We're with you, Gov'nor," Newkirk chimed in, swallowing hard.
"You just have to believe in yourself, Colonel," said Kinch. "The same way we always have and still do."
Hogan again, this time with Tucker's help, struggled into a sitting position. He let out a deep breath. "If you fellas think I can, who am I to argue. But, I can't and won't promise anything. Understood?"
"Understood," his men all said in chorus. They slowly entered Hogan's quarters and gathered around his bunk. Hogan turned to Tucker, a tired grin on his face. "And do you agree with them, Sergeant Tucker?"
Tucker smiled warmly. "Colonel, you can do anything you set your mind to. Like Kinch said, you just have to believe in yourself." A look of embarrassment appeared. "Sir, I apologize for coming down on you so hard before. I couldn't let what happened before happen again. I just had to get you angry enough for the real Colonel Hogan to lash out."
Hogan raised an eyebrow. "Before?"
Tucker nodded. He sighed. "My older brother was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident. He couldn't handle it and…." he didn't finish.
Hogan thought he understood. "I'm sorry, Chris," he said. "I didn't realize how much of what I was going through reminded you of your brother. I remember you telling me about him when you first arrived here." Hogan suddenly looked around his quarters, curious.
"What is it, Colonel?" asked LeBeau.
The others exchanged silent looks. Finally, it was Newkirk who spoke. "Carter's in a bad way, Colonel. He blames himself for what happened to you. That and…uh…." Newkirk paused as he ran a hand over his brown hair. "….Well, sir, you sort of yelled at him and blamed him for what happened. In fact, some of the other guys in the barracks are as well."
Hogan closed his eyes momentarily. Opening them again, he looked at his men. "Looks like I have to not only set things right, but a lot of apologizing to do as well," he said wearily.
"That's not all there is, Colonel," Kinch chimed in. "We got a message from London. They want us to sabotage a 'munitions train that's carrying weapons to the German troops at the front."
"I see. Kinch, did you inform London about my situation?"
Kinch hung his head slightly. "No, sir. I didn't want to do anything without speaking with you first. But the way things were I didn't want to bother you at the time. I'm sorry, Colonel."
"Don't be. I didn't exactly make it easy on you. Okay, this is what we're going to do right now. First, Kinch, you're going to contact London and inform them of my situation. They have a right to know. Second, you'll also inform London we will take care of the 'munitions train but they'll have to give us some more time." Hogan held up a hand as LeBeau and Newkirk both protested at the same time about informing London of Hogan's condition.
"But mon Colonel…." LeBeau replied. "Suppose London decides you are to be replaced once they find out! We can't let that happen!"
"LeBeau's right, Colonel," added Newkirk. "London might decide you can't lead this unit anymore."
Hogan smiled. He looked at Tucker. "They might, Newkirk. But I guess I'll just have to convince them I can do whatever I set my mind to."
Joe Wilson looked in at the men gathered in Hogan's room. "Is this a private party, or can anyone come in?"
Hogan glanced at the medic. "Joe, c'mon in. You might be interested to know I've decided to see if I can continue running this unit."
"What made you come to your senses finally, Colonel?"
Hogan motioned to Tucker. "Seems this young man didn't know when to quit. And I thank all of you for not giving up on me. It seems the only person giving up on me was me."
"I'm glad to hear it, Colonel."
"I wish I could talk to you, Joe, but the men and I have a mission to plan. So, if you'll excuse us…."
Wilson didn't move. "Not so fast, Colonel. I have something here that you'll need before you start planning any missions." Wilson disappeared for a moment and shortly reappeared rolling in a wheelchair. Hogan took one look and caught his breath. There was hesitation in his eyes.
"Kommandant Klink and I discussed it shortly after you were injured. I told him you needed one if you were to be able to get around. He said he would see that you got one somehow. But he had to make a deal for it."
"What kind of deal?" asked Tucker.
"He promised the person he got the wheelchair from that LeBeau would cook dinner for him and this person when the time came."
LeBeau was stunned. Normally he would argue about having to cook for Krauts, but this time didn't. He just shrugged his shoulders. "Okay," was all he said.
"Also," Wilson continued, "I just left Klink's office. The construction of a wheelchair ramp outside his office is nearly complete. That way, whenever you have to see the Kommandant you'll be able to."
Hogan hung his head for a moment before looking at the wheelchair again. He guessed it couldn't have been easy for the Kommandant. He made a mental note to thank Klink for everything he did. He let out a deep, long breath. Wilson rolled the wheelchair further into the room, aware that Hogan's eyes were watching the wheelchair warily. He looked at Hogan. "If all of you except Chris, here, will leave, I'd like to examine Colonel Hogan." Wilson turned to Tucker. "Chris, after my exam, I'll need your help moving the Colonel into his wheelchair. He needs to become accustomed to it."
Nearly two hours had passed, and the door to Hogan's quarters remained closed. Kinch, LeBeau and Newkirk were all seated at the table. Newkirk was puffing on a cigarette, Kinch was playing his third game of solitaire, and LeBeau was watching, not really interested. Carter, at the urging of the others, had come into the barracks but was laying down on his bunk. He wasn't asleep, however, just staring at the far wall.
LeBeau glanced at the closed door. "What do you think's going on in there?" he asked the others solemnly.
Newkirk shrugged. "Other than an exam, I couldn't even venture a guess." He turned to Kinch. "So what did London have to say after you told them about the Gov'nor?"
Kinch shrugged. "Not much," he said. "I can tell you they weren't happy about being kept in the dark about the Colonel's condition, that's for sure."
"But what about the Colonel?" asked LeBeau, worried. "Did they say anything about replacing him?"
"All they said was that they would review the entire problem and get back to us. But they did allow the Colonel extra time to take care of the 'munitions train."
"Bloody nice of 'em," Newkirk sneered. "Y'know what they're really saying is they don't think Colonel Hogan can effectively lead this team anymore, and they're just lookin' for any ruddy excuse to replace him!" he puffed on his cigarette. "Well, I say if that's what they decide to do, then I'll bloody quit!"
Kinch and LeBeau exchanged concerned looks. Neither responded. But each had their own thoughts about what they would do if London decided to replace Colonel Hogan because of his condition. The opening of the door to Hogan's quarters caught their attention.
Wilson emerged first. He nodded to LeBeau, Kinch, Newkirk and Carter who was now sitting up, watching. Behind Wilson, seated in the wheelchair was Hogan. The wheelchair was being pushed by Tucker. He maneuvered the wheelchair up to the table. Hogan smiled at his men. Wilson sat down. He forced himself to keep the Colonel's news to himself for the moment.
"How do you feel, sir?" asked Newkirk.
"Well, Newkirk, it's not Klink's staff car, but I have my own set of wheels at least. I just have to learn how to drive this thing. I mean, this thing has no brakes." His eyes met those of Carter. "Carter, I want to apologize for what I said to you a few days ago. I was wrong to blame you for what happened. Accidents happen. Luckily, neither of us were killed. Can you ever forgive me?"
Carter slowly got to his feet. He sat down at the table close to his commanding officer. Their eyes locked. "Gee, sir, you have nothing to apolgize for. I mean, look what I did to you. You're in a wheelchair for pete sake."
Hogan clasped his hands in his lap. "You didn't do anything to me, Carter. As I said, accidents happen. But you're wrong if you say I don't have anything to apologize for. I shouldn't have yelled at you as I did. I was wrong to do that. I was angry at what happened and I struck out at you. I'm sorry. Can you accept my apology?"
Carter smiled for the first time in days. "Sure, Colonel. No problem."
"You're sure?" Hogan raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, sir, Colonel," Carter was now grinning from ear-to-ear. Colonel Hogan doesn't blame me. He even apologized to me….me, Andrew Carter. Oh, boy!
Hogan looked over his shoulder. "And for anybody in this barracks that blame Carter for what happened to me, it stops now! He's not to blame in any way. If I hear of or directly hear anybody blaming Carter I will personally speak to the Kommandant about having that person transferred out of this barracks. Do I make myself clear?"
A chorus of 'yes sirs' could be heard thoughout the barracks. Hogan motioned to Tucker to turn the wheelchair around so he could face the other men. Hogan's eyes fell on Carruthers. "Do you understand me especially, Corporal Carruthers?"
Carruthers, his head hanging, looked up with his eyes at Hogan. He saw anger in the Colonel's eyes. "Yes, sir, but…."
"No buts, Corporal. I am still the Senior POW officer here, and I will not tolerate such talk again. Do we understand each other?"
"Yes, sir." Carruthers glanced at Carter. "Sorry," he mumbled. Carter only nodded.
Enough said, Tucker turned the wheelchair around again so the Colonel could face his team. Hogan picked up his coffee cup from the table and handed it to Tucker who poured some of the left over coffee. Handing the cup back to Hogan, Tucker then sat down on one of the nearby bunks.
"Excuse me for asking, Colonel," Kinch spoke hesitantly. "But you never told us how Wilson's examination went. I mean, you were in there a long time. And well, we were wondering…."
Hogan smiled. His eyes met those of Wilson. "Maybe you might want to answer that one, Joe," he said.
The men all faced Wilson, waiting. He smiled. "Upon examing Colonel Hogan, it appears the swelling has gone down just a bit. It's not enough to make a difference right now, but it's something."
Hogan sighed as his excited men now turned to him. "Just keep in mind that this bit of news still doesn't mean I'll walk again. It's still too soon to tell. I mean, what you see now may be as good as it gets. But it's something for me to have hope." Hogan took a sip of his coffee. He made a face as he tasted the still warm liquid. He looked at LeBeau. "This coffee's terrible."
"I find that comment highly insulting, Colonel," Newkirk replied, faking hurt feelings.
"Why Newkirk?" Hogan replied.
LeBeau chuckled. "That's because Newkirk made the coffee, Colonel. A person must have a death wish if they drink it."
Newkirk glared at the Frenchman. "Pardonnez-moi, LeBeau," he replied, insulted. "At least I made the bloody coffee."
Hogan could only smile at the exchange. "Okay you guys, quiet down. We have a train to blow up. And here's how it's gonna be carried out…."