A small girl around the age of 5 sat shivering in a small corner of the truck she was in carrying German shepherds. Pinned on her ragged dress was the Star of David, bright and prominent. Her dark hair hung in limp, unkept strings, greasy with uncare, and she herself was covered with dark grease stains. She had been found shuddering in the basement of one of the Underground's house.
"'allo, mate!" Corporal Peter Newkirk cried, burying his hands deeper into the navy blue trenchcoat he wore. The owner of the truck, who also happened to be a useful agent, was named Oskar Schnitzer. Newkirk moved over to where an obese German guard was standing, watching the agent with suspicion.
"Ah, Schultzie, let the man do 'is job in peace! It is almost Christmas, you know," he added, effectively distracting the none-too-bright guard.
"What are you doing?" Schultz questioned, squinting and pointing. Newkirk glared at the finger a moment before turning his attention back to Schultz's face.
"Talkin' to you, obviously," he replied, feigning annoyance. Schultz opened his mouth to speak, when Newkirk noticed Oskar give a short nod over the blue shoulder in front of him. All right, then, he thought to himself, that means LeBeau got whoever it was out o' the truck, and into the tunnel. When did this job get so easy? Shaking his head, he gave Schultz a disarming smile.
"Now, Schultzie! I 'ave to go, really... it's gettin' awfully cold about this time, chum!" And with that, he turned and walked away, leaving a very confused Schultz.
*****
Meanwhile, in the tunnel below Barracks Two, as well as several others, Colonel Hogan, Corporal Louis LeBeau, Sergeant Andrew Carter, and Sergeant/Radioman Kinchloe all sat or stood, frowning at their newest, and biggest or smallest problem, depending on what view you took. She was not, indeed, very large, but the problem she presented was something to ponder. It was not often... actually, we've never had a little girl! Colonel Hogan thought, very much distressed.
Carter stooped and smiled at her.
"Hi," he said soothingly-Carter always did have a unique way with kids, Colonel Hogan mused- "My name's Carter. What's yours?"
The little girl, who was obviously Jewish, stared at him with wide eyes for a moment, before removing her thumb from her mouth and answering in a small voice, "Katrina."
"Katrina, that's a pretty name!" Carter said, his smile growing broader. With a sudden thought, he peered at her intently. "Are you hungry?" He noticed her emancipated figure, and the way her cheekbones seemed to almost come out of her skin. He felt a tug at his heart, and picked her up, swinging her onto his hip. She quickly hugged him, and buried her face into his neck.
"Yes," she answered, muffled. Carter kissed her on the head, and turned to LeBeau, who started off in search of some food. Colonel Hogan glanced at the girl uneasily, who had looked up enough to stare at a very uncomfortable Colonel Hogan. He wanted to say something comforting, but what was he supposed to say to the girl? He suddenly wondered if she had any family, but pushed the thought from his mind, not willing to think about it.
"I'll be in my office," was all he muttered instead, before turning towards the ladder and starting to climb.
Carter and Kinch exchanged brief glances. Kinch sighed in exasperation when Carter looked at him with puppy dog eyes.
"Alright, I'll go talk to him!" he said, before following his commanding officer out.
********
"Achtung!" Hochstetter sneered as he burst into Kommandant Klink's office.
"Major Hochstetter!" Klink greeted nervously, his mind racing to think of any reason why the small, but fierce Gestapo major was doing at Stalag 13. "What a pleasent surprise!"
"Shut up, Klink, and listen. Just recently in Hammelberg, there was a family hiding... an enemy of the state. We arrested the family, and they have been charged for treason, but we believe the enemy got away," Hochstetter explained.
"I don't understand, Major-" Klink started.
"You never do, Kommandant," Hochstetter added the last as a snarl. "I have reason to believe that your senior P.O.W., Colonel Hogan may have something to do with this, so I have ordered my men to search the barracks!"
******
Colonel Hogan, who was listening with the other prisoners to the conversation, quickly unplugged the coffee pot, his eyes widening as he realized the implications.
"Everybody, move! Make sure everyone's here for roll call! For God's sakes, get Carter out of the tunnel, and tell him to make sure that girl keeps quiet!" Hogan barked orders to his men, who were scurrying to hide any incriminating evidence that might be lying about. Carter was retrieved from the tunnel, after giving Katrina some left-over apple strudel. Just as the tunnel closed, and Carter stepped out, the S.S. men burst into the room.
"Good morning, Major Hochstetter," Colonel Hogan smiled from his place at the head of the table. Kinch and Newkirk looked at each other. They, themselves, were hardly breathing with fear that Katrina might make some sound.
"Bah! Search the barracks!" Hochstetter ordered, his hands flinging wildly to indicate the whole room. His men hastily obeyed, ripping open matresses, flinging open lockers, and dumping out footlockers.
"Herr Major," one man stuttered nervously, "There is nothing to report." He gulped noticably when Hochstetter gave him his best glare. Eyes narrowing dangerously, nose wrinkled, he thrust a finger into a calm Hogan's face.
"I will find you out one day, Hogan," he warned.
"Find me out, sir? What's there to find out?" he questioned innocently. A sly smirk came over his face briefly before he added, "I'm just a prisoner here." Hochstetter's eyes widened considerably before he turned and left with his men.
Newkirk looked like he was about to have a heartattack. "I thought if anybody got us killed it would be Katrina, not you, guv'nor!" he shouted. Hogan shot him a disapproving look until he added, "I mean, sir."
Carter looked almost offended. "Katrina wouldn't have talked!" Everyone looked at him, and he quietly said, "She told me she's used to keeping quiet." Newkirk stared at his feet miserably, as did most of the others. Colonel Hogan just stood, feeling uncomfortable. Finally, he sighed heavily and headed towards the tunnel. He really needed to talk to her, he supposed. Or, at least, that's what Kinch said. Of course, Kinch also said I was afraid of her, and that's not true... I just... oh, God. It's getting pretty bad, Rob, when your sergeant knows you better than yourself. Suddenly, he found himself face-to-face with the girl... what was her name? Oh, yeah, Katrina.
"Um, hi," he said awkwardly. Katrina stared up at him, before tugging at his pant leg. He stooped, and looked her in the eyes. She was a cute little girl.
"Uncle Carter," she began, "said you would help me get out of Germany." She stared at him fearlessly, her brown eyes pleading with him to tell her the truth.
Hogan licked hs lips nervously, and swallowed again. "Yeah... we will." He felt more sure than anything he had ever said before, and he was startled to realize that he meant it more than anything he had ever said before. He gave her a small, lop-sided grin and pulled her close. "Yeah... you'll be going to London. Ever heard of it?" She shook her head, and Hogan picked her up, cuddling her close to him. He sat down on a nearby cot, and started to tell her all the wonderful things in London. Before too long, she was fast asleep in his arms, and clutching his shirt tightly. The Colonel hesitated, before smiling slightly and shaking his head. It looks like I'll be sleeping down here for tonight, he thought, before drifting off to sleep.
*********
"Hey! Newkirk, Kinch, LeBeau! C'mere!" Carter whispered to the others, waving to them, though never keeping his eyes off the spot where he was looking.
"What is it, Carter? We 'ave to find the Colonel-" Newkirk stopped and smirked when he saw what Carter was looking at. Slowly, LeBeau and Kinch came in, and all of them stared at what they wouldn't have dreamed of in a million years. There, leaning comfortably against the wall of the tunnel and fast asleep, was Colonel Hogan, with little Katrina nestled in his arms. Kinch shook his head, and caught Carter's arm when he started forward to wake them.
"Wait a minute," he said quietly. He and the others just stood there for a moment, when Colonel Hogan started to wake up. He slowly began to stretch, when he noticed the burden on his chest. Smiling a little, he bent down gently and kissed her on the head, and stroked her hair a bit. She sighed in her sleep contentedly, and snuggled closer to him. Hogan's eyes caught sight of four pairs of shoes, suddenly shuffling the dirt underneath them. His eyes traveled upward to where his four closest men were smiling at him knowingly. Realizing they had seen the whole picturesque scene, he blushed deeply and glared at them, to which they grinned even broader.
Kinch, knowing he had the Colonel at an advantage, grinned devilishly, and made a flippant comment. "Gee, sir, we were just coming to wake you up, but you looked awfully comfortable." The Colonel growled at him quietly, and gently lifted the girl off him. Katrina whimpered a little, and snuggled closer to his warm bulk. Blushing even more at the show of sentiment, he laid her down on the cot, and strode past his chuckling men to the safety of his room. Some days, he thought darkly, it just isn't worth getting out of bed for. He sighed, and admitted that he did enjoy being able to hold and comfort an innocent little girl, caught in a warring world. Rubbing his temples, he sit down, trying not to think of how close it was to Christmas, and his family, as well as Katrina's, who were probably not even alive to spend it with her. Not for the last time, nor the first, he wished the war was over quickly.