This story is Part 4 of the "A LIFE BLOWN APART" series. The time frame is six-to-eight months from the end of part 3: "MY BROTHER, MY TRAITOR."
The characters of Hogan's Heroes are not mine but I own the complete DVD series and enjoy watching them.
Terror Beneath Barracks Two
"C'mon, Carter," RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk urged his close friend, Sergeant Andrew Carter with a slight hint of urgency in his voice while both were standing on ladders at opposite ends of the opening to the radio room of the tunnels. "We gotta get this bloody banner hung before the Colonel gets here."
Carter was trying his best to get his end of the banner to hang even with Newkirk's end. After a few minutes, he figured he might finally have it right. He turned when he heard voices coming from around the corner towards the radio room, and heaved a silent sigh of relief when he saw Sergeant James Kinchloe known as Kinch to his friends and French Corporal Louis LeBeau come into sight. The two men noticed Newkirk and Carter still standing on their ladders.
"Sacre chats. You guys haven't finished hanging that banner yet?" asked LeBeau, slightly annoyed. He checked his watch. "Sergeant Wilson is stalling the Colonel but he can't do it forever. Besides, we told Wilson to have the Colonel down here in thirty minutes and we still have a lot to do."
Newkirk smiled as he waved a hand at the banner. "So how's it look to you, Kinch me old mate?"
Folding his arms, Kinch grinned broadly. He glanced at LeBeau who also was smiling as they both looked at the banner on which they had all printed the following words in block letters:
'WELCOME BACK DOWNSTAIRS, COLONEL HOGAN !'
"It's perfect, Newkirk," Kinch remarked.
"It's magnifique!" added LeBeau.
"Yeah, but is it even?" asked Carter, concerned.
"Oui. It is even, Carter," The Frenchman replied. "I already have the cake prepared and just finished putting on the icing."
With a smile, Carter started to climb down the ladder as did Newkirk. "Y'know...." Carter began as he stepped off the ladder. "It's hard to believe it's been two years since Colonel Hogan's been down in the tunnels."
"I know what you mean, Andrew," Kinch replied thoughtfully. "Two years ago I thought he'd never get down here again ever. And now, two years later, he's gonna make his first appearance in the tunnels. Of course Wilson will be with him."
"How come?" asked Carter, puzzled.
"Wilson told me secretly that the Colonel may have a little trouble with his balance for awhile getting on and off the ladder. So he shouldn't be alone when he's using it. At least until his legs are a bit stronger," Kinch told him.
"Oui," agreed LeBeau. "But look how far the Colonel has come since that terrible day he was paralyzed below the waist in that explosion. He has worked so hard to get to where he is right now."
"You're right," Newkirk said, resting an arm on one rung of the ladder. "I don't think any of us will ever forget how bloody close we came twice to losing the Gov'nor after that explosion. I don't mind telling you chaps I don't ever want to go through those last two years again. Especially not if it means watching the Colonel suffer like he did. It nearly broke me heart it did to see him so tortured."
"I think the hardest part for me was seeing Colonel Hogan in that wheelchair in the beginning," said Carter. "I mean everytime I saw him in that thing I remembered how he ended up in it."
"Carter, don't do that to yourself," said Kinch. "The explosion wasn't your fault. I thought you knew that by now."
"I do," Carter replied. "It's just that it really bothered me to see the Colonel in that wheelchair."
"Yeah, but at least he's rid of the wheelchair and his crutches," added Newkirk. "maybe soon he'll be able to get rid of the cane he's using now."
"That'll be a wonderful day for all of us," admitted Kinch with a smile. "Especially Colonel Hogan."
"And when that day comes...." chimed in LeBeau, "We will have a grand celebration."
Kinch checked his watch. His eyes narrowed a bit. "Hey, we've only got twenty minutes before the Colonel and Wilson get here." He glanced at the Frenchman. "What else do we still have to do, LeBeau?"
"Let's see. We have the banner hung. The cake is in another part of the tunnel where the Colonel can't see it. We still need plates and napkins, forks, two bottles of wine and some glasses."
"I'll get the wine and the glasses," said Carter as he hurried to another part of the tunnel where they had stored them for this purpose.
"And I'll take care of the plates, napkins and forks," added Kinch as he headed in the direction of where they kept their German uniforms. He passed Carter who was returning with his arms loaded with six glasses and two bottles of red wine. LeBeau helped Carter set the wine and glasses on the table near the radio. Carter then collapsed his ladder and carried it to another part of the tunnel from where he originally took it. He then helped Newkirk collapse the other ladder and take it away.
Finally, the men had everything set up when they heard voices approaching from the area of where the entrance to the tunnel began. One of the voices was Hogan's. The men all lined up underneath the banner to wait.
It only took a minute or two before Hogan and Wilson came into sight. It took another moment before Hogan stopped at seeing his men all standing at attention.
"What's all this?" Hogan asked, leaning forward on his cane. He noticed the banner hanging above his mens' heads and swallowed hard as his eyes misted over. He grinned and glanced at Wilson. "You knew about this didn't you, Joe?"
"Guilty as charged, Colonel," Wilson said with a grin. "The men told me of their plans after I informed them I was allowing you limited access into the tunnels. I had to keep you upstairs until they had everything set up down here."
"Ten hut!" Kinch said as he and the others gave Hogan their sharpest salute. Hogan returned it.
"At ease," he said. "Fellas, I'm touched. I really am. But you didn't have to do all this."
"Sure we did, mon Colonel," remarked LeBeau as he opened one of the two bottles of wine and proceeded to pour. "This is a big day for you. It's the first time in two years you've been down in the tunnels." He handed the first glass of wine to Hogan.
"Two years?" asked Hogan. "Are you sure? Doesn't feel like two years."
After everyone had their glasses, LeBeau raised his at Hogan. "This is to you, mon Colonel, to celebrate the progress you have made to bring you to where you are right now. And to your return to the tunnels again."
Smiling, Hogan clinked his glass with LeBeau's. Everybody took a drink. Hogan then sighed. "Thank you fellas, Joe. I really didn't expect any of this. Thanks again."
LeBeau put down his wine glass. "We have another surprise for you, Colonel," he said excitedly as he raced out of the radio room and into another area of the tunnels. He returned momentarily with a platter on which sat a cake covered with vanilla frosting.
Hogan lowered his head and shook it with a grin as LeBeau placed the platter on the table. Finally, he looked at all his men. "You guys are really too much," he said.