A/N: First, I would like to thank Jennaya for graciously letting me use this title, even though it appeared we were both working on a story about Olsen, at the same time.
Second: Again, I must thank Bits and Pieces for handling the beta work for all of my chapters and for her specific help with formatting the beginning of this story.
Third: Thank you ColHogan for your input.
Warning: The first chapters in this story may be a bit intense and emotional.
"'Ere comes another one." Corporal Peter Newkirk nudged his friend, Louis LeBeau, who glanced up from a tub of water and watched the truck holding more prisoners come to a stop near the Kommandant's office.
"That's five this week," LeBeau noted. The small prisoner of war camp, built to handle overflow from another NCO camp, was now reaching capacity. The French corporal sighed in frustration. His elation over America's entry in the war had quickly been tempered by the obvious losses suffered by Allied fighters. New prisoners had also brought bad news from the Pacific. LeBeau removed the shirt he was washing, wrung it out and hung it on the line. "Merde, it's cold," he complained. "This shirt will probably freeze." He blew on his hands. "We should tell the colonel about the truck," he reminded Newkirk.
"You're right. I'll get him." Newkirk walked back into the barracks. Colonel Hogan, the camp's new Senior POW Officer, was seated at the table in the common room. With him was one of the more recent arrivals, an American sergeant, James Kinchloe.
"Sir, a truck just rolled in," Newkirk informed him.
"Thanks, Newkirk." The colonel put down his mug of coffee and stood up.
"Looks like we're starting to resemble Grand Central Station," Kinch commented.
Hogan smiled at the sergeant's quip. "Time to run interference." He grabbed his jacket and cap, left the barracks and headed across the compound.
LeBeau was observing the truck, and was curious how many prisoners were inside. The driver was discussing something with Sergeant Schultz, the Kommandant's Sergeant at Arms, and most likely processing paperwork. Finally, the sergeant opened up the doors and waited. There was only one prisoner inside and he had to be prodded to come out.
"Move it." The guard inside the truck poked the prisoner with his rifle. The prisoner, an American sergeant, shuddered, then slowly made his way to the edge and hesitated.
Schultz sympathetically held out his hand and helped the man down. He took the prisoner's Red Cross satchel. "This way," he said kindly as he glared at the other guard. The sergeant followed Schultz into the building, all the while looking down at the ground, stumbling every few steps.
The whole scenario was observed by LeBeau. Newkirk had come back out and Hogan was walking towards the office. Newkirk was surprised. "I wonder what happened to that bloke?"
"Whatever it was, it wasn't good." LeBeau had not had an easy time of it at the transit camp and he knew that most of the prisoners suffered similar fates, but this prisoner looked completely broken; not his body, but his spirit, he realized.
Hogan had quickened his pace and arrived at Klink's office seconds behind Schultz and the new prisoner. The colonel had arrived at Stalag 13 at the end of the previous year, a month after being shot down near Hamburg. He had spent a month being shuttled between various interrogation centers and transit camps, an experience he refused to discuss and that he tried to put out of his mind. Even from a distance, he could recognize the signs and the look. The door to Klink's office had not completely closed, when Hogan walked in without an invitation.
"Colonel Hogan, what is the meaning of this? You can't just waltz…"
Hogan brazenly interrupted the Kommandant. "Regulations, sir. You can't interrogate a new prisoner without the senior officer present." That was not entirely true. Klink had often processed new prisoners before, without Hogan being present, but Hogan found Klink generally tended to avoid arguments. Klink and Hogan stared at each other and agreed for the moment to an unspoken truce. Klink needed to maintain his authority and couldn't verbally buckle, but he didn't throw Hogan out of the office, either.
The two then moved their attention to the prisoner standing in front of them. Hogan got a better look at the soldier, who was slightly swaying and was still looking down at the floor. He was, he guessed, in his mid twenties, similar build to his own, but thinner.
"Name, rank and serial number, that's all, Sergeant."
"Yes, sir," he paused and looked up. "Olsen, Brian. Sergeant, 12829410." He swayed a bit more, and then again cast his eyes downward.
Klink had the sergeant's paperwork on the desk in front of him. He and Hogan glanced at each other. "Sergeant Olsen." He looked up as Klink addressed him.
"Yes, Sir." The sergeant stared at the Kommandant as he gave his usual welcoming speech.
Klink then introduced Hogan, who was observing Olsen. "You'll be assigned to barracks…"
"Two, Kommandant," Hogan interrupted.
Klink looked up in surprise.
"We have the room, Sir."
"Very well, Barracks two. Schultz…"
Olsen briefly glanced at Hogan, who nodded. He watched Schultz gently guide the sergeant out the door and then began to follow.
"You're not dismissed," Klink stated. "Sit down," he ordered.
Hogan turned, sat and peered at Klink. He knew he had overstepped his bounds. The colonel waited impatiently for the Kommandant to make the first move. Easy, Rob. Make him think he's in control.
Klink pulled his chair in, removed his monocle, cleaned it, put it back, then rested his elbows on his desk and looked at the American officer. Make him wait. Let him know who's boss.
The two men had been participating in a unique dance for the past few months. After a short initial period of what Klink would have considered normal behavior for a prisoner thrust into Hogan's situation, the colonel had begun to change. He had increasingly become more brazen, oddly cheerful, sarcastic, and occasionally fawning. Klink had no clue what had happened, but the camp was running at peak efficiency, there had been no recent escape attempts and even his guards seemed happier. But that was another issue.
"Colonel Hogan. What prompted you to force your way into this office without an invitation? I could have you thrown into the cooler for this."
Hogan was half listening, while at the same time trying to read the file left open on Klink's desk, upside down. The only item visible was Olsen's prisoner card. That held little useful information. Klink realized what Hogan was doing and nervously shut the file.
"Kommandant. I was wrong." Hogan raised the tone of his voice a notch higher. "I'm sorry, but, the prisoner they just brought in… Can I see his file?" He asked hopefully.
Klink had to admire the colonel's guts. In one sentence, apologizing for an infraction and then asking to see classified material.
"No, you can't. Besides," he added, "You wouldn't understand it, anyway."
Ha. Hogan thought to himself. He leaned closer to the desk. "Anything in there you can tell me? Something happened to the kid." He decided to appeal to Klink's humanity. He hoped it was in there somewhere.
Klink's face softened. Something must have happened to the sergeant. Klink was no monster. He had a job to do, but he did see his prisoners as fellow human beings. He was old enough to be the father of many of them. It had been a while since he had seen that look. He opened the file and quickly glanced at the contents. "There's nothing of any significance, here, Colonel," he said. "Shot down in a raid near Düsseldorf. We have the information to send to the Red Cross."
"I'm sure some things may have been conveniently left out, Sir." Hogan's eyes showed a spark of anger.
Klink, momentarily flustered, decided to let the comment go. He dismissed Hogan with a warning, while he himself wondered what had happened to his newest charge.
The same thought was on Hogan's mind as he walked back to the barracks.