"You plan on changing careers after the war, then?" Newkirk looked up from his solitaire game at Olsen, who had just popped through the tunnel entrance.
"What do you mean by that?" He blew on his hands and headed for the stove. "Getting cold out there."
"You're spending an awful amount of time outside of camp, at Schnitzer's. Figured you'll be 'eading 'ome and start fixing dogs and birthing calves." Newkirk laughed. "Actually, I think you're out now more than you're in."
"No way." Olsen walked over to the table and eyed Newkirk's pile. He grabbed a red jack and placed it on a black queen. "True, I have been on veterinary runs, but I think I'll stick with engineering. They'll need a lot of engineers to rebuild Europe after the war."
"Blimey, you're optimistic." Newkirk lost his game, reshuffled the cards and dealt out another hand. "News hasn't been too good."
"I can't think that the Allies won't win, Newkirk. I can't."
Olsen went over to his locker, opened it and starting pawing through. "Hey, Newkirk, got any aftershave? I'll trade you."
That got the corporal's attention. "No, I... Hey, who are you trying to impress? 'Ang on. You've got someone on the outside. Does she 'ave a sister?"
"No comment." Olsen closed the lid. "And you have a one-track mind."
Newkirk stood up and put an arm around Olsen. "Tell me. Does the Colonel know you go elsewhere when you're out and about?"
"Who said I go elsewhere, Newkirk?" Olsen, who was now a bit nervous, decided to end the conversation right then and there. "I have to, uh, check on the dogs. LeBeau's been doing some extra training. See ya." Olsen hightailed it through the door.
"E's got a bird out there," Newkirk murmured to himself. "Well, at least one of us is lucky."
As fall started heading into winter, Hogan continued to refine his mastery over Klink's ego. The colonel found himself ordered to attend dinners or cocktails with visiting generals, and these social occasions planted another germ of an idea in his head. With the assistance of LeBeau as chef, and Newkirk and Kinch as staff, the prisoners were able to steal important information. And soon, to Hogan's surprise, strange opportunities would present themselves at the camp or the surrounding area. Maps, weapon systems and battle plans were somehow left carelessly within reach of Hogan and his ever-expanding band of mimics, pickpockets, artists, photographers and forgers. London was only too happy to keep Hogan supplied with the variety of accoutrements necessary to keep his operation going.
Flyers, escapees and defectors continued coming through the camp on a regular basis. The main team, consisting of Hogan, Newkirk, LeBeau, Olsen and Kinch, were kept busy handling pick-ups and drop-offs. All five regularly participated in whatever sabotage jobs came their way, with other men from barracks two occasionally taking part. But, as the frequency of operations increased, so did the danger, and Hogan reluctantly made the decision to limit the number of participants to the core group.
Hogan called a barracks meeting one night and announced new orders from London. "It seems they want us to expand, and I quote; 'You'll assist escaping prisoners, cooperate with all friendly forces and use every means to harass and injure the enemy.'" (1)
"Harass and injure the enemy. You mean the sabotage and attacks?" LeBeau asked.
"Exactly, and that's one reason why I called this meeting. Our efforts in this field have been scattered and dependent on working with the Underground when they go out. We've been given the go-ahead to initiate our own attacks: factories, bridges, etc. That is, if we can get hold of enough explosives. But," Hogan paused, "I've decided for the most part, to have my core team handle most of the missions."
The other men in the barracks objected.
Hogan raised his hand and the men quieted down. "Objections noted. Now, I don't need to give you an explanation, but I will. Like it or not, this is still a prison camp and I'm responsible for the safety of a lot of men. If any one of us is caught, there's a chance every single one of us could be shot as spies and I mean everyone." Hogan let that sink in.
"But, the fewer of us that are directly involved, the greater the chance that won't happen. As it is, I think everyone here in this barracks probably won't be safe. So, I'm willing to transfer anyone to another barracks, no questions asked." No one stepped forward, not that Hogan expected anyone to. "Finally, the Gestapo will have fewer of us to question." That needed no further explanation. "Any questions? No? Good.
"Olsen, you'll still be our main contact on the outside, plus continue with the German lessons. Newkirk, LeBeau; sabotage, attacks and pickups. Kinch, the same, unless you're needed on the radio. The rest of you – actually, the rest of the men in camp – tunnel work and diversions. And if we have a mission where we need more people, I'll tap men from here and the other barracks."
Later that night, the four men now comprising Hogan's core group, found themselves discussing that night's events outside, away from the other men. "A lot of unhappy guys in there," Newkirk said as he lit a cigarette. "They're afraid they'll be left watching the door."
"Yeah, but it makes sense." Kinch was just hoping he would have enough time to deal with both the electronics and work on the sabotage. "The less the rest know, the less they can reveal if they're made to talk."
"Thanks for leaving us with that picture in our head," Olsen chuckled.
"I don't know if the rest of the camp is really safe, Kinch." LeBeau shivered and blew on his hands. "Most of the barracks have tunnel entrances. They all know not to escape."
"Everyone is in on it," Olsen agreed, "But I'd rather be doing something, even if it's digging dirt or forging currency, than sitting here for God knows how long, wishing for the war to end. I think it's worth the risk."
They all agreed with Olsen. After all, they could count the number of new prisoners "sent" back to England on one hand.
LeBeau cornered Olsen before they returned to the barracks. "How are things going with your mademoiselle?"
"Qu'est-ce que c'est swimmingly?"
"No problems, Louis. We had a bit of a rough spot one night, but no. No problems."
"I'm happy for you, mon ami. And it will still be our little secret. Comprends?" LeBeau asked.
"Je comprends, Louis. Thanks. I..." The door to the barracks opened and Hogan poked his head out.
"Olsen, I have a job for you."
"Sure, Colonel." Olsen and LeBeau went inside.
"We just got word that an Underground unit is sending an escapee from Stalag Five this way. I need you to meet him and then make the switch. You'll have to go under the wire. There are too many guards out by the tunnel entrance tonight."
"Got it." Olsen couldn't be happier. A switch meant another stay with the Schnitzer's, and another visit with Heidi. "I'll need a diversion to get to the wires."
"Already set. Newkirk will pretend to faint at roll call and when Schultz is occupied, you take off. Schultz will then call out the dogs and they'll pick up our guest. We'll let Oscar know when to bring you back."
"Sounds good, Colonel." Olsen thought of something. "What's the guy's name, Sir? So I don't spook him."
"Carter, Olsen. Lieutenant Carter."
(1)The Collector General
A/N Guess I could have called this a prequel! To see how Carter ended up staying in camp, and how he became a sergeant, please read The Informer, Pt. 2.