Disclaimer: I don't own Hogan's Heroes. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N This alternate ending was originally intended to be a short piece that was to be published as part of my cutting room floor series. But, it took off and got too long...and too serious for that series.
"No Way Out"
Hogan removed his right hand from beneath his bomber jacket as he entered the outer office, closing the door behind him as he again reached for the pistol. His mind completely focused, he barely heard Klink ask him to put in a good word, as he reached for the door handle. "Yeah, sure," he mumbled as he walked in. Freitag, his back turned and his arms at his sides, was looking out the window. "Freitag," Hogan said softly, hoping that the man would face him so he would not have to shoot him in the back. The Gestapo agent turned and his eyes widened as he saw Hogan's luger. Hogan quickly fired two shots. They hit Freitag squarely in the chest. He was dead before he hit the ground.
Both Klink and Schultz heard the shots, froze, and then opened the door. Hochstetter, who had been outside, came barreling in after them. Mannheim, who was returning to the office after parking the staff car, soon followed.
Hogan let his hands drop. There was no rational way to explain what he had done. He, a POW, had a weapon and he had shot a German officer in cold blood. He held out his hand and handed his weapon to a stunned Hochstetter.
"I shot him," he said matter-of-factly.
"Klink," Hochstetter whispered, "Restrict all prisoners to their barracks." The Kommandant stood still, as if he was in a trance. "Klink!" Hochstetter yelled.
Mannheim walked over to the body, bent over and checked for a pulse. "He's dead," he declared. Hogan could clearly see the gleam in the aide's eye.
Klink momentarily regained his senses and ordered Schultz to restrict prisoners to their barracks. Schultz stole a glance at Hogan, and then left the building.
Mannheim, who, although ambitious, was almost as stupid as Freitag made him out to be, now looked to Hochstetter for guidance. The major wasted no time in taking charge. Pointing his gun at the American officer, he ordered Hogan to face the wall and cuffed his hands behind his back.
"Hogan, why?" Klink was looking for an explanation. Anything. Self defense, an accident. Never mind where Hogan had acquired a gun.
"It's like this, Sir." Hogan was stalling for time. Things had spiraled out of control so fast; he never had the time to think of a plausible excuse.
"Hold on. Stop." Hochstetter held up his hand, silencing the American. "There will be plenty of time for questions and answers, back at headquarters." He was almost gleeful in anticipation. "This will be done properly, Klink. Then, well…" His voice trailed off.
"But… But, where did you get the gun?" Klink stood eye to eye with his now former senior POW officer. He was imploring, no, begging him to come up with a rational explanation. "I need to know," Klink explained to Hochstetter. "In case one of my guards…"
"It was a guard, Kommandant." Hogan broke in. "I bribed him. But he's long gone. Deserted. I've had the gun for a while."
"What was his name?"
Hogan shrugged again.
"Klink, he's not going to tell you."
"Major, we did have some desertions a while back." Klink began his spin. He now knew he had to protect himself.
Meanwhile, Mannheim was on the phone. He had the wherewithal to order a backup unit to pick up the body. "The coroner's on his way, Major," he proudly announced.
Schultz returned and reported in. "The prisoners are all secure in their barracks, Kommandant." He could not make eye contact with Hogan. "What should I tell the guards?" He asked.
"Nothing for now."
"Nothing for now," Klink repeated Hochstetter word for word. "Stand guard outside." Klink waved Schultz off and sat down.
Hogan felt strangely calm. The adrenaline rush he experienced when he had entered the building had subsided and he could almost say that he was having an out of body experience. A tingling in his hands, an unpleasant reminder of the handcuffs, jolted him back to reality. He looked around the office. Klink was seated behind his desk. True to form, he looked distraught and scared. Mannheim stood by the safe, looking pleased with the whole scenario. Hogan briefly thought it was a shame he could not have framed him for the murder. He certainly had motive.
Hochstetter, who'd been pointing a gun at the colonel the entire time, had a thought and then asked Mannheim to cover Hogan while he reattached Hogan's handcuffs to a pipe.
"I don't want to have to shoot you if you run, Colonel," he sneered. "I would not want to lose the opportunity for interrogation."
"Glad I could make your day." Hogan was a bit mad at himself. He should've run while he had the chance. Being shot and killed right then would have neatly ended the whole affair. He closed his eyes. By now the rest of the men in Barracks two would have been briefed. He knew they would have been in utter shock at the turn of events. First the evacuation order had gone out. That was quickly rescinded. Then he had the entire barracks cleared, save for Carter, Kinch, Newkirk and Lebeau. He did not want anyone else witnessing that he had grabbed a gun. Without thinking, Hogan pulled on the cuff chaining him to the pipe. He left the four of them with no time to come to terms with what had transpired. No pre - planning, no orders. He trusted Kinch to do the right thing. He had to. Kinch was now most likely on the radio. Hogan briefly wondered if Butler would order a shutdown.
Hochstetter interrupted the colonel's thoughts. "You're uncharacteristically quiet, Hogan." Seeing through the window that his men had arrived, he took out the key, unlocked the cuff attached to the pipe and placed it around Hogan's other wrist. He then pushed him towards the door.
"Klink, you'll wait here for the coroner."
"But, Major…" Klink stood up and protested. "Regulations. I need to be in attendance."
"Klink, this is a Gestapo matter now." Hochstetter could not believe the Kommandant was even attempting to insert Luftwaffe protocol. What an idiot.
"You'll wait here, Kommandant." Mannheim's delight at the turn of events gave him the guts to show some authority.
Klink, defeated, stepped back. Hogan had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. He then decided to be magnanimous. "Kommandant," he said. "I'd salute, but I'm a bit tied up." Mannheim grinned. Klink did not respond. He just looked away.
"Move," Hochstetter ordered. He gave Hogan a push.
"I'm cooperating, Major." Hogan, who wanted to leave with some dignity, glared at the shorter man.
The major relented and removed his hand from the Colonel's back. It made no difference to him. He had his quarry. For a long time, he had been clamoring about his suspicions, but no one would pay attention. Well, he thought. They would listen to him now. At that moment, it never occurred to Hochstetter to question why Hogan had made himself a sitting duck, nor did he really care that Freitag was dead.
Mannheim followed Hogan and Hochstetter out of the building. The aide, who was still happily shocked at his good fortune, could care less what happened to the colonel. Let Hochstetter deal with him. The aide had other fish to fry and brass to kiss up to.
By now, word of what Hogan had done had spread throughout the guard ranks. Most were stunned. More than a few figured Hogan had a good reason to kill a Gestapo chief and several were racked with guilt over feeling grief for the enemy. For they all knew that the colonel would be executed.
The news also spread throughout the tunnel system. Kinch was on the radio, while Newkirk, LeBeau and Carter held in their emotions as best as they could and began to brief, first the barracks, and then the rest of the camp. The words, "Manhattan Project" were not mentioned, only that the colonel felt he had no choice; that he alone was responsible and that the reasons behind his decision were justified.
One prisoner, who was manning the periscope, reported that Hogan was being escorted out of the building and that Hochstetter had backup.
"Let's have a look." Newkirk wasn't discounting a truck ambush at this point.
"'E's shoving the guv'nor into the staff car," he said glumly. "There's another car and a truck following." He pushed down the periscope.
"We'll never get an Underground unit ready in time, Peter." Lebeau had walked over to Newkirk and put his hand around his shoulders. "And there are too many men in the convoy."
"We have to try something," Newkirk protested. "Carter?"
Carter shook his head. "I know we should," he said softly, "But the colonel would not want anyone else getting killed."
"I'm willing to take that risk. I can't just sit here knowing 'e's going to be…"
"Don't say it!" Carter stood up. "Don't." He headed for the bunk entrance to the tunnel, only to be stopped by Kinch, who was returning to the common room.
Everyone looked at the man who was now in charge. He had a stricken look on his face.
"What did London say?" Olsen had been staring into space.
"London says: no evacuation. With Freitag dead, they feel the operation hasn't been compromised."
"But what if the colonel talks?"
"He would never," LeBeau turned around, and prepared to belt the prisoner foolish enough to express out-loud what most of the men were thinking.
"Hold it, LeBeau! Take it easy." Olsen grabbed the Frenchman and held him back.
"Knock it off!" Kinch, still clasping the blue paper holding London's orders, separated the two prisoners. "London said they are confident that the colonel will not talk." His voice then broke. "Rescue mission denied. Any attempt will be seen by the Germans as evidence of Underground contact." Kinch walked over to the stove and tossed the paper in. Looking at the stunned group of prisoners, he added, "We'll be questioned. No clue he had the gun. Never heard about the project."
"Confident he won't talk? Let him be tortured to death then. Is that it?"
"No, Carter." Kinch hesitated for a second. "Let's discuss this." He motioned to the office. Lebeau, Carter and Newkirk followed and shut the door.
The Gestapo convoy shepherding Hogan to Hammelburg arrived quickly and safely at Gestapo headquarters. After an uncomfortable and humiliating search, where no cyanide was found in his possession, Hogan was then brought to a room for questioning.
"My men will be scouring the camp for more evidence," Hochstetter mentioned to Hogan, who was now seated in a hard chair placed directly under a light bulb. Two guards stood by the closed door, while Hochstetter propped himself up on the corner of the table and faced his prisoner.
"You have all the evidence, Major." Hogan replied. "I got a gun, shot Freitag. That's it. End of story." Trying to look bored, he turned his head and stared at the wall.
Hochstetter laughed. "We will be spending a great deal of time together, Hogan. And I'm looking forward to it. Berlin will, of course, be sending interrogators."
"Peachy." Hogan responded. "And that's Colonel Hogan, Major."
"Your rank will no longer get you any privileges!" Hochstetter yelled, realizing too late that Hogan had purposefully gotten a rise out of him. "I recommend you talk to me first. Oh, and that hotel room you mentioned. Where was it again? Cleveland? Ours will not be as pleasant."
Since he left the camp with Hochstetter and his entourage, Hogan had been treated professionally. There had been no abuse and no yelling. For some reason, he preferred the old, unhinged Hochstetter. It felt more normal. The major was circling Hogan's chair and prattling on. Hogan had tuned him out and was working through explanations and strategy in his head.
As Hogan was contemplating his not so pleasant future, Klink remained trapped, impatiently waiting for the Gestapo detail to finish their sweep of his office, while the coroner stood by. He thought back to Hochstetter's feeble attempt to interrogate Hogan about that project. Klink realized now that Hogan most likely knew more than he had let on. Why else would he commit suicide by shooting Freitag? And Hochstetter; how much did he know? The Kommandant was thinking too much and he was beginning to develop a headache. He only wished Hogan had talked to him first, like he had asked, and all of this could have been avoided. Klink quickly shoved that thought out of his mind. If this project was so important that the colonel would sacrifice himself to keep it a secret, it was too dangerous for Klink to lay his hands on. Too much information, he thought, was not healthy.
"Kommandant?" A Gestapo officer interrupted Klink's thoughts. "We need to question the men in the colonel's barracks, individually."
"I'll send a guard," Klink said.
"No." The officer stopped him. "Your office isn't available."
"There's a separate room in the barracks. The colonel's office."
"That'll do. We will also need to conduct a thorough search."
"I assure you," Klink groveled. "We conduct searches and there's nothing there."
"You obviously missed a gun!" The Gestapo agent retorted.
"This way." Klink pointed to the door.
Kinch and the other members of Hogan's senior staff had locked themselves in Hogan's office. "Kinch," Carter pressed the sergeant, "What did you mean when London said, 'They're confident the colonel won't talk?'"
"He's been trained, Carter," Newkirk offered. "'E can hold out."
"No. That's not good enough." Carter walked over to the other sergeant. "There's something you're not telling us. They're writing him off. Aren't they? He'll be shot. But before that he'll be questioned till he breaks."
"London, London," Kinch's voice broke. "London said it won't get that far." Kinch sat down.
"What?" Now both scared and outraged, the other three men expressed their distress and confusion.
"Kinch, they can't be serious!"
"Newkirk, keep your voice down! They said when he decided to kill Freitag; he knew he was going on a suicide mission."
"How?" Carter whispered. "Do they have a man in there?"
"I don't know, Carter. They didn't go into details."
"Those bastards. No rescue mission because that will look suspicious, but they're willing to kill the colonel…" Newkirk was interrupted by a knock. He opened the door.
"Brass heading this way," Olsen said.
Kinch turned to Carter, LeBeau and Newkirk. "Pull yourselves together," he ordered.
"This isn't over, Kinch," LeBeau warned.
One by one, everyone in the barracks was questioned while the common room was being torn upside down. Despite threats and accusations, nothing was divulged. The agents left with a promise of more interrogations to come.
"Sergeant Kinchloe." Klink had followed the Gestapo agents to the barracks and stood by during the entire ordeal.
Kinch, who was seated at Hogan's desk, looked up. He scrambled to his feet. "Yes, Sir."
"You're the acting prisoner's representative until a replacement is found."
"I understand, Sir. Request permission to call a meeting with the barracks chiefs to explain…"
"Granted. You may meet with them in the recreation hall in one hour. The guards will notify each barracks."
"Thank you, Sir."
Klink left the building without saying a word.
"Kinch, we didn't finish the last conversation." Lebeau reminded him.
"No," Kinch agreed. "We didn't."