A/N: I was recently challenged by another author to write a story involving a certain character's death, and this is the result. After much deliberation, I decided to post it, although I will understand completely if those of you who don't like character death stories choose not to read it.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Hogan's Heroes characters. No copyright infringement is implied.
A Hero Falls By The Way
"Blimey! Why did it 'ave to rain tonight? It's bad enough stumblin' around in the woods in the dark, without 'avin' to keep wipin' the ruddy rain off me face!" Newkirk raised his arm and swiped it across his face, which didn't help at all, since his uniform was soaked. "Why can't we wait until tomorrow night?" he groused.
"Because London said we have to blow up that bridge tonight," LeBeau answered sarcastically, shaking his head to get rid of some of the excess water on his own face.
"All right, pipe down," Hogan interjected, "This bridge has to go up as scheduled; rain or no rain."
"Yes, sir," both men replied.
"Carter, this rain isn't going to affect your explosives, is it?" Hogan asked his demolitions expert.
"No, sir," Carter informed him, "I wrapped 'em up nice and tight in some waterproof plastic before I put 'em in this bag," he briefly held up the sack he was carrying, "And we're gonna plant them underneath the bridge, where it's dry, anyway."
"Hey, that was a good idea, Andrew," Kinch said, sounding more than a little amazed.
Carter turned his head and frowned at him. "I do know what I'm doing, you know," he huffed.
"I never said you didn't," Kinch replied, attempting to soothe the feathers that he'd apparently ruffled on the younger sergeant.
"Okay, don't you two start, now," Hogan cut in; then he inwardly sighed. Every time it rains…
"Sorry, sir," Kinch responded
"Yeah, sorry, Colonel," Carter added.
The rest of the way was made in silence, and when they finally reached the bridge, the rain stopped. Carter stepped underneath the large wooden structure, and set his bag carefully down on the ground. He pulled out the explosives, and, after handing a bundle first to Newkirk and LeBeau, and then to Kinch and Hogan, directed the men where to place them. He took the last bundle and set that one, himself.
It took a while to get the explosives secured and the timers set; by the time they were done, their uniforms had begun to dry. As the group began to head back to Stalag 13, they felt their spirits lift; not only from the feeling that they'd accomplished their mission, but also because they weren't being pelted by raindrops. So when the shouts in German suddenly reached their ears, it came as a crude reminder that the five saboteurs shouldn't be celebrating just yet.
The men glanced at each other for a split second, and with an unspoken understanding, took off through the woods. They heard more shouts behind them, punctuated by gunfire, and quickened their pace as much as possible. A few more shots rang out, and suddenly Newkirk fell, trying to muffle his cry of pain and surprise as he hit the ground. He was only marginally successful, and the rest of the men quickly gathered around him.
"Newkirk! Are you okay?" Hogan was the first to voice his concern.
"They got me in the leg, Colonel," Newkirk answered, who was sitting on the forest floor, trying to stifle a moan while holding his left upper thigh. There was blood leaking out from underneath his hands, making a circular stain on his pants that was slowly spreading.
Damn! "Okay, Newkirk, just hold still." Hogan turned quickly to the rest of his men, keenly aware that the shouting was getting closer. "LeBeau, you and Carter take off; see if you can draw the patrol away from here, then head back to camp when it's safe. Kinch, you stay here with me. We'll try to lay low with Newkirk until the patrol's gone. And let's see if we can find something to use as a bandage. "
"Yes, sir," the three men answered in unison. Then Carter and LeBeau lit out into the forest, moving as quickly as possible, making just enough noise along the way to attract the German patrol's attention.
Kinch, meanwhile, had untucked his shirt, and, after requesting Newkirk's pencil sharpener – which the Englishman handed over without argument – had cut a wide section from the bottom of his shirt, and was attempting to fasten it securely around the hole that the bullet had made in Newkirk's leg. He noticed there was no exit wound, and assumed that the bullet was still lodged inside Newkirk's thigh. He felt a vague sense of uneasiness over that, but he realized they couldn't do anything about it until they got back to Stalag 13. He finished fastening the makeshift bandage, and after a few moments of anxious anticipation, it appeared that the flow of blood had been staunched, and all three men breathed a sigh of relief.
They waited a little longer to make sure the patrol was gone, and then Hogan looked at Kinch and said, "C'mon, let's get Newkirk back to camp. Wilson can fix him up."
Hogan and Kinch helped Newkirk to his feet. The corporal swayed a little, cursing under his breath as more pain shot up his leg, but he gritted his teeth and allowed the other two men to grab onto him, to help support him as they made their way back to camp.
Their progress was slow, but there were no more signs of German patrols, and Hogan silently thanked LeBeau and Carter, throwing in a prayer that the two men had made it back to camp safely.
The trio were nearing the secret entrance to the tunnel, when Newkirk suddenly went white, and collapsed to the ground. Hogan and Kinch immediately knelt down beside him.
"Newkirk, what's wrong?" was all Hogan could think of to say, as he stared intensely into the Englishman's now-frightened eyes.
"I…don't know, Colonel, I…don't feel so good…"
Hogan shot a worried look at Kinch, who was examining Newkirk's wound. The bandage around it was turning red at an alarming rate, and Kinch glanced up at Hogan, panic radiating from his eyes. "The bullet's still in there, Colonel," he said, fighting to keep his voice steady, "If it shifted, it could have nicked an artery…"
Hogan knew what that meant. He looked back at Newkirk, who was growing even paler, and felt his own panic rising up inside him. Oh, God, no, please, don't let this happen! his mind yelled, while he fought to control his emotions. "Newkirk, listen to me. You have to hang on. We're almost home… Please! Hang on!"
Newkirk reached up and grabbed Hogan's arm, digging his fingers into the leather of Hogan's jacket. "Colonel, I…" His eyes grew wide with fear. "I don't think I'm goin' to make it…"
"No, Newkirk, you'll be fine…you've just got to stay with me…"
Newkirk's eyes glazed over, and he uttered softly, "Colonel, are you still there? I can't feel you; I can't…" His hand relaxed its grip on the sleeve of Hogan's jacket, and his arm dropped to his side as he quietly breathed his last.
Hogan stared at him, momentarily frozen in shock. No, please, not this, not now… not him! He grabbed Newkirk by the shoulders, and, more from an unwillingness to accept the inevitable, than a belief that the Englishman was still alive, shook him gently. "Newkirk, I'm here. Newkirk? Peter?"
Kinch's throat tightened as he watched Hogan; desperately wishing, along with the colonel, that Newkirk would miraculously come back to them. But he already knew it was too late, and after a few more moments, he swallowed hard, and then stated softly, "He's gone, sir."
In Hogan's mind it sounded like a shout.
Hogan didn't acknowledge Kinch's statement right away. He just kept staring down at Newkirk's lifeless form. At last he reached up and gently closed Newkirk's eyelids; then looked up at Kinch. "Go back to camp, and tell Schultz where we are. Tell him to come out here, and not to cause a big fuss; just him and a few guards."
"Yes, sir." Kinch got up and began to leave, when he suddenly turned back to Hogan. "What do you want me to tell the other guys, Colonel?"
"Tell 'em… Tell 'em what happened. They deserve to know. They'd find out soon enough, anyway."
Kinch nodded solemnly; then turned and headed for camp.
Kinch had barely gone from sight, when the rain started up again, the large drops pattering noisily on the leaves above Hogan's head, sliding off and plopping to the forest floor below. Hogan sat there with Newkirk, watching him getting soaked again, unmindful of the fact that he was, too. Occasionally he reached down to wipe the water off Newkirk's face, not caring that it wasn't necessary, that something the Englishman had complained about only a few hours ago made no difference to him now. He ignored his own discomfort, letting the raindrops run down his face with no attempt to wipe them away. And, if a few of those drops weren't caused by the rain, he didn't notice.