Friday the 13th, Hogan Style
October 15, 1944 midnight
48 hours after he had been arrested and brought back to camp through the gates, Hogan returned via the tunnel entrance.
A gang of happy prisoners greeted Hogan as he climbed down the ladder.
"Stop," he commanded. "Don't all talk at once. It's a long story. Right now I need to think."
"We had some ideas on how to get you back in, sir." Carter said as he approached.
"Personally, I think the simpler the better. Thanks LeBeau," Hogan said, as a mug of coffee appeared in his hand.
"First things, first," Kinch said. "How are you feeling?"
Hogan chuckled. "Dog-tired and filled to the brim with tea."
"It does you good, sir," Newkirk told him. "It's like a tonic."
"Thanks, Newkirk, but I don't need that picture in my head."
October 15, 1944 8 a.m.
Hogan brazenly walked up to the front gate. It took several seconds, plus the colonel waving his arms, before the two guards at the gate realized who it was; but they sprung into action, and marched him over to Klink's office.
Klink was so stunned to see Hogan standing in front of him that he forgot to put in his monocle.
"Why in heaven's name did you return this time, and don't tell me it was the delousing station at twilight." (1)
"It was the glistening of the morning dew over by VIP headquarters," Hogan replied without missing a beat.
Klink stared, looked down, put in his monocle, and then came out from behind his desk. "Weren't you afraid of those two Gestapo agents, and their order?" Klink asked.
"After the car was ambushed, I spent some time with the men who attacked the car. They spoke some English. Well, eventually I explained what had happened the night before, and they nicely informed me that the two agents were kaput."
"Kaput?" Klink repeated.
"Dead," Hogan replied.
"Dead. Yes, they are dead." Klink nodded. "This Underground cell, Hogan. I'll bet they had a part in that."
"Guess they were busy. Can I sit down, sir?"
"Yes." Klink returned to his seat behind his desk. "You still haven't explained why you came back, after you tried to escape, and…What took you so long to get back here?"
"Honestly, sir. After what happened, I was uh, afraid of getting caught again, and shot on the spot."
Klink appeared to be mulling that over.
"I also wanted to make sure none of my men thought about going under the wire," Hogan added. "Oh, and honestly, I did have to make up my mind to come back. That's what took so long. Can I go now?" Hogan stood up.
"No. Who were the Underground people? What did they look like?" Klink picked up a pencil.
Hogan started laughing. "C'mon. You don't expect me to rat these people out."
"Sixty days in the cooler, Hogan. You still owe me a punishment for your attempt the other night."
"They were wearing masks," Hogan answered. "And they spoke some English. That's all I know."
"They were with you all of the next day?"
"No, sir. They pointed me in the right direction, and I took off. I don't think they expected to find a prisoner in Hochstetter's car."
"About Hochstetter," Klink interrupted.
"Well," Hogan said innocently. "He was, was... I'm trying to think of something nice; don't stop me. He was loud and short. Wait." Hogan snapped his fingers. "He had great timing."
"He's not dead," Klink said.
"Seriously, stop joking."
"I'm not joking. He was picked up by some civilians, battered, but very much alive, Hogan."
"I'm sure he'll forget about the whole affair!" Hogan asked nervously. "He hasn't been here, has he?"
"No. But once he finds out you're back."
"Don't tell him."
"I'm obligated to give him this information. Besides, Hogan, he'll find out eventually."
"I think I should have kept heading west." Hogan muttered. "Can I go now?"
"Go." Klink, already forgetting about the sixty days in the cooler, waved him off.
"I don't get it. Why would Nimrod tell you it's safe to come back if Hochstetter is still out there? He could come back any minute, and throw you right back in the car." Kinch, as well as everyone else in the barracks, was puzzled and concerned.
"The brass thought the same thing. They didn't okay this right away," Hogan recalled. "It took them an hour. They might have had contact with Nimrod. All I know is, they gave me a thumbs up."
"What I don't get," Newkirk said, "is why those kids didn't kill him."
Hogan shook his head. "I have no idea. I can't figure it out. They just kept saying 'it's okay.' The whole thing was weird." Hogan began to recall other certain details that struck him as odd. The car slowing down. The curtains in the apartment not being drawn. The ineffective knot. The conversation in German held on the other side of the room…in whispers. The neat hideout. It all bothered Hogan, and he didn't know why.
October 15, 1944 Noon
Later that day, Hogan was outside, getting a much needed dose of fresh air, when a Gestapo car came through the gate. Major Hochstetter exited, and stormed into Klink's office.
Oh boy. Carter, who was keeping Hogan company, felt his stomach do several flip flops as he and the Colonel rushed into the barracks to plug in the coffee pot.
"How are you feeling, Major?" Klink, who couldn't hide his nerves, asked.
"I'll live," Hochstetter growled, "which is something I can't say for those men who attacked my car. When they're caught."
"No, Major. I mean, yes. I agree."
Hochstetter removed his coat, revealing a cast covering his left arm.
"Your arm. Here, let me take that." Klink hung the coat on the rack.
"Broken." Hochstetter sat down. "Have someone fetch Hogan."
Klink didn't respond.
"I know he's here."
"You do?" Klink acted surprised. "Oh, of course you do." He fumbled through some papers on his desk. "I was just about to notify your office. He returned when you…"
"Shut up." Hochstetter reached over the desk. "Hand me the report. And get Hogan in here."
Klink pushed the file over. He picked up the phone. "Guard, have Colonel Hogan brought to my office, immediately."
Hogan unplugged the pot, opened his desk drawer, removed something from a hidden compartment, and stuck it into his pocket. He then went into the common room. His entourage followed.
"Uh, one word sir, we'll hide you in the tunnels, and you'll be out to the sub in a jiffy."
"Same script as two nights ago, Carter." Hogan smiled at the sergeant.
"Hochstetter is bound to try taking you out of camp again," Kinch pointed out.
"I know."Hogan dejectedly looked out the window. Schultz was heading towards the barracks.
"I think we should arrange for an ambush, Colonel, and this time, take care of the major properly."
"I agree with Newkirk, sir," Olsen said.
"And then what? Come back a second time, and hope the Gestapo lets two attacks go."
"Or disappear like before," LeBeau said in a quiet voice.
"They'll be all over camp looking for Underground contact, radios. They'll sweep the area." I don't know what to do, Hogan realized. But Nimrod. Nimrod said it was safe; and he's been here before. Hogan was confused and anxious. But he hid his anxiety from the rest of the men, and slowly followed Schultz to Klink's office.
For the fifth time in less than three days, the colonel's fate was in someone else's hands. Now convinced he had lost complete control of the situation, Hogan put on a brave face, entered Klink's office, and greeted Hochstetter.
"Long time, no see, Major."
"Sit down, Hogan," Hochstetter, who was now standing, pulled over a chair. Hogan sat, and attempted to squelch the annoying habit he had of drumming his fingers on the arms of the chair when nervous.
"Major Hochstetter, I must insist that as a Luftwaffe officer, I accompany Colonel Hogan when he is being questioned, as per regulations."
"Klink. I told you the other day; that regulation carries no weight. When Hogan was caught outside of the camp, he was out of uniform."
"But, but...," Klink stammered. "He was an escaped prisoner. He has returned."
"Case closed." Hogan looked up at Hochstetter. "Don't I get points for coming back voluntarily, Major?"
"Points for stupidity, maybe," Hochstetter shot back.
"No need to get personal," Hogan grumbled. "Let's get this over with."
"That was low, Major, even for you." Klink concurred.
Hochstetter let out a cross between a growl and a snarl. "Actually, Colonel Hogan, I'm not pulling you in for questioning."
"You're not?" Hogan was shocked. "Not that I mind. No wait." Hogan sunk down a bit in the chair. "You're not planning on..."
"An execution. No." Hochstetter removed a sheet of paper from his pocket. "It seems the authorization signed by Goering was just that, an authorization. Not an order. An order that gave the agents who brought you in, carte blanche to do what they wanted. Personally…" Hochstetter leaned over the chair. "I think it's too good for you. I'm not done with you yet, Colonel." To Klink's and Hogan's astonishment, Hochstetter tore up the authorization, and tossed the shreds of paper in the wastebasket; leaving both Klink and Hogan speechless.
Hogan absentmindedly put his right hand in his pants pocket, and fingered what he had dropped in there. He quickly took his hand out.
"I'm continuing my investigation. Contacting everyone who was at the Hofbrau that night, looking for anyone you were seen with.... and then, Colonel, I'll have more than enough information to make your questioning... interesting," Hochstetter grinned, which was to Klink, a scary sight.
Hochstetter wouldn't find his contact. At least something went right. Hogan attempted to get out of the chair, but the major stopped him.
Now what? Hogan was losing his patience trying to figure out the Gestapo major's angle. Was he getting off too easily? He wasn't sure.
"You spent some time with the Underground members who freed you. I want to know what they looked like, how they sounded, what they told you."
Hogan grinned. "Why should I tell you?"
"Because, if you don't, I'll pull in your men and ask them. I'm sure you brought them up to date."
"They wore masks," Hogan admitted.
"Did they speak English?"
"He said they did," Klink, running interference, interjected.
"Did they now?" Hochstetter raised an eyebrow. "Colonel Hogan, would you describe their interaction with you as professional or amateurish?"
"They wore masks," Hogan repeated. "That's all I'm saying."
"Hmm." Hochstetter leaned over the chair, and looked right into Hogan's eyes. The Gestapo agent's expression had changed, and it momentarily took Hogan aback. For a few brief seconds, the coldness disappeared, and then quickly reappeared. "Professional or amateurish, Hogan," Hochstetter repeated.
"Neither." Hogan shifted uncomfortably in the chair. "I didn't witness the ambush. I was locked in the car. I didn't see what they did to you. And we weren't together for very long. I told the Kommandant they pointed me in the right direction, and then we parted company."
"Just like that?"
"Yeah, just like that."
Hochstetter straightened up. "Klink, give me your report on this."
The Kommandant handed over the sheet of paper. Hochstetter glanced at it.
"I'll be revisiting this matter, Klink."
"Yes, Major, I'm sure you will. Anything else?" Relieved to hear the interrogation was over, Klink walked over to the door and opened it.
Hogan stood up. "Major?" Hochstetter had to look up at the colonel to meet his eyes; something Hogan had once thought really irked the Gestapo officer.
"I'll be keeping my eye on you." Both men maintained eye contact.
Was that a hint of a smile on Hochstetter's lips? No. Hogan shook off his confusion as fatigue. I'm losing it, he thought.
Hochstetter left the office without saying another word.
"Oh, I'm glad he's gone. Hogan?" Klink snapped his fingers.
"What? Sorry. I zoned out there for a moment. Can I go now?"
"Yes, go." Klink sat down and picked up a file.
Hogan didn't go directly back to the barracks, but took a detour. He began to walk around the camp perimeter, ruminating over the meeting with Hochstetter. One weird situation on top of another. The word amateur popped into Hogan's brain. I told everyone the kids in the cell that rescued me were a bunch of amateurs. Hochstetter asked me if they were amateurish. He tore up the execution authorization. He didn't remove me for questioning. "What the hell is going on?" Hogan said out loud. "Don't mind me," he growled out both to the prisoners who stopped what they were doing, and a few guards who ignored the officer.
"I think I may be going nuts," Hogan announced to the barracks when he barreled through the door. LeBeau, who was cooking, froze in mid-stir. Carter, Newkirk, and Olsen put down their cards, while Kinch rolled off his bunk.
"You hear everything?" Hogan asked.
"Yes, sir," Kinch replied. "Um, you didn't come back right away. Is something wrong?"
"I was told it was safe to come back. By Nimrod, no less." Hogan paused, poured himself a cup of coffee, and drained it. "Oh that's better. Where was I?"
"Nimrod?" Carter answered.
"Right. So I come back, and Hochstetter appears on schedule, bam. Why did that surprise me? I knew he wasn't dead."
"The brass; you said you thought they may have double-checked with Nimrod?" LeBeau took Hogan's empty mug, and brought it over to the sink.
"Definitely." And then Hogan continued. "He shreds the execution order, and uses the exact same words."
"Authorization," Kinch reminded Hogan. "Not order. Isn't there a difference? And what same words?"
"Subtle, Kinch. He asked me if the Underground cell was amateurish."
"You don't think?"
"Can't be. No way," Hogan replied.
"No wonder you think you're going nuts. Oh sorry, sir."
Hogan ignored Carter and kept talking. "The car slowed down and then pop! The three kids were not your typical Underground unit. I was blindfolded, but they left the curtains open. They claimed they didn't speak English, and thought I didn't speak German, yet they went to the other side of the room and whispered. One guy tied a knot a ten year old could slip out of."
"Almost as if they were daring you to make a move?" Newkirk asked.
"Yes." Hogan pointed at the corporal. "Then they left me alone with someone who knew well enough to keep his distance, and then tied a knot as good as one of yours, Carter. At that point, they obviously didn't want me going anywhere."
"That's bizarre," the sergeant replied.
"Yes!" Hogan agreed. "And then they show up with their handler. But they seemed so ..." Hogan couldn't think of the word.
"New at this?" LeBeau offered. "With them having a dictionary and insignia books."
"Stupid if you ask me," Olsen said. "They still shot out a car tire, but didn't kill the Gestapo agent. Why ambush a car and leave the guy alone?"
"They didn't realize who they had?" Hogan guessed. "I'll bet they were afraid of retribution. That's got to be it."
"So, all these hows and whys. Just coincidence? And the two agents that were killed?" Olsen asked.
"Has to be," Hogan announced. "There is no way in a million years…. Hochstetter? No way. And we can't even think that way, not for a second."
"No, sir." Everyone in the barracks agreed.
"You've had a rough two and a half days, Colonel." LeBeau walked over to the stove. "I made a nice lunch." He lifted the lid off the pot and stirred.
(1) From "Hogan Go Home"