Title: On the Rooftops of London
Genre: Romance/General/Crime…I also like to think that it's got a bit of humor and drama in it as well, though.
Pairing: Peter Newkirk and an Original Character.
Rating: T (PG13) for mild violence and mention of abuse.
Summary: Long before he was ever a POW, Peter Newkirk was just a small time crook on the streets of London. A chance meeting during one of his magic shows leads Newkirk to someone he'll never be able to forget. But years later, when he receives an unexpected letter, will his past with her be too painful to remember? This is a Newkirk origin story. Save the first few chapters, most of the story takes place in a flashback to when Newkirk was back in London before the war. So sadly, Hogan and the other heroes are not in the story for long. This one's all about Newkirk and how he came to be the Peter Newkirk we see in the show. I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: Hogan's Heroes and all of its characters and situations do not belong to me at this time. This is a work of fiction and is not posted for any financial gain, only for my enjoyment and the enjoyment of my fellow fans. However, the characters and places that are not cannon to the show are of my own imagination and belong to me.
Special Thanks to: My beloved cousin and friend for proof reading and continual encouragement; my dear friend Meagan who offered wonderful constructive and creative feedback on this story; Philip, for helping me brain storm ideas for one of the most pivotal chapters in the story; and Ashley, who was always willing to help me in my desperate hunts for the perfect word of phrase to use.
Author's Note: The little idea nugget that eventually blossomed into this story was basically inspired by the poem below. However, various scenes throughout the story were also inspired by specific lines from the show. I will try to point out whenever an idea for a scene was gained from the show. I'll include little author's notes at the end of the chapters to tell you which ones I used. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this story (which I will be updating regularly) and I would love it if you felt inclined to review!
Papa Bear Awards: I was very touched to learn that this story won awards in three categories for the 2011 Papa Bear Awards. The awards were for...
Best Long Drama (Gold)
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character for Newkirk (Silver)
and Best Original Character for Stephanie Chambers (Gold)
Thank you so much to everyone who voted. Considering that it took me over a year to complete this story, I was sincerely hoping that it would be well received by you wonderful readers. But to be honored by these awards totally exceeded all of my highest expectations. Thank you all for your wonderful support of this story. I am so thrilled that you enjoy it! Now without further delay, on to the story!
Okay…deep breath in…deep breath out…here we go!
Chapter One: Remember
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day,
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that I once had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
- Christina Rossetti, "Remember"
Germany – Luftstalag 13 – September 29, 1942
Hogan was drawn out of his cat nap by a light, but determined, tapping at his wooden window shutter. He breathed in deeply, the air carrying consciousness to his senses, and blinked hard a few times. He was awake.
He had opted to sleep on the lower bunk this evening instead of the top. As much as he hated to admit it, Colonel Robert E. Hogan, wonder boy, was getting "up there" in years (or so it seemed to him). His old football knee had been giving him grief the past few days, and the bunk closest to the ground had been behaving friendlier to him than its higher counterpart. Hogan rose from the bunk and headed over to his window, running his fingers through his hair to comb it back into place. He grabbed a nearby, relatively thick book with the intention of using it as a weapon to silence whatever misguided bird was making that incessant tapping. Hogan flung open the shutter, and froze.
"Schultz?" He said, lowering the book that was ready to strike.
The oversized Sergeant peered at him from the outside. A timid smile crept on the German's face, but he had an unmistakable expression of trepidation pasted there also. "Hallo, Colonel Hogan," he said.
"Schultz, what do you think you're doing?" his words were stern, but not harsh. Mostly Hogan was just cranky and he lacked the patience right now to deal with the Sergeant whose light bulb was very dim indeed.
"Colonel Hogan, the mail has just arrived for the prisoners."
Hogan crossed his arms, book still in hand, "And you thought you would pass the letters in through the window, just to break up routine."
Schultz chuckled, "That's very funny Colonel, but no. I was thinking…"
'I'm impressed,' the American thought, still cranky.
The older man continued, "Maybe you could hand out the letters to the men."
"Me? What's the matter with you doing it?"
"Colonel Hogan, please. The men respect you. You are their leader. They will not trample you."
Hogan breathed in a long, realizing breath and gave one knowing nod. The men had a tendency of getting a bit rambunctious when letters from home arrived. Despite his superior size, even Schultz didn't stand a chance against them. Hogan smirked and reached out with his free hand. "Okay Schultz," he said, "I'll hand out the letters."
"Oh danke, Colonel Hogan! Dan-ke! You've saved my life!" the grateful Sergeant exclaimed as he handed the letters to Hogan.
Shutting the window and turning back to face his room, Hogan shuffled through the letters to find his name. He smiled as he pulled out one from his parents back home. It had been a long time since he had heard from them. He tossed the letter to his bunk with a slight spin, planning to come back and read it later. Then, seeing there were no additional letters for him, Hogan headed out of his room to deliver the rest to his men.
In the main room of Barracks Two, the POWs were exhausting their efforts in the fight against boredom. Louis LeBeau, the French Corporal and barracks chef, was wracking his brain to try to find a substitute for the required rooster to cook coq au vin. The man's palate had been craving that particular dish for weeks now and he just had to find the ingredients for it! James Kinchloe, the black American Sergeant and Radioman, was lying on his bunk, whistling a tune he had heard a number of years ago and trying with all his might to recall the title. Sergeant Andrew Carter, the small-town American and resident explosives expert, sat at the large eating table in the center of the room. He was experimenting with different designs for paper airplanes. So far, he had discovered two really great models and was working on the third, wondering how many times he could fold this one sheet of paper before it started to lose shape. And the local Renaissance man (i.e. pick-pocket, safe cracker, magician, forger, and tailor), RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk, lay stretched out on his upper bunk. He had one hand underneath his head, and with the other, he scraped imaginary pictures into the wall at his side. Other men in the barracks were spread around doing similar things. Needless to say, they were all quite bored.
Carter was the one who spoke up first, interrupting Kinch's song. "Hey, guys?" he said, peering thoughtfully around the room, paper airplane forgotten on the table top. "How many trees do you suppose it took to build this place?"
LeBeau, from his place near the stove, asked, "The whole camp, or just the barracks?"
"Just the barracks. But everything in it too, like the table and bunks and stuff. How many?"
Newkirk rolled on his side to answer the Sergeant, only half believing himself that he was bored enough to address this stupid question. "Well, that depends on the size of the tree, don't it?"
Carter considered this for a moment, then he stood up and said, "Okay, say it's about this big." He held out his arms in front of him and clasped his hands together, looking for all the world like a human basketball hoop.
Newkirk shrugged, "I don't know. Twelve?"
"Well, let's think about it," Kinch said, rising from his bunk and walking over to Carter. As he approached the other Sergeant, Kinch crossed his arms and studied the dimensions of Carter's invisible tree. "You could maybe get, I don't know, five or six planks out of a tree that thick."
"Make it five," LeBeau said, "It's easier to calculate."
"Now wait a minute," Newkirk jumped in, "'ow tall is this tree? Because it could be somethin' more like ten planks."
"Good point," said Kinch, turning back to his bunk and retrieving a note pad and pencil. "So we'll figure ten planks per tree. Now how many planks have we got outside from floor to ceiling?"
"Thirteen," said Carter.
LeBeau agreed, "Oui, I've counted those lots of time. It's thirteen."
So thus the game began. Thirteen boards in each section from floor to ceiling. They sent Carter outside to count how many individual sections there were outside. He discovered fifteen sections made up each long side of the outer barracks' walls, and then an additional four sections for each short side. They worked it out to find that the outside of their barracks consisted of seven hundred and eighty planks.
"Don't forget the doors and windows," LeBeau advised, and they factored in two more planks for each window and four for the front door. That came out to seven hundred and ninety six planks.
"Now divide by ten…" Kinch scribbled away at his notepad. The other men gathered close to the radioman to peer over his shoulder, even Newkirk stretched his neck on the top bunk to see what Kinch was figuring. "It comes out to seventy nine point six trees to make up the outside alone." An exclamatory whistle sounded from someone on the far side of the room.
"Seventy nine point six!" LeBeau hollered in surprise.
"Sure, and that's not even counting the roof," Carter said.
LeBeau turned and looked up at Newkirk, "And you said twelve!" the Frenchman laughed.
Newkirk tried to defend himself, "It was a shot in the dark! I didn't figure we'd work the bloody thing out!"
But the short Corporal continued to laugh.
Newkirk sighed as he laid back down on his bunk, mumbling, "Oh leave off, LeBeau. I hate numbers."
"Well, how do you feel about letters, Newkirk?" Hogan's voice, coming from the entrance to his private room, caught them all off guard. When everyone turned to look at him, they saw that in his hand he held a dozen or so beautiful letters. Hogan, with a gleam in his eye, fanned the envelopes wide with on hand and patted them lightly on his chest, like he was showing off a royal flush.
"Mail!" the men shouted as they ran quickly over to the Colonel.
Hogan didn't even flinch as his men neared; he just stood there and waited for them to calm down long enough for him to pass out the letters. Just as he suspected, they each straightened as they reached him, and stood semi patiently around him. Hogan eyed them with an amused smirk, and then purposely took his time with his duties. He would look down at the name on the envelope, but wouldn't call it out. Instead, he would look back up at the waiting men and search through the crowd until he saw the lucky man. Then, handing the letter to the Private, he would say, "One for Brotten." This went on through the whole alphabet. It was painfully slow, but Hogan's nap was interrupted for this, so he was going to get as much amusement out of it as he could.
Newkirk waited with a moderately calm demeanor. When Hogan had revealed the mail, most of the men were already on the ground. Having to jump from his bunk before heading over to the Colonel landed Newkirk near the very back of the crowd. But as letters were handed out, the number of men standing around dwindled until it was just Saunders, Mills, O'Brien, and Newkirk. Mills got two letters (lucky devil), and then finally…
"One for Newkirk."
The Englishman reached forward and grabbed the letter. He looked down at the return address as he walked back to his bunk. It was from his sister Mavis in Stepney. 'Good ol' Mavis,' Newkirk thought. 'She always knows how to pop in when things get boring.' He took a moment to leap up to his bed before opening the letter. Inside, Newkirk was surprised to find a second, smaller envelope. It was a light shade of brown, different from the color Mavis typically used, and had inscribed on its front simply, "Peter Newkirk". It had no address and no return address, simply his name; and it was written in script Newkirk didn't recognize. Newkirk examined the small brown envelope for a moment, frowning his brow and pursing his lips slightly in puzzlement. Then he looked once again into Mavis's envelope, the larger one with the more yellow tone. Inside he found a letter in the handwriting he recognized as his sisters'.
I apologize for taking so long to write to you. You wouldn't believe how busy I've been the last few weeks!
Newkirk chuckled slightly to himself. At least she could find things to do! But then that was Mavis, she always kept busy. Even when they were kids, he would be happy to just relax all day, but not Mavis. No, she would need something to do. Especially when mum and dad would get at it. Peter would drown out the yelling and crying by camping out in his room, teaching himself new magic tricks; and Mavis would just set to work, scrubbing or sweeping anything in reach. They both got really good at drowning those noises out when they were little. Then, when Peter turned about fifteen, he had had enough of those noises and confronted his father about them. 'A right good that brought about!' Newkirk thought sardonically. The bitterness was still palpable, but Newkirk suppressed it, as he always did, and just kept reading.
It was simple, everyday things Mavis described: work, friends, a shortage they had on petrol and what that meant for the people of the town. It was all trivial, but Newkirk didn't care. He missed those trivial things. In some ways, those simple everyday pleasures were what he was fighting for. But then, near the end of the letter, things got interesting.
Peter, the strangest thing happened the other day. You know how you've had you mail forwarded to me while you've been away? Well a letter arrived for you the other day and it looked really official. When I opened it, it was a letter from a solicitor.
Newkirk frowned, 'An attorney? That can't be good,' he thought and read quickly on.
It requested your presence for the reading of a will.
Newkirk was taken aback. A will? Someone died? His heart skipped a beat. His mind ran in circles as he tried to predict who it could possibly be. He could think of a number of people he thought might be old enough, mostly just school masters and employers. But none of them would leave anything to him in their will! Peter was confused, but still he read on.
I rang the number on the page and explained to the solicitor who I was and why you obviously couldn't make the reading. After a bit of a discussion, they decided I could sit in for you. Peter, you wouldn't even be able to imagine how awkward it was for me to sit in that room with all those grieving people. And I had no idea who this person even was! And by the looks of the other people in the room, I'm pretty sure they didn't recognize me. No one would even speak to me, only a few even looked at me! Half of me wondered if they got the name wrong or something because I know most of your friends, and I didn't recognize any of those people. But I waited for your section to be read. I was surprised that you were so early in the will. All they left you was this little envelope you see I've included in this letter. I don't know what it means, but I'm assuming that you will. Like I said, I don't know who this person was, but apparently you were pretty close. I'm sorry brother. I wish I knew how to help you, but I don't. But please, tell me. Who was she?
Newkirk skimmed the final goodbyes and turned quickly to the light brown envelope. He swiftly removed the small letter from its sheath, ignoring the fact that the envelope still felt heavy like there was something else at the bottom. Skipping the actual letter, his eyes jumped down to the signature at the bottom of the page.
Author's Note: In case you were wondering about my math at the beginning of this chapter, I swear it is accurate. I got out my DVDs and paused it on a view of the barracks and counted the number of planks and sections of the hut. It was great fun. So in case you ever wondered how many planks make up Barracks Two…now you have a rough idea.
Cannon inspiration for this chapter: The scene where Schultz delivers the mail in "Request Permission to Escape".
And: I can't think of the actual episode, but I am told that Newkirk's sister, Mavis, is cannon and that she lives in Stepney. It is said to have been mentioned whenever the Germans were told to be bombing England. Newkirk evidently said something like, "Blimey, I hope my sister Mavis in Stepney is all right."I don't remember seeing the episode in which this information is mentioned. But I trust the word of those who have told me that it's cannon. So if anyone can think of the actual episode title, please let me know.