Both Hogan and Schultz were staring nervously at their watches, the colonel beginning to regret sending Newkirk out so late.
"Colonel Hogan, where could he have gone?" Schultz asked. If they had only known that, he could have driven the car to that location.
"I'm stumped," Hogan admitted. He had suspected that Newkirk would be the one to have deduced the corporal's hiding place, but he could only wish that he had figured it out sooner. How long would it take them to get LeBeau to a safe location?
"Sergeant, someone is coming! I think it is Newkirk!" Langenscheidt exclaimed. "Und he is not alone!"
"What…!" Hogan murmured.
"He has found LeBeau!" Schultz exclaimed, seeing the shorter silhouette.
"Got room for one more in the back, Guv'nor?" Newkirk said, the cheeky grin now back on his face after going missing for weeks.
"LeBeau?" Hogan asked, staring incredulously at the Frenchman.
"Good to see you again, Colonel," LeBeau answered, with a wan smile, as the two corporals got into the car.
"I told you I'd find 'im, Sir," Newkirk said, checking his watch. "Ten minutes to spare, too. Get us out of here, Langenscheidt! Let's just 'ope that 'ochstetter is still too busy with…" He trailed off, glancing at LeBeau.
"Quoi?" the shorter man asked.
"I don't quite know 'ow to break it to you, little mate, but…"
"Last time we checked, Major Hochstetter was questioning your mother," Hogan finished. He braced himself for fireworks, and, sure enough, there were plenty.
LeBeau cursed the major three dozen times over and instructed Langenscheidt to drive to the apartment building. Utterly befuddled and tired, the German corporal turned to Schultz for guidance, who gave him a sympathetic look.
"I have a feeling that if we do not take him, he will go alone," the big man said.
LeBeau muttered something in agreement, and his mood only got worse when, upon arriving at the building, Hochstetter's car was still outside. A truck was parked behind it; it was undoubtedly a truck belonging to one of Mullenberg's guards.
"He's been at it for hours!" Hogan said, in disbelief. "And now one of the Stalag 6 guards is up there, too!"
"It will be their last," LeBeau vowed. He squinted, trying to look through the lit window of his mother's apartment.
"You 'ang on a minute, little mate; we didn't turn Paris upside down to lose you a second time," Newkirk said, grabbing his friend's arm.
"I've got it…" Hogan said, with a snap of his fingers. "Schultz, get up there and tell Hochstetter and the Stalag 6 guard that you've found LeBeau. You're taking him back to Stalag 13 as per Burkhalter's orders. They'll have to throw in the towel as far as LeBeau is concerned, and the fliers aren't even here anymore."
"Are you certain that is a good idea, Colonel?" the Frenchman asked.
"It'll give Schultz a chance to make sure that your mother is okay."
"I know, Colonel, but if my mother hears Schultzie say that, she will be livid!"
"In other words, Sir, the temper is 'ereditary," Newkirk said.
"We'll risk it," Hogan said. "Get going, Schultz."
"But Colonel Hogan…!" Schultz gasped. "What if she—?"
"Schultz, I'm sure you can outrun her," Hogan said, with a roll of his eyes.
The big man mumbled nervously about his weight resulting in a different outcome as he crept towards the building. Langenscheidt leaned back in his seat, exhausted; it had been a long day for him.
Hogan was about to relax when he noticed something in the Stalag 6 truck.
"Langenscheidt, I think LeBeau, Newkirk, and I will take a moment to stretch our legs before the long ride back," he said, getting out of the car. "Don't worry; we'll stay right here."
All three corporals gave Hogan a bewildered glance; Langenscheidt only made a small comment in protest as LeBeau and Newkirk dutifully followed.
"What is it, Colonel?" LeBeau asked, as Hogan led them slowly towards the truck.
"I thought I saw something in the truck bed," the colonel said, frowning.
"You did, Sir," said a familiar voice. Major Vulsor sat up in the truck bed with great difficulty; each of his wrists had been handcuffed by a long chain to the truck bed itself.
"Would you mind telling me what's the idea behind this brazen violation of the Geneva Convention?" Hogan asked. He glanced back at their car; Langenscheidt was watching the building, trying to see if he could see Schultz through the window.
"There was a guard in here with me," Vulsor said. "His buddy had gone up there to that apartment building a while ago; he got fed up with waiting, chained me up here, and went to get himself a drink before everything closed for curfew."
"Well, we can't have that," said Hogan, taking one more backward glance to make sure that Langenscheidt wasn't watching. "Newkirk, set him free."
"Right-o, Sir," the Englishman replied, effortlessly picking the locks on both chains.
"Thanks," the American major replied, relieved to be freed from the chains. "But how do I explain this to the guard when he comes back?"
Hogan mused for a moment.
"LeBeau, how far is the Russian café from here?"
"If you take that alley over there, only about five minutes, if you are quick."
"Then he can just make it," the colonel replied, checking his watch. "It's dark enough for no one to notice that uniform. LeBeau, do you have an extra set of civilian clothes?"
"Oui; this one was from one of the fliers. He left the country disguised as a German solider, so he did not need these anymore," the corporal replied, handing over one of the small bags he had been carrying.
"Perfect," Hogan said, handing the bag over to Vulsor. "Did you swear upon your word as an officer that you wouldn't escape from Mullenberg?"
"No, Sir; I did as you told me. I told Mullenberg that I knew some of Corporal LeBeau's haunts, and without letting me say another word, he had me go with his guards."
"Then congratulations; you're going to London in LeBeau's place," Hogan said. "Our friend here had a change of heart and decided to return to Stalag 13 with us."
Vulsor blinked, but nodded.
"Here's what you do; get going down that alley until you get to that Russian café; the doorman's on our side. He'll let you sleep there tonight; just tell him that the American colonel sent you. Tomorrow, make contact across the street with a man working for someone named Tiger. He'll get you to London. Understand?"
"Good. Get going."
Vulsor quickly saluted.
"If you're ever in San Francisco after the war, stop by!" he threw over his shoulder as he headed into the shadows.
"Nice sort of bloke… when e's not drawing a gun on you," Newkirk mused, as they headed nonchalantly back to the car.
LeBeau chuckled, and the three of them got inside.
"What is so funny? Have I missed a joke?" Langenscheidt asked.
"You could say that the joke's on Mullenberg," Hogan said.
"I wonder 'ow the poor sap will do in Russia," Newkirk murmured in an undertone.
"If he's sensible, he will desert and let Marya guide him to safety," the Frenchman said, thinking about the temptress again. He had sat at the table where they had first met earlier today, thinking about her eyes… her hair… her lips…
A nudge from Newkirk brought him around.
"You've got some ruddy cheek, dreaming about 'er when you're right outside your old mum's apartment; somehow I don't think Marya is the kind of girl your mum would approve of. Cor, she's not the kind of girl me own mum would've approved of, and considering she settled for me dad, that is saying something…"
LeBeau just scoffed, but then grew a worried expression as he glanced at the lit window.
Schultz, who had been hovering outside Madame LeBeau's door for the past few minutes, was worried, too. He could hear a lady's voice angrily addressing Hochstetter and Mullenberg's guard, both of whom were demanding information on her son's likely hiding places.
Realizing that it was now or never, Schultz opened the door.
"Herr Major? I must report…" He trailed off as three angry faces turned to him.
"What is the meaning of this?" Hochstetter demanded. "I have to deal with this dummkopf from Stalag 6; I am not about to deal with you, as well!"
"You do not have to, Herr Major; I was just leaving!" the big man insisted. "And I just came to inform you that Corporal Langenscheidt and I have recaptured Corporal LeBeau! We… We are taking him back to Stalag 13; I just thought I would let you know so that you could turn your attention to the other escapees."
"What?" Hochstetter yelled, as Giselle noticeably paled. "I have my men in all corners of this city; how could a buffoon such as yourself recapture him first?"
"I… I do not know, Herr Major, but he is in the car right outside this building; Langenscheidt is watching him."
"Mon fils!" Giselle exclaimed, running for the door.
"You will stay right where you are, Frau LeBeau," Hochstetter ordered.
"Major, I have not seen my son in years!"
"It is time for curfew," Hochstetter said, a smug expression on his face as the clock struck the hour. "And besides that, it is forbidden for civilians to have any contact with prisoners of war."
"Bête!" she hissed, under her breath. "Démon!"
She crossed to the window to get a look outside, and cursed as she found it too dark to see inside the car.
Hochstetter didn't bother with her; he had turned his attention to Schultz.
"I could order you to turn the corporal over to me," the major warned.
"I… I am following General Burkhalter's orders, Herr Major. I am afraid I cannot hand over the prisoner to you."
"Bah!" Hochstetter snarled. "I will be having a word with General Burkhalter. But first, I will deal with the remaining escapees. After all, I will always know where to find Corporal LeBeau."
Without even waiting for a reply, he pushed his way out of the apartment. The frustrated Stalag 6 guard, unable to have gotten a word in edgeways, soon followed, leaving behind Schultz, who was desperate to get away.
"Es tut mir leid, gnadige Frau," he said to Giselle.
She responded with a piercing glare.
"I cannot believe it," she said. "My son would not dodge that overdressed hound dog and let himself get captured by you."
"To be honest, I do not know how it happened," Schultz admitted. He made sure that Hochstetter and the Stalag 6 guard were well out of earshot before he admitted to Giselle that LeBeau had turned himself in.
"Then it is true," she said, quietly. "That monster said that my son is involved—"
"Please, gnadige Frau, I want to know nothing—nothing!" Schultz pleaded, knowing that Hochstetter must have put forth his accusations of LeBeau being involved in underground activities. "It is so much easier for all of us that way…"
Giselle gave a nod, understanding. This man was not like the cruel ones she had seen on multiple occasions. She turned back to the window as Schultz excused himself. The big man paused outside the door, relieved to have made it through the encounter unscathed.
Outside, in the car, LeBeau had watched, noticing as his mother's silhouette appeared at the window.
"She is fine," he realized, and he began to relax.
"Blimey, she can 'old 'er own, can't she?" Newkirk said, as a frustrated Hochstetter exited the building and went straight to his staff car.
This was followed by stifled laughs from the three Allies as the first Stalag 6 guard exited the building, staring perplexed at the empty truck bed, as was the guard who had run off for a drink. The two argued, gesturing to the empty truck and the unlocked chains. They were still going at it when Schultz finally returned.
"And Schultz survived the encounter," Hogan said. He noted that the sergeant did look slightly relieved to be out of there.
LeBeau smirked, in spite of himself. Glancing back at the silhouette in the window, he began to feel at peace. He had completed his mission, and though he was willingly leaving his family behind, he knew that he was returning to another surrogate family—one that would help his biological family return to the peace they had known before the war, if their ploys and plans kept succeeding. It was the same reason why Newkirk had come back after receiving chances to go. As paradoxical as it sounded, they could do more for their loved ones by staying in Stalag 13.
I shall return, Mère, he silently promised.
He watched the window until the car pulled away too far for him to see any longer. He sighed, leaning back into his seat.
Newkirk let out a tremendous yawn, his multiple sleepless nights catching up with him full force. He would sleep well tonight, he knew. But before he fell into the welcoming arms of slumber, he couldn't resist teasing LeBeau one more time.
"Tell me, Louis," he said, through his yawns. "Whatever 'appened to that bird you used to take on picnics by the Seine?"
"Oh, her?" the Frenchman replied, without thinking. "I still get letters from her on the odd occasion…" He trailed off. "Pierre, you have been reading my letters!"
Newkirk gave him a smirk, stifling another yawn.
"Your secrets are safe with me, little mate."
"They had better be!" LeBeau warned, pulling the Englishman's hat over his eyes.
"Ta, mate; I needed something to block those lights out!"
LeBeau let out an exaggerated scoff, hiding the fact that he was actually amused.
Hogan sighed to himself as LeBeau turned his attention out the window and as Newkirk fell asleep. It was over; as soon as they returned, Hogan would inform Tiger about how they found LeBeau. She would find it difficult to believe, most likely; Hogan certainly did.
But Newkirk had kept on believing, he realized, even when the colonel had not. It was a humbling experience to realize that he should have paid more attention to the corporal's sixth sense—more than once, at that. Being a commanding officer was not an easy task, by any means. Newkirk could have made things a lot harder than just his recent shenanigans.
Keeping this in mind, he finalized what the Englishman's punishment would be; the tunnel leading to Klink's quarters needed to be re-braced and cleaned out after receiving residual damage from when they had covered their tracks during Hochstetter's inspection. He would assign that job to Newkirk; it was close enough to the kitchen to let him talk to LeBeau if the going got too dull. It sounded fair enough.
Life at Stalag 13 would be back to normal again soon, which is more than what anyone had expected. But Hogan had to wonder to himself if that had been Newkirk's master plan all along.
"That nimrod…" he muttered, quietly.
Still… there was no denying that if it truly was the case, then Newkirk had succeeded.
They could all live with that.
Author's Note: And, it's done! A huge thanks to everyone who supported me through this fic! I know there are a couple of loose ends, which I will now address. I can give my assurance that Vulsor makes it to London; as he was an OC, I didn't feel it necessary to show or narrate the end result of his escape. Also, I know that I had Hochstetter leave the encounter with the bottle of serum still in his pocket; that will come into play for a sequel I have planned somewhere down the line.
As far as the nimrod comment goes, I am still undecided when it comes to answering the "Who's Nimrod?" question, but I know that some of my readers enjoy the idea of Newkirk being Nimrod, so I added that allusion in for them. The rationale would be this: while it is true that Newkirk's actions were driven mainly by the wish to help his friend, if he was Nimrod, then his second, ulterior motive would be to ensure that status quo was restored to Stalag 13—which would require LeBeau's return. For those who don't subscribe to the idea that Newkirk is Nimrod, his actions were driven solely on the basis of friendship.