"Well, Mills," said Saunders the next morning, "it looks like you were right about it being a… what did you call it?"
"Toad-floater," Mills drawled. "Y'all got back just in time, Colonel."
"Yeah, and it's a mixed blessing," Hogan sighed. "The rain will make it harder for the Gestapo to track us down, but it'll also make it a lot harder to get our Gilhîni on their way."
"I guess it's up to London now," Kinch sighed.
Legolas, who was sitting at the table checking his weapons, made a disgusted noise.
"What?" Carter asked.
Legolas didn't even look up. "I seem to have lost one of my arrows."
Hochstetter sat in his staff car and sulked. The torrential rainfall was making it nearly impossible to do anything at the site of the explosion; not only were all of his investigators getting drenched, but the water was also washing away any trace evidence (like fingerprints) that might have remained. A radio detection unit had picked up Underground radio traffic in the area, but the operatives—probably Papa Bear's unit, he thought; it's his style of sabotage—were using some new nonsense code that none of his cryptographers understood.
A sudden cry of triumph caught Hochstetter's attention. He looked up to see one of his sergeants running toward the car, brandishing something wrapped carefully in a plastic bag.
"Look, Herr Major!" the officer said breathlessly as he ducked into the car. "It's an arrow like the one used to shoot Lueger on Friday. It was in one of the cars, so any fingerprints ought to be preserved."
A feral grin crossed Hochstetter's face. "Excellent. I shall take this to Gestapo Headquarters at once for fingerprint analysis."
The sergeant nodded and went back to the train wreckage. Hochstetter sped away to Hammelburg and hurried into the forensic lab with the arrow. He waited impatiently while the technicians carefully dusted the shaft for fingerprints and analyzed what they found.
"Unglaublich," breathed the fingerprint analyst.
"What?" Hochstetter demanded.
"These fingerprints… they have patterns that do not match any human pattern!" The analyst motioned for Hochstetter to look at the fingerprints under a magnifying glass.
Hochstetter took one look and swore bitterly.
"Roger, Mama Bear. Over and out." Kinch looked up at Hogan with a grin as he shut down the radio. "The Underground wants to use the storm as a cover to get our guests to a safe house in Normandy. DuBois will be here right after dark."
The cellist, who was sitting on Kinch's cot, perked up. "We leave tonight?"
"That's right," Hogan replied with a smile.
With a shout of praise, the cellist ran off to tell his fellow escapees the good news.
"We should take pictures," Hogan whispered to Kinch, his smile fading.
Kinch nodded. "These may not be the worst, but they're certainly bad. And the war crimes prosecutors will want documentation."
"I'll have Carter and Newkirk get right on it. And I'm sure LeBeau will want to fix something special to send them off."
"Did someone mention food?" Pippin asked, poking his head around the corner.
Kinch and Hogan exchanged an amused glance, and Hogan headed up the ladder without saying another word.
The farewell dinner was a rousing success. Between them, Sam and LeBeau prepared a feast more than ample for the Jews, the Fellowship, and Hogan's men; the escapees weren't able to eat much because of having had such a meager diet for so long, but the hobbits finished off what the others left. The flautist and a clarinetist made jokes about it ("Oy vey, Moshe should have such an appetite!"), a sure sign that they were beginning to recover.
After a tearful round of good-byes, the refugees followed Tiger and DuBois out of the tunnel to a truck waiting on the road. Hogan watched through the periscope until they were safely on their way.
Suddenly, the radio began to beep. Kinch hurried to the table and jotted down the message, then rapped out a short reply before handing the clipboard to Hogan.
Hogan let out a low whistle.
"Wha'?" asked Newkirk.
"I've been ordered to go to London for a briefing tomorrow night. And Gen. Sullivan wants me to bring our 'guests' with me."
The members of the Fellowship looked at each other.
"Is this wise?" Boromir asked.
"Wise or not, an order is an order," Hogan sighed, handing the clipboard back to Kinch with a slight nod. "So unless we happen to find a way to get you guys home before tomorrow night, I guess you're flying out with me."
"Flying?!" chorused nine voices as Kinch replied to acknowledge the orders.
"In an airplane… er, a flying machine," Carter hastened to add. "You sit inside of it."
"I believe someone in Valinor invented a flying boat once," Gandalf frowned.
"Aye, as did some mariners among the Dúnedain," Aragorn agreed. "But that was long before Arnor fell."
Gimli and the hobbits looked distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of flying anywhere.
"London's a wonderful town, mates," Newkirk said encouragingly.
"Meanin' no offense, Mr. Newkirk, but I think we'd really rather go home," Sam replied.
"Colonel, if they're leaving tomorrow, could we take some pictures of them tonight?" Carter asked.
"I think that's a good idea," Kinch chimed in, taking off his headphones. "That way, if they do go home before you get to London, we'll have some sort of proof that they were here. Gen. Sullivan and Gen. Jacobs will want something to explain what's been going on."
"That's a good point, Kinch," Hogan nodded. "Go ahead, Carter."
Between preparations for Hogan's trip to London and keeping both Klink and Schultz from discovering their guests (which proved somewhat tricky, as Schultz came in for lunch and ended up staying for three hours), Hogan and his men had very little time to spend with the Fellowship during the last day of their visit—apart from Carter being shadowed by Merry and Pippin while developing the photographs. So when it came time for the group to leave, the prisoners made sure to give each member of the Fellowship a special goodbye.
Boromir clasped Kinch's forearm in a warrior's salute. "I wish you could have met my brother," he said wistfully. "He would have liked you; he, too, is a scholar, but neither of you lacks valor."
"Well, it's a pleasure to have been your brother in arms for a while," Kinch returned. Then he added with a wink, "But of course, we'll have to cancel that play now!"
Boromir laughed uproariously.
Newkirk gave Merry and Pippin a deck of playing cards. "It's been a right pleasure to know you," he whispered.
"Vielen Dank," the cousins replied, hugging him tightly. All three of them chuckled.
Gandalf whispered something to Carter; the young demolition expert never told anyone what was said, but he glowed for a week afterward.
LeBeau and Sam wrapped up an hour-long conversation about cooking. "Adieu, petit ami," LeBeau said with a grin, kissed Sam on either cheek, and ruffled the gardener's hair. "Bon chance."
Sam blushed a little, fidgeted with the St. Christopher medal Thomas had given him, and mumbled, "Goodbye, Mr. LeBeau."
"I'm sorry we didn't have more time to talk, Kinch," Frodo apologized, shaking the radio man's hand. "I wish you could have told me more about Jesus."
Kinch gently laid a hand on Frodo's shoulder. "I think you'll get to know Him someday."
Marcus Simms, who had just come down the ladder, caught Gimli's attention. "The boys wanted you to have this," the black corporal said shyly, handing the dwarf a small tin of coffee.
Gimli started to protest that the prisoners should not part with something so precious when their own supplies were limited by war and imprisonment, but something in Simms' expression stopped him. Instead, Gimli smiled, "Tell everyone I said thank you."
"In case we should be separated," Aragorn told Hogan, "I wish to thank you now for your hospitality. You have proven more than worthy of our trust."
"And I thank you all for your help," Hogan replied. "Not only did you make the mission a success and probably save our lives at the time, but rumor has it that your involvement has made it impossible for the Gestapo to track us down."
Aragorn handed Hogan a small hunting knife. "Just a small token of our appreciation," he explained. "It has no great virtue, but it is Elven-made."
Hogan was speechless as he drew the knife from its scabbard and showed it to the other prisoners. The delicate carvings on the hilt and the small runes on the blade made such a simple item breathtakingly beautiful.
"Thank you," Hogan said at last.
"A star shone on the hour of our meeting," Legolas stated. "And so it shines on the hour of our parting. Elf-friends I name you all, and may you ever bear the good will of all free peoples."
"May the Valar protect you," Gandalf continued in benediction, "and may the One bless you in all your endeavors."
There being nothing left to say, Hogan tucked his new knife into the pocket of his trench coat and headed up the ladder and out through the tree stump. Mercifully, the rain had let up for the moment, so he didn't get too wet when he ducked behind the stump to avoid the searchlight.
As soon as the light was a safe distance past the little clearing where the tunnel entrance was, Hogan opened the stump again to let Aragorn out.
There was no one there.
One by one, the Fellowship climbed the ladder leading out of the emergency tunnel. But rather than finding themselves outside the tree stump, they discovered that whatever wormhole had pulled them out of Moria had finally pulled them back. Once everyone was through, the hole in the floor closed.
"Well," said Merry.
"Indeed," said Gimli.
"By the way, Aragorn," Boromir began, "I had intended to ask you this earlier, but Gimli and I had a question about Harad…."
Hogan let the searchlight sweep past again before clambering back down into the tunnel. "Where are they?" he demanded of Kinch before his feet even reached the floor.
"They followed you," Kinch replied, frowning in confusion. "All nine of them went up that ladder."
Newkirk frowned also. "Colonel… does that mean…."
"Yep," Hogan sighed. "I think that's exactly what it means."
The prisoners were silent for a moment.
Finally, Carter handed Hogan the pictures of the Fellowship. "I guess it's a good thing we took these."
Hogan slipped the pictures into the pocket that held the knife—which, he noted with a bittersweet smile, was still there. "Yeah. Thanks, Carter."
And with that, he hurried back up the ladder toward the small landing strip where he was to catch his plane.
Hogan came out of his briefing deep in thought. The fact that D-Day was rapidly approaching and his assignment to hold up the German General Staff through psychological warfare had temporarily taken his mind off of the bizarre events of the previous four days. Indeed, he was already formulating the essentials of his plan as he took his coat off the hook on the wall.
The sound of someone clearing his throat jerked Hogan out of his reverie. There, blocking his passage, were Gen. Jacobs, Gen. Sullivan, Col. Higgins, Col. Meyers, Col. Conlon, and Sgt. Jacobs.
Hogan groaned inwardly.
"Dat was a direct order, Colonel," Jack stated. "Where are dey?"
Hogan took a deep breath. "They just vanished."
"Vanished?" David echoed skeptically.
"Den how are we to know dey was ever dere?" Spot demanded icily.
Hogan rummaged in the pocket of his coat. As his fingers closed around Aragorn's gift, he began to murmur:
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!
"What did youse say?" Race asked incredulously.
"Oh, nothing," Hogan replied nonchalantly as he produced the knife and the photographs.
Les took the knife and examined it with Mush, who let out a low whistle when he saw the workmanship. Jack and David took the photographs and passed each one to Spot and Race.
"Wait," said Jack, coming upon one especially good picture of Legolas. "Are those ears pointed?"
Hogan only smiled.
Hogan looked from his photograph to the scene in front of him and nodded approvingly.
"Looks good to me," said Carter.
"Magnifique," agreed LeBeau.
Nearly sixty years after their fateful "chance-meeting" with the Fellowship of the Ring, the former POWs had come to New Zealand to serve as technical advisors for the live-action movies based on J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Each of the five men had read the books cover to cover nearly every year since they were first published, and Hogan especially cherished his signed first editions bearing the inscription "To Brôgada from Beowulf." (He had taken the occasion to thank Tolkien for his help in devising the Sindarin code.)
"You really think it looks right?" asked Peter Jackson, still insecure with the blocking of the group shot of the Fellowship at the end of the Council of Elrond.
"Chum," said Newkirk matter-of-factly, "you couldn't do much better unless you had the lads themselves 'ere."
"Amazing what they can do with makeup, isn't it?" Kinch remarked with a twinkle.
A/N: Tolkien's prose translation of the Elvish hymn Hogan quotes (from The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"), as given in The Road Goes Ever On, is:
"O! Elbereth who lit the stars, from glittering crystal slanting falls with light like jewels from heaven on high the glory of the starry host. To lands remote I have looked afar, and now to thee, Fanuilos, bright spirit clothed in ever-white, I here will sing beyond the Sea, beyond the wide and sundering Sea."
Hogan's trip to London is based on "D-Day at Stalag 13." And I must again express my gratitude to Mum's the Word for her help on this chapter and to my friend Sara for helping me come up with the perfect ending.
Well, Ecclesiastes says that "The end of a matter is better than its beginning," and that is most certainly true of this story. I've had so much fun with it, but I'm glad to see it finally finished. I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I have had writing! And I hope you'll stay tuned for whatever other crazy concoctions I might come up with….