A/N: I got this idea after watching the movie, Jeepers Creepers, about a week ago. WARNING: this story is going to be rather gruesome, but I'm not planning on making it too graphic.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters from Hogan's Heroes, or the character I'm borrowing from Jeepers Creepers. I'm only using them to tell a story.
Note: I had originally posted this as a crossover, but decided to move it to the main page, to make it easier for those who are reading it to follow.
Hand to Mouth
Every 23rd Spring, for 23 days…
Colonel Robert E. Hogan was sitting outside Barracks two, watching the men play volleyball in the compound while soaking up the warm afternoon sun, when Sergeant Kinchloe emerged from the barracks and sat down next to him. Hogan knew Kinch had been monitoring the radio, and inwardly braced himself for what Kinch had to tell him. He didn't have to wait long.
"Message from the Underground, Colonel," Kinch said, "They need someone to meet with them this evening, at the abandoned barn between here and Hammelburg. They've got some information to pass along to us."
"What kind of information?" Hogan asked.
"They didn't say," Kinch replied, "But they said it was important."
"It always is," Hogan sighed. "All right, tell them I'll be there. What time do they want to meet?"
Hogan nodded. "I'll go after roll call."
"Yes, sir," Kinch said. He started to get up; then looked back at Hogan. "Oh, do you still want Newkirk and Carter to blow up that bridge, Colonel?"
"Yes," Hogan replied, "It needs to be taken care of tonight."
Kinch gave him a brief nod. Then he went back into the barracks; headed towards the false-bottom bunk, hit the lever and climbed down.
That night after roll call, Hogan, Newkirk and Carter went down to the tunnel below their barracks and got ready for their respective missions. The sergeant and corporal both donned black pants and turtlenecks, while the colonel changed into a civilian outfit. When it was time to move out, Hogan reminded his two subordinates to be careful, and soon all three men were on their way to their destinations.
Hogan arrived at the meeting place, and cautiously approached the barn. Seeing nothing amiss, he sidled quietly up to the door and rapped twice; then paused and knocked three times more. Someone inside must have recognized the code, because the door opened a crack, and a face peeked out at him.
"Papa Bear, it is good to see you," the man said, opening the door wider to allow Hogan to enter.
"It's good to see you, too, Fritz," Hogan replied as he stepped inside. He walked over to the small group of men huddled inside, and sat down on a bale of hay. Fritz followed and took a seat opposite him.
Hogan glanced around; instantly noticing the looks of dread on the other men's faces. "I take it this is serious," he said, hoping it wasn't as grim as the Underground agents' expressions let on.
"Very serious," Fritz informed him. "We've had some disappearances over the last two weeks. Several people from Hammelburg and some others from the surrounding farms have gone missing. We were hoping you might be able to find out what's going on…"
"We already know what's going on!" the man to Fritz's right interrupted, "That, that thing has come back…"
"Hush, Dieter!" Fritz hissed at him, "That's an old fairy tale, and you know it!"
Hogan glanced between Fritz and Dieter. "What's an old fairy tale?" he asked.
"Nothing," Fritz answered, casting a warning glance at Dieter, "Nothing at all." He turned his attention back to Hogan. "Can you help us, Papa Bear?"
Hogan's brow furrowed. "You sure the Gestapo isn't behind this?" he asked, "Sounds like something they'd do."
Fritz shook his head. "It's not the Gestapo, we checked; some of their men have gone missing, too."
Hogan contemplated for a moment. "All right, I'll see what I can do," he replied.
Relief washed over Fritz's face. "Thank you! The police have been no help, and we didn't know where else to turn…"
"I can't promise anything, you know," Hogan interjected.
Fritz nodded. "I know. But you have a way of finding things out. I'm confident you will discover what has been going on."
"No he won't," Dieter mumbled.
"That's enough!" Fritz spat at him angrily.
Hogan opened his mouth to ask; then thought better of it and instead, replied, "If there's something fishy going on around here, we'll find out." He stood up and brushed off his trousers. "If there's nothing else…?"
"No, that's it," Fritz said. He also rose, and accompanied Hogan to the door. "Be careful out there," he warned, "Most of the disappearances seem to happen at night."
"I will," Hogan responded, and then the thought of Newkirk and Carter out there planting explosives flashed through his mind. He felt a stab of worry, and shifted uneasily. "I'll be in touch," he said, and slipped out into the darkness.
"Blimey, Carter, aren't you done yet?" Newkirk asked, annoyed, "It shouldn't be taking this long!"
"Almost there," Carter answered, more to himself, "Almost there… Done!" he exclaimed triumphantly. He stood up and smiled. "That bridge is gonna be nothing but a memory in an hour, boy! I just wish we could stick around and watch…" his voice trailed off when he looked at Newkirk and saw the annoyed expression on his face. "Okay, okay, we can go now," he said with a sigh.
"About ruddy time!" Newkirk replied. He turned and headed back in the direction of the camp, glancing behind him a few times to make sure Carter was following. They'd gone perhaps half a mile, when he stopped suddenly; nearly losing his balance as Carter plowed into him.
"Oof!" Newkirk exclaimed, trying to regain his balance, "Watch where you're goin', Andrew!"
"You're the one who stopped!" Carter countered.
"Yeah…thought I 'eard somethin'," Newkirk said, his voice dropping to a whisper. "Quiet now, let me listen…"
A full minute passed, and the only sound they heard was the occasional bird call; probably an owl. After a few more seconds, Carter whispered, "I don't hear anything, Newkirk."
Newkirk, his eyes darting back and forth in the darkness, began to wonder if he'd been imagining things. "Must be gone," he said, unwilling to admit he might have made a mistake. "All right, let's go," he added, and started walking again.
They made it another half mile, when Newkirk spotted something on the ground in front of them. As he neared, he noticed the moonlight glinting off something shiny, and he quickened his pace. He reached the object, and crouched down to examine it. "'Ello, what's this, then?" he said as he picked it up. He brought it up to his face for a closer look. His eyes widened in shock when he realized what he was holding, and he dropped it like it was on fire. He stood up quickly and started walking again, his heart racing as fast as his footsteps.
"What's wrong?" Carter called out, trying to keep up.
"Nothin'!" Newkirk shot back; then slowed his pace and said, "Nothin's wrong, Andrew…I just want to get back to camp, is all."
"Okay," Carter replied. He was unconvinced that there was nothing wrong, but he knew better than to try to argue with Newkirk.
They walked several more yards, when both of them spotted something up ahead. "What is that?" Carter couldn't help asking.
As they got closer, the smell hit them in the face like a wave, and they had to turn their heads to keep from gagging. Newkirk pulled the collar of his shirt up over his nose and shut his eyes tight; wishing with all his heart when he opened them, the vision before him would be gone. But when he cracked his eyelids, it was still there. He grabbed Carter's arm, whose face was noticeably pale – even in the dark – and started to guide him around the grisly sight. "C'mon, Andrew, let's get back to camp," he said, his voice shaking. Carter didn't answer; he just nodded and followed Newkirk.
Neither of them had noticed the pair of yellowish eyes watching them from a nearby thicket. As the two men moved off, the owner of those eyes lifted its head and inhaled deeply; testing their scents that still hung heavy in the air. One of the scents caught his attention, and he smiled. Yes, there was something about it that he liked; in fact, he liked it very much.
Newkirk and Carter picked their way through the forest, saying nothing, until they finally reached the hollow tree stump that led to the tunnel below. After they climbed down, they hurried to the main tunnel, where they knew Kinch would be monitoring the radio. When they arrived, they were surprised to see Hogan already there, pacing back and forth like he did when he was particularly worried about something.
Hogan saw them walk up and stopped. "Newkirk, Carter, I'm glad you're back," he said, relief evident in his voice. Then he saw the men's expressions, and quickly grew alarmed. "What's wrong?"
Carter glanced at Newkirk, then back to Hogan. "Colonel, on our way back from the bridge, we saw…" He paused, sucking in his breath; then tried again, "We saw…"
"Better let me tell 'im, Andrew," Newkirk cut in, grabbing Carter's arm and leading him over to the bench near the wall of the tunnel. Carter sank down on it and looked at Newkirk gratefully.
Hogan waited until Newkirk turned back to face him, and asked impatiently, "Well, what did you see?"
Newkirk took a deep breath. "Corpses, sir," he answered as he exhaled, "Two, maybe three bodies."
"Corpses?" Hogan echoed, frowning. He didn't know what he'd been expecting, but it wasn't that. Everyone there had seen dead bodies before; why were Newkirk and Carter so shaken up over it? He started to reply, when the last part of Newkirk's answer suddenly hit him. "What do you mean, 'Two or three bodies'? Which was it…two, or three?"
Newkirk swallowed hard and tossed a glance at Carter. He looked back at Hogan and said, "Well, sir, you see, the bodies, they were…in pieces."
"In pieces?" Hogan again repeated him. His face began to register shock as that bit of information sunk in. "You mean, they'd been dismembered?"
"Yes, sir," Carter, who had begun to regain his composure, called out from the bench, "That's why we're not sure how many of them there were."
Newkirk nodded. "Just a ruddy pile of body parts was all; a foot 'ere, some arms and legs there, three or four hands, two torsos…"
"I thought there were three," Carter interrupted.
"Might 'ave been three," Newkirk amended, "It was 'ard to tell. They were a right mess, cut into pieces, and there were…things missin' from 'em." He paused as a shudder ran through him; then added quietly, "And two heads…one of 'em was a girl, Colonel."
Kinch, who had been listening in shocked silence so far, now spoke up. "Why would someone cut up bodies and dump them in the woods? That doesn't make sense."
Hogan sighed. "Nothing in this war makes sense," he muttered, shaking his head. Suddenly the conversation he'd had with Fritz earlier jumped into his mind, and he asked, "Could you tell if they were civilians, Newkirk?"
"I think so, Colonel. There were bits of cloth scattered about; looked like they could 'ave come from the types of outfits the townspeople wear."
Fritz's words came back to Hogan, "We've had some disappearances over the last two weeks. Several people from Hammelburg and some others from the surrounding farms have gone missing..." He thought for a moment; then asked, "Could you tell how long they've been there?"
"For a while, Colonel," Carter answered, crinkling his nose, "The smell was terrible!"
"At least a week, sir," Newkirk guessed, "Maybe longer." Just thinking about that horrible odor made the bile rise in his throat, and he had to swallow hard to force it back down.
Hogan noticed. "Maybe you better sit down, Newkirk," he said, grabbing his arm and leading him over to the bench where Carter was sitting, "You're looking a little green around the gills."
Newkirk didn't argue, he just plopped down next to Carter. He took a few slow, deep breaths, and almost immediately started to feel better. After a few moments he looked up at Hogan; anger radiating from his eyes. "I'd lay money the ruddy Gestapo are behind this, Colonel," he said, "They've come up with some new cruel way to torture people, they 'ave."
Hogan shook his head. "It's not the Gestapo," he replied; then proceeded to relate the conversation he'd had with Fritz. "Whoever's doing this; he's doing it on his own."
"'He', sir?" Kinch asked.
"You don't think it's a woman doing this, do you?" Hogan countered, raising an eyebrow.
Kinch's eyes widened. "No, sir!" he replied, aghast at the thought. "I just thought it might be more than one person."
Hogan leaned against the table, opposite of where Kinch was seated, and crossed his arms. "You may have a point," he said, "I don't see how one person could be doing this all by himself."
"Maybe it's a cult!" Carter blurted out. "I've heard what people do in those cults – all those rituals and sacrifices – it's disgusting!"
"It's not a cult, Andrew!" Newkirk huffed, rolling his eyes. "It's probably some sick, twisted group of Nazis who want to make themselves look good to the other sick, twisted Nazis."
"That does make more sense, Peter," Kinch replied, nodding.
Hogan glanced at his watch. "Well, in any case, it's time to get some sleep; roll call is in four hours. Gentlemen, I suggest we go up to our bunks and get what sleep we can."
The men mumbled their agreement. Carter climbed up first, followed by Kinch. Newkirk was next, but before he stepped on the ladder, he turned to Hogan and said, "Sir, those body parts we saw out there, some of them looked like they'd been, uh, on the menu, if you get my meanin'."
"Could be animals," Hogan responded, "You said yourself they've been there at least a week."
"Yes, sir, it could 'ave been animals, couldn't it?" Newkirk flashed him a small smile. "Well, goodnight, Colonel," he said, and climbed up to the barracks above.
Hogan waited a few moments; then climbed up, himself, and headed for his quarters. He wasn't sure how much sleep he was going to get, but he knew he had to try. We've got enough to worry about; he thought as he changed into his pajamas, we don't need any more!
As Newkirk was stretching out on his bunk, a different thought was passing through his mind. He hadn't mentioned to Carter or Hogan what he'd found out there; before he and Andrew had discovered the corpses. But the image was burned in his memory, and now that he was alone, it displayed itself prominently in his mind. That shiny thing he'd found out there in the woods had been a gold ring; replete with ornate designs, and an inscription carved into it in tiny letters. There had been only one problem, though.
The finger that the ring had been on was still attached to it.