Three days passed before the prisoners were allowed out of the barracks, and even then security remained tight.
Jackson's escape attempt, with its unfortunate conclusion, was going to hang over Stalag 13 for a long time. His death meant Klink was under pressure from above, and he was responding as might have been expected. Lieutenant Simms and the other members of Jackson's crew had already been shipped off to other camps in case they had any ideas, and those remaining behind found themselves under a regime of such harshness as had never been seen here before.
At last, however, Hogan's remonstrations to the Kommandant had some effect, and the prisoners were allowed outside for exercise. But it wasn't exactly comfortable. The guards were on edge, expecting any minute to be faced with the natural anger of men who had lost one of their own.
"If they only knew," observed Newkirk under his breath, as he prepared to serve the volleyball. Those within earshot sniggered. Nobody was breaking their heart over Sergeant Jackson. Even though most of them didn't know the full story, they knew Carter had been through a bad time. That was enough.
Mills, in defiance of the medic's instructions, had joined in the game, but Carter wasn't playing. He hadn't said much since his safe return to camp, although he was clearly glad to be back among friends, and relieved that no questions were being asked. Physically and emotionally, he still had a lot of ground to make up, and it would be some time before he regained any semblance of the exuberant character they were used to. For now he was staying quiet.
Hogan came out of the barracks. He sent a quick look at Carter, who was leaning against the wall watching the game. His air of nervous tension had eased, but it wasn't gone altogether. Nor would it lift as long as he was waiting to find out what his part in operations would be from now on, or if he would even have a part at all.
It hadn't been an easy decision for Hogan.
The ball flew high, past the players on the side nearest the gate, and Mills ran to fetch it. As he bent to pick it up, he stiffened momentarily, and he was slow to turn back.
"Mills, get over here," said Hogan. "I thought the medic told you to take it easy."
"With all due respect, Colonel, the medic's an old woman," replied Mills.
"Okay, he's an old woman. But I'm not. So if I tell you to take a break, you better do it." Hogan was smiling, but there was a gleam in his eyes that all his men knew well. Mills read the signals, capitulated, and tossed the ball to LeBeau.
"If it's an order, sir," he said. He glanced from Hogan to Carter, recognized that his presence would be awkward, and murmured, "I'll just go into the barracks, and..." His voice trailed off as he made himself scarce.
Hogan joined Carter along the barracks wall. "How are you holding up?" he asked.
"Okay, I guess," said Carter. He kept his eyes on the game. After a pause, he added, "It feels weird, Colonel. I was thinking, when you said he was dead, I ought to be happy about it, but..."
Hogan didn't say a word. Right now it wouldn't take much for Carter to go back into his shell. That was the last thing they wanted.
"Thing is, I kind of felt sorry for him, in the end. He said some stuff, when it was just me and him, and...That sounds really stupid, doesn't it?"
"No, it doesn't," replied Hogan, after a moment's thought, "but I wouldn't be too quick to take anything he said at face value. He was a sick son of a bitch, he may have been messing with you."
"Yeah, maybe." Carter fell silent again.
"Mills is a pretty good guy," he said, a minute or so later.
"He sure is." Hogan didn't look at him. "He did a good job at Samberg. I have a feeling he's going to be very useful in the future."
"Uh-huh." Carter's voice was quiet, his expression resigned. "And he gets on with the other guys, so..." Once again his voice faltered into silence.
"That's a big point in his favor," said Hogan. "If he can work well in a team operation, then we can use him. And it's time we had some back-up. The war's heating up, we're going to have a lot more jobs coming through in the next few months. We're going to need a second team, maybe even a third one. Mills is a start."
He glanced at Carter, who was looking perplexed. "Uh, Colonel..." he began, then halted, unsure of what Hogan meant.
Hogan proceeded to enlighten him. "Carter, I've had to give your situation a lot of thought. There's no point in glossing it over. I know what happened had an effect on you - a big effect. The thing is, until Jackson turned up here, you were dealing with it, you were doing good work, and you were making an important contribution to what we do here. Now what I need to know is how soon you think you'll be ready to get back to work."
Carter was looking at him incredulously. "You mean you still want me on the team?"
"I need you on the team, Carter. You're one of the best explosive experts around, I can't spare you. But there's more to it than that. You're a good soldier, and a good man. I don't want to lose that." He paused, watching as Carter tried to take that in.
"I don't know if I'm up for it, Colonel," murmured Carter. "What happens if I can't handle it?"
"That's why I'm leaving it up to you," said Hogan. "If you really feel like you can't do it any more, you come and tell me, and I won't say another word about it. But you handled yourself well at Samberg, under very difficult conditions. You saved Mills' life, and probably Newkirk's as well. I can't ask for better than that."
He waited for a few seconds before he threw in the sweetener. "There's a munitions train due to pass through the area in a few days, and London have asked us to delay it, permanently. And I do love your work with munitions trains."
Carter didn't answer him at once. Hogan waited, then added quietly, "Andrew, those bastards did some damage. I'm not going to pretend they didn't. But if you let what they did stop you from getting on with your life, then they never really finish with you, do they? You're a good man. Don't let them take that away."
Although Carter was to all appearances watching the volleyball players again, Hogan could see the involuntary twitch of a muscle in his cheek, as he considered this new viewpoint.
"A munitions train, you said?" said Carter after a while.
"Passing through Hammelburg on its way east," replied Hogan.
"It'll have to cross the Braunsteg railway bridge, right? If I can have the bridge as well, you got yourself a deal, boy...sir." The familiar correction came so naturally that Hogan almost laughed aloud. He knew it wasn't over, not yet, but at least they'd made a start.
"You can have the bridge, Carter," he said, "and I like the way you're thinking. I have a feeling that this is going to be fun."
"Yeah, we'll have a blast." The faintest gleam of light was back in Carter's eyes. Probably he would never again be the same young man they'd sent back to England, but as a glimmer of enthusiasm broke through, Hogan began to hope that, in time, they might get back the Carter they knew.
It wasn't finished. Somewhere, there were still four men just as culpable as Jackson had been. Hogan hadn't asked Carter yet, but sooner or later he was going to need their names. There was no possibility of taking the matter further, no point in dragging Carter through the torment of giving evidence, no chance of ever seeing the culprits pay for what they had done. But still, Hogan needed those names.
The next time one of them turned up at Stalag 13, he was going to be ready.
Endnote: Thanks to all my readers for staying with me.