Carter had panicked upon realizing that LeBeau had, apparently, vanished without a trace again. Now half-frantic, he was opening every door he came across, barely apologizing if he happened to have startled the occupants.
He eventually reached Warwick's room, where he was greeted with Mavis' shriek, until she realized who it was.
"Andrew?" she asked. "Did Peter send you to tell me that everything is all right?"
Carter shook his head.
"Sorry, Ma'am; I'm actually looking for him. Do you know where he is?"
"I think 'e's with those two 'orrible ladies; Peter's double 'ad been trying to get me to come 'ere, but on the way, the real Peter gave 'im a right thrashing. Then your colonel came by and 'elped us capture the fake. Peter switched places with the fake and pretended to be 'im delivering me 'ere. But 'e told me to wait in 'ere until 'e sent someone to tell me that it was safe to come out."
"Oh, no…" Carter groaned. "Then that was him I saw? I thought it was Repli-kirk!"
"Then why 'asn't Peter come back?" she asked, her eyes widening in horror. "You don't think something's 'appened, do you?"
"I don't know, but I don't think you should go looking for him all by yourself; Louis and I split up, and now I can't find him!"
"Louis?" Mavis asked. "But Peter said 'e was—"
"I know, but he went and woke up and told me that those women had a trap set for Peter, which is why we came here."
"Well… Colonel 'ogan is coming; 'e meant to give us a few minutes' 'eadstart."
"That's good; he'll think of something, then. But I've still got to figure out a way to stall those women before anything else happens…" Carter trailed off as a stagehand passed the doorway, pulling a long rack of costumes. "And I just got a great idea. You'd better wait here like your brother said; we don't want anything to happen to you now."
"Right," Mavis said, and she locked the door as soon as Carter left.
The American, in the meantime, sidled over to the costume rack and helped himself to some of the items on the rack. His disguises had saved them from Gretel before; hopefully, they would come through again.
Newkirk and LeBeau, in the meantime, had recovered enough from their ordeal to actively search for the two women.
"So… you're saying that Sandiego convinced Gretel not to kill you and told you where to find me?" Newkirk asked, baffled. "What's 'er game, then?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," LeBeau said. "She seems to want us alive for some reason."
"Well, we can get some answers from 'er after we bring 'er in…" Newkirk said.
"Ah, but you won't be bringing me in, Señor Newkirk," a voice purred.
The corporals froze, glaring at Sandiego as she appeared out of the shadows.
"Why are you harboring such hostility on your faces? After I saved the both of you, I was expecting at least an iota of gratitude!" she said, though she didn't seem too upset by it.
"You've got a lot of nerve," Newkirk hissed. "After everything you put us through, we deserve some answers!"
"Oui; why were you working with Gretel and the Communists?" LeBeau demanded. "And then why did you betray them to save us? Are you some sort of double agent?"
Sandiego let out a "tsk" sound.
"You and Gretel both made the mistake of assuming that I was a free agent, ready to switch to whichever side paid the most. But I am not on anyone's side, except my own. I have my own organization. We are not out for these foolish ideas of winning battles and wars, or whether a man believes in capitalism or communism; that's for fools like you to fight over. I am here to gain whatever material wealth I can get from this world; to me, it doesn't matter what borders I cross or which fools I stab in the back. I used Gretel because her crazed zeal allowed me to gain valuable electronics equipment from the Schroeder Corporation. I could care less whether she and that Major Hochstetter join the communists just to get their vengeance on you, even if they don't believe in their ideals. And I certainly could care less about what Heaven-forsaken things you did in Luft Stalag 13, though the rumors I heard were most intriguing. A tiger tank, of all things…"
"Then why save us if you don't really care about us?" Newkirk asked. "Just 'ow does that 'elp your ruddy organization?"
"Because, Señor Newkirk, I have a feeling you and your companions could prove useful to me someday, just as Gretel was. I am already pondering what riches I will get on your account…"
"You won't get anything from us; I can promise you that!" the Englishman retorted, reaching into his pocket. "And 'ere—you can 'ave this emerald brooch of yours back."
"Oh, no, Señor Newkirk; you can hold onto that for some more time, though I will pick it up eventually. Think of it as a promise that you and I will meet again. Oh, and speaking of saving your friends, you might wish to know that Gretel is waiting in the lobby of the theatre, waiting to kill your Colonel Hogan the moment he arrives here."
"Le colonel!" LeBeau gasped.
He and Newkirk exchanged glances for the briefest moment, but that was all Sandiego needed. She threw down what turned out to be a smokescreen charge, not unlike the ones Carter often made. In the cover of the smoke, Josefina Sandiego vanished.
Newkirk swore loudly, trying to wave the smoke away.
"Forget her, Pierre," LeBeau said.
The Frenchman opened a window in the back lounge. Newkirk arrived behind him to get a breath of fresh air, but blinked as he took a look outside.
"Cor, look at that; the police 'ave the place surrounded. We 'ave to 'ope that Sandiego won't be able to get past them. And speaking of 'er and 'er ruddy warnings, we need to get to the lobby."
"Oui, but are you sure that was not a ruse just to get us to let her go while we were preoccupied?"
"Whether or not Sandiego was lying, Gretel already said she was going to kill the Guv'nor; I certainly wouldn't put it past Gretel, but I ain't about to count on Sandiego intervening yet again. Sandiego's gone, and she isn't coming back. So it's up to us to 'elp the colonel."
The Frenchman nodded, and the two of them dashed through the halls of the theatre, Newkirk using all of the secret passageways he knew of. LeBeau seized Newkirk's arm as they approached the lobby; Gretel was there, her hand in her purse, undoubtedly clutching her gun. More police cars were pulling up to the front of the building, and Hogan and Kinch were both clearly among the policemen.
"Now, Louis!" Newkirk hissed.
The two corporals tried to come in for a sneak attack, but Gretel whirled around, her weapon whipping out of her purse. Her eyes widened in shock.
"This cannot be…!" she hissed, glaring from the Frenchman to the Englishman. "You… You should still be unconscious from that drug! And you—you should be impaled by those spikes!"
"Sorry to disappoint you, Luv," Newkirk said, dryly.
Gretel kept aiming at first one corporal, and then the other. Now it was her turn to panic. Colonel Hogan would be entering in a matter of seconds, and the gun was meant for him; Hogan was the prize. And yet, these two corporals were giving her even more trouble than the colonel.
"Stay where you are—both of you!" she warned. She would have to get rid of Hogan, she realized. Without him, there was no operation, and, knowing these two corporals, if she tried to shoot either of them, the other would end up pulling the bullet out and healing him somehow.
The outside lobby doors opened as Hogan and Kinch entered. Gretel turned around again, trying to get just one shot at the colonel. Newkirk and LeBeau both tackled her to the ground, causing the gun to drop from her hand. She scrambled to retrieve it, but a bespectacled, mustachioed man in the trenchcoat and fedora slammed his foot down on top of it.
"We meet again, Fraulein," he said, his voice quiet and condescending.
Gretel looked up, her eyes widening.
"General von Siedelberg?" she hissed.
"Well," Hogan said, walking over. "I had a bit of trouble recognizing you in civilian clothes, General."
"Ah, Colonel Hogan," Carter said, calmly picking up Gretel's gun. "It seems that, once again, this Fraulein's foolishness has brought us together, ja?"
"So it seems," the colonel agreed, wondering what on earth had transpired here. LeBeau was on his feet, Carter was von Siedelberg again, and Newkirk… Well, Newkirk looked like a mess.
Kinch was deliberately avoiding eye contact with Carter, certain that he would crack if he caught his eye. Carter was milking the snooty general disguise for all it was worth, gloating as he handed Gretel over to the police. As Hogan turned to the police to explain that this was a special prisoner who had to be treated with extreme caution and placed under maximum security, Carter ducked away and returned five minutes later as his true self.
The Heroes helped the police search the theatre after Gretel was taken away, though they stopped to finally let poor Mavis out of Warwick's dressing room.
"Carter…" Hogan said, briefly taking the sergeant aside as brother and sister were reunited. "Just answer me one question: Why?"
Carter merely shrugged.
"Just to get her goat, more than anything," he rationalized.
Hogan gave a nod, trying not to reveal how amused he was.
"Just do me a favor next time—warn me when you're going to do that. I'd rather not have local law enforcement see me completely flummoxed after all the string-pulling I've done."
"Sure thing, Sir."
The search of the theatre resumed, but uncovered nothing else. Pandora was clean, and Sandiego had, somehow, eluded the police and escaped. As LeBeau and Newkirk told their story, Carter commented that he didn't know what was worse—the possibility of seeing her again, or the possibility of not seeing her again.
"Either way, we've got ourselves exactly what we don't need," Hogan said. "Another Marya."
"But, Colonel! Marya is sweet and pure, and…" LeBeau trailed off at the look on Newkirk's face. The Frenchman gave a wan smile. "And she means nothing when compared to mes amis."
"I'll drink to that," Newkirk said, drawing his arm around the shorter Frenchman. "And I've got an announcement to make—to everyone. If you remember, we were discussing about 'ow, some time ago, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go on all of those…" He selected his choice of word carefully, as Mavis was right next to him. "…Get-togethers and trips that you were talking about. Well, now that this particular little get-together is almost over, I think I can safely say that I wasn't really right in the 'ead when I said that."
The arm around LeBeau's shoulders tightened.
I don't want to come this close to losing me best mates ever again, Newkirk silently vowed. And, for that, I need to be with them.
"Mavis," he said allowed. "I know you 'ate it when I'm always on the move and all, but… Me mates need me. Roger and the old crowd don't need me as much anymore; they're fine."
Mavis put on a brave smile.
"I suppose I understand—and I expect I shall understand a lot more someday in the distant future," she said. "But, in the meantime, you lot look after me brother."
"You do not have to worry about that," LeBeau assured her.
Newkirk turned to Hogan and nodded.
"That's me final decision, Sir."
"I knew you'd make the right choice, Newkirk," the colonel said. "We'll get in touch with you and LeBeau to let you both know when we'll be getting together again. In the meantime, Kinch, Carter, and I need to get back to the States as soon as possible. General Barton needs to hear a few things—namely about what happened here, and about Hochstetter."
"What are we going to do about Hochstetter?" asked Kinch. "And Sandiego, for that matter?"
"There isn't much we can do, other than count on the fact that we'll cross paths with the both of them again," he said. "But the important thing is that we've got Gretel and Newkirk's double in custody, and Newkirk's name is cleared."
"Thank 'eaven for that," Mavis said.
"We'll cross the Sandiego and Hochstetter bridges when we come to them," he finished.
"And I'll be ready for those bridges," Carter said, his eyes getting that familiar spark. "I'll whip up a batch of the best—"
"Uh, right, Sir. I guess I'd better get my things from Newkirk's place and meet you and Kinch at the hotel, huh?"
Hogan nodded, a forced smile on his face.
"We can go with you lot to the airport, if you like," Newkirk offered.
"You and LeBeau both need your rest," Hogan insisted. "Go home and put your feet up. That means no cooking, LeBeau." He turned to Mavis. "Miss Newkirk, I know I was never your commanding officer, but I hereby order you to make sure that those two get their rest."
"Right-o, Sir," she said, saluting him. She wasn't sure what was going to happen, and she knew that asking questions would get her nowhere, but she also knew that, somehow, things were going to be okay.
As things wrapped up at the theatre, LeBeau and the Newkirk siblings headed back to their apartment. Carter went with them to gather up his things, thanking the both of them and going on about how great it was to be together like old times. It took Newkirk's quip of how upset Hogan would be if Carter missed the flight home to get the sergeant to leave.
LeBeau and Newkirk both collapsed after Carter left; the day had been especially taxing for the both of them. Mavis went to the kitchen to get them something to eat.
"There's this pot what's been on the stove since noon," she announced. "It smells like fish stew."
"It is my bouillabaisse," LeBeau called back, as the younger corporal made a face. "You can reheat that, and it will taste just the same."
"Yeah—terrible…" Newkirk murmured.
"I would punch you, but my arm is too sore."
"Oh, don't start arguing again!" Mavis pleaded. "After everything you've been through today, you still want to keep at it?"
"Maybe it is our way of showing we care," LeBeau mused.
"Aside from rewriting your will, you mean," Newkirk said, quietly.
"You've put me in quite a spot, Louis," he said. "I can't exactly return your generous gesture; you wouldn't want me shabby possessions, anyway."
"Pierre, I did it because I wanted to help you, and no other reason!" the Frenchman insisted.
"And I appreciate that," he said. "But since I know it's useless to try to get you to change the will, I've got only one choice—make sure that you stay alive."
LeBeau blinked; he hadn't expected that as a reply. A smile found its way back to his face.
"I would say that is a fair exchange."
"Glad you think so," Newkirk replied, smiling, as well.
Mavis soon arrived with the reheated bouillabaisse, and LeBeau dug in immediately. Newkirk hesitated, but then relented and took a bowl of the stew for himself.
This time, it didn't taste bad at all.
Author's note: And, it's done! All that's left are to address the loose ends: Hochstetter and Sandiego. As this fic is merely the first installment in a series, Hochstetter and Sandiego will be playing various roles later on. I had a lot of fun with this fic, and thanks to all who read and reviewed!