A/N This is my first attempt at a Hogan's Heroes fiction so I hope it comes across all right! As always, I do not claim ownership of any of the characters from the show. Just borrowing them for a little while! Thanks and I hope you enjoy the story.


Corporal Peter Newkirk watched dismally as the last of the ten Stalag 6 escapees hurried past him. If he'd had half a brain in his head, he too would have been on his way to England, but no. He had to go help that poor "helpless" girl he'd met in Hammelburg. He'd worried about her after the police had picked him up in her apartment and after escaping from Schultz during his transfer to Stalag 6, Newkirk had decided to go check on her. If that wasn't idiotic enough, he'd brought her back to Stalag 13, showing her everything in their entire operation! When it turned out she was a Gestapo informant, Newkirk had almost fainted. He had put every one of his friends in jeopardy and all for some stupid woman! Now that he had finished guiding the ten escaping prisoners to their next stop along the escape route, Newkirk had been ordered to turn himself in at the Stalag 13 front gate. He wasn't worried about what old Klink would do, but he did fear the wrath of Colonel Hogan and his mates, LeBeau, Kinch, and Carter. Well, there was nothing for it. He'd have to face the music sometime. He sighed and turned back towards camp. His one big concern was avoiding the numerous SS troops scouring the woods. If they captured him, there was no guarantee he would be returned to camp. Major Hochstetter, head of the local Gestapo, would love an opportunity to get his hands on one of Hogan's men. He was convinced there was something fishy going on and Hogan spent a lot of time preventing the Nazi from learning anything definitive.

The wind had picked up and with it, came fat drops of freezing sleet and rain. Great, thought Newkirk irritably, as if this day wasn't bad enough. It was at least five miles back to camp and it wasn't long before he was soaked through and shivering. As he trudged through the muddy woods, he cursed the war, his stupidity, the Nazis and anyone else he could think of. He was thoroughly miserable. His mind wandered to home, as it often did in times like these, and he smiled has he recalled the taste of ale and the warmth of his favorite pub in London. What he would give to be there right now!

"Halt!" Newkirk froze at the sound of the unexpected voice, then instinctively ducked. He cursed silently as the crack of a rifle sent a bullet whining past his head. Quickly, he scrambled to his feet and started to run. Another rifle shot sent a bolt of fire through his left upper arm but with the adrenaline coursing through his veins, Newkirk barely flinched. He knew he was in serious trouble and getting captured by the SS would definitely make it worse. He could hear several men thrashing and sliding through the icy forest behind him but Newkirk knew these woods like the back of his hand and was confident he could lose his pursuers.

As he fled, he became more aware of the warm flow of blood streaming down his arm. Damn! He was probably leaving a nice clear trail for any half-wit to follow. As he tried to stem the flow, he stumbled on the icy ground, losing his balance and suddenly found himself sliding down the slope into the adjacent ravine. With a stab of fear, he realized he was tumbling uncontrollably towards the swollen Fränkische Saale River. Desperately grabbing for the bare vegetation that lined the river bank, his hands could gain no purchase and a few moments later he gasped in shock as he plunged head first into the dark, freezing water.

For a moment he could do nothing. The water was so cold, he was immediately paralyzed and confused but he had been in tough scrapes before and his ingrained instinct for survival kicked in. His lungs burning, Newkirk struggled desperately for the surface. Coughing and spluttering, his head burst through the surface of the river. However, his moment of relief was short-lived when he heard hoarse shouts coming from the bluff above quickly followed by the crack of several rifles. Newkirk dove under the water letting the fierce current carry him along. Time and again he surfaced for a moment trying hard to avoid being dashed against rocks and submerged tree trunks but was only partially successful. He had no idea how long he'd been in the icy water or how far he'd traveled but it felt like days and his strength and resolve were flagging. It was getting harder and harder to keep his head above water and the desire to sleep was starting to overwhelm him. He might have surrendered then and there losing his battle to survive if he hadn't suddenly found himself slammed violently into a large partially submerged tree trunk bristling with the jagged stumps of broken branches. Newkirk cried out in pain as he felt several ribs crack and the point of one of the branches tear a deep gash in his side. Without conscious thought, he grabbed onto the protruding stumps holding on for dear life. Panting with exertion and pain, he slowly pulled himself along the length of the trunk through the churning water. The bank was perhaps ten or fifteen feet away. Surely he could make it that far!

Inch by agonizing inch, he crept closer to the bank. At least it was on the opposite side from where the SS men had been. It wasn't much but at this point, Newkirk was grateful for any bit of luck. At last he could feel the slippery edge of the semi-frozen river beneath his boots. Using the tangled ball of roots protruding from the edge of the bank as protection, Newkirk hauled himself onto the bank and collapsed, gasping for air. He now became fully aware of the throbbing in his arm and chest. In fact, his entire body felt bruised and battered from its numerous encounters with obstacles in the river. It was late afternoon now and darkness came early this time of year but it was still light enough for Newkirk to examine his wounds.

He gasped sharply as he moved his arm. He was relieved to find it wasn't broken but it was obvious the bullet remained lodged within his flesh, the blood still flowing freely. Newkirk shut his eyes for a moment as a wave of nausea and vertigo washed over him. He was shivering violently now and he knew full well he was in severe danger of shock and hypothermia. Using his pocket knife, he cut off a length of fabric from the bottom of his shirt and with teeth clenched against the explosion of fiery pain, clumsily tied the makeshift bandage around his arm. He awakened a few moments later, much chagrined to realize he had fainted. Slowly he sat up, again fighting the nausea but was relieved to see the bleeding has subsided a bit.

He took a few deep breaths and immediately regretted it as the pain from his ribs reminded him of his encounter with the tree. He now examined the gash in his side. It was four or five inches long and deep, blood welling up and pouring down his side. I'm surprised I have this much blood to lose, thought Newkirk wearily. He cut away more of his shirt and balling it up, pressed it against his wound stifling a deep groan as he did so. How was he ever going to make it back to camp in this condition?

He peered through the tangled barricade of roots and dirt behind him and was thankful to see that the bank on this side of the river was not so steep or rocky. He knew he couldn't stay where he was. He'd probably be dead by morning from shock and exposure. Even now, he was having a very difficult time staying awake. "But there's no one 'ere to look out for you but you, Peter, m'lad," muttered Newkirk to himself as he used his good arm to grab onto some of the roots and heave himself to his feet.

The world immediately began to spin causing Newkirk to double over and vomit a stomach full of river water. He clutched the roots even harder to keep from collapsing entirely knowing he might not find the strength to get back up. The pain in his ribs was so excruciating that for a few moments he was aware of nothing else.

Damn, damn, damn! How could such a simple mission go so wrong so quickly? As the agonizing throbbing in his chest eased slightly, Newkirk tried to assess his options. He couldn't let the Gestapo get him especially after what had happened with Marta. So, that ruled out turning himself into the SS. He was still closer to camp than he was Hammelburg, so there was no point in trying to get to town and connecting with the Underground. He tried to picture where he was. The area was mostly forest although there were some farms scattered here and there. He now considered this. If he could find one of these farms, perhaps he could spend the night there. The sleet was coming down even harder now and Newkirk desperately needed shelter. Blood loss and hypothermia were making it increasingly difficult to think clearly but he knew he couldn't walk the five miles back to camp. That left the farms. You never could be entirely sure which of the farmers were friendly to the Allies, most were too terrified of the Gestapo to be outwardly supportive, but even a barn would be a welcome refuge from the elements.

Making his decision, Newkirk carefully made his way up the uneven bank to the higher ground. He believed there was a farm just a couple of a miles east of where he reckoned he had climbed out of the river and he remembered they had a wonderfully large barn. Once he reached the bluff, Newkirk moaned softly. The wind was much worse above the protection of the river bank and the icy sleet pelted him mercilessly. Pulling his sodden jacket closer and trying to support both his injured arm and ribs, Newkirk slowly trudged onward.

It took almost three hours before Newkirk finally stumbled upon a farm. As time went on, he had become less and less cognizant of his surroundings. The numbing cold and blood loss were taking their toll and it was by sheer willpower alone that he kept pushing one foot ahead of the other. Somewhere, he had picked up a narrow track through the forest and as it was easier than trying to navigate through the tangled roots and vines in the woods, he kept to it hoping he wouldn't run into anyone dangerous. As he stumbled along, he realized he could no longer feel either his feet or his hands. In fact, he mused distantly, he couldn't feel much of anything. Probably not a good sign. As luck would have it, the track led him to the barnyard of a small farmstead several miles from the river. Newkirk stumbled to a halt when he became aware of the twinkling lights before him. Part of him desperately wanted to go straight to the front door and knock but he knew that was much too dangerous, both for himself and for the inhabitants of the farm. If the Gestapo or SS came searching for him, he didn't want to risk either the farmers turning him in or them being punished for helping him. No, he would find a place to hide, spend the night, and hopefully avoid detection until he could make good his escape.

Swaying, he gave himself a shake and cautiously began to approach the farm. His teeth were chattering so violently, he was sure every Nazi within a mile must hear them. Newkirk sincerely hoped there weren't any dogs out tonight and gave a short prayer of thanks when he realized the barn was the closest building to him. Now he could avoid crossing the open spaces of the farmyard. Reaching out with his good hand, Newkirk touched the side of the old wooden structure. He couldn't see much of it in the dark but he knew if he followed the walls, he would eventually locate a door or window.

Slipping and sliding on the slushy ground the exhausted Englishman finally reached a door situated on south the side of the barn. His hands so numb he could barely grasp the handle, Newkirk was just able to pull the door open and stumble inside. The interior was pitch dark but he could hear the breathing and rustling of animals further in. Still cold, it was at least protected from the elements. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, Newkirk was able to make out a ladder leading to the hayloft above. The animals were off to his left. He figured there must be two or three cows in nearby stalls. They seemed unperturbed by his presence. With a short sigh of relief, he carefully made his way to the ladder. Now he was faced with a dilemma. He would probably be safer up in the loft but could he make the climb up and then back down again? His throbbing arm felt as if it was on fire and his ribs screamed in pain with any unexpected movement. He glanced around again. There just didn't seem to be anyplace secure enough in the lower level. It wasn't a large barn to begin with and hiding places were severely limited. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he slowly and awkwardly began to ascend the ladder. He was forced to stop several times as dizziness threatened to overwhelm him, yet he knew he no choice but to go on.

By the time he reached the top, his face was dripping with sweat mixing with the moisture from the rain and sleet. Collapsing from the effort, Newkirk lay panting for several long moments at the top of the ladder trying to regain his strength. Finally, he lifted his aching head and looked around. Before him lay a large mound of hay with several stacks of bales beyond. His first inclination was to simply burrow into the loose hay and go to sleep but he reluctantly decided moving farther away from the ladder might be more prudent. Stifling a groan, he pushed himself slowly to his feet and staggered back to the stacks of bales. He saw there was just enough room between a couple of the stacks for him to ease himself through. At the end of the rows, he was surprised by the unexpected discovery of a space large enough for him to lie down. Wearily sinking to his knees into the pile of loose straw, he curled up fighting against the chills now wracking his body, pulled up some of the straw to cover himself and soon lapsed into blessed unconsciousness.