LeBeau and Hogan came out of the barracks. It was early evening, not yet totally dark, and even though sunset had mostly faded from the sky and night rollcall had long since passed, none of the guards took notice. They also ignored the fact that each man wore civilian clothes and LeBeau carried a suitcase.
That afternoon, Burkhalter had rolled into camp in his staffcar, bringing with him a present for Reichmarshall Goering, Manet's masterpiece 'The Boy With the Fife'. He had stolen it from the Louvre on his last trip to Paris, and now he gave it to Klink for safekeeping until the Reichmarshall's birthday. Unknown to the two officers, LeBeau had been eavesdropping outside the office on the pretense of cleaning windows, and as soon as both Germans left the office – and the painting – unattended, the small patriot had climbed in through the window and removed Manet's painting from it's frame.
Predictably, Klink had thrown a fit once it was discovered missing, and as it was his habit to spread foul moods around, less than an hour later Hogan stalked into barracks 2, unzipping his coat as he threw a glare around his command crew.
He had assigned LeBeau to listen in on Klink's conversation with the general since their coffee-pot bug was on the fritz. He knew that LeBeau had stolen the painting, but he didn't blame the corporal. On the contrary, Hogan sympathized with him, but he couldn't afford to let every outrage that the germans comitted get to him. In sabotage and espionage, the worst thing an agent could do is draw attention to themself, and by stealing the painting, LeBeau might as well have aimed a searchlight right at their operation.
After getting a lecture from Hogan, and some teasing from the other guys, LeBeau reluctantly gave up the painting. He handed it over to Hogan, fully expecting that the colonel would bring it straight back to Klink. He was prepared to go along and take the blame for stealing it, no matter how much time in the cooler Klink decided to punish him with, since he knew that Hogan would be able to reduce his sentence.
Hogan took the painting, turning towards the door. The colonel was reaching for the door knob when he suddenly stopped, pulling up so quickly that LeBeau nearly ran into him. The wheels in Hogan's mind had been turning…
Why give it up so easily? They had something in their hands which was extremely valuable, nevermind if one of his men had stolen it. Why not try to use it to their own advantage?
They had convinced Klink that LeBeau destroyed Manet's painting, and given how dire Burkhalter's threats had been if anything happened to the masterpiece – death by firing squad – Klink was easily talked into letting Hogan and LeBeau go to Paris to have the painting copied.
Of course, their real mission wasn't saving Klink's skin. The painting hadn't been harmed, since Hogan was using it as his ticket to France. Their mission was to scout German anti-aircraft units, troop movements and fortifications between Dusseldorf an Paris, or as Hogan pronounced it "Par-ee."
His men had all thought he was crazy, but sure enough, now he and LeBeau were standing in the compound, wearing civvies and looking at Klink's staffcar. It had been parked outside the main camp building for the express purpose of driving the men out of Germany.
Kinch followed them out into the compound, buttoning up his jacket against the cold night air.
"The painting and the uniform are under the backseat of the car, colonel."
Hogan nodded his understanding while fixing the belt of his white trench coat. "Right, Kinch. Mind the store 'till we get back".
The tall sergeant nodded. "Right, will do… good luck."
Lebeau turned around, sticking out his hand for the other man to shake. "Goodbye, Kinch. We'll send you a postcard."
After the handshake, Kinch put his hand back in his pants pocket and smiled at LeBeau's back as the corporal hurried towards the car. "Yeah, you do that, buddy."
Across the yard, a staffcar sat in front of the building which housed Klink's office. Klink exited the building, followed by Schultz, and they both walked over to stand by the car.
LeBeau and Klink saluted each other at the car, the German looking like he'd just bit into a raw lemon as the Frenchman opened the staffcar door.
Hogan walked over too and Kilnk shook the other colonel's hand. "Good luck, Hogan."
Schultz came around from behind Klink and stood in front of him with his hand extended, hoping to receive some sort of well-wishing from his kommandant. Klink started to reach out, about to shake the sargeant's hand, but he caught himself in mid-motion and made to slap Schultz's hand away. Schultz sighed, settling for giving Klink a salute. The German colonel returned the salute and Schultz clambered into the staffcar, with LeBeau pushing him from behind to make sure the large guard actually got in.
Kinch stood outside the barracks, watching everything and hoping that Hogan's latest scheme would work without a hitch.
Klink closed the door after LeBeau, gesturing to the driver, Corporal Langensheidt, to drive off. He stared after the car, praying that by some miracle Hogan would return with a flawless copy of the painting and General Burkhalter would never know the difference. After watching the camp gates swing open for the car, the kommandant's gaze fell on Kinch still standing outside in the yard. His eyes narrowed and he gestured emphatically with one arm, the other keeping his riding crop firmly planted against his side.
"All prisoners are confined to the barracks after night rollcall! Schnell!"
"Alright kommandant. I'm going."
Klink went "mmpft!", apparently not satisfied that the prisoner Kinchloe was hurrying fast enough.
Kinch held up his hands in token of acceptance and headed back to the barracks door just as the staffcar passed through the gate. "Enjoy your freedom, fellas."
Kinch closed the door after himself and almost walked right into Carter. "Hey, Kinch, the colonel get off alright?"
"Yeah, no sweat. I wonder who's gonna be Schultz's replacement, while he's off pretending to be a general."
Olson piped up from his bunk, "I think it's Sergeant Schnieder. I had him when I was in barracks 4." The dark-haired man shrugged. "He's pretty easy."
Carlotti smirked, "plus, the fact that he's our crooked pal from the motorpool doesn't hurt at all."
Kinch sighed. "Good. He's no Schultz, but we have an understanding with him."
The lower bunk clattered open and Newkirk climbed out carrying a slip of paper. "Colonel 'Ogan still 'ere?"
"Nope. Just left for Paris. What's up?"
Newkirk hurried over to the table where Kinch was sitting and put the piece of paper down on the game of solitaire Kinch was starting.
"Bloody charming. Baker just got this from the Underground."
Kinch looked up at him after scanning the message. " 'Underground agent codenamed Magpie being held at Gestapo headquarters in Dusseldorf.' What do they expect us to do?"
Newkirk walked over to the stove and poured himself some coffee. "They want us ta spring 'em tonight."
Kinch's eyes went wide. "Well… we can't do it! We're two men short, the colonel's on the road, and we can't get in touch with him until he reaches Paris."
Newkirk nodded, coming back over to the table and swiping Kinch's cards. "Yeah, an' by then, 'ol Magpie might talk, start namin' names."
Carter shook his head "I don't think so. Heck, it takes more'n a few hours to get someone talking."
Newkirk sighed, glancing at Kinch sadly. "You didn't read the 'ole message, didja?"
Kinch frowned, looking at the paper again. "… Magpie being held at Gestapo headquarters in Dusseldorf along with his daughter, age 5."
The barracks fell silent.
"A little girl?"
Newkirk nodded at Carter, then he went back to staring at the tabletop, tracing the grain of the wood with one fingertip. When he finally spoke, his voice was a low, throaty mutter.
"'Er name's Liesel. 'Er mum's the one 'o sent out the call, askin' anyone an' everyone in the Underground ta help. No one else can 'andle it… so they figured Papa Bear could rescue the little cub." Newkirk leaned forward at the table, hugging himself before letting out a bitter huff. "Too bad 'e's away from the cottage."
Kinch shifted uncomfortably on the bench. "I'd hate to think what they might do to her… or what they might make her watch."
Carlotti and Olson jumped down from their bunks, joining the others at the table. "Do you think they might torture her father in front of her?" Carlotti wondered.
Olson grimaced. "And that's the best case scenario. What if they torture her, and make him watch?"
"Boy," Carter shook his head. "That's just… I mean…" he tried to swallow a nasty taste, but found that his mouth had gone completely dry.
"Can you imagine… ruddy beasts." Newkirk growled and started pacing. "Ya get it now, Kinch? If Magpie sees 'is little girl bein' 'urt, he's liable ta tell the goons whatever they want ta know, just so they'll stop 'urtin' 'er!"
"Have we ever had a job with them? I mean," Olson cleared his throat worriedly, "does Magpie know about us?"
He received a scorching glare from Carter. "Does it matter?"
Kinch put himself in Newkirk's way, just in case the Englishman decided to lunge at Olson for worrying about their skins when there was a little girl's safety at stake. "It doesn't matter. We have to at least try. Anyway, we might have just gotten a break. If they'd been caught in Hammelburg, Hochstetter would be the monster in charge, but none of the Dusseldorf SS know us by sight. Newkirk, you and Carter will go in as SS men. You know the routine."
Newkirk nodded. "I'll go down below an' get the uniforms in order."
Kinch patted the corporal's shoulder. "Right, and I'll get to work on papers for the two of you. Carter, bribe the kraut sergeant from the motorpool. The only staffcar in camp isn't available, so get him to let us use the motorcycle with the sidecar."
Olson shook his head. "Truck would be better, since there are gonna be four of you coming back."
Kinch nodded. "Truck it is."
Carter smiled tightly. "I'll have him leave it outside camp on the Hammelburg road."
Newkirk stopped halfway to the tunnel entrance, nervously turning around to face the table again. "An'… if it goes wrong?"
"Then we'll plug into Klink's phone line," Kinch got up from the table and clapped a hand on the corporal's shoulder, slipping into his German accent, "und zhey can expect a call from General Kinchmeyer, Gestapo."
Newkirk grinned, climbing back down into the tunnel, followed closely by the American sergeant.
A/N: The first part of this chapter is a recounting of the events of the first seven minutes of the episode 2x16 "Art For Hogan's Sake", followed by a transcription of minutes 9:56 to 10:34 from the same episode. It sets the scene for my story and explains why all the Heroes aren't there, which sets things up for… oops, I almost gave y'all a spoiler. Anywhoo, as the staffcar drives off, my original story starts. I condensed the first bit, but it was painful to do since the dialogue was so darn perfect…I couldn't force myself to omit anything else. All credit for the first half of this goes to Lawrence Marks and Gene Reynolds, who respectively wrote and directed the episode. Please don't sue me if you're related to them!