"Boy, I'm so excited!" Carter's eyes beamed in his soot black face. "How many stories did London again say we'd get?"
"Two hundred and six," Kinch whispered back. "And keep your voice down, will you? We don't want to alert the Krauts!"
"Sorry. But two hundred and six! London'd better not give us any missions these weeks, or we'll never get through them."
"Ssh! Quiet now!" Hogan hissed up front. He squatted down behind an evergreen bush, and his four men followed his example.
"How long till the plane gets here?" Newkirk whispered.
Hogan glanced at his watch. "A few minutes. LeBeau, you got the flashlight ready?"
"Good. Then everybody quiet now. Especially you, Carter!"
They crouched down behind the bushes, eagerly looking up at the sky. The night was dark; the moon wouldn't go up until later. A little animal rustled the dead leaves as it scurried past, and a cold, soft drizzle began to fall.
"Hurry up, you stupid plane. I'm freezing," Newkirk muttered.
"I believe I hear something."
They all pricked their ears at Kinch's quiet announcement. And yes, there it was: the unmistakable soft rumbling sound of an approaching Allied plane.
Hogan peered up at the nightsky through his binoculars. "Here it comes. LeBeau?"
Three short flashes of light beamed up at the black sky.
"Yep. Package thrown out," Hogan reported.
Soon they could all distinguish the black parachute floating down against the dark of night.
"It's going to come down right over there," Carter pointed.
"Yes. But you know procedures: we wait till it's hit the ground. No use giving ourselves away when we can't even reach the package yet," Hogan warned.
Nobody replied to that – they were all well aware that the woods bordering this little patch of heath could be crawling with Kraut patrols at any time.
And it was a good thing that they stayed put, for suddenly, a powerful light beam from the woods beyond captured the parachute and its precious load.
"Jürgens! Köhler!" a command sounded. In a nasty, all too familiar voice...
Hogan and his men didn't move a muscle – they barely dared to take a breath as they lay there behind their bush. But their thoughts were running rampant.
Hochstetter? Hochstetter who got hold of the stories for the Papa Bear Awards? Oh my... Not only would that mean the uncovering of their entire organization and the death of a lot of their allies, but it would most likely leave the hated major in a terrible mood as well. If the authors had been ridiculing him as badly as last year, with infamous stories along the lines of The Many Deaths of Wolfgang Hochstetter...
"Na, what do we have here?" they heard Hochstetter demand. "A large package. A heavy package thrown out of an Allied plane. No doubt it contains knick-knacks to aid that horrible Hogan in his pointless little crusade against our glorious Third Reich." A pause in which they heard cords snap, and the breaking of wood. "Aha! Some kind of secret files! Jürgens, Köhler, search the area. They must be around here somewhere to pick up this package. And I will finally, finally have my proof!"
"Better get out of here," Hogan breathed. And stealthily, quiet but fast, the five black shadows got up and disappeared into the night without a sound.
Back in his office at Gestapo headquarters in Hamelburg, Major Hochstetter dumped the crate filled with documents on his desk. He smiled – a cold-hearted, satisfied little smile. "This will be the end of your annoying capers, Colonel Hogan. Just let me get a cup of coffee to celebrate your inevitable downfall!"
He put away his overcoat, got a cup of Ersatz coffee from the canteen, and sat himself behind his desk. "Well now, let's see what we have here." He took the top paper from the pile, and read:
TOP SECRET TOP SECRET TOP SECRET TOP SECRET TOP SECRET TOP SECRET
And sniggered. Top secret alright, oh yeah. And then another line got his attention: PAPA BEAR AWARDS.
Papa Bear! These top secret documents were intended for the infamous Papa Bear! And here he was, Wolfgang Hochstetter, having confiscated the entire pile before that monster could lay his hands on them! If this wasn't going to hand him Hogan's head on a plate, nothing ever would!
So he quickly read on: