Author's Note: as always, the characters aren't mine (except for the OCs) and the story is! This story was largely inspired after a chat with Kirarakim, and also partially inspired by the Monk episode "Mr. Monk is Someone Else." Thanks again to Kirarakim for plot help!
"Colonel!" Carter called to Hogan's office. "Colonel, LeBeau and Newkirk are at it again!"
"Really?" the colonel asked, taking a look at the two squabbling corporals. "What is it this time?"
"The Seine versus the Thames," Kinch said, watching with folded arms. "It all started with Newkirk's mention about swimming, and it somehow grew from that. Everything has to be a competition for those two…"
"Guess it'd only hurt to mention the Colorado, huh?" Olsen cracked. "I don't see the Seine or the Thames boasting a mile-deep canyon…"
"Don't you start," Hogan said, though he sounded amused—everyone seemed to enjoy watching the two corporals go at it.
"You know what it could be? I think they're stir-crazy," Carter concluded. "We haven't had a mission in weeks, and you know they've run out of stuff to argue about when it comes down to which river is the best one."
"I am afraid that I must side with Caporal LeBeau," another French voice said. "Neither the Thames nor the Colorado can possible hold a candle to the Seine."
The new-but-familiar voice was met with only the slightest of double-takes. No one was overly surprised to see the Lt. Maurice DuBois halfway out of the bunk bed trapdoor; even though he wasn't a "resident" of Stalag 13 like the others, he still seemed to come and go as he pleased.
Nevertheless, he was welcomed as the old friend that he was, and LeBeau was quick to drop his argument with Newkirk to serve the lieutenant a warm, French meal.
"I must thank you for your timely arrival," the chef joked, as his English counterpart merely rolled his eyes.
"Glad to be of service," DuBois said. "However, this is not a social call."
"I had a feeling it wasn't," Hogan said. "What have you got for us?"
"It is my unfortunate duty to inform you that there is a threat to your organization—and to the other underground agents in the Hammelburg area," the lieutenant said. "There is a cell of French collaborators in town; they are staying at the Hausnerhof, and their expenses are paid by an influential German officer—a certain Major Becker. They have been brought here because Major Hochstetter has asked Becker to present him with incriminating evidence on the underground agents in this area."
"How much does Becker know?" Hogan asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Fortunately, he knows nothing," DuBois assured the colonel. "He and the collaborators working for him are not familiar with this area. He had sent for another collaborator from France who was familiar with the area to look around—specifically in Stalag 13, as that was where Hochstetter's suspicions pointed to."
"What happened to him?" Carter asked, his eyes wide.
DuBois' face turned grim.
"Did you have a transient French prisoner here approximately a month ago by the name of Henri Gravois?"
LeBeau, who had been multitasking with the stove as he listened, now whipped his head around to face the lieutenant, giving him all of his attention.
"Oui, I remember him," LeBeau spat.
"He is the owner of a small Parisian restaurant—'Le Gourmand,'" DuBois began. "He often calls himself 'le Gourmand' as a nickname—"
"Begging your pardon, Lieutenant, we know all about 'im and 'is restaurant," Newkirk said. "Louis and 'e did not get along, as it were…"
"It was Dueling Dinners in here!" Carter said.
"Will you guys knock it off?" Hogan said, frowning. "Didn't you hear what DuBois was saying? The man was a collaborator and a spy!"
"I knew it all along!"
"Oui, he was the spy that Becker sent for," DuBois said, with a nod.
"Thankfully, we didn't tell him anything, but I don't know what he picked up on his own," Hogan said.
"You may put your mind at ease, Colonel. He is now in the custody of my unit of the French Resistance; we captured him last week, and we are certain that he has not had a chance to report any of his findings."
"You sent a whole unit here to get him?" Hogan asked.
"Well, we were under the direct orders of Tiger," the lieutenant explained. "She takes a great personal interest in what happens in the Hammelburg area, as you can imagine. She would have been here herself had we not decided that it would have been far too dangerous with the rest of those men in town."
The colonel gave a nod of understanding.
"Thank you for letting us know about this."
"Actually, Colonel… that is not the only reason why I am here," DuBois said. "Tiger wants to take things a step further. After questioning Gravois, we found out that he has never met Becker or the members of the collaboration cell face-to-face, and that the photographs they have of him are of poor quality. All they know of him is that he is a master French chef, who is short in stature, with dark hair."
All eyes now turned to LeBeau, whose face was starting to turn as red as his sweater. Newkirk's eyes narrowed in discontent.
"She wants LeBeau to go in Gravois' place to give Becker and the collaborators false information," Hogan concluded.
"If no one contacts them, they will come to realize that Gravois was captured by us, and they will send for someone else," he said. "But if we have LeBeau impersonate Gravois and give them false information—information that can cause them to split up and search several areas—we can take care of the rest of them."
"Well, that explains why you needed a whole unit. How many of them are there?" Hogan asked.
"This particular cell has about fifty members, but they are not all here. However, some very powerful and influential members are in town—the men who are the brains of the operation, and a few of the people funding it—there was to be a large payoff to Gravois for all of his troubles. There are fifteen members in town, but if we can capture those members in traps set by the false evidence, it will effectively write an end to the cell."
"And Becker will look like a fool in the eyes of Hochstetter, who'll subsequently take care of him," Hogan finished. "A good plan—if it can be pulled off. On the other hand, if something goes wrong—"
"If something goes wrong, we'll end up burying our chef!" Newkirk interrupted, not bothering to hide the disapproval in his voice.
"It is purely voluntary, Caporal," DuBois assured him. "If LeBeau does not wish to go, we will not force him. But if he does not go, then I am afraid that is it; we will have to prepare for Becker sending for another spy. I cannot impersonate Gravois, and neither can any of the other members in my unit; we would be recognized, as this particular cell has crossed paths with my unit on a previous occasion. But they will be fooled by LeBeau and his expert culinary knowledge, should he agree to take on the mission."
"Right, well, old Louis is perfectly content staying 'ere with us and finding something else to argue about. Ain't that right, Louis?"
LeBeau stood by the stove, still silent, much to Newkirk's annoyance.
"Louis, I'm trying to 'elp you out…"
DuBois now turned to face the chef.
"Tiger has made it very clear that this is completely your decision to make," he said. "But she also told me how you would do anything to help the Free French in their struggles against the Germans, and how you complain that you cannot do as much while staying here at Stalag 13."
"Oui, that is true," he admitted, now staring off at a point on the back wall.
"Uh-oh, we're losing him," Carter said. "Colonel, he's getting that look again; you know—the 'I want to fight for la belle France' look…"
"Louis, did you forget about the possibility of being found out by those collaborators?" Newkirk said, punching him in the shoulder to bring him around. "That means more than a sticky wicket—it means a sticky end!"
"Oui, and then Hochstetter would realize it is me and track the rest of you down," LeBeau realized.
"Oh, blimey, Louis…" Newkirk muttered. Leave it to him to toss aside all concerns for himself…
The Englishman halted his train of thought and turned back to his commanding officer.
"Oi, 'ang on a minute! The Guv'nor 'as the last word on this, doesn't 'e? If 'e says that Louis can't go, then that's the end of it."
"Can't help you, Newkirk; I agree that it's LeBeau's decision," the colonel said. "Well, LeBeau?"
The Frenchman was still in deep thought.
"It pains me to impersonate a filthy traitor who makes a substandard squab Lorraine and has the gall to think that he can outdo me," he admitted. "But if it means stopping other traitors, then I will do it."
Newkirk shook his head and muttered something about "his little—and mental—mate."
"Bon. You will make your way to the Hausnerhof immediately," he said, pulling a few folded pieces of paper and handing them to him. "This is the 'information' you will present to them; they will likely ask you to have a meal with them, and perhaps even have you meet Major Becker."
"What if Major Hochstetter is with them?" LeBeau asked.
"He will not be, for I will have some members of my unit stir up enough trouble to get him out of his office on a wild goose chase."
"And if you need more of a distraction," Carter added. "Just say the word, because I've got some charges down there in the lab that've been sitting around for weeks…!"
He trailed off as Newkirk gave him a dirty look; worried for LeBeau, the Englishman was in no mood to deal with Carter's perkiness.
"LeBeau could be gone for a while—maybe even a few days," Kinch said. "How will we cover for him with all those roll calls?"
Hogan thought for a moment.
"Simple," he said at last. "DuBois will take LeBeau's place. We'll say that LeBeau was taken ill—that he ate from the mess hall on a dare, and it knocked him right out."
"Oui, it would…" the chef muttered. "But will it work?"
"I don't see why not; we managed to convince everyone that a dummy was Newkirk, didn't we?" Hogan said. "DuBois can actually talk to Klink and Schultz—in a hoarse whisper, of course."
"There's still one thing that bothers me," Newkirk said. "We already established that even if 'e wasn't staying 'ere, the lieutenant couldn't back Louis up on this. The rest of those agents with 'im can't do it, either. So who is going to be backing up Louis?"
"As he is impersonating Gravois, he will be going at it alone," DuBois admitted. "There will likely be no way to remain in contact with us; they are sure to be giving him their full attention. We can, however, contact some members of the local underground to keep an eye on him."
"Feel free to change your mind at any time, Louis," the Englishman said, staring at DuBois.
"I understand your concerns, Pierre, but I must do this," LeBeau insisted. "If I am found out and captured, then that is all there is to it. However, I am still concerned as to what would happen to all of you if that fate was to befall me."
He turned to Hogan.
"Mon colonel, for the sake of everyone here, if you do not hear from me or receive any news about me after five days, assume the worst and evacuate the camp."
Hogan folded his arms as the possibility started to weigh on everyone's minds; even Carter started looking solemn in seconds.
"Well, you know how I hate to think about worst-case scenarios," the colonel said. "But you do have a point. We'll be on alert after three days, high alert after four, and we'll implement the escape plan after day five. But I want to see you back here before then—consider that an order."
Newkirk cleared his throat, trying—and failing—to mask his worry and concern.
"You'll be needing one of me brilliant disguises, of course," he said, leading LeBeau down into the tunnels. "Lucky for you, I've got several pieces in your size—I must be one of the few who do—"
"Pierre," LeBeau said, cutting him off. "You are not fooling the others, and you certainly are not fooling me. Do not do anything crazy in your concern for me."
"Don't worry, Louis; I won't. I wouldn't even dream of it."
LeBeau shook his head.
"I find it incredible—you can look me in the eye and lie to me like you just did…"
Newkirk did not deny it.
"What are best mates for?" he offered, quietly, as he helped LeBeau into the civilian jacket that he would be wearing.
The Frenchman met the Englishman's gaze for a moment.
"Merci, Pierre," he said, at last.