A/N: The idea for this story belongs solely to my son; I just wrote it out for him. I thought it was good enough to share – I hope you think so, too. :-)
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Hogan's Heroes characters; I just like to write about them.
"Colonel, you sure you're all right?" Corporal Newkirk asked again as he trudged along through the woods behind his commanding officer.
"For the fifth time, Newkirk, I'm fine!" an exasperated Colonel Hogan answered, turning his head to glance back at his English corporal. Raising a concerned eyebrow, he asked, "What about you? I could have sworn you caught one from that patrol back there."
"No, sir, I'm all right," Newkirk answered. "In fact," he added with a grin, "I've never felt better."
"Same here," Hogan replied; then he let out a soft chuckle. "They sure surprised us, didn't they? I swear, I've never run that fast in my life!"
Newkirk smiled. "Me, too, gov!"
Still chuckling, Hogan turned his attention back to the trail. The two men walked on quietly for a few more minutes, when Newkirk broke the silence.
"Colonel, shouldn't we be back at camp by now?"
"Don't worry, we're almost there…" Hogan's voice trailed off as he slowed his pace and glanced at their surroundings. "This way," he said after a moment, raising his arm and pointing off to the right, "The emergency entrance should be right over there."
The two men stepped quietly over the forest floor, slinking through the darkness toward their destination. At last they reached the hollowed-out tree stump that led down into the tunnels. Hogan motioned to Newkirk to go first, and the corporal quickly climbed down, followed closely by the colonel, himself. They hurried to the main tunnel area; wanting to let the others know they'd made it back, and to pass along the message they'd received from the agent they'd gone out to meet.
But when they reached the radio room underneath the entrance to the barracks, there was no one there.
"That's strange," Hogan murmured, "Kinch never leaves his post – not when we're out on a mission."
Newkirk's eyes widened. "Maybe ol' Klink pulled a surprise inspection!"
Hogan nodded slightly, his expression turning grim. "You may be right, Newkirk," he replied as he headed for the ladder leading up to the barracks. "We better get up there; the guys are gonna have a hard time explaining our absence."
"Yeah, I just hope we made it back in time!" Newkirk added worriedly as he followed Hogan up to Barracks Two.
A brief glance around the large room told them the barracks was empty. "They must be outside," Newkirk whispered to Hogan.
Hogan nodded tersely; then crept toward the door, followed by Newkirk. The colonel put his ear to the door and listened, but couldn't hear anything. He grabbed the handle and, after a quick glance at Newkirk, slowly pulled it open a crack. He peeked outside and, seeing nothing, opened it a little farther. Still he saw nothing within his line of vision. By now the door was wide enough for him to poke his head out, which he did. Surprised, he opened it all the way and stepped out into the compound.
Newkirk's gut tightened; something suddenly felt wrong. "Colonel, what are you doin'?" he hissed at him with alarm, instinctively grabbing for Hogan's arm to pull him back. "You'll get yourself shot!"
Hogan turned to look at him. "There's no one out here, Newkirk," he said; then gestured with his hand. "Come and see for yourself."
Newkirk walked out of the barracks, glancing around the compound warily. There wasn't a sole in sight, and his suspicion changed to confusion. "Where is everyone?" he muttered absently, gazing up at the guard towers, which were also empty. "Blimey, even the guards are gone!"
Hogan slowly shook his head. "This doesn't make any sense. We've only been gone a couple of hours; they couldn't possibly have evacuated the entire camp that fast!"
"Why would they want to?" Newkirk asked.
"I don't know…" Hogan frowned.
"Strange… All the lights are on," Newkirk remarked, "Even the spotlights. Why would they leave, and not turn 'em off?"
Hogan swept his gaze over the buildings again; letting it come to rest on the Kommandantur. "Tell you what, Newkirk, I'll go check Klink's office; see if there's something in there that could explain this." He glanced at the Englishman. "Why don't you go search our barracks? Maybe one of the guys left a note or something."
"Yes, sir," Newkirk replied. As he turned around and headed back into Barracks Two, Hogan trotted over to the Kommandantur. He leaped up the steps and walked straight through to the inner office. When he got there, he wasn't surprised to see that everything looked as it should; papers piled on the desk, a half-filled decanter of schnapps on the filing cabinet – even the spiked helmet looked undisturbed sitting on the corner of Klink's desk. The only thing missing was the German colonel, himself.
Hogan approached the desk and began rifling through the stack of papers. Not finding anything other than the standard forms Klink spent over half his time reading and signing, he went behind the desk and checked all the drawers. When those came up empty, he walked over to the door leading to the Kommandant's quarters, and went inside. He searched every room thoroughly; but found nothing. At least, nothing to explain what happened to everyone.
Frustrated, he left Klink's quarters and headed back to Barracks Two; hoping Newkirk had fared better. He walked in just in time to see the corporal coming out of his office; the look on his face mirroring Hogan's own disappointment.
"I looked everywhere, Colonel, even searched your office, and I didn't find a thing!"
"I didn't find anything, either," Hogan informed him.
Newkirk's face filled with worry. "Where could they be, sir? Me mates; Louis, Kinch, Carter…where are they?"
Hogan sighed and shook his head. "I wish I knew…" Suddenly his eyes lit up and he snapped his fingers. "The radio!"
"Cor!" Newkirk exclaimed excitedly, "I forgot all about it!"
"C'mon," Hogan waved to Newkirk as he headed for the false-bottom bunk. They scrambled down to the tunnel and made a beeline for the radio. Hogan turned on the unit and dialed it to the frequency they used for the Underground; then picked up the microphone and said, "Papa Bear to Snow White, come in, Snow White…Papa Bear to Snow White…"
He was met by static.
"Try another one," Newkirk suggested.
"I'll try London," Hogan stated, "Maybe they know something. Besides, then I can pass along the message we got tonight; about the Panzer Division that's heading west in two days." He changed the frequency to London's, and began repeating, "Papa Bear to Goldilocks, come in, Goldilocks…Papa Bear to Goldilocks, come in, Goldilocks…"
Hogan sighed and set the microphone down. "Looks like the radio's not working," he stated unnecessarily.
Newkirk let out a sigh of his own. "What now, Colonel?"
"I don't know, Newkirk; I'm fresh out of ideas." Hogan leaned back against the table and crossed his arms; his brow furrowing as he thought for a few moments. At last he said, "Maybe we should retrace our steps; go back to the last place we were at before we returned to camp."
Fear suddenly gripped Newkirk. "Blimey, Colonel, I don't think that's a good idea at all!"
"Well, we can't just hang around here, waiting for something to happen," Hogan countered.
"Sure we can, sir! I mean, what if the fellas come back, and we're not here? They'll get worried and come after us, is what! They might even miss roll call, or get caught by a patrol –"
"Newkirk," Hogan interrupted, not unkindly, "We have to go back."
Newkirk stared at Hogan, momentarily searching his eyes. Then he heaved a sigh and said, "I know, you're right, gov. It's just… I thought we'd have more time, is all."
"I think time is all we have, now," Hogan replied.
Newkirk just nodded. Hogan uncrossed his arms and began to walk down the tunnel, toward the emergency exit. Newkirk followed, glancing wistfully one last time behind him. Then they climbed up through the tree stump and headed back into the forest.
"Snow White to Papa Bear, come in, Papa Bear."
Kinch quickly grabbed the headphones resting around his neck and put them on. "Papa Bear here," he replied, "Go ahead, Snow White."
"I've got bad news for you, Papa Bear. The two cubs you sent out to meet with Little Miss Muffet ran into some trouble on the way home."
"What kind of trouble?"
"A surprise party. I'm afraid they didn't make it."
The news hit him like a punch to his gut, and Kinch gripped the table to steady himself. With all the control he could muster, he managed to reply calmly, "Message received, Papa Bear out." Then he tore the headphones off and threw them onto the floor. He propped his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands, allowing a grief-filled moan to escape his lips.
A few minutes later, he wiped his eyes and slowly got up from the table. He knew he had to go up to the barracks and tell the other guys; tell them that Hogan and Newkirk were killed by a German Patrol on their way back from the mission. The one thing they all secretly dreaded had come true; they'd lost two of their comrades… Two of their friends.
As Kinch walked toward the ladder, a blast of cold air suddenly hit him; flowing past him – no, through him – moving like it had purpose. He involuntarily shivered; then pulled his coat tighter and started to climb up the ladder. One word popped into his head, and just before he reached the top, he looked down into the tunnel and whispered, "Goodbye."