Don't own HH characters, don't profit from them
THE NIGHT OF THE GENERAL
"You do what you can for your country, Newkirk,"Hogan said, fixing the Englishman's tie. "Lighten up, this is going to be fun all the way." He put Newkirk in front of the mirror and saw him wince. "Something wrong? It can't be the uniform, you look great."
Newkirk nodded reluctantly. He did look good in that uniform. "All right, it's fine but," he sighed. "I don't know, Gov'nor. I've got the feeling that I should've passed this out."
Hogan turned him around to look him in the eye. "First of all, no gov'nors here, remember? Second of all, you're our best man for the job. I've figured it out and there's no way for anything to go wrong." He found a notebook on the night table and frowned. "Isn't this your code book?
"Gov- Colonel, I don't think I have any use for it," Newkirk shrugged.
"Kinch and I spent a great deal of time putting all those words together. You must at least give it a try."
Newkirk sighed and read. "Two is for three... south is north..." He frowned, "duck is duck?"
Hogan chuckled. "Carter helped us with some of the words."
"Naturally." Newkirk kept reading. "Left is right, right is left... take cover... mettre à l'abri?" He looked at Hogan and both nodded. "LeBeau."
"See? It's not hard to learn. You just have to remember to do the opposite to what I say. That might be useful to confuse the enemy."
"That sounds like something that Carter would come up with," Newkirk chuckled.
Hogan shrugged. "In fact, I took the idea from Carter." He looked at Newkirk rolling his eyes and shaking his head. "Don't underestimate this little book. The next life you save could be mine." Hogan grinned. "Now, show us your best smile and let's enjoy the party."
"Enjoy it how? You said I can't have a drink." Newkirk opened the door.
They came out of the room and met a group of men in uniform. One of them came to salute them. "Colonel Hogan, it's so good to see you back," he smiled, "at least for a few days."
"Thank you, General McGowan. I suppose you two have met already."
"Of course. General Newkirk," McGowan saluted him. "I'm glad you made it."
"I'm glad too, sir..." Newkirk cleared his throat, "I mean, General."
"I must go in now, please, enjoy yourselves."
Hogan looked at the general entering the ballroom and turned to Newkirk. "What did I tell you?"
Newkirk checked himself on a mirror on the wall. He touched the gray hair and shook his head. "I should have worn a mustache, don't you think?"
"Nonsense, you look fabulous as you are. Come, we have to mingle."
The place was cheerful. Uniforms of different colors blended together in a friendly and relaxing atmosphere. Only Newkirk looked restless as he loosened his tie a little and unbuttoned his collar. He shifted from one foot to the other, keeping his eyes on the door, wondering how much long the party would last.
"Anything yet?" Hogan asked, coming closer.
"Nope. Are you sure he's coming tonight?"
"I know as much as you do," he shrugged. "He has a list to complete and this is the perfect place to start. How about the people around? He could be here already."
"Negative. I counted heads, everybody who should be here is here"
Hogan looked at the door. A tall man, in his late 50s, entered slowly.
"Another general," Newkirk said. "There are more stars here than in a ruddy constellation-" He saw Hogan's disapproving look and stopped. "No ruddy things either?"
"Newkirk, you are a general now. They expect you to talk in a more educated way." Hogan looked at the newcomer. "Could it be him?"
"I'd have to hear him talking," Newkirk shrugged. "Do you want me to get closer and-?"
"Not yet. If it's him, he might recognize you and then, me, put two and two together, and we'd be in trouble. Right now, I'm more concerned about General McGowan. I don't think he is taking us seriously. I want to talk to him and see what his position is on this mission." They went to the other side of the room where General McGowan was telling a joke to a couple of lieutenants. The punch line was really flat but Newkirk was not surprised to hear the young men laughing out loud. "General, a word, if you don't mind," Hogan said.
The general nodded ceremoniously. "In my office."
Hogan turned to Newkirk. "Stay here and listen," he whispered. "Be careful."
"I'll be completely out of sight." Newkirk went to the bar, looking for a better post of observation.
"Any news from Head Quarters, sir?"
McGowan shook his head and signed for Hogan to take a seat on the other side of his desk. "I'll make a phone call. Maybe, they know our man's whereabouts better than us."
Hogan followed the conversation attentively. It did not last long and the general did not look happy. "Bad news?"
"The latest report brought no indications of any subversive activity coming on. Are you sure we're in actual danger?"
"I got the information from the underground and it looked legitimate," Hogan said. "My man is in position. He will let me know the moment our suspect arrives."
The general looked unconvinced. He went to his bar for a drink. "All this situation is a little hard to believe. A spy in disguise, bound to kill as many generals as he can? Did your man actually see him?"
"No, but he heard him talking. He will recognize his voice."
"His voice?" McGowan looked at Hogan quizzically. "Are you telling me that we are depending on the man's ears now?"
"Listen, General, we are working in the dark here. All we know is that this man, Gerd Adler, code name Eagle, has been sent by high commanders in Berlin to eliminate the top leaders on the RAF strategies committee. We were lucky to intercept the list of generals right before the Eagle got started. The man is a specialist in disguises. However, Corporal Newkirk heard his voice once and he'll be able to identify the Eagle the very moment he speaks."
The general smirked. "I hope you're right, Colonel. Otherwise, this could be our last conversation... I'm on that list too."
Newkirk sat at the bar. Although he was dying for a drink, he did not order anything. He kept attentive to every conversation, ready to recognize a particular voice the very moment he heard it. Suddenly, the main doors opened again. Another group of generals came in. Newkirk was about to look the other way when his eyes set on a heavy, tall man, with white hair and a beard.
Newkirk blinked in disbelief. "Bugger!"
"I assure you, General, that we are in the best position to capture this man. Nothing will be wrong, I promise." Hogan knew he was talking too soon when Newkirk ran inside and locked the door.
"Gentlemen," Newkirk smiled.
Hogan was upset but not surprised. Years working with this man had prepared him for almost anything. He waited for Newkirk's explanation, but after several seconds, he had to ask. "What is going on?"
"Nothing important... the Eagle hasn't landed, yet," Newkirk shrugged. He stared at the door intently.
Hogan could feel General McGowan staring at them. If there was a shadow of a doubt in him, Newkirk was not helping to dispel it. "Newkirk, why are you here instead of watching the guests?"
"Oh, well," Newkirk smiled again. He cleared his throat. "It's just that I didn't know that General Fitzweaver had been invited to the party too."
"General Alistair Fitzweaver? Of course he was invited, he's the president of the committee," General McGowan said.
Newkirk was aghast. He start to pace around. "See? These are the kind's of things I'd like to know before I got into a mission."
"What are you talking about?" Hogan frowned. "What's with General Fitzweaver?"
"Nothing... well," Newkirk sighed. "He and I... had a little... disagreement sometime."
"Sometime when?" Hogan came closer. "The whole story, please."
"I... met his daughter once..."
Hogan shut his eyes and counted to ten. This was not a good moment for a ride on Newkirk's memory lane. His stories might not be proper for generals.
"I think I stood her..."
"You stood up General The Crusher Fitzweaver's daughter?" Hogan did not yell but his voice was loud enough to hurt Newkirk's ears.
"It's not as bad as it sounds-"
"That's how General Fitzweaver thinks too?" McGowan asked, half amused, half puzzled.
"Oh no, the mate wants to kill me... sir," Newkirk said. "I think this disqualifies me for this job, Gov'nor. We'd better go back to Stalag 13, right?" he asked Hogan
Hogan was furious but controlled. He glared at Newkirk before talking. "Listen carefully. You still have a job to do. You must go back out there and listen to as many voices as you can. I don't care if Hitler in person comes to the party. You stay there until something lsounds familiar to your ears, understood?"
"B-but General Fitzweaver-?"
"You're in disguise, he won't recognize you." Hogan took him by his sleeve and dragged him to the door. "Do your job or I'll personally push you in front of Fitzweaver's tracks." He closed the door behind Newkirk and turned to the general. "We'll deliver the Eagle to you, sir, even if it's the last thing Newkirk does in his life." He saluted and went out.
Newkirk went back to the bar. He kept attentive but cautious. He could not help jumping every time that he heard General Fitzweaver laugh or talk loudly. He looked into his pockets for a pack of cigarets. Hogan sat next to him and offered him a light.
"What's the story with Fitzweaver? Shall I be concerned about that?"
Newkirk chuckled. "I don't think so, the man only wants to see me dead," Newkirk said. "It'll be all right, I guess."
Hogan did not say more. He lit another cigaret for himself and turned to look at the party.
Two hours later, the guests began to leave. One by one, they went out. General McGowan was still in his office and Fitzweaver paced around. He came to the bar and ordered some whiskey. Hogan watched as Newkirk sank his face on his glass of soda. He elbowed him to compose himself.
"It's amazing we still have some whiskey left, with all the people that came tonight," Fitzweaver said.
"Oh yeah, one more hour and you would have had to put water into the bottles."
Hogan saw Newkirk freeze,almost immediately after finishing the sentence. Apparently, he had just remembered something that made him pale. He rubbed his eyes and winced, anticipating some pain. General Fitzweaver looked about to explode. He stared at Newkirk for a moment and his face got pink.
"You..." he whispered, before taking a deep breath to yell. "You!"
Newkirk sprung up from his chair and ran behind Hogan. "N-no, I'm not me... I mean, I ain't him... I-"
Hogan stood up and placed himself between them. "Is there any problem, General?"
"Problem? For him, sure there is a problem, a lot of problems!" Fitzweaver pointed at Newkirk with his index. "Do you know this man?"
"General Newkirk is a personal friend, sir," Hogan smiled, keeping a friendly tone.
"General? Last time I saw him, this riffraff was on his way to solitary confinement. He was not a general back then, he was a simple corporal. Tell me, Colonel Hogan, how might had that happened?"
General Fitzweaver was a heavy man, tall and strong. Meeting him face to face could be a little intimidating. Hogan kept his smile and took an imperceptible step back. "Well, there is a good reason for that, believe me, General."
"A funny story, actually," Newkirk said, feeling safe behind his commanding officer.
Fitzweaver growled. "I had an important meeting and asked my base for additional help. This man came to my house to wait on tables. He and three of his acolytes took charge of the drinks," he exhaled. He looked so upset that Hogan was expecting to see smoke coming from the general's ears. "By the time we had to serve the drinks, these pieces of scum had emptied half the bottles and filled them back up with water!"
"An honest mistake," Newkirk said as Hogan turned to look at him.
The general came so close that Hogan could feel the heat emanating from his uniform. This was a bad moment to get caught in the middle of a quarrel. "Honest? You wouldn't know the meaning of that word if I got it tattooed in your a-"
The door opened and General Fitzweaver's driver came in. "Your car is ready, sir."
The three men looked at the door. The general shook his head and walked towards the driver. "Not now, Benson."
"Colonel," Newkirk whispered, tapping Hogan's shoulder.
"Not now, Newkirk," Hogan said, trying to come up with something to say in Newkirk's favor. "We're just lucky that everybody is already gone. You almost blew out your cover," he said through his teeth.
"Me?" Newkirk raised his voice and the general turned to see him. "Colonel," Newkirk repeated hiding his head behind Hogan. "The driver-"
"Newkirk, I warn you-"
Newkirk pulled Hogan towards him. "The driver, Gov'nor," he whispered. "That's the Eagle."
They both looked at the door at the same time that the driver caught their stares. The man stepped back and put his hand inside his jacket.
"Gun!," Newkirk yelled, running towards the general. He jumped on him seconds before the driver opened fire.
"Newkirk!" Hogan yelled, anticipating the worst. His man was still over Fitzweaver, but none of them moved. Hogan tried to get closer but the driver shot at him. He took out his pistol and found shelter behind the bar. "Newkirk!" he called again but there was no response. Hogan tried to stand up but a couple of shots brushed him too close by him.
"Get off me, you bloody piece of sh-!" General Fitzweaver shouted. A shot suffocated his words.
Newkirk rolled over to seek cover behind a column. "Hey! I just saved your life!"
"Newkirk!" Hogan called him again. "Are you all right?"
"Right as rain, or sort of," Newkirk said, checking the graze on his left arm. "Just a scratch. The bloke is not as good as he thinks," he rolled down, ducking as the shooter directed his gun towards him. "Bloody hell, how many bullets does his pistol have?"
"As many as I need!" The man responded with another shot. "I brought ammunition, of course."
"Of course," Newkirk sighed. "On the bright side, I think we found the Eagle."
"Stay covered!" Hogan said.
"Who's the Eagle?" General Fitzweaver asked. "Benson, what's the meaning of this?" He began to get up but a shot rang over his head. He fell down on his knees and crawled towards Newkirk. "I should have asked for references in the agency. That's what you get from making last-minute arrangements."
"You asked for him through an agency?" Newkirk asked.
"He came with his own papers. My chauffeur caught the influenza and I didn't have time to waste." He looked at Newkirk warily. "Is this one of your pranks, Corporal? And what are you doing in that uniform? I'll take you to the highest courts for this!"
"Oh, you've got to be joking!"
"Newkirk?" Hogan stood up for a second to assess his man's position. "Keep your voice down!" He dodged another bullet, stood up and shot. "Newkirk, I need some cover."
"Gladly, sir, but I don't have a gun."
Newkirk stared at the pistol on the general's belt and smirked. "Would you mind if I borrow that, sir?"
The general hesitated. "You wouldn't use it against me, would you?"
"No, but I think he will use his if we don't stop him." Newkirk looked seriously right about that. "Stay put, General." He turned towards Hogan. "Colonel, I'm ready!"
"On the count of three!" Hogan stressed the number, hoping for Newkirk to remember the code. "Keep him distracted, while I move to my right! Got it?"
Newkirk listened to Hogan's orders and smiled. "Got it!"
The general rolled his eyes. These men were talking too much. Whoever his driver was, he would know their plans and intercept them.
"One!" Hogan said.
"Two!" Answered Newkirk, quickly moving to his left. Hogan opened fired but stayed where he was.
The Eagle grunted, unsure where to shoot. Newkirk dived under a table and turned it over to make a shield. Hogan ran to the end of the bar, looking for a better position. His only hope was with General McGowan, still in his office. With some luck, he would have heard the shooting and called the police.
"Give up, Eagle, or should I call you Gerd Adler," Hogan said.
"Knowing my name won't do you any good, Colonel Hogan. Now I'll have to kill you all," Adler rolled behind an armchair and shot at him.
Hogan ducked and shot back. "You are a very ambitious man, Adler," he said watching Newkirk's movements with the corner of his eye. The Englishman sneaked from table to table, getting closer each time. "There is no escape from here. If you kill us, you'll die too."
Adler shot in Hogan's direction and laughed. "I'm not afraid to die!"
"Now, ain't that a relief?" Newkirk threw his code book and hit Adler on the back.
Adler turned a second too late with his pistol aimed at Newkirk. Hogan shot before Adler pulled the trigger. He stood up and looked at Newkirk. "Good timing, Corporal."
"I've got to say the same to you, Colonel."
"Corporal Newkirk, I suppose I should thank you for saving my life," said Fitzweaver solemnly as he pointed at Newkirk's bandaged arm. "But don't think I am going to forgive or forget."
"That thought never crossed me mind, sir," Newkirk said, loosening his tie. "For all that is worth, it was never my intention to stand up your daughter. It's just that I was delayed... by another," he cleared his throat, "unfortunate incident-"
"You were in solitary confinement that night, I know." The general grinned to Hogan, "Lieutenant Colonel Lancaster told me about the incident. I would have court marshaled you, lucky bastard."
Hogan nodded but looked at Newkirk with puzzled eyes. "Just another anecdote for the trip back home?"
"I'll deny all charges, sir," Newkirk said. "And just for the record, there is nothing between your daughter and me, General. What happened between us was just a one night stand."
Hogan winced at the general's glare. "What?" Fitzweaver asked through his teeth.
"I- I mean, sh-she is water under the bridge now-" Newkirk felt the air leaving his lungs and his heart pounding. "T-that didn't come all right, did it?"
"What Corporal Newkirk is trying to say, sir, is that your daughter is safe from him," Hogan said putting himself between both men once again. Fitzweaver did not seem too convinced, though. "General?" Hogan pleaded. "He just took a bullet for you, sir. You won't forget that."
Fitzweaver took a deep breath and turned to Newkirk. "I have an excellent memory." He saluted both and left.
Newkirk stared at the door for a while. "That sounded like a threat, didn't it?"
Hogan laughed and patted his friend's shoulder. "We'll take it as a thank-you note." They headed to the door when Newkirk spotted the code book on the floor.
"Well, I think this little bugger actually worked for us tonight," Newkirk said, picking it up.
"That little bugger saved our lives," Hogan smiled.
"In many a way, sir."
"It had to be up to you to find other uses for our code book," Hogan said.
General McGowan was at the door, dismissing the policemen. "Well, you were right all along, Colonel Hogan. That was a sneaky guy." The man smiled and tapped Hogan on the shoulder. "You still have a good 5 hours to kill until your flight back to Stalag 13. Would you care to join me for a drink at the Officers' Club?"
Hogan's body was screaming for a drink but his loyalties were with his corporal. "I'd love to, sir, but Newkirk got hurt tonight and I wouldn't want to leave him alone at the hotel."
McGowan took a good look at the corporal and grinned. "Why boy, you're just dressed for the occasion. You may come with us, General Newkirk. If you're not too tired, that is."
"I have nothing that a good drink won't cure, Gov'nor, I mean, sir." Newkirk smiled at Hogan's nod of approval.
"Good, I'll see that my car is ready at the entrance," the general said. He turned to them before he left. "I'll drive."
Hogan put his arm around Newkirk's shoulder. "Come, I think we'll have time to hear that story about you and Lieutenant Colonel Lancaster after all."
"Oh, sir, I've got a terrible memory," Newkirk shook his head.
Hogan got the door for them both. "Really?"
"Although, it might come back after a couple of drinks," Newkirk grinned.
"Anything for General Newkirk," Hogan said, closing the door behind them.