A/N: I would like to thank Deana for contributing one of the lines in this story.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Hogan's Heroes characters. I just like to write about them.
A full-grown man in the grip of uncontrolled panic is not a pleasant sight. I should know – I've seen it many times. My name is Robert E. Hogan, and I'm a private investigator.
Of all the panic attacks I've witnessed, the worst – by far – happened just yesterday. I was closing in on the suspect of my latest case, when…
Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning. Like I said, the name's Robert E. Hogan, and I run a detective agency out of an office right here in the middle of Chicago. Not by myself, mind you, I've got four men working for me; James Kinchloe, Louis LeBeau, Peter Newkirk and Andrew Carter. We were spies together in the war, you see, and what better job for former spies, than private investigators?
Anyway, a week ago, I was sitting at my desk, practicing my origami (business had been a bit slow) when there was a knock on the door and Newkirk entered.
"Yes, what is it, Peter?" I asked somewhat irritably, while cramming my paper swan quickly into the top desk drawer and pulling out a pad of paper and a pen. "Can't you see I'm busy?"
"Yes, sir, well, I just thought you should know, there's a woman here to see you."
"There is?" I replied, curious now. I noticed a grin immediately form on Newkirk's face.
"Yes, sir, and I think she wants to hire us! A real good- lookin' bird she is, too."
I was out of my chair before he finished talking. At last, a client! I grabbed my suit jacket, which had been draped over the back of my chair, and put it on. "Well, don't just stand there, show her in!" I told him as I was straightening my tie.
"Yes, sir!" Newkirk replied, enthusiastically.
He was halfway out the door, when I called out, "Oh, and Peter, cut the 'sir' bit, will ya? I'm not a colonel, anymore."
He stopped and turned to look at me, a sheepish expression on his face. "Yes, sir, I mean, uh, Colonel, uh, I mean, uh, Mr. Hogan."
I rolled my eyes and inwardly sighed. "Peter, just call me Rob…okay?"
"Yes, sir, sorry sir, I mean, sorry Rob," Newkirk stammered, "Old habits, you know…"
"Yes, I know." I smiled and waved my hand in dismissal.
After he'd gone, I opened the side desk drawer and took out the tin of Altoids that was sitting on top. I opened it and popped one into my mouth; then brushed off my jacket and stood up straight, facing the door. A few minutes later, Newkirk returned with the prospective client. He opened the door, and gestured for her to enter first.
I nearly choked on what was left of my Altoid as she entered the room. Peter was right; I've seen my share of gorgeous dames over the years, but this one took the cake. Fiery red hair, cascading in curls past her shoulders, hour-glass figure, killer legs, ample…well, you get the idea. When she saw me, she smiled and began to walk over to me.
Suddenly my knees felt weak.
She stopped an arm's length in front of me. "You must be Mr. Hogan," she said, her voice low and sultry.
"Yes!" I squeaked out; then cleared my throat and replied in a deeper voice, "Yes, I'm Robert Hogan. What can I do for you, miss…?"
"Just call me Honey."
Perfect. "All right, Honey, what can I do for you?"
She glanced over her shoulder at Newkirk, who was still loitering by the door, then back to me with a questioning look.
"Oh, don't worry about him," I replied reassuringly, "He works for me."
"Oh, okay," she inhaled deeply and sighed with relief.
I nearly sighed, myself, as I watched her tight-fitting green dress expand and contract in all the right places.
Her smile quickly faded, to be replaced by a serious expression. "Mr. Hogan, I need your help…someone's trying to kill my husband!"
"What?" I exclaimed, trying to mask my disappointment at her marital status, "That's terrible!"
"Yes, it is!" she replied, her blue eyes growing moist. "Why would anyone want to hurt my Lambikins?" She sniffled, and I reached into my breast pocket and pulled out a clean handkerchief.
"Please, have a seat," I said, gesturing toward the chair facing my desk as I handed her the handkerchief. She accepted it gratefully and went to sit down; dabbing at her eyes while she did so. I circled around and plopped into my chair, trying to keep my expression sympathetic – and my eyes focused on her face.
"Why don't you start at the beginning?" I suggested.
She nodded and blew her nose. "Well, I met my husband overseas; that's where we fell in love and got married." A dreamy smile momentarily appeared on her face; then it was gone. "He belongs to a troupe of entertainers from Europe. They're on tour here in Chicago for the next two weeks."
Entertainers? Well, that might explain it… I nodded and asked, "How do you know someone is trying to kill him?"
"Because of the note," she said, placing her purse on her lap and rifling through it, "I brought it with me, it's in here somewhere… Aha!" She pulled out a crinkled envelope and handed it to me.
As I took the envelope from her outstretched hand, the first thing I noticed on it was the name – Johann Schmidt. "I take it this is your husband's name," I remarked, glancing at her for confirmation.
"It's his stage name, actually," she informed me. "After the war, he wanted to make a fresh start."
"Ah," I nodded in understanding. I opened the envelope and pulled out the note inside. After unfolding the paper, I read the message, which consisted of one line:
You will die in seven days.
"That's it?" I frowned, turning the paper over just to make sure I wasn't missing something.
"What do you mean, 'That's it'?" she pouted, "What else does it need to say? My Lambikins is in danger! Please, you have to help him!"
She leaned forward, placing her hand on the desk, and I reached over and patted it lightly. "We will, we will," I assured her, "Don't worry, we'll find out who's threatening your Lambi…uh, your husband."
She heaved a sigh, and I found myself envying Lambikins – a lot. "Oh, thank you!" she gushed, "I can't tell you how grateful I am!"
"Ah, yes," I replied, somewhat gruffly. Then I cleared my throat – and my mind – and said, "Well, there is the matter of our fee…"
Her eyes widened slightly. "Oh yes, of course! I have it right here…" She dug into her purse, and pulled out another envelope; this one much thicker than the last. "A thousand dollars up front, your ad said." She held the envelope out to me, looking at me expectantly.
As I reached for it, I saw Newkirk put his hand to his mouth and clear his throat rather loudly.
I nodded slightly. "Plus two hundred dollars a day, for expenses," I told her, taking a peek inside the envelope.
"That seems a bit high," she said, raising her eyebrow dubiously at me.
"Sorry, but that's our price. Take it or leave it." (Hey, business is business.)
"All right," she agreed, looking less than happy, "But you better find him soon."
"Don't worry, we will," I replied confidently. As she stood up to leave, I rose from my chair. I saw her to the door and held it open for her. She flashed me one last curt smile, and then she was gone.
Newkirk and I stared at her retreating form for a few moments. Then I shut the door and turned to the Englishman, who looked about as dazed as I felt. "You weren't kidding, Peter," I mumbled, "She's quite the looker."
He just nodded at me.
I shook my head to clear it, and said, "Well, we better get busy. Where are the rest of the guys?"
"The rest of the guys?" Newkirk echoed, his face suddenly registering surprise.
"Yes, the rest of the guys," I repeated, somewhat impatiently, "James, Louis, Andrew, you know…"
"Oh, them! Well, seein' as how business has been so slow lately, as it were…" his voice trailed off and he shrugged.
"Peter, where are they?" I demanded.
Newkirk let out a sigh. "They're at the pub across the street."
"What?" I bellowed, "They're off drinking when they're supposed to be working?"
Newkirk frowned. "Doin' what, exactly, Rob? We haven't had a case in weeks!"
"That's no excuse! They could still be doing… Well, they could be working on…" I stopped, realizing he was right. "Oh, never mind; let's just go get 'em."
He tried to hide it, but I know I saw a ghost of a smirk appear briefly on Newkirk's face. I was about to chastise him, when something occurred to me, and I asked instead, "So, how come you're not over there with them?"
"Because someone needs to be here with you; you know, in case somethin' comes up, like with that bird just now."
"And today was your turn," I guessed.
Newkirk nodded sheepishly.
I sighed and shook my head. "I think we're all gonna have a nice, long talk after this case is over."
"Call me sir."
The guys were exactly where Newkirk said they'd be; sitting in a large corner booth in the back of the bar across the street. Ironically, the name of the place was, "Slackers"; which should have given me a clue right there.
As I approached the table, Newkirk trailing behind me, I could hear spirit-fueled laughter coming from my men, and I inwardly sighed in frustration; wondering how long this had been going on. The laughter continued as I neared where they sat, but quickly subsided when I reached the table. Three pairs of guilty eyes looked up at me, and I folded my arms and scowled; waiting to see who would be first to offer up an excuse.
It turned out to be Carter. "Oh, uh, hey there, Colonel," he stammered, "Um, we were just taking a little break…"
"Yeah, we didn't think you'd mind, sir," Kinch interjected, "You know, since business has been so slow…"
"Oui," LeBeau jumped in, nodding vigorously, "In fact, why don't you join us, mon Colonel? There's plenty of room."
I glanced at the pitcher of beer on the table and the half-filled glasses in front of each of the men; then over my shoulder at Newkirk, who just looked at me and shrugged. I turned back to the table and sighed in resignation. "Scoot over," I said, sliding in next to LeBeau. I noticed Newkirk sit down next to Kinch, who had moved over to make room for him.
After flagging down the waitress and requesting another pitcher and two more glasses, I addressed the men seated around me. "All right, you guys, first things, first. We just got hired by a good-looking dame to find some thug who's threatening to kill her husband. This could get dangerous…" I paused, glancing at each man in turn. "You up for it?"
Four heads nodded at me. "You bet, Colonel!" Carter replied enthusiastically.
"Oui, Colonel, I'm in!" LeBeau exclaimed.
I sighed and inwardly rolled my eyes. "And that's another thing," I said, frowning at them, "You've got to stop calling me Colonel."
Carter's enthusiasm waned. He looked at me sheepishly and muttered, "Oh, yeah, sorry about that, Colonel, uh, I mean, sir. Force of habit, you know..."
"What he said," LeBeau pointed at Carter.
Kinch smirked; then he turned to me, his expression serious. "What do you know about this guy we're looking for?" he asked.
"Not much," I replied, reaching into my jacket pocket and pulling out the envelope Honey had given me, "Just this note he left for her husband." I handed it to Kinch, who pulled the paper out and read it.
"Hmm, you're right, not much to go on, is it?" Kinch commented as he passed it to Carter.
The waitress appeared with two glasses and a pitcher of beer. After making sure we didn't need anything else, she hurried off to another table. I grabbed the pitcher and poured myself a drink; then passed it to Newkirk, who did the same.
I took a big swig and set down my glass. LeBeau, the last one to see the note, handed it back to me, and as I tucked it into my pocket, he asked, "So, where do you want us to start looking?"
The others began murmuring similar questions.
I held up my hand to silence them. "We can discuss the details when we get back to the office," I replied; then I grinned and picked up my glass. "In the meantime, we might as well finish the beer."
Back at the office, I handed out the assignments. I sent Kinch and Carter to talk to the director of the troupe of entertainers, and Newkirk and LeBeau to find out what they could about Johann Schmidt. While they were gone I made some phone calls, asking around to find out if any of our regular informants knew anything about a hit going down next week, but none of them did.
When the fellas returned a few hours later, I could tell by their faces they'd struck out, too.
"The guy in charge of those entertainers was no help at all!" Kinch groused as he plopped into a chair. "All he could tell us was that Johann Schmidt joined the troupe shortly before they left Europe, and he plays a musical instrument."
"Yeah, and he couldn't even tell us which one!" Carter exclaimed, sitting down in the chair next to Kinch. "Boy, he sure doesn't pay much attention to the people he's supposed to be watching over."
"Not a very good boss, is he?" I remarked, shaking my head slightly.
"Nope, he sure isn't," Carter replied; then he eyed me thoughtfully. "Not like you, sir. Boy, you sure could teach him a thing or two about how to be a good boss! I mean, even back in the war, when you were a colonel and we were enlisted men, we still worked for you, kind of like now, and you always took care of us and knew what was going on, and what everyone was doing – "
"Yes, Andrew," I interrupted, trying to sound impatient, but inwardly puffing up with pride, "I think we all know that not everyone can be a great boss like me."
"He said good, not great," I heard Kinch mumble under his breath, and my ego quickly deflated.
With a slight frown on my face, I turned my attention to Newkirk and LeBeau, who were sitting on the opposite side of the room. "What about you two; did you find out anything?"
Newkirk slowly shook his head. "Not much more than what James and Andrew found out. Looks like Mr. Schmidt and his wife have gone into hidin' until we can find the bloke, what's tryin' to kill him."
"Oui, all we could get was a description of him," LeBeau said, pulling out a pad of paper and reading from it aloud, "Tall, brown hair, mustache, wears glasses, and has a big nose." He looked up at me. "That's what the other members of the troupe said, anyway."
"Oh, and he plays the violin," Newkirk added.
LeBeau looked back down at his notes. "They also said he's a quiet man; keeps mostly to himself. No one seems to know much about him."
"Except for his wife," Newkirk smirked, "They all noticed her!"
I grinned wide. "That doesn't surprise me." My smile faded and I let out a sigh. "All right, looks like this case isn't gonna be an easy one. Tomorrow morning we'll hit the streets and start asking questions. We need to find this guy that's after Schmidt A.S.A.P., got it?"
The others nodded.
"Okay, let's blow this pop stand," I said, getting up from my chair. The others stood up, too, and we filed out of the office. Since I was last, I shut the door and locked it; then we all headed for our respective homes to get some shut-eye.
One day passed, then two. By the third day I was beginning to get worried. Everywhere we looked; everyone we talked to – we came up empty. No one seemed to know anything about a killer roaming the streets, intent on snuffing out one of the European entertainers. More importantly, no one knew why someone would want to do away with Johann Schmidt in the first place.
Several more days passed, and soon the week was up. We still didn't have a clue; although I had managed to add a giraffe, an elephant, and a flamingo to my paper zoo. I was hoping that – with Schmidt in hiding – the killer wouldn't find him, and miss the deadline. Turned out I was wrong.
We were all in the office when the phone rang; it was Honey on the other line. "Mr. Hogan, come quickly! The man who wants to kill my husband is here! He found us!"
I asked her to give me the address, which I quickly jotted down on a half-formed rhinoceros, and told her we'd be right there. Then I ran out of the office, the other four guys at my heels. We raced to the location, which turned out to be an apartment, and burst through the door; our guns drawn. The scene that met us was what we'd been expecting – two men standing in the middle of the living room facing each other; one of them pointing a pistol at the other.
I stared hard at the perpetrator, whose face was partially shadowed by a wide-brimmed hat. He was a shady-looking character, to be sure, but I couldn't shake the feeling there was something familiar about him. Then I glanced at the other fella, and noticed he fit the description of Johann Schmidt. I looked back at the would-be killer and yelled, "Drop your weapon!"
The man growled and turned his head slightly to look at me. My jaw dropped as I recognized him; "Hochstetter! My old nemesis!"
His eyes widened with surprise, and he yelled, "Hogan!" He looked up at the ceiling with a pleading expression, before shouting, "What is this man doing here?"
"I'm here to stop you from killing my client!" I yelled back.
"Hogan, is that really you?" asked my client in a tremulous voice, and I knew instantly who it was.
"Klink! What on Earth are you doing here?" I exclaimed in amazement, "And what the heck did you do to yourself?"
"Oh, this?" Klink reached up and pulled the toupee off his head; then removed his glasses – which also removed his nose and mustache. "It's just my disguise."
I inwardly shook my head. Only Klink could use a novelty nose and glasses as a disguise, and make it work. "So, you're Johann Schmidt?" I said, "Why the name change, and the disguise?"
"I had to get out of Germany," Klink explained as he reached into his pocket, pulled out his monocle, and fitted it over his left eye. "I knew Hochstetter was after me, and it seemed like the only way to save myself; not to mention my wife."
"Yeah, your wife…" I paused, trying to picture her with Klink, "How did you ever land her?"
Klink frowned. "Hogan, you're not the only man who can be charming."
I opened my mouth, ready to fire back some witty retort, when Hochstetter yelled, "That's enough! Hogan, take your men and get out of here right now, or I'll shoot Klink!"
"How do I know you won't shoot him after we leave?" I countered.
Hochstetter's face was turning an alarming shade of red. "If you don't leave, I'll shoot you, too!"
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Newkirk silently slinking around behind Hochstetter. I knew my best course of action was to distract the former Gestapo major, so I asked, "Why do you want to kill Klink, anyway?"
"Because…" Hochstetter sputtered, "Because he made a fool of me during the war!"
The corners of my mouth turned up and I actually chuckled. "Major, that was me!"
Hochstetter's eyes looked like they were going to pop out of their sockets. "What do you mean?" he bellowed.
"Klink didn't make a fool out of you; I did," I happily confessed.
I saw veins popping out on Hochstetter's forehead as he screeched; "I knew it! You were Papa Bear! At last I have you –"
He was cut off by Newkirk jumping him from behind. As the Englishman wrestled him to the ground, the gun in Hochstetter's hand went off. The bullet flew past Klink, missing him by mere inches, and embedded itself in the wall.
Klink's eyes popped wide, like a deer caught in the headlights. His face went white as a sheet, and he began to shake uncontrollably. He opened his mouth and began sucking in gulps of air, as though he couldn't breathe. "Huh…huh…" He tried to speak, but that's all he could get out.
The door to the bedroom flew open, and Honey ran into the room. "Lambikins!" she exclaimed, rushing over to Klink. She threw her arms around him and looked at him worriedly. "Are you all right? I heard a gunshot…"
Klink nodded vigorously. "All…right…" he managed to say.
"Oh, dear, you're having one of your attacks again. Here," she guided him over to a large, overstuffed chair, "Sit down, Sweetums, I'll fetch you a glass of water."
As she hurried to the kitchen, every eye in the room watched her leave – including Hochstetter – and I could have sworn I heard a sigh or two coming from the vicinity where the rest of my men were standing. I looked at them and frowned. "Hey, give Peter a hand, will ya?"
LeBeau, Carter and Kinch dutifully walked over and helped Newkirk get Hochstetter to his feet. Then Kinch produced a pair of handcuffs, and slapped them on the former major's wrists.
"How's that for irony?" I announced, looking smugly at Hochstetter. Before he could respond, I glanced at my men and said, "Take him away, boys."
After they left, I turned back to Klink. His color had returned, and he was breathing more normally. "Looks like you're feeling better," I commented.
Klink nodded. "I am now. Thank you, Hogan, for saving my life. I am forever in your debt."
"You are?" I replied, "Well, in that case, I don't suppose you could tell me if Honey has a sister?"
Klink eyed me with a hint of suspicion. "No, she doesn't…why do you want to know?" At that moment, Honey returned with a glass of water, and handed it to Klink.
"Oh, no reason," I replied, my eyes involuntarily following her every move. I forced my gaze back to Klink, cleared my throat and said, "Well, I'll leave you two alone."
I headed for the door, but when I reached it, something occurred to me, and I turned to look at Klink. "Say, how did you get that troupe of entertainers to hire you, anyway? No offense, but you're a terrible violin player."
Klink shrugged. "I got better." He pointed to the corner, where his violin case sat. "I can play for you, if you'd like."
"Uh, no thanks," I responded rather quickly; then I turned and hurried out of the apartment.
When I got outside; a thought popped into my head, and I had to chuckle. That was one case I didn't want opened…not now, not ever!
You will die in seven days - Line taken from the movie, The Ring.