The Adventure of the Löwenmähner Pension
This is a story of mystery. I have to mention that HH characters are not mine and I don't profit from them. The situations are not based on anything near real life. However the similitude to elements and/or characters from the board game Clue is clearly intentional.
The title of each chapter comes from Sherlock Holmes' quotes.
ACT ONE: The game's a foot.
It was late in the afternoon. The sun had gone down and a persistent blizzard threatened the old truck's stability at every turn on the road. Langenscheidt could barely control the wheel and finally, he gave up.
"Why are we stopping?" Schultz woke up suddenly.
"It's all that snow, Sergeant. I don't think I'd be able to pass through."
Sergeant Schultz examined the situation. They had to take the prisoners back to camp before the evening roll call. Although Kommandant Klink was not there as the moment, he expected Schultz and Langenscheidt to make sure that everything went on as if he were. On the other hand, efficiency would mean nothing if they had an accident on the road just for trying to get to the Stalag on time.
"Let's look for some place where we can wait out the storm. We're not that far from camp anyway."
Newkirk peered through the canvas but all he could see was the white and the wind blowing merciless against them. The cold swept inside and the passengers protested.
"Close that damn thing! We're freezing in here." Kinch rubbed his arms and blew on his hands.
"Wasn't it enough for you to work filling potholes on the road in the middle of a blizzard?" Carter shared Kinch's moodiness.
"All right, all right. Blimey, we're at our best today, aren't we?" Newkirk crossed his legs at the same time and the movement pulled the chain around his ankles. More protests followed.
"Watch it!" Carter pulled the chain back. "These things are not made of rubber, you know?"
"I said I'm sorry, didn't I?"
"We're tired and freezing. All I want is to go back to the Stalag and have some hot cocoa." LeBeau sank on his seat. "Why did we stop? Do you know, Colonel?"
"No idea. Perhaps Langenscheidt got lost again."
"Terrible sense of direction," Carter shook his head. He took a book out of his pocket and started reading.
"Well, you're the expert on that." Newkirk chuckled. "Are you still reading that old book about petunias?"
"It's about gardening," Carter protested without interrupting his reading. "But no, this is another book. A mystery book from one of my favorite British writers, Newkirk."
"No! Agatha Christie," Carter showed him the cover and Newkirk snorted.
"The Murder of Roger Ackroyd?" He read.
"Oh, I didn't know you like les romans policiers." LeBeau said.
"I don't think so, but I like detective novels," Carter clarified.
"That's what I said, romans policiers," LeBeau shrugged.
"Anyway, this has a French detective, LeBeau." Carter showed him the book. "Hercules Poirot."
"Bien sûre. The best detective of all times."
"Oh, that's Sherlock Holmes," Newkirk said. "Didn't you see the movie? The Hound of the Baskervilles," he sighed, "that was the last time I went to the cinema before I was shot down."
"I like Agatha better," Carter shrugged.
"There are no movies about Poirot."
"But he's still better than Holmes," LeBeau pointed at Newkirk with his finger.
Hogan let the discussion go on for a several minutes. The weather was awful, the wind hit the truck canvas and the snow was leaking inside. A good discussion was just the thing to keep the spirits high.
"What do you think, Colonel?" Carter asked him suddenly.
"What do I think about what?"
"Who's better, Holmes or Poirot?" LeBeau leaned forward with a grin.
"Let the man alone, Louis," Newkirk snorted. "Everybody knows that Poirot is just a copy of Sherlock Holmes."
Kinch grinned knowingly "You two have got it all wrong. The best detective was August Dupin, a Frenchman but," he said looking at LeBeau's proud grin, "written by an American."
"Who?" Carter asked.
"Edgar Allan Poe," answered Kinch.
"What about you, sir," Carter turned to Hogan, "do you have a favorite detective?"
Hogan smiled, as he sought in his memory. "Sam Spade, that's my kind of guy."
The conversation languished slowly and LeBeau sighed. "Why are they taking so long?"
"Shall I go out and ask what's going on?" Newkirk said, producing a lock pick out of his hat.
"Put that away. No one is moving. We'll wait until our guards come to inform us." Hogan relaxed. "They're trying to do their job. Let's give them a break, okay?"
"Yeah, that's the least we can do after leaving the road half done and making sabotage at the same time." Kinch smiled, satisfied.
"I didn't see the point of finishing the potholes if the next truck is going to detonate the explosives." Newkirk shrugged. "I think it was a great job."
"Oh, I'd love to stay longer and see things blowing apart." Carter sighed. "But with this storm and everything..."
"Next time, Carter. We'll bring umbrellas." Hogan nodded.
The truck began to move again but it lasted only ten minutes more. Then, Schultz came and pulled everybody out. The group lined up in front of a inn and cafe bar. There were three cars outside, receiving the snow on their tops. The owners would probably be inside because it was too cold and dangerous to drive into another more updated place.
"Die Löwenmäner Pension," read Kinch.
"Blimey! That's one of Sherlock Holmes' stories," Newkirk laughed. "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane."
"I didn't know you were so much into Sherlock Holmes, Newkirk," Kinch said.
"Detective stories, mate: strategy, opportunity and the perfect crime."
"Don't forget the hypothesis, tests and conclusion," Hogan said. "There is no such thing as a perfect crime."
Carter watched Newkirk's eyes shine mischievously.
"Prisoners, don't break the lines!" Schultz yelled. He always yelled when Langenscheidt was near. He just wanted to impress the corporal with his sense of authority. "Now listen. We're going inside the Pension and I don't want any trouble. Stay together, don't talk to anyone, and don't move around."
"Are you going to give us toys if we behave, Uncle Schultzie?" Newkirk asked.
"Oui, oui. Un cadeau, Papa Noel." LeBeau grinned.
"Enough, guys." Hogan smiled. "We'll be at our best behavior, Sergeant. But you have to do something about these," he pointed at the chains on their ankles. "People get nervous around chain gangs."
"Of course, Colonel Hogan." Schultz signed for Langenscheidt to open the locks.
The four costumers in the place turned immediately when the party stepped inside. Hogan pointed at one table in the corner near the bar and his men walked towards it. The silence was as uncomfortable as expected.
"Everybody is staring at us," Carter said.
"Très bien. What do we do as a second act?" LeBeau chuckled.
"You don't see a group of war prisoners entering a coffee bar every day," Kinch told the others. "Just take it easy, they'll get used to us."
"Sure, just imagine five guys in enemy uniforms and guarded like ruddy criminals. Who wouldn't be scared of us?" Newkirk turned to the bar and winked at the waitress.
"I'd be scared," Carter nodded. He studied the people at the other tables. There was a white haired woman in a turquoise dress, drinking wine and knitting. There were two men in uniform. One, must be in his early sixties, with blond hair, and apparently alone as he drank his beer. Although Carter was not too familiarized with German uniforms other than Gestapo, SS and Luftwaffe, he recognized this one as from the Afrika Corps. The rank on his jacket matched Klink's so, Carter guessed he was a colonel. The other man was at the bar with a woman. He was another Afrika Corps officer, a captain in his middle fifties, not handsome, but hard to forget with his straight profile and emotionless expression. He did not look too happy as he finished his third beer. The woman next to him looked overdressed for such an ordinary place. She was in a red satin dress and her eyes were fixed on her glass of wine. The captain did not stop talking but she did not seem to be paying much attention.
"Pretty bird, isn't she?" Newkirk's whisper brought Carter back into their reality.
"I guess," Carter shrugged. "But I think she's taken."
"Don't let the trees keep you from seeing the forest, me lad." He studied her for a moment and sighed. "Expensive lassie, just look at those nice rocks."
"Nice what?" Carter frowned. "The necklace you say?"
"You could feed a family of five for a year with a couple of those little buggers."
Carter just smirked and turned to Hogan with beseeching eyes. "Since we're going to stay for a while, couldn't we do something fun? I'm getting bored already."
"Why don't we eat? It's time, n'est-ce pas?"
Hogan agreed and called Schultz. "Can't we order anything? People keep staring."
"I don't have much money with me," he said. Then, he thought it better. It had been a long morning and he was hungry. He looked at the food on the counter and grinned. "But we can charge it to Klink."
"Sergeant-" Langenscheidt looked at him in disbelief.
"We have to feed the prisoners. It's in the Geneva Convention." Schultz called the innkeeper.
A man in his late forties came immediately. He brushed his rebellious hair with one hand as he produced a small book out of his shirt pocket. He smiled, although he did not look quite happy. "Bon soir, je m'appelle Etienne Vert," the man said. "What would it be?"
Before anyone could talk, LeBeau looked at him from head to toe. He glowered in disgust. "Vous êtes Français? Alors, que faites-vous ici?"
Hogan could see that LeBeau was not happy with this finding. He touched his arm. "What's wrong?"
"Cet homme est un collaborateur! He's with the enemy!" He almost jumped from the table.
"Calm down." Hogan did not raise his voice but made it clear that he was not joking. "First of all, we're the enemy here. Secondly, you don't know him at all. Keep your feelings in check. We don't need more attention on us, okay?"
LeBeau relaxed in his chair as Hogan's words sank in. He took a deep breath and shrugged. "Oui, mon colonel, I'm sorry," LeBeau nodded apologetically. However, he looked coldly at the innkeeper. "I don't want anything."
Etienne did not say a word. He smiled politely and called his waitress. "Liesel will take your order," he said before going back to the bar.
The young woman came with a small notebook in her hand. Her purple sweater contrasted with her blond hair. She was pretty enough to make all the men at the table smile.
"Bring us a bottle of wine, luv" Newkirk said.
"Sorry, but prisoners in custody are not allowed to drink." She shrugged. She was really pretty. Carter liked her smile, but something in her eyes told another story. She did not look happy to see them there, that was for sure.
"In that case, I want a beer," Schultz grinned. Langenscheidt glared at him in silence. "Come on, Langenscheidt, just to warm us up," the sergeant shrugged.
"Coffee for everyone else," Hogan settled the discussion before it started. "This is not a bad place. Maybe we'll have to spend the night here. Let's make the best of it."
"Without the wine, I doubt it." Newkirk smirked and sank down on his chair. The woman with the captain, was staring at him now. Her eyes were sad and her face reddish as though she had been crying for a while. Now, she looked tired and resigned.
Etienne came closer to the couple with the excuse of cleaning that side of the bar. He smiled at the woman and tried without success to make the captain stop drinking. His voice was loud enough for everyone to hear that he was not having a good time.
Langenscheidt turned on the captain's direction and exhaled with surprise. He leaned forward to whisper. "Sergeant! Have you seen who that one is?"
"Don't stare, that's impolite." Schultz sighed and turned. His eyes opened wide before he turned around to bury his face in his glass. "Ich kann es nicht glauben!" I can't believe this!
"What? Was wrong?" Carter asked for him and Newkirk.
"That is Captain Köperschaft," Schultz said.
"The devil in person," Langenscheidt nodded.
Carter would half swear that Langenscheidt shuddered at the mention of that name. Newkirk noticed that too and grinned.
"Oh, come on, gentlemen, a German officer? How bad can he be?"
Langenscheidt glared at him and shook his head. "Captain Köperschaft is a national hero, with more medals than three generals together."
"And that makes him a bad person?" Carter asked. "He seems a little uptight but-"
"Oh, no. Being responsible for the death of hundreds of men, that's what makes him evil," Schultz said. "His pastime is sending men into battle. Only last year, he lost three battalions in a row."
"But he's a national hero?" Carter frowned.
"Well," Schultz sighed, "he is also fearless. He was with his men in those battles. Although many died, he conquered many territories for our Fuhrer."
"Sure, tell that to the families that lost their sons and fathers," Langenscheidt said.
"Just a bit of bad luck," Newkirk shrugged, "the poor old chap."
"Oh, there's no such a thing as bad luck with Captain Köperschaft. He doesn't care about people, that's all." Langenscheidt finished with his beer and took a sip from Schultz's stein. "My pour cousin Albert went with him to Algiers... he never came back. I had to hide myself every time the captain showed up to choose more men for his division. I was lucky to be sent to Stalag XIII at that time."
"Corporal, we don't talk about our officers," Schultz claimed his drink. "The man has a bad temper, that's all."
"I only say that everywhere he goes, someone dies," Langenscheidt said as a reproach. "And how about that bad temper? He almost took you out of business not so long ago, isn't that right, Sergeant?"
"I say nothing!" Schultz looked the other way.
Carter turned to look at the captain. Now, he not only despised the man for being the enemy. To his own dismay, he felt sorry for those poor soldiers who had lost their lives under Captain Köperschaft's orders.
"If he's so popular, why isn't he a general?" Newkirk asked.
Schultz shrugged resignedly. "Bad temper takes you nowhere. There are rumors about his years as a cadet during the Big War-"
The doorbell rang again and everybody turned in that direction. The first one to enter was a man in a blue duster. He looked surprised to see the prisoners and the guards. He adjusted his collar and chose the table in the opposite corner to Hogan's. The next person coming in took the POW by surprise. It was Colonel Klink, rushing to hold the door for General Burkhalter.
"Are you sure you want to stay here. I think we could drive a couple of kilometers more. I know another place, the owners are good friends of mine and-" He looked around and smiled. "What a surprise! It looks like the party at Field Marshal Wagner's just moved to this café."
"Colonel Klink, shut up. You don't need to keep the conversation going on. We're not on the road anymore!" Burkhalter found a table quickly.
"Look what the cat dragged in," said Kinch.
Carter chuckled. "Is he following us?" He looked at the general who was frowning slightly at the sight of the white haired lady. She also could not hide her surprise when the officers came in. She seemed to bury her face on her knitting work as they passed by her table.
Hogan looked at his men. "How does he do it?"
"Uncanny, sir, totally uncanny," Newkirk shook his head.
"Of all places, he had to come here?" LeBeau sighed.
"Well, at least now we know where he is," Carter shrugged.
Schultz did not wait for the kommandant to see him. He stood up and yelled. "Achtung!" Only Langenscheidt obeyed immediately. Hogan and his men remained seated.
Klink heard the voice and did not want to turn around. This was not the best place to find his men and much less, his prisoners. He slowly got up and sighed.
"Klink, your prisoners are waving at you," Burkhalter said. "Is this their day off?"
"Schultz! Explain!" Klink regained his composure and walked towards Hogan. "What are these men doing here? Why aren't they at the Stalag?"
"Herr Kommandant, there is a good explanation, I-" Schultz did not know whether to keep up his salute or answer the question.
Klink did not wait for the sergeant. He turned and yelled. "Hogan!"
"Colonel, we were on the road when the blizzard started. It was impossible to continue. Fortunately, we found this lovely place and we're just waiting." He smiled. "Why don't you take a seat, we're waiting for our food."
"Food?" Klink looked at Schultz, who could not stop shaking. Langenscheidt was right behind him, very grateful that the sergeant was so big. "Who's going to pay for this?"
"You, of course." Hogan shrugged. "We didn't ask to be out of the Stalag today, with this weather or skip two meals so far. We're hungry. Hungry prisoners, are angry prisoners and-"
"All right! Just eat and get out of here!"
"With all that snow, not bloody likely," Newkirk snorted.
"What did you say?" Klink turned to the Englishman.
"He's just pointed out the fact that the road is very dangerous at this hour. It's almost night and the visibility is almost nonexistent." Hogan turned to Langenscheidt. "Just ask your corporal here, he was driving."
"It's true, Kommandant, I-"
"Enough!" Klink sighed. "We'll talk about this later. Dismissed." He returned to Burkhalter to get his own reprimand.
Carter was about to make another remark when the conversation at the Afrika Corps colonel's table caught his attention. The colonel was having some argument with the waitress and she looked very nervous. As she passed their table, LeBeau stopped her. "Something wrong, Mademoiselle?"
"Well, we're having trouble with the stove and there is little of the menu that we can offer at the moment. The colonel is a little upset because we have run out of croissants."
"Hey, maybe you could help," Carter said to LeBeau. Then, he went back to the waitress. "He is a great cook, you know?"
"I don't think I want to help that collaborateur," he shrugged.
"Not even for a pretty lady?" Newkirk elbowed him.
Kinch shook his head. "Where's the chevalier?"
The young woman frowned at them. "Etienne is not a collaborateur. He's a good man and I don't want help from anyone who thinks differently."
LeBeau took a deep breath. He would not step back from his judgment of that man, but he did not want to cause trouble for anyone else. There was a lady in distress and he was gentleman enough to help her out. "I'm sorry. I won't say anything else about that man. What can I do for you?" He smiled to the waitress.
"Call me Liesel." She smiled too.
"May I, Colonel?"
"Fine with me," Hogan looked at Schultz.
"Since we're stuck in this place, I think that makes it okay," the German sergeant said. "We should've turned somewhere else."
"Stop it! Just stop it!" The captain hit the bar with his fist and pointed at the woman that was about to cry again. "Enough, I say!"
Newkirk was staring at them again, getting more upset every time. Hogan raised his eyebrows to get Carter's attention; he did not need much effort to make the young sergeant understand what he wanted without words.
"Hey, Newkirk," Carter said. "How many jugglers does it take to change a light bulb?"
Newkirk frowned. "What?"
"Only one, but it takes three bulbs."
Kinch laughed. Hogan did too, although his eyes were on the Englishman all the time.
"One more word and you'll get it, you hear me? I'm done with you!"
"Konrad, please. You've got to believe me-"
"I won't listen to your lies anymore, Margit. It's over! I know exactly what you have been trying to do. You must think I'm the dumbest man in the world... "
Hogan leaned over the table to whisper. "Newkirk, let it go."
"I can't. That bloody jerk! Aren't you listening to what he says?"
"He sounds like a very violent man." Sitting between Hogan and Newkirk, Carter could not help taking part in the conversation. "We should let him alone."
"It's an officer. That'd only bring us trouble," Kinch said.
They heard the man getting up. "That's it, you're asking for it!"
Newkirk sprung off his chair. "Lady, is this gentleman bothering you?"
She stared at him for a second and then, she shook her head. "I'm all right, thank you," she whispered.
"You stay away from this, British garbage." The captain turned back to the woman. "You see what you do with all your drama? Now you're getting attention from a damn British bastard!" He lifted his hand in a threatening way and she stepped back.
"Excuse me, sir, but I still don't think that's the way to treat a lady." Newkirk kept a neutral tone.
"Newkirk, stay out of it," Hogan said through his teeth.
"Listen to your superiors, boy. Maybe you should've stayed in England." The captain looked at him and laughed. "I just came from London a week ago, or what is left of it. Bloody cowards, running underground while the city burned."
Carter grabbed Newkirk's arm just to bring him back to his senses. "It's not worth it."
"You should learn your place, Englander. Nosy bastards, that's why we'll have to crush you until you understand where your place is."
"Bloody wanker!" Newkirk jumped forward but Hogan was ready to stop him.
"If you touch him, we'll all suffer for this!" He pulled him back.
Newkirk obeyed at once. But the moment he turned to Hogan, the captain grabbed his shoulder. Newkirk turned around and received a punch on the nose that sent him backwards. Hogan crouched and held him on the floor.
"Don't move or I'll make sure it'll be your last for a long time." He turned to his men, already on their feet. "Stay where you are, all of you! This ends here." He pulled Newkirk back to his feet and pushed him with the rest of his group. He would have liked to do some damage control before anyone else noticed the incident but it was too late.
LeBeau was coming from the kitchen, still holding an iron spatula in his hand. Etienne came right after him. The Afrika Corps colonel was attentively watching, as well as the white-haired lady, still knitting. Even the stranger in the blue raincoat followed the incident from a distance.
General Burkhalter got up, impassive as always."Colonel Klink! Control your prisoners!"
"Hogan, you're going to be punished for this." Klink looked for Schultz. "Where's your gun, Sergeant?"
"It's not fair. That man hit Newkirk!" LeBeau stepped forward.
Carter was pale with rage. "Colonel?"
"Everybody, cool off." Hogan turned to the captain. "I offer you my apologies."
"I hold you responsible for your men's behavior." The captain walked towards Newkirk. The Englishman was still trying to control his breathing while wiping blood off his nose. "Who is in charge of these prisoners? Shall I punish this man's insolence myself?"
"Enough drama, Captain Köperschaft," said General Burkhalter. He had stood up but did not move from his table. "Colonel Klink is perfectly capable of putting order here," he turned to Klink and smirked. "Aren't you?"
"Absolutely," Klink said. He was visibly embarrassed and silently vowing revenge as soon as they got to the Stalag. He turned briefly toward Newkirk. "Corporal! You're going straight to the cooler and stay there until the next war!"
"Colonel Hogan, your man must apologize immediately," Burkhalter said.
Hogan tightened his jaw. The final humiliation. He would rather be shot in the guts than impose his rank on his men for something out of their control. But this was not a good place to quote the Geneva Convention and talk them out of the problem. He turned to Newkirk. "Apologize, Newkirk," he said in a low voice.
The Englishman stared at him with wide eyes. He shook his head slightly. "What?"
"But, Colonel, he didn't-" Carter began to talk but Kinch grabbed his arm to stop him.
LeBeau winced in disgust. He had never seen this side of Hogan before. He too wanted to protest. Kinch had to step forward in a quiet way to calm down his friends. He came closer to lay one hand on Newkirk's shoulder. "Go ahead, Peter. Be the best man," he whispered.
Newkirk shuddered with anger, his hands clenched into fists. After taking a moment to regain control, he managed to soften his features and bow slightly. "I'm deeply sorry, Captain. It was all my fault."
Hogan held his breath when the German grinned with satisfaction. Just one wrong word and the war would be decided in that little inn.
"Apologies accepted," the captain said, picking up his coat and hat. "It's not your fault that you were born among savages."
Newkirk bit his inner cheek but kept a poker face. He did not move until the captain left the place to go upstairs with his wife. Hogan got closer and clapped Newkirk on the shoulder. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
"You didn't do anything, sir."
That response sounded more like a reproach to Hogan, but he accepted it all the same. Either way, Newkirk was right. He had thrown one of his men, a close friend, to the lions. Nothing anyone could say to make him feel better about that.
They sat at the table again and no one spoke for a long time. Carter, LeBeau and Kinch exchanged glances while Newkirk and Hogan just stared at the table. Finally, Kinch chuckled.
"I was wondering how long it would take us to start a bar fight." He looked at his friends. "This must be the quickest ever."
LeBeau and Carter contained their laughs until Newkirk snorted and wiped the blood off his nose with a napkin. The Englishman looked at his friends and shook his head.
"Three light bulbs, Carter? Honestly," he said with a smile.
Hogan and Newkirk looked at each other and made peace with their eyes.
"It's a weird evening, indeed," Kinch said. He looked at Newkirk staring absently at his cup of coffee. "How are you doing?"
Newkirk smirked. "Nothing broken. I'll be fine when we get out of here."
"Yeah, I'm more than ready to leave," Carter said.
"I don't know, I'm beginning to like this place," LeBeau sighed.
"You fancy that waitress bird?" Newkirk snorted painfully.
"That will be something," Kinch said. "Newkirk starts a brawl and LeBeau falls in love."
LeBeau rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I'm not in love, the mademoiselle is very nice. We had an interesting conversation while we cooked."
"Only you can cook and flirt at the same time, Louis," Hogan said.
"Well, if you ask me, we should be out of here right now. I smell trouble." Carter said, looking around.
"What do you mean?" Asked Newkirk.
"I don't know, there's something about these people that doesn't seem right."
Hogan nodded quietly. "Certainly, the evening had a bumpy start." He looked at Newkirk and grinned. "No pun intended."
"Jolly funny, sir." Newkirk sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Let's go back to camp. I'm getting a headache."
"Gladly," said Hogan. "Just let me tell Klink to pay the bill and off we'll go."
Hogan was about to get up at the same moment that Etienne hung the telephone. "The lines have just died. The authorities were telling me that the roads are closed for the night because of the blizzard," he announced. A rumor of complaints spread around.
"Are we cut off?" Carter exhaled worriedly. "Here? In the middle of nowhere?"
"Just my luck, I'm stuck with you in this place, Klink." Burkhalter rolled his eyes impatiently. Carter saw him turn around and fix his eyes on the white-haired lady. She smiled lightly at him, but he did not respond.
Klink was also uncomfortable with the idea of spending the night with the general. He waved at the innkeeper and smiled. "Would you have rooms available?"
Etienne shrugged. "I always have six ready during the winter."
"Five, Captain Köperschaft and his wife are in room number one," Liesel said. Etienne checked on his book and nodded.
"The general will occupy one too," Klink said, raising his hand.
"And Generalmajor Senf?" Etienne asked the Afrika Corps officer. The man nodded.
"Only three rooms left," Carter whispered to Kinch.
"I'm going to need a room too," the white-haired lady said from her table. Her voice was like a whisper and Carter would swear that she was avoiding Burkhalter's eyes.
"There are only two more rooms available," Etienne said looking at the stranger in the blue duster. "The gentleman over there, are you going to need a room too?"
The man looked uncomfortable with all the stares on him. "Of course, but I don't share with POW."
"We'll take the one that's left, then," Hogan said.
"Nice try," Klink smiled to see the general's approval. "I'll need a room too. You all will sleep in the truck."
"Certainly, and by tomorrow morning you'll have five very frozen prisoners." Hogan stood up. "We're going to need at least one room."
"How big are your rooms, exactly? There are five of us here," Newkirk said with a smile.
"Seven, don't forget Langenscheidt and Schultz." Kinch shrugged.
"Well, under the circumstances," Etienne said to the stranger, "could you reconsider? There's a blizzard-"
The man put a roll of bills on the table and narrowed his eyes. "One room, single, bitte."
Etienne picked up the money. "Gentlemen, there is only one room left."
"It seems that you're coming with us, Colonel Klink," Hogan grinned mischievously.
Klink stared at the group of prisoners and turned to Burkhalter. The general knew exactly what he was thinking. A kommandant should keep his distance from his subordinates. It would not look well if he had to share a room with the prisoners.
The general rolled his eyes and exhaled deeply. "All right, Klink, you may come with me."
"That makes seven for a room of four." Carter kept count with his fingers.
"Er. Sorry, but the accommodations are for three people per room, four at the most." Etienne presented the keys. The rest of the guests were already gone.
"Could someone say anything?" Hogan glared at Burkhalter and Klink. "It's been a long day and I get cranky when I'm sleepy."
"All right," the general said. "I'll share my room with Klink... and Hogan, if he doesn't mind." He sketched a fake smile.
"The bathroom is at the end of the hallway," Etienne said.
Hogan nodded resignedly. "We still have to lodge Sergeant Schultz and Corporal Langenscheidt."
"It's all right, they have to watch your men, anyway," Klink said.
"But they have to sleep too," Burkhalter said. "They will stay with the prisoners and take turns on the shifts."
"In that case, one of my men will have to come with us." Hogan turned to them, begging with his eyes. Of all the nightmares in this war, sharing a room with Klink and Burkhalter all by himself was the worst.
Kinch chuckled. "I don't think they would want me in their room, Colonel."
Hogan nodded. He turned to Newkirk still nursing his nose.
"No way in bloody hell, sir."
"Moi non plus, Colonel," LeBeau said. "I'd rather sleep in the hallway."
"All right. It's you and me, kid," Hogan patted Carter on the shoulder.
"No problem with me, sir." He smiled.
"This is going to be a very long night," Newkirk said to Carter.
Detectives in literature:
Hercule Poirot (from several novels by Agatha Christie)
Auguste Dupin (from The Rue Morgue Murders and other stories by Edgar Allan Poe)
San Spade (from a The Maltese Falcon and several short stories by Dashiell Hammetts.)
Sherlock Holmes (from stories and novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
N/A: The story is not too long, although the chapters are kilo-metric. I hope that won't chase the readers away. ;)
Please, R/R. Thank you!