I do not own any of the characters from the series Hogan's Heroes. However, I claim ownership of any original characters appearing in this story.
For ColHogan, and any other readers who wanted to see a resolution to "The Bells".
"And this is your Uncle Friedrich, when he was a little boy. But of course, you won't remember him, Liebchen. He went away to the war, before you were born, and he never came back."
Opa's fingers rested briefly on the little photograph. He had the album balanced on one knee, and his granddaughter on the other, but his lap was big enough to accommodate both of them.
"And this one," he went on, "that's your papa, and all his brothers and sisters. There is Friedrich. He is the oldest."
Silke blinked, and snuggled against his broad chest. She was just old enough now to rebel against the idea of an afternoon nap, but an hour or two of quiet time with Opa, while the other grown-ups went visiting on New Year's Day, was an acceptable compromise.
"And that's your papa, Christoph. He went off to the war, too, and came back with your mama." Opa smiled, and gave the child a little hug. "And that was one good thing to come out of the war."
He kissed the top of her head. "Do you know what Opa did in the war, mein Schätzchen? Well, Opa took care of a big camp, where they kept Allied prisoners. It was a very dangerous job, they were desperate men." His voice had taken on a theatrical emphasis, and Silke looked up with puzzled, anxious blue eyes. "But you know something? They weren't so bad, really. Just because you're enemies, doesn't mean you can't be friends. In fact, I was better friends with some of the prisoners than with the other guards. I even get Christmas cards from them." He glanced around at the cards arranged neatly on the bookshelves around the little sitting room. At least a third of them had greetings in English, proudly displayed in spite of what the neighbours might think.
Reassured, Silke laid her head back down on his shoulder, and Opa turned over the page. A snapshot lay unmounted between the leaves; he picked it up, and showed it to her. "Look, there is a photo of me, when I was at Stalag 13, standing in front of the Kommandant's office with Corporal Langenscheidt - you don't know him, he went away after the war, and I haven't heard from him since - and Fräulein Hilda, the Kommandant's secretary. And that man behind us, climbing out of the window, that's Newkirk, one of the prisoners. I don't know what he was doing in there, I didn't ask. Just like I didn't ask Kinchloe how he came to have the camera he took the photo with, and just like I didn't ask Colonel Hogan why he wanted a photo of us just at that time. That was how it worked. I turned a blind eye to some things, and they did things for me in return, when they could. And they never let me down. Well, hardly ever."
He fell silent, overtaken by melancholy, remembering one favour Colonel Hogan had never been able to carry out. Okay, Schultz, I'll see what I can do. But don't get your hopes up. Because the chances are...
Unconsciously, he sighed; and Silke peeped up at him again. Then she reached up and tweaked his nose, before putting her hand behind her back as if hiding something. "I got it," she giggled.
"Oh, you took Opa's nose! Bad girl!" His sombre mood lightened at once. This was their own special game "Please, give it back, or Oma won't know who I am when she comes home." But Silke slid off his lap, and ran to the door. Opa heaved himself up, and lumbered after her, not too fast.
The ensuing chase would probably have taken them all over the house, had the ringing of the doorbell not interrupted it. Opa stopped in the hallway, one hand on the banister rail, and caught his breath, then hastily did up his top button which had come undone, smoothed down his hair, and went to the door.
For a few seconds he hardly recognised the man who stood on the doorstep; tall, well-dressed, with a casual, confident air. "Hi, Schultz," he said, in English. "Long time, no see."
"C-C-Colonel Hogan?" stuttered Schultz, flabbergasted. "Is it really you? But what are you doing here?"
"I was in the neighbourhood, thought I'd just drop by." Hogan was wearing the old familiar grin, and apart from the slight greying of the hair at his temples, he hardly seemed changed at all. "Well, I was in Berlin, anyway, and it seemed a shame to turn round and fly straight back to Washington without catching up on a few old friends. So I applied for a furlough, and here I am."
"Oh, Colonel Hogan, how nice it is to see you - oh, but you are not Colonel any more, you are - is it General?"
"Major General, but don't stand on ceremony. Half the guys on my team still call me Colonel," replied Hogan. "I think they caught it from Carter, before he got his discharge. He just couldn't seem to get it right."
Schultz chuckled. "That sounds like Carter. Oh, please, Colonel Hogan, come in."
"Well, I'd like to, Schultz, but the thing is...hello." Hogan broke off, at sight of the little girl, peeping at him from behind Schultz's leg. "Who have we got here?"
"This is my little granddaughter, Silke." Schultz's face glowed with pride. "She just had her third birthday, on Christmas Eve. She was the first good thing to happen after the war. Silke, this is my very good friend Colonel - I mean, General Hogan."
"Just call me Uncle Rob." Hogan smiled his most winning smile, and Silke giggled, and clutched at Opa's trousers. "So tell me how things are going, Schultz. I heard you got your old toymaking business going again."
"Oh, it's going so well," Schultz burbled. "We had to start small, you know, because the factory was destroyed in the war, and anyway, nobody has enough money to buy the kind of toys we used to make in the old days. But we make them much cheaper now, and sell them at a price anyone can afford. Oh, you must come in, and have a glass of brandy, and hear all about it."
Hogan seemed to hesitate, then shrugged, with a twinkle in his eyes. "Just a quick one, maybe."
He followed Schultz to the sitting room, and looked around. "Nice place you have here."
"We were lucky, the city wasn't bombed so much." Schultz bustled over to the sideboard at one end of the room, where a bottle of cognac stood on a silver tray. "Whenever I think what might have happened, I am just so thankful that I still have a home, and all of my family - almost." He brought a glass slightly overfilled with amber-coloured liquor and presented it to his visitor. "Please, sit down, Colonel Hogan. Silke, mein Liebling, sit quietly and look at the photographs, while Opa talks to his friend."
The little girl was not so inclined. As Schultz sank into the big old armchair, she clambered back onto his lap, from which safe haven she could keep this fascinating caller under surveillance. She seemed to have taken to him; nothing new there.
"So, you were in Berlin for Christmas," remarked Schultz.
"Yeah, just catching up with a few old friends." Hogan tasted his brandy. "Say, this is pretty good, Schultz."
"Danke. LeBeau sent it to me for Christmas." Schultz leaned forward, and lowered his voice. "Colonel Hogan...what were you really doing in Berlin?"
"Told you, Schultz, catching up with old friends. Baker's posted there, you know, and Olsen, too. And there's not so many places I can meet up with Marya these days - you remember Marya, right?"
"Oh, ja. The Russian woman. I remember her," replied Schultz emphatically. "I remember that whenever she was around, there was trouble. So if you were seeing her in Berlin, after everything that went on there last year, that means you were up to something I don't want to know about."
"See, Schultz? Nothing's really changed." Hogan stretched out his legs, and crossed one ankle over the other. "I met another old friend while I was there, too. Did you know Langenscheidt's living there now?"
"No! Karl is in Berlin?" Schultz beamed, and slapped his knee, to Silke's evident disapproval. "I was only just thinking about him. Is he well? Is he happy?"
"He's doing okay, got a job with the railways. And Baker tells me he's got a girlfriend, but he's a bit coy about her. She's a nurse, apparently, in a repatriation hospital for former POWs. And that turned out to be a bit of a lucky break." Hogan cocked an eye at his former enemy. "See, Langenscheidt sometimes picks her up at the hospital, and he's gotten into the habit of talking to some of the patients while he's waiting for her to finish her shift. They tell him all about how they were captured, and what happened to them afterwards. Kind of a release for the poor guys, you know. Anyway, there was this one man - Hans Müller, he was called. He didn't seem to have any family, or anyone to visit him, so Langenscheidt ended up calling on him a few times, and after a while he started talking. It turned out he had been with the Fourth Panzers." He paused, as if selecting his words with care. "Schultz, did you ever tell Langenscheidt about your son?"
Schultz's throat had gone very dry. He had to take a mouthful of brandy before he could answer. "I never told anyone else, only you and Klink. But I think he told Hilda, and maybe she told Karl."
"Could be. Anyway, when Langenscheidt heard what this man Müller had to say, it rang a bell with him. But he couldn't get Müller to give him the whole story, and he wasn't sure what to do with what he had. Luckily, a couple of days later he happened to meet Olsen on the subway - U-Bahn, I mean - anyway, they ended up going somewhere for a drink, and he told Olsen all about it. Now, Olsen never knew you asked me to see what I could find out about your son, but Baker did, and when he heard about it - well, he knew I was on my way to Berlin, so he passed it on to me."
Hogan looked up, with a gleam in his eyes; and Schultz's heart gave a sudden lurch. "Colonel Hogan..."
"It's a sad story, Schultz," said Hogan. "I went to see Müller myself, but it took a long time for him to open up about it. I suppose you've heard all about what it was like on the Eastern Front, and some of the things that went on, on both sides. I don't want to get into that, but Müller, and a couple of his buddies, were pretty horrified by what they saw. But it was the army, and they had only a couple of choices - follow orders, or be court-martialled and probably shot. Or they could do what Müller and his pals did. They deserted."
"Friedrich was one of them. Sorry, Schultz, I guess it's not that easy for you to hear."
"No, I would rather it was that way," replied Schultz, after a long silence. "Oh, my poor little boy. I should never have let him go." He covered his eyes for a moment, then sighed, and tightened his hold on Silke. "Colonel Hogan, what happened to them?"
Hogan kept a close watch on him, as he went on with the story. "They were overtaken by the Russian advance, west of Kiev, and taken prisoner. Friedrich, along with Hans Müller, ended up in a labour camp, somewhere north of Smolensk. They were there for about four months, then one day they managed to break off from a work detail, and made a run for it. Somehow, they stayed out of the way of the Russians, and they got as far as Poland. But they didn't dare finish the trip. They knew what to expect from their own army, regardless of whether they were considered as deserters or as possible Soviet spies. So they stopped right where they were, and hid out in an abandoned farmhouse in the White Forest. Müller says he was there for about four years, till he finally figured out the war was over, and started walking west."
He paused, but Schultz just stared at him, eyes wide and mouth slightly agape. So Hogan went on, very softly. "Of course, you'd think he'd head straight for home, but he's been gone a long time, Schultz. He didn't know whether his people were still alive, and even if they were, he was so afraid they'd be ashamed of him, or think he'd gone over to the Russians or something, that he just couldn't face it."
"What about Friedrich?" Schultz broke in. "Why did his friend leave him behind?"
"He didn't exactly do that, Schultz. The thing is, it got pretty cold in winter, and they weren't exactly in peak condition, so when one of them got sick...well..."
There was a long silence.
"You're telling me, Friedrich died," Schultz faltered at last.
Hogan shook his head. "No, Schultz. That's the thing. That's what he finally admitted to Langenscheidt. It was Hans Müller who died. Friedrich borrowed his name, when he finally made it to Germany, because he was afraid to use his own in case anyone recognised him. But he felt so guilty about taking his friend's identity, he finally had to confess to someone, and it was just sheer good luck that that someone happened to be Langenscheidt. Otherwise we might never have found out that Hans Müller was really..."
"Colonel Hogan, please...please, don't say it," stammered Schultz. "Not unless it's true. Not unless you're sure."
"I talked to him for a long time, Schultz," replied Hogan, "and I'm absolutely sure."
"Where is he now?" Schultz clasped both arms around Silke. "I can leave for Berlin in an hour, if you tell me where I must go. The train..."
"Schultz." Hogan didn't raise his voice, but Schultz fell silent immediately. "He wouldn't come in, till I told you the story. He's still half-convinced that you won't want to see him, after everything that happened. He's waiting outside, in my car. Go and bring him home, Schultz."
For almost half a minute, except for the rapid blinking of his eyes, Schultz didn't move. Then he gently lifted Silke from his knee, and stood up. As if in a dream, he went to the door; turned back for a moment, as if there was a question he needed to ask but didn't know how; then, with the look of a man afraid to believe, he went out, with the little girl pattering behind him. Hogan finished his brandy, then followed.
Schultz had reached the street. He stood for a moment, gazing at the man who had been hesitating at the threshold. A big man, tall and heavy-framed, though pared down by the privation of years; with a look in his blue eyes of such anxious longing, that it seemed he could hardly bear it.
"Oh, Friedrich," said Schultz, and held out his arms.
Silke, watching from halfway down the stairs, probably thought it was all wrong, seeing Opa hugging a stranger; but as far as Hogan was concerned, it was about as right as it could get.