"Well, Major. It looks like we have come full circle." Intelligence officer James Grote stared at Hochstetter, figuring he would get no response. As usual, the Gestapo officer stared back at the intelligence officer. This was the game they had played for the last several days. "I see as usual, the cat has your tongue. So let me give it to you straight. Your cooperation has not been forthcoming. Your excuses have not been believed. And what little information you have given has been useless. So unless you have anything else to give me, in say, the next hour, we are having you transferred back to a prison camp in Germany to await trial for war crimes. Luckily, you were found in American territory. "Grote laughed. "I guess if you had been stupid and fled east, your fate would be much different."
Hochstetter inwardly shuddered at the thought of dealing with the Russians, as Grote continued. "I see you have calmed down a bit, since your last visit with the doctor."
"Your fetish concerning our Allied officer and his supposed shenanigans have disappeared, I take it?"
"I suppose." Until I escape, track him down, and make him pay for this humiliation.
"Are you sure?"
"I pretty much learned to read his moods and tone. His eyes. Call it survival." Hogan poked Wembley on the arm. "Look at his fingers." Hochstetter's right thumb was stroking his right index finger. "It's a nervous habit."
"He could read him like a book, sir," Carter said to Wembley.
"No doubt, Lieutenant."
Wembley went over to the phone, while Hogan continued watching the interrogation through the one-way mirror. He saw Grote pick up the receiver; listen for a moment and then put it down. Thinking back to his previous meeting with Wembley and Grote, just a short time ago, he let out a small smile. After the rescue of Boswell and Garrett, and a good night's sleep, Kinch had contacted him and requested that Hogan, Carter and Newkirk attend an urgent meeting at operation headquarters.
Hogan was asked to take a seat upon entering the conference room.He noticed Wembley's hand clasped around a rather thick file.
"We wanted to wait to show you this until after your meeting to with the prime minister, but due to war matters, that meeting has been delayed," Wembley told Hogan.
"Hochstetter's file." Hogan realized being told to sit down was not a good sign. He looked at Kinch and LeBeau. Both showed no emotion, and gave no sign of what was in the large file Wembley pushed over to him.
"Take it easy, sir," Kinch whispered.
"I take it Carter and Newkirk can look at this?" Hogan asked, making the assumption that Kinch and LeBeau were already familiar with the contents.
The top of the file gave no indication of what was inside. Hogan, with Carter and Newkirk looking over his shoulder, opened up the file and began to read.
He did not have a heart attack. In fact, Hogan was relieved that he had not been pulled in to hear that Hochstetter had killed or captured more of the underground members working around Stalag 13. "It's a good thing your full report comes first. " he said several minutes later. Letting out a deep breath, he shut the file. He was awfully close."
"Blimey," was all Newkirk could say, while Carter sat down, and remained speechless.
"Well, chaps. You took it much better than I thought you would." Without a word, Wembley picked up the file. "Tea?"
"I think I need something a lot stronger," Hogan replied.
Hogan chuckled as he recalled the normally unflappable Wembley call for the nearest bottle of liquid that packed a punch.
"Very well." Grote shut the file folder. "Guard, take him back to his cell. Oh, and Hochstetter, try to recall any names of interest in the next hour. I don't think you will find your return to your country very pleasant. We can't guarantee anyone's safety until your leaders offer a total surrender."
"Is that a threat?"
"No. Of course not. We are more civilized than that. Our people are also at risk. Remember that." As the stenographer packed up her equipment and the recording stopped, Grote left the interrogation area, and entered the room where Hogan, Wembley, and Hogan's core team waited to see what their nemesis had to say.
"What's next?" Hogan asked Grote.
"He's as tight as a clam shell. But we do have one more ace up our sleeve. I didn't wish to get him involved, however."
"I think he might want to have a go, sir. After all, he could have been killed. Have you approached him?" Newkirk asked the intelligence officer.
"Most definitely," Wembley answered for Grote. "And he is willing; and he has the go-ahead from above."
"Let's do it," Grote decided. "Oh, I wanted to let you know that George Shamsky has been an absolute chatterbox. Seems he and his sister have had a falling out."
"Bien sur. She abandoned him." LeBeau shook his head. "I would never abandon my brothers or sister. We are family."
"That's right, Louis." Newkirk thought of his sister at that moment.
"Sure like to know how Maria got through the fail-safes and made it to the OSS," Kinch said. "Especially since all the other agents in Britain were caught and turned." (1)
"That may take a while. At least she was a sleeper, and thank goodness she wasn't assigned to translate anything top secret. I'm sure some heads will roll," Grote said as he smiled.
Hochstetter sat in his cell, sulking. Occasionally, a new prisoner would walk by; however, no one spoke to him, or with him. A nearby female prisoner spoke a few German words; she was obviously agitated and angry, but she was quickly told to be quiet, and so he was never able to discover who she was or why she was there. A German speaking attorney came by for a moment, only to inform Hochstetter that after his transfer, he would be assigned counsel, something the Gestapo agent should be grateful for, considering the political victims of the Nazi regime never had a fair trial.
After about forty-five minutes, a guard approached Hochstetter's cell, and escorted him out. "It's early."
"You're not leaving yet. Taking you back to interrogation. Seems you have a visitor."
At this, Hochstetter raised his eyebrows. "Who?"
"Don't know, don't care." The guard saw Hochstetter to the interrogation room, and shackled him to the table. He then stood at attention by the closed door.
Hochstetter was facing the back wall, and could not see who entered the room when the door opened. When the visitor's face came into view, he tried to rise in shock, but the shackles kept him down. "You!" he cried in frustration.
"Hello, Hochstetter." Group Captain James Roberts took the seat opposite the major, and offered a pleasant smile. "I see you have been treated very well. More so than you deserve, I might add." He leaned back in his seat and crossed his legs.
"Hogan got you out. He knew all along. Didn't he?" Hochstetter sneered at the British officer.
"Actually, you are correct."
"Ha! I knew it. He had everyone on his side. Klink, Burkhalter. He was…"
"Hold on there, Hochstetter. You are getting ahead of yourself. Klink on his side?" Roberts laughed. "That fool? Although to give the man credit, he was good at his job. Too good. Did you know that there was never a successful escape from Stalag 13? Except for myself, of course. But, I doubt that was reported."
Hochstetter's face turned red.
"Sorry, of course you did. Klink must have been insufferable. What an ego. But I digress. Let me tell you the facts. My good friend of many years, Robert Hogan, immediately ascertained that your agent was an imposter. Do you really think that looks and the proper tone of voice are everything? I will let you in on a secret. If you do not want a prisoner to get suspicious, don't make it obvious that their voice is being recorded, and that their face is being photographed from all angles. I told Hogan about my interrogations after I was captured. But you should recall that part of our conversation. The room was bugged. Any fool would have checked for listening devices. Hogan is very astute. And he would also know that any prisoner would be patted down. The wire cutters would have been discovered. Bauman gave himself away. Of course, even without knowing about the recordings and photographs, Hogan would have been suspicious, once Bauman and he interacted for more than a few moments." Roberts shook his head, and then lit a cigarette.
Of course. And Hogan is no fool. "You were taken to the cooler."
"To await a very unpleasant fate, I assumed. If you are planning on posing as someone, and the goal is to assassinate the prime minister, don't tell the prisoner the plans. You laid it all out there. Of course, by then, I knew I had to somehow stop this, even if it cost me my life. Hogan didn't know why I was being replaced, but he knew it had to be for some heinous act. Oh, and by the way, you had guards escort me to the cooler. Did you honestly think no one would notice? How did you get to be in charge of the Gestapo office, by the way? Very sloppy on your part. Yes, indeed. A few prisoners noticed. And the guards posted outside the cooler made it way too obvious. All it took was for one of the prisoners to bribe some guards, and out I went. Right over to Hogan's barracks. And that's how I made it out. I was now the imposter who was supposed to escape, so I just went under the wire. It was as easy as taking candy from a baby. Or giving candy to that fat guard, what was his name?"
"Schultz." Hochstetter began to sweat.
"Yes. I wanted to show you that I made it back to England safe and sound."
"I already had guessed that," Hochstetter sneered.
"Yes, well. So what do you have to say for yourself?"
"I say nothing. I did it for the fuehrer." Hochstetter gave Roberts a defiant look.
"You were captured and are being charged as a chief of a local Gestapo office. Add to that, aiding and abetting an assassination plot. Conspiracy to commit murder of the head of the British government, conspiracy to commit murder against a prisoner of war. That would be yours truly. Violation of multiple acts of the Geneva convention."
"I didn't come up with the plot. I just provided the final transport." Hochstetter knew when he was defeated.
"Ah." Roberts leaned forward. "Perhaps we can reduce some of these charges. Just let us know who was involved in the planning and execution."
"Well, Klink was involved. He knew very well what was in store for you."
This threw Roberts. Hogan and those watching the interrogation were also floored by Hochstetter's accusation.
"This was true." Grote made a statement, not a question. He had read Roberts' full report, as had Wembley, who had also interviewed Roberts on his return.
"Hochstetter, Klink was so terrified of the Gestapo that he would have thrown his own mother under the bus." This was Roberts counterattack. "Klink is not here in custody at the moment. He is in a POW camp. I am sure the authorities will take care of him, and they will take a careful look at Colonel Hogan's debriefing. This is your neck, as the expression says."
"Good save." Hogan gave his friend a thumbs up, although he knew Roberts could not see it through the wall.
"Your call, Hochstetter. I'm getting impatient."
Hochstetter's act of defiance came to a sudden an ignominious end. "Himmler. It came out of his office."
"You're willing to talk?" Roberts asked. "Give us the names of everyone. The plastic surgeon, the interrogators, the men who worked with Himmler on the plot."
"Very well. I'll call in Mr. Grote Oh. I do have regards for you from Colonel Hogan. I spoke with him over the phone. He's doing well, as are the rest of the prisoners. He did say to tell you that it was time to stop chasing after windmills."
Hochstetter looked up from the table and watched Roberts leave the room. He then took a deep breath and sighed.
"Robbie." Hogan held out his hand to his friend, and offered his friend an enthusiastic handshake. "Thanks for not spilling the beans."
"It wasn't easy." Roberts faced Hogan's men. "Good to see you all again, especially in better circumstances." He nodded at Grote, who left the room and entered the interrogation area. "Are you sure you don't want to pay our star prisoner a visit? It might do something for his morale," he said, half-joking.
"Ruin it, I think." Hogan answered. "Actually, I haven't received the okay from the boss. So for now, Hochstetter can think what he wants. Like you said, you spoke with me on the phone, and I'm still in France."
"Your friends are all right, I take it?"
"No lasting harm done. They're taking some time off and resting in their flat. You know, I hope that Hochstetter eventually gets what he deserves. He's responsible for killing and torturing members of the underground. I'm not too comfortable with bargaining for names. There's no guarantee they'll catch these people."
"That's true," Roberts agreed. "But, he'll have his day in court. That's the best we can do. By the way, whatever happened to Bauman? I figured that somehow you would have managed to apprehend him and send him back to London."
"Actually, that was the plan. But he was a fanatic that was willing to go on a suicide mission. After he realized he had failed, he took a cyanide capsule. He had no future."
"That's good. I would have hated the thought of someone that looks like me still running around. Could make for some awkward conversations." Roberts looked at his watch. "I have to run. I'll try and reschedule the meeting with the prime minister but I can't promise anything at this point."
"That's all right, sir. He must be busy." Carter said.
"Not that we can tell our families about it anyway," Newkirk said, although he looked a bit disappointed.
"One day, Newkirk. One day. C'mon." Hogan said. "I'll buy you all a beer."
(1) German attempts to infiltrate Britain with spies was unsuccessful. The BBC website has an interesting article on how many German spies were caught and turned into double agents.
the backstory in this chapter comes from "A Funny Thing Happened on the way to London." I added some details to make the episode more plausible.
This is the end of this part of the continuing adventures of OSS agents Todd Boswell and Mitch Garrett. Due to popular demand, an epilogue will be published shortly. I would like to thank all those readers and reviewers who, due to their reaction to "SNAFU," and their words of encouragement, prompted me to continue this series. I have grown very fond of my two OC's, and enjoyed coming up with new ways to have them interact with, and (sometimes) annoy Colonel Hogan.