A/N: I do not own Hogan's Heroes nor any of its characters, but I do the DVDs and enjoy watching them daily. Only the OCs are mine. The character of Master Sergeant Matt Wilkerson is used with the permission of his creator Jennaya, but will not appear until later in the story. This idea has been rattling around in my head and I thought I would write it. This story takes place near the end of 1944.
Lost In The Darkness
Hours had passed after lights out in barracks two, and everything was quiet for the most part. And although the men were all lying in their bunks, none of them were sleeping. They all lay awake either staring at the ceiling or the walls, each man grieving in silence; mourning the loss of their commanding officer, Colonel Robert Hogan. And while the loss of Hogan devastated everyone, the way they lost him hurt the most because nobody saw it coming. Only one man, Staff Sergeant James Kinchloe, wasn't in his bunk tonight; instead, he sat alone in Hogan's office where he felt somehow closer to his commanding officer.
He was seated at Hogan's desk, in the dark, except for a thin sliver of moonlight filtering between the closed shutters supplying a dim light in the room. But it supplied enough that if somebody else had been present, they would have seen the tears cascading down Kinch's cheeks, falling faster than he could wipe them away. He didn't know which was more unbearable; the grief or the guilt. In the end, he decided both were equally unbearable. And though he knew all the men in camp were grieving, he, LeBeau, Carter and Newkirk all took it harder than the others did because they were Hogan's core unit, and felt it was their responsibility to look out for their Colonel, and should have seen what was happening. Exhaling deeply, he lifted his puffy, red eyes to the ceiling and swallowed the growing lump that had formed in his throat.
"We failed you, Colonel," he said in a shaky voice. "We were so busy we never took the time to really notice what was happening. And when you really needed us, we weren't there for you." He wiped his face again. "During the past six months we didn't pay close enough attention; didn't see what was happening right in front of our faces. Perhaps if we had, we could have done something. But we didn't, and for that we are truly sorry." He took in and let out a deep breath. "I only hope we did the right thing in the end." His lower lip began to tremble. "Colonel, I am so, so sorry."
(Two Months Earlier)
Kinch, Carter, LeBeau and Newkirk were all sitting on the bench outside barracks two enjoying the warm sunshine when the door to their barracks opened and out stepped Colonel Hogan. He leaned his back against the wall of the barracks with legs crossed at the ankles and arms folded across his chest. With head tilted to the side, he stared with an amused grin on his face as he watched the other prisoners out in the compound engaging in various sports-related activities during their one hour of daily exercise. He chuckled watching Olsen miss a return shot during a volleyball game and ended up chasing the ball as it sailed over his head and bounded away in the direction of the Kommandantur. He also noticed Baker tossing a football around with Saunders.
Hogan turned his head and looked over at his team with a curious expression. Carter leaning back against the barracks with eyes closed and holding a tin plate in each hand trying to get some sun while LeBeau, Kinch and Newkirk watched the other prisoners.
"How come you guys aren't out there with the others?" the Colonel asked.
The diminutive Frenchman smiled as he looked up into Hogan's face and saw the shadows beneath the man's brown eyes and sensed the Colonel should use the time to catch up on some much needed sleep as London had kept them extremely busy the last few weeks without a break. "We thought we'd sit this one out, Colonel," he replied in a low voice as the guards were walking around watching all the prisoners. "Besides, we had enough exercise the last few weeks anyway."
"No argument there," Hogan agreed. He put the back of his hand in front of his mouth to hide the yawn which didn't go unnoticed by Newkirk, Kinch and LeBeau.
"Why don't you go and lay down for a while, Colonel?" Kinch asked. "You look like you could use some sleep."
Hogan smirked. "I'm all right. Besides, I never sleep during the day." He suddenly straightened. "Looks like we have company."
With the exception of Carter, the others followed the Colonel's eyes in the direction of the main gates and watched a truck driving through the gates and stop in front of the Kommandantur. They continued watching as two Luftwaffe guards, armed with rifles, jump down from the back of the truck, and gesture with their weapons for whoever was inside to come out.
One by one three men jumped out of the truck, and although their wrists and ankles were shackled, the chains allowed a bit of leeway as they jumped down.
"Wonder where they found them?" asked LeBeau.
"Good question," said Newkirk. "We didn't hear any planes being shot down or any escapes from other Stalags, did we Kinch?"
"Not a word," the radioman replied. He gazed up at his commanding officer. "You hear anything from London about any new prisoners, sir?" Hogan didn't seem to be paying attention as his eyes were focused on a fourth man who had just jumped down from the truck. It can't be, Hogan thought, it isn't possible. The man appeared a bit younger than the others, and he looked nervously around at his surroundings before his eyes met those of the man outside the barracks wearing a brown leather flight jacket and a crush cap like his own. "He looks so familiar. Could it be?" he said to himself. But he was too far away, and couldn't be certain without a closer look. He glanced over his shoulder one last time and looked at the man in the leather jacket as he and the others were shoved up the steps of the Kommandantur and inside the building by the guards.
"Colonel?" asked Kinch, concerned. "You okay? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"I don't believe it," Hogan replied with complete shock on his face. "It can't be."
"Can't be what, Colonel?" asked Carter who still had his eyes closed and holding the tin plates.
Instead of answering, Hogan hurriedly walked across the compound and bounded up the steps of the Kommandantur. Smiling at Hilda, he winked at her and she blushed as she shyly smiled back at the American. He wished he had time for a little inner-office romance, but there was something more important right now. Not bothering to knock, Hogan opened the door of Klink's inner office and entered, mindful of the two armed guards who quickly turned their rifles in his direction. Hogan paused quickly taking in the situation.
Klink, exasperated, looked up at the interruption. "Hogan, what are you doing here? I don't recall sending for you." He gestured to the guards to lower their weapons which caused Hogan to release the breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. He looked at the four men who had been watching him the entire time. But he kept his face impassive even when he glanced at the younger man's flight jacket and the name tag reading 'Lt. T.M. Carpenter.' Hogan let out a deep breath and faced Klink.
"I try to predict your every wish, Kommandant," Hogan said with a smirk. "You're aware I aim to please at all times."
Klink rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Since you're here, you might as well stay," he said before turning back to the new prisoners. During his conversation with Hogan, the guards had released the shackles on the ankles and wrists of the prisoners. Klink stared hard at the four men standing before him with a smug expression. "This is Colonel Hogan, Senior POW officer," Klink said gesturing to Hogan. He then turned his attention back to the prisoners. "Now gentlemen, you have been brought to the toughest POW camp in all of Germany."
Hogan looked amused. "And there's never been a successful escape either," he chimed in, his voice just above a whisper.
"And there's never been…" Klink continued. "Hogaaaaaannnnn!"
Hogan feigned hurt feelings. "Trying to speed things up, sir," he said innocently.
"I don't need your help!" Klink said. "I'm the Kommandant here!"
"Kommandant, maybe you should have cards printed up and hand them out when new prisoners drop in," Hogan suggested innocently. "It would save time."
"Hogan, one more word out of you and I'll have you removed from this office."
"Well," Hogan said in a huff, momentarily looking away. He winked at the four men who were finding the interaction between the two Colonels both amusing and strange.
Klink turned back to the men in front of him. "What Colonel Hogan says is quite true. There has never been a successful escape from this camp. And you four would do well to remember that."
"All right, Lieutenant. You will tell me where you are stationed and what unit you are with in England." Klink's eyes focused on the young Lieutenant.
Carpenter turned his green eyes towards Hogan who subtly shook his head. "Remember, name, rank, and serial number," said Hogan.
The Lieutenant swallowed hard, stood at attention with hands clasped behind him and looked straight ahead at a spot on the wall behind Klink.
"Carpenter. Terry. Lieutenant. Serial number 0871519."
Klink slammed both hands down on his desk and slowly got to his feet. "Let's not have any of that name, rank, and serial number nonsense." He looked at the other men. "Now I want to know where you are stationed, what unit you are with, and I want to know now."
The Corporal standing beside Carpenter noticed Hogan subtly shake his head. He stared at a blank spot on the wall behind Klink. "Toller. Michael. Corporal. Serial number 0451582."
"Segal. Maxwell. Staff Sergeant. Serial number 0412959."
"Dray. Walter. Sergeant. Serial number 0376514," stated the slightly older Sergeant standing close to Segal.
Klink slowly walked around his desk until he stood directly before the new prisoners. He sat on the edge of the desk with arms folded across his chest; his version of a menacing expression on his face. Hogan bit his tongue to keep from busting out laughing at the Kommandant's attempt to look fierce and hopefully scare the new prisoners.
"We have ways of making you talk," he growled staring hard at each man.
While the Kommandant babbled on and on, Carpenter looked out the corner of his eye at Hogan, thumbs hooked in his jacket pockets, looking up at the ceiling and shaking his head. The Lieutenant fought hard to hide the amused grin on his face, but it did not escape Klink.
"You find that funny, Lieutenant?" the Kommandant asked as he got to his feet and stood face-to-face with the young man.
"No, sir," Carpenter replied eyes still staring straight ahead and not at Klink.
"Very well," Klink remarked turning away and walking back behind his desk where he continued standing. "We'll give all of you time to change your minds. Schuuuuulllltz!"
The door opened, and the rotund figure of Sergeant Hans Schultz entered, saluting. "You called for me, Herr Kommandant?"
"Yes, Dummkopf. I want these men all put in solitary for one week. Then we'll see how talkative they become."
"Jawohl, Herr Kommandant." Schultz advanced but was stopped by Hogan's hand on his chest.
"Just a moment, Kommandant," the American officer said. "As Senior officer of the prisoners, I must protest you putting these men in solitary. It's inhuman and barbaric. And totally unlike you."
"It is?" Schultz asked with raised eyebrows.
"Yes it is, Schultz," Hogan continued. "Everybody knows Colonel Klink is the most humane, gentle, and caring Kommandant to ever run a prison camp. And to see you act like, like a sadistic monster…well, I'm stunned. Simply stunned by this act."
Klink looked at his American counterpart with a stricken look on his face. "Well, if I can't put them in solitary, what can I do with them?"
Hogan wrapped his arms around himself and pursed his lips. "Well, perhaps you could assign them to a barracks. I mean, every new prisoner knows a camp Kommandant is gonna put them in solitary at first. But, by assigning them to a barracks instead would throw them for a loop, sir."
"And that's a good thing how?" asked a puzzled Klink.
"Well, sir, they won't know what to make of your actions. They'll become confused and probably more cooperative with the Iron Colonel for showing mercy being the generous man you are. But I'm aware once you make up your mind about something, nothing and nobody can change it."
Klink's chest was puffed out over Hogan's praise as a smug smirk appeared on his face. "Hogan, since the men think so highly of me, I'm going to change my orders. Schultz, you will assign these men to a barracks instead."
"Jawohl, Herr Kommandant," said the guard knowing quite well what Hogan was doing and just shook his head.
"Just one more thing, Kommandant," said Hogan as Schultz opened the door preparing to escort the prisoners out.
"What is it now, Hogan?" Klink asked as he sat down behind his desk.
"Sir, when these men are assigned to a barracks, do you think it would be too much to ask that Lt. Carpenter be assigned to barracks two? I mean, I have a spare bunk in my quarters."
Klink looked at Hogan suspiciously, and again got to his feet and approached the American. "And just why do you want to have Lt. Carpenter assigned to your barracks? I can read you like a book, Hogan. You're up to something. Now speak up before I change my mind."
Hogan shrugged and looked embarrassed. "Well, sir, it's embarrassing really. But I'm kinda tired of being in my quarters and having conversations with myself. I'd like another officer with whom to have a conversation. I mean, there are certain things an officer can't discuss with those in his command. I'm sure you know what I mean, sir. You have no idea how lonely it gets being the only officer here other than you, sir." Hogan gave his best puppy-dog expression. "I'm sure you're aware how lonely it is at the top, sir," he added sadly.
Klink felt he was about to cry as he gazed in to Hogan's sad brown eyes. He didn't notice Schultz rolling his eyes knowing the American Colonel was conning the Kommandant again. "Very well, Hogan. Lieutenant Carpenter can room with you in barracks two." He looked at his Sergeant-of-the-Guard. "See to it, Schultz."
Hogan smiled like a kid in a candy store. "Thank you, Kommandant," he said happily.
Klink slowly sat back down and started organizing the papers on his desk. "All right. All right. All right. You're welcome. Now get out. I have work to do."
"Yes, sir," Hogan replied with a sloppy salute before he followed the prisoners out of the office with Schultz behind them. Nobody noticed the smirk on his face as he left the Kommandantur with the others.
It was ten minutes after Schultz departed barracks two having informed the prisoners that Lieutenant Carpenter was assigned to the barracks by order of the Kommandant. Hogan glanced at his core unit as they eyed the new man with both curiosity and suspicion. Then, with arms folded around himself and a stern look on his face, Hogan turned his back on the Lieutenant and took a few steps away from the man, turned, then faced the younger man again.
"Stand at attention, Lieutenant," Hogan ordered with authority.
"Yes, sir," Carpenter said standing ramrod straight and saluting. He wondered what Hogan was doing.
Suddenly, Hogan approached the Lieutenant and allowed a smile to appear although the twinkle was gone from his brown eyes. "At ease, Terry," he said.
Smiling, Carpenter lowered his arm and stood at ease; then, he and Hogan hugged each other, slapping each other on the back before pulling apart.
"What are you doing here?" Hogan asked. "Last time I saw you, you were a junior in high school."
"That was a long time ago, Colonel," Carpenter replied with a grin. "And as far as what am I doing here, I should be asking you why are you in a camp for Noncoms?"
Hogan smirked. "The Krauts figured I would stop trying to escape if I was responsible for other men." He then became serious. "How's your father been?"
"He's doing well. Got promoted to Brigadier."
Hogan smiled. "Always believed your dad would make General one day. When did that happen?"
Terry exhaled deeply causing Hogan to sense something was very wrong. "Dad was badly injured during a confrontation with several Messerschmidt during a battle over London. He was hit in the knee by shrapnel and glass after his plane had been hit by enemy fire. He barely made it back to base. For a while they thought he might lose the leg entirely, and though he managed to recover, he couldn't fly anymore as he needs a cane to help him walk. He has a permanent limp due to the knee injury. Ironically, it was the same day that you were shot down over Germany."
Hogan swallowed the building lump in his throat. "I'm sorry to hear that," he said. "Your father was one of the best pilots I'd ever seen. But he is all right otherwise?"
"Yes, sir," said Terry. "In fact, shortly after his promotion, he was assigned to work with a General Butler. He seemed like an okay guy. You know him?"
Before Hogan could reply, Newkirk interrupted. "Beggin' the Colonel's pardon, but is it safe to say you two know each other?"
Hogan chuckled. "Sorry, fellas. This is Lieutenant Terrance Michael Carpenter…my godson."