The rest of the day passed quickly for the men of barracks two. Carpenter had spent a good part of the day down in the tunnels talking with Kinch and Newkirk about what was expected of him tonight. The two men were impressed with the young man's eagerness to do a good job and decrease his mistakes while outside the wire, so they readily explained what to expect.
Following roll call that evening, the Lieutenant followed Newkirk, Kinch and Carter below and into the changing room. Terry found himself becoming excited; but an excitement tempered with nervousness. But the Lieutenant was running right now on adrenaline. He knew Hogan was giving him a chance to show what he could do. Terry secretly hoped if he did a good job, perhaps his godfather would let him stay and make him a permanent member of his unit. He smiled at the thought of working beside the man he grew up admiring the most other than his own father.
The men changed into what they called their 'blacks'. Terry didn't have a set, so the men got permission from Hogan to let Carpenter borrow a spare pair of his blacks as the two men were a similar height and weight. Seated on the bench in front of a locker facing Carpenter, Newkirk opened a jar and scooped a generous amount of grease on his fingers. He reached for the man's face, but Carpenter pulled back staring at the glob of grease.
"What's that?" he asked eyes shifting back and forth.
"We wouldn't want you glowing in the dark now would we, mate?" Newkirk teased putting Carpenter at ease. The young man chuckled and allowed the Englander to start smearing the grease on his face. Both men were so busy neither acknowledged Colonel Hogan enter the room quietly, watching from the doorway. Carter was the first to spot him and grinned.
"We'll be ready in a few minutes boy, I mean sir." The others looked his way and smiled.
Hogan wrapped his arms around himself leaning against the doorway; eyes watching his godson and Newkirk.
"How's he look, Gov'nor?" Newkirk replied now beginning to apply grease to his own face having finished with Carpenter's. He smiled at Hogan.
Hogan chuckled. "Right now I don't think his own mother or father would recognize 'im."
"Very funny," Terry replied stammered.
"Nervous?" Hogan asked with a lop-sided grin.
Terry looked at Hogan and smirked. "I think I'm too scared right now to be nervous. Does that make any sense?"
Hogan smirked. "It does. It's perfectly normal for you to be nervous and scared. This is new to you. Please keep in mind I don't want anybody playing hero tonight. The job is to get the coordinates and get back here. Understood?"
"Good. Before you leave I'll check the area for patrols." Without waiting for a reply, Hogan spun around and left the room. Terry wondered at Hogan's abrupt disappearance.
"I wonder how he's gonna be able to sleep while we're outside the camp," Carpenter commented.
"Sleep?" Kinch asked. "The Colonel won't be sleeping until we're back in camp safely."
"Yeah," Carter added checking his sidearm. "He paces continuously whenever one of us is outside the wire. And if we're late getting back, boy, does he get angry. He's a real worrywart."
Memories of a much younger Robert Hogan pacing the floor came to Terry during the days and nights he was growing up and Hogan was keeping an eye on him for his dad.
"Some things are still the same," he chuckled. He accepted the pistol Carter handed him and stuck it in his belt.
Ready, the men soon joined Hogan who was checking out the area using the makeshift periscope which, above ground, was covered with leaves and foliage. Hogan walked slowly around in a circle making sure he covered all areas. "No patrols or dogs anywhere. Down periscope." He lowered the handles of the periscope followed by the periscope itself. He looked one last time at the men in front of him. "Get going, good luck, and be careful." His eyes followed the men with Terry bringing up the rear, climb up the ladder leading to the tree stump.
Now came the waiting which was something Hogan did not do well. The moment he heard the latch tripped on the hatch of the tree stump, a wave of sadness overwhelmed him again. A wave so powerful, Hogan turned and bolted from the tunnel and up the ladder into the barracks. Right now he needed to be alone. He ignored the men who spoke to him and entered his quarters closing the door behind him. Sensing his emotions were about to get the better of him, he knew he was better off in his quarters. He walked over to and opened the window in his room, and stood gazing out at the compound. Once it was lights out, regulations were that all barracks windows should be closed, so Hogan knew he was in violation by having them open. But with Schultz on duty tonight, he hoped he might get away with it at least a few minutes. He needed to be able to breathe without the walls closing in on him, smothering him.
"Colonel?" a voice called out quietly from behind him. Hogan turned his head to see LeBeau standing inside the doorway holding a cup of hot coffee. The Frenchman was eying the officer. "I made a fresh pot of coffee and thought you might want a cup."
"Thanks," Hogan replied turning back to the open window. "Sit the cup on my desk. I'll get it later."
LeBeau did as ordered before starting back towards the door. Holding the door open slightly, he looked over his shoulder at the American. "They will all be all right, mon Colonel. Your godson will not disappoint you. He will do what you tell him so he doesn't cause you worry. Try and relax. He will make you proud."
Smirking, Hogan closed the windows and the shutters before turning. "I know he will, Louie." Hogan sat down at his desk pulling the coffee cup in front of him. LeBeau closed the door but remained standing in front of it. "Still, I can't help but feel I made a mistake by letting Terry go on this mission. Should anything happen to him…"
"Nothing will happen. Colonel, do you think Kinch, Andre and Pierre would let something happen to the Lieutenant? You always trusted your gut in the past, so you must trust it now. Besides, your godson is a lot like you."
Hogan frowned. "That's not necessarily a good thing."
LeBeau shrugged. "I did not mean that in a negative way. What I mean is he knows how to use his head, and he has good instincts in situations. Also, he could do worse than having you as a role model. You are the man we all strive to be like whether you realize it or not."
Embarrassed, Hogan bowed his head and stared into his coffee cup. "I appreciate the compliment." He took a drink of coffee savoring the hot brew. "I guess I'm somewhat over-protective when it comes to Lieutenant Carpenter. If anybody should discover the link between he and I…and by anybody I mean the Nazis."
"But how can they?" queried the Frenchman. "Nobody knows except the five of us and Wilson, and none of us would say anything. Mon Colonel, do not worry. Lieutenant Carpenter will be fine. Kinch, Carter and Newkirk will keep him safe. I promise you."
"I hope you're right," Hogan sighed. "I promised his father I would protect him as long as he was a prisoner here in Stalag 13."
"And you will," LeBeau assured his commanding officer. He slowly approached the man and placed a hand tentatively on his shoulder. "Colonel, you didn't touch your dinner. I can heat something up if you're hungry."
Hogan allowed the corners of his mouth to curl upward as he looked up into the Frenchman's eyes. The thought of food right now turned his stomach. "I'm not hungry. Thanks anyway. Give the leftovers to Schultz. He'll make sure they don't go to waste."
"Non. I will save it in case you change your mind after they return. You might be hungry then."
Hogan shrugged his shoulders. "Suit yourself."
LeBeau patted the American's shoulder. "Try and get some rest, Colonel. We will let you know when the others return."
"Why bother?" Hogan asked staring at the smaller man. "I'd just end up pacing anyway." He smiled faintly as seeing LeBeau looking at him triggered sudden memories of several months ago.
Hogan turned away hearing the door to his room slam shut. He was surprised to see the small Frenchman standing just inside the room, arms on hips, eyes blazing. The officer figured the two had said everything they had to say earlier.
"Answer me one question," LeBeau hissed. "Is it true?"
Sensing there was going to be another shouting match, Hogan closed and locked the window before facing the smaller man. "Is what true?"
"What Kinch and Newkirk told me."
"Yes," Hogan replied wearily believing LeBeau had heard about which barracks Hogan was sending him. After all, he had mentioned it to Newkirk. "It's what you wanted isn't it?"
"What I want?" LeBeau echoed incredulously. "How can you ask that? How can you consider leaving after I agreed to leave?"
Hogan's eyes narrowed and his eyebrows knitted together. "Who told you I was leaving?"
"Don't deny it. Kinch and Newkirk both told me you intend to tell General Butler you are resigning your command effective at once. How can you do that?"
It suddenly occurred to the American what Kinch and Newkirk were doing. He chuckled and shook his head at their ingenuity.
"What is so funny?"
"LeBeau, I'm not going anywhere. We have been played."
LeBeau looked puzzled. "Played? What means played?"
Hogan walked over to his door grabbing the doorknob. He would demand Carter, Newkirk, and Kinch to come into his room and explain themselves. He turned the knob repeatedly surprised at finding the door would not open. "It appears we have been locked in here."
"Impossible!" cried LeBeau moving past Hogan and gripping the doorknob himself. He began twisting it with no luck either. He banged on the door loudly. "Kinch! Andre! Pierre! Open this door! Let us out of here!" He shouts were met with silence.
Hogan calmly pulled out the chair from his desk, turned it around, and straddled it with arms resting on its back. He watched the Frenchman throw up his arms in exasperation. "Seems they're determined to keep us locked in here as long as necessary."
"Why would they do this?"
"I told you," Hogan reiterated. "We're being played. I have no plans of resigning my command here. I believe Kinch and Newkirk told you I did hoping you would come to my quarters and talk me into changing my mind."
LeBeau looked around with his eyes falling on the window. "Of course. The window." He hurried to the window and tried opening it only to find it wouldn't open. The Frenchman slammed a fist against the frame and muttered several obscenities. "What is so funny?" he asked Hogan who had a smirk on his face.
"I have a feeling one of them jammed the window from the outside after I closed it," Hogan explained. "Looks like we're stuck in here with each other whether you want us to be or not. So, we might as well make the best of it and talk which I believe they intended us to do from the start."
"Incroyable," LeBeau muttered slapping his forehead with an open palm as he plopped down on the lower bunk facing the American. "I cannot believe I could be fooled so easily."
Hogan tilted his head slightly. "Why did you come to see me anyway? I would have thought after we reached a decision, it was a done deal."
"When I heard you were going to resign your command and leave to try to not only keep the unit together, but so I would not have to leave the barracks, I could not allow you to do that." He hung his head shamefully. "It also made me realize what a fool I have been to force you to even consider such a drastic move." He lifted his head, eyes narrowing. "Wait, you told me you are not leaving. Were you telling me the truth, Colonel? You are not leaving us?"
"I promise I am not leaving. But, if that was the only way to keep this unit together I would have considered it in a heartbeat. I am curious though. Why should it matter to you if I stay or leave?"
LeBeau licked his lower lip. "Because I do not want you to leave. It took me realizing we could lose you to understand exactly how much of an ass I have been. I am so sorry for the things I said to you. I was more angry at myself and took it out on you instead. I had no right to speak to you as I did."
Hogan chuckled. "I know that, Louie. Apology accepted. I understood your anger was directed at yourself which is why I let you have your tirade. Normally I would decide on disciplinary measures for your blatant insubordination, but didn't because I wanted you to get it out of your system. And I would rather you direct the bulk of your anger at me than one of the others. But should it happen again I will not be so forgiving. Is that understood?"
"Oui. Merci." But LeBeau still looked worried and cringed. "But Colonel, I called you a murderer to your face."
"I've been called worse," Hogan joked.
"That is no excuse. I had no right to say the things I did to you. You only did what you thought best at the time. What happened wasn't your fault."
Hogan sighed. "I believe I should have foreseen what would happen and been prepared to handle it. I feel like I didn't protect those under my watch."
"Stop right there." LeBeau held up a hand. "How can you even think that, Colonel? You cannot read minds or foresee the future. You were barely able to keep me from getting killed. These things happen in war. What happened was not your fault. You cannot save everybody. We all know every time we go out on an assignment any one of us could die. You need to forgive yourself. We do not want to lose you as our commanding officer. We need you."
Hogan sighed. "Does that include you as well?"
"Oui, mon Colonel. I do not want to leave the team nor this barracks despite what I have told you. My friends and commanding officer are here. I want to stay. That is, if you will still have me after what has happened?"
Hogan chuckled. "Matter of fact, I need a hotheaded Frenchman on my team. Are you interested in the position?"
As a small smile formed on his face, LeBeau nodded his head excitedly. "Oui." But then his smile faded and he looked away slightly. "But what about Klink? What are you going to tell him?"
"I never told Klink anything about you wanting to change barracks. He thinks you received bad news from home and had an argument with Carter." Hogan saw the Frenchman's smile return and turn into a grin.
"Then things are all right between us, mon Colonel?"
Hogan grinned and nodded. "We're better than all right. Welcome back, LeBeau."
"Merci. It is good to be back." LeBeau suddenly shifted and looked down at the floor.
"Something still troubling you?" Hogan asked.
"Oui. I do not feel comfortable not being punished for the things I said to you."
"LeBeau…" Hogan began. He had to admire the Frenchman for wanting to be punished for his impertinence and insubordination.
"I insist, Colonel."
Hogan exhaled. "Very well." He thought for a few minutes then let a grin appear. "How does laundry detail for the next month sound to you?" The officer smirked watching the Frenchman nod eagerly at the agreed upon punishment.
"Merci. Now, do you think we can get Andre, Kinch, and Pierre to let us out of here?"
(End of Flashback)
"Mon Colonel?" LeBeau asked worriedly. He felt as if the American hadn't been listening to him.
"Huh?" Hogan shook his head and looked at the Frenchman as if seeing him for the first time. "I'm sorry. I guess I was thinking of something else for a while. What were you saying?"
"I suggested you should try and get some rest. Something on your mind?"
"Nothing specific," Hogan lied. "Just worrying about Terry. My gut tells me I should not have sent him on this mission but I needed to see what he could do."
LeBeau reached up and rested both hands on Hogan's shoulders. "Do not worry. There's nobody I would trust somebody dear to me with than those three."
Hogan let out a deep breath. "I know you're right. I just wish I could shake this feeling that something is gonna go terribly wrong."