A/N: I don't own Hogan's Heroes and I don't get paid for this; it is truly a labor of love.
Crittendon's version of "The Assassin". Some lines of dialogue from the episode are included.
Upon my return to Stalag 18, I was not at all surprised to find that Kommandant Schubert considered me persona non grata at his camp. Apparently he viewed me as incorrigible for attempting an escape from Stalag 13, which everyone knew was escape-proof. And if that insufferable Colonel Klink wanted nothing to do with me, than neither did he.
So arrangements were made to send me along to Stalag 16. And, as a parting shot, Kommandant Schubert informed me that my brother Nigel was now a prisoner of war at Stalag 2.
Those Jerries could be rather snide, don't you know. Old Schubert took a positive delight in apprising me of Nigel's fate: apparently my brother, who was attached to the British Eighth Army, had been captured in Tunisia some weeks before.
A blow to the Allies, indeed! Nigel was always the clever one of the family, and was something of a military genius; he had told me once of a remarkable plan he had for recruiting partisans in occupied countries and arming them with improvised weapons. He had based his plan on extensive research of the Peninsular War of the past century, and of the guerrilleros of the Spanish countryside who had valiantly fought off Napoleon's troops during that conflict.
And now his brilliance was to be wasted in a ruddy German prison camp! Naturally, I did not allow my dismay to show on my face; I scorned to give Schubert that satisfaction. Stiff upper lip and all that, don't you know. Instead, I accepted my new assignment to Stalag 16 with all the composure I could muster.
And a jolly bunch they were at Stalag 16, to be sure, but not quite the calibre of my comrades at Stalag 18. Quite lax in the escape department they were, as I soon discovered. The Escape Committee was half French and half English, and it appeared they could agree on nothing. But I had had a taste of freedom when the bally fence at Stalag 13 came down, and I was determined to escape in earnest, despite the Committee's rather Laodicean attitude.
So as I was taking a late night toddle about the compound and pondering my next move, who should appear but a couple of lads from Hogan's group, clad all in black and creeping along the fence in a most surreptitious manner. They said they had come to collect Sergeant Gareau, one of the recently captured French chaps. A bit of luck for me, what? I led them to Gareau, and of course I insisted on coming along on their adventure. It was an ingenious scheme they had planned (one could scarcely believe they had broken into Stalag 16, after all), but they clearly lacked leadership: not an officer among them!
At this point in my narrative I am obliged to pause, and admit that I had another reason for insisting on joining their little band. I had reached the altogether unwelcome conclusion that I would never successfully escape on my own, and I viewed the arrival of young Carter and LeBeau as my golden opportunity. Unworthy of me, of course. I shall always hang my head in shame when I think of the proud military heritage of the Crittendons, and how I failed to uphold our noble tradition when I grasped at the chance for escape. Especially when I consider the consequences...
However, the thing was done, and right speedily, too. Hogan's men did not appear excessively pleased to have me along, but I reminded them of my rank, don't you know, and soon we were outside the wire and on our way to jolly old England.
Or so I thought. But my keen sense of direction soon informed me that we were headed on a southeasterly course, not at all the way of reaching the coast! I had just paused to reassess the situation when young Carter approached me respectfully.
"Colonel Crittendon!" he whispered, practically falling at my feet.
"Group Captain, actually," I said with a sigh, and then I gave him a severe look. "What's the hold-up, Carter?"
The lad confessed he wasn't sure which way to go, and I confess I was a trifle impatient with him. Deucedly frustrating it was, just when I had thought Carter had the whole escape notion figured out. "Out of Germany, man!" I told him, with a touch of asperity. "The quickest way possible!"
Carter hesitantly replied, pointing eastward: "But you see, we thought that if you'd go out that way, see, and reconnoitre..."
"That's not the way at all!" I said roundly. "It's lucky I came on this escape; you've been turned around since we left Stalag 16."
"Yes, sir," he said. "Sure was lucky." But I had the oddest impression that he thought it wasn't lucky at all.
I said firmly, "Just follow me, man!"
I led the way through the woods, and we had gone but a few yards when my unbelieving gaze fell on what seemed to be yet another prison camp! There were four Jerries at the gate who started shouting in German and firing their ruddy machine guns in our direction.
"Oh, blast!" I said, for at a time such as this, I am certain one might be pardoned the use of forceful language.
With all the gunfire and dogs barking and whatnot, I was quite taken by surprise when someone or something caught me round the waist and dragged me down into a hole in the ground. Most irregular, I assure you.
The next thing I knew I was in a tunnel. Once I had dusted myself off, I looked at the chap who had dragged me underground, and was surprised to note that he was Sergeant Kinchloe, another of Hogan's men. He appeared to be as surprised as I, and, I am afraid, not at all pleased when he recognised me. In fact, he looked rather annoyed.
"I don't believe it," he muttered.
Young Carter and Corporal LeBeau had followed me down the ladder, and LeBeau said, in a rather ominous tone of voice, "Ah, believe it, Kinch! He insisted on coming with us."
I looked all around me, marvelling; the tunnel was nothing at all like the one Carter and Newkirk had helped me to dig. "This is most impressive! Where are we, chaps?"
Sergeant Kinchloe growled, "We're under Stalag 13." He looked at his two comrades. "Where's Gareau?"
LeBeau flicked me a rather unpleasant look and said, "He was struck by a bullet and the guards captured him."
Carter looked a trifle anxious. "Colonel Hogan sure won't be happy about this."
Kinchloe sighed. "You got that right. But no sense in putting off giving him the bad news. Come on, Colonel, we'll take you to him now."
He led the way through a maze of tunnels and I took in the sights with a sense of wonder. There was a room that held a shortwave apparatus, and a room full of clothing (Jerry uniforms apparently), and a room containing guns, ammunition and what looked like rather a nice selection of explosive devices. We finally reached another ladder, and we all climbed up. I brought up the rear, eventually emerging into one of the prisoners' barracks.
And there was Colonel Hogan, in the flesh.
"Hogan, old boy!" I greeted him, and snapped off a brisk salute. "Good to see you again. I say, fantastic operation you've got going down there, absolutely fantastic!" I eyed him with just a bit of criticism. "Why didn't you tell me about it when I was here before, eh?"
Hogan looked as though he didn't feel at all well, poor chap. "Colonel Crittendon, at that time you said the only duty of a prisoner of war was to escape. And if we were engaged in any more than that, you'd tell the Germans."
"I said that?" I replied, surprised. After I had witnessed the aeroplane taking off from the compound on my last visit, I had so completely reevaluated what constituted my duty in this war that I had quite forgot my initial, rather unbending, attitude. But now it all came back to me, and I had the grace to blush. "Yes, I suppose I did. Should have told me about it, though."
Hogan's voice rose slightly and he looked me in the eye. "All right, I am telling you. We have the most dangerous man in Germany in camp right now. We were bringing in a trained assassin from Stalag 16 to kill him. Instead of that, YOU tag along! The whole operation gets snafued, and our man gets captured. Now I suppose you wanna tell Klink!"
I was appalled that he should leap to that conclusion. "Why would I do a thing like that?"
The poor fellow was becoming a trifle agitated. "Because this and everything else we are doing in this camp is completely against what prisoners of war are supposed to do!"
Well, this was all quite true, of course, but I was in no position to cast stones, as it were. Colonel Hogan had a plan with a praiseworthy goal, and I, all unwitting, had thrown a spanner in the works. In a flash, I realised that there was the only one way I could atone for causing poor Gareau to be captured, and I responded with alacrity.
"Precisely!" I said. "That's what makes it such a smashing good show! Now, tell me about this chap I'm going to do in."
The entire group of prisoners in the barracks slowly turned to gaze at me with a wild surmise.
"You're gonna to do him in?" Hogan said in a disbelieving sort of way.
I tried for the light touch, don't you know; they all looked so dashed serious. Incredulous, in fact. "Well! All in a day's soldiering; can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, can we, what?"
Hogan walked over to confront me directly. "Colonel Crittendon, you've had actual field experience?"
"Tied to a desk job my whole career," I admitted. "So! I could use a keen young fellow like Carter here, and all of those firecrackers he's got down in the cellar."
At this, young Carter, Corporal LeBeau and Corporal Newkirk clustered round me eagerly, each with a suggestion for effecting the demise of the most dangerous man in Germany. Why this chap was so dangerous, I had as yet no idea. Still, one had to admire their fervour.
This was too much for Colonel Hogan, however, and he protested.
"What's up, old boy?" I enquired mildly.
His response was quite strongly worded; he appeared to be labouring under the impression that we were not approaching the problem in the proper spirit, considering the gravity of the situation. I assured him that the utmost level of professionalism would be maintained. He sighed and shook his head, and the lads and I continued our discussion on the best method of doing away with the villain, a scientist by the name of Dr Vanetti.
After devoting a good deal of thought to the matter, I met with young Carter, and under my direction he constructed a crossbow. An ancient design, 'tis true, but most effective; most effective, indeed. Nigel had taught me how to build one when I was but a lad, and I was rather pleased that I was able to recall the detailed instructions he had given me.
"Wow, this is great," Carter said as he put the finishing touches on the weapon. "I know how to build a long bow 'cause that's what my family always uses, but this is gonna be a lot more powerful, I think." He paused in his work and sighed. "Maybe I would've had more luck with this baby than the one I used that one time, when I tried to shoot a flaming arrow into that truck carrying explosives. I ended up hitting the window frame in Colonel Hogan's office instead! Newkirk had to do the job for me in the end...I felt like such a failure. My ancestors would've been ashamed of me for sure."
I regarded the lad with sympathy. How well I knew that feeling, by Jove! "Perhaps you would have been more successful, at that. Very accurate, these crossbows, and silent in the bargain. My brother Nigel considers the crossbow to be an ideal weapon for guerrilla warfare."
Carter examined the mechanism again and lovingly applied a drop of oil. "I don't know 'bout that, Colonel. No gorillas around here, far as I know. But I did hear they have chimpanzees at the Hammelburg Zoo..."
He was interrupted by the arrival of Colonel Hogan, who had the strangest expression on his face.
"Not with a crossbow!" was what he said. Decidedly odd...Hogan did not seem to be at all pleased with our efforts.
"Lovely weapon, you know, a silent killer!" I assured him, and after a bit he grudgingly allowed that it perhaps might have a chance.
"I just found out Vanetti's having dinner with Klink tonight in his quarters," he said. "I'll maneuver him in front of the window, and there'll be a diversion at the other end of the camp. You'll get time for one shot...make it count."
"Right...good as done." I could tell the chap was tense, and as is my wont, I endeavoured to make a little joke to lighten things up a bit, don't you know. But my facetious remark about requiring carrots to aid my night vision didn't seem to help at all.
These chaps from the Colonies have no appreciation of the British sense of humour. And really, what can one expect of people who insist on driving on the wrong side of the road?
Half an hour later, after a bit of awkwardness, Hogan set off for Klink's quarters and I headed for the shadowy corner from which I would launch my attack. I was to take my shot sixty seconds after the firecracker diversion started.
As I waited, crouching there in the dark, the enormity of the task before me loomed large in my mind. Throughout my entire military career I had never had the obligation to personally take the life of another human being. But this man was working on a bomb that might mean defeat for the Allies...my duty had never been more clear! So I steeled myself to the task.
I readied the crossbow, and took careful aim for the open window, which was well-lit and in clear contrast to the surrounding darkness: a jolly good target indeed. After a few moments, the sound of firecrackers exploding could be heard, and I began counting the seconds. As soon as the figure of an unfamiliar man appeared in the window, I pulled the trigger. But even as the arrow was released, the man was somehow knocked to the floor and out of the line of fire. I watched aghast as the arrow slammed home into a door across the room, pinning Colonel Klink's cap to it.
Fortunately Colonel Klink, who had entered the room at the moment I fired the crossbow, was unhurt. But my target had escaped, and I had failed. I felt a sudden rush of relief that I had not, after all, killed a man, but I thrust it aside: there was still a job to be done. The villain was still at large, and free to continue his diabolical plans.
I had to try again.
The following day, I had quite the row with Colonel Hogan regarding Dr Vanetti's continued existence. He wanted to scrap the assassination plan; Vanetti had told him that he did not want to build the atomic bomb for the Nazis, and that he desired to escape to England instead. I was far more suspicious than the foolishly trusting Hogan; this was no doubt a clever Jerry trick, and we should be remiss in our duty if we fell for it. In the event, I had to pull rank on the poor fellow in order to carry out the mission. And I was determined that this time I would not fail.
So I conferred with young Carter again. "I expect you chaps have had occasion to rid yourselves of undesirables in the past. How did you accomplish this, without bringing suspicion on your operation here in camp?"
"Well, gee, sir, a nice bomb usually does the trick..."
"Then that's what we'll use, man!" I told him. "It fits in nicely with Vanetti's work, too, don't you see? This blighter is building the world's most lethal bomb; if it appears as though he has blown himself up, well, that's the risk he runs for having the temerity to create such things. And it should destroy any evidence of our involvement as well."
Carter was enthusiastic, but his efforts to produce the perfect bomb for the task were not entirely successful; in fact, I had increasing fears that he might blow himself up in the process. I confess I was somewhat relieved when, finally, Hogan took me aside to propose an alternate plan.
"I've decided you're right, Crittendon, but I've got a better idea than using explosives," he said. "Vanetti needs to be taken care of, and we'll get him out of camp to do it. So we'll have you dress up as a Kraut, take a little ride with Vanetti, and shoot him at close range. Then you take off cross-country, and head for England. They won't dare put you behind a desk again!"
How could I refuse, after my insistence that the assassination must be carried out? I was provided with a German army uniform, a Luger, and detailed instructions, but I had my doubts.
"You're sure this is a better way, Hogan?"
"Better? It's perfect!" Hogan assured me. "Forged papers from Berlin, our own men in a staff car...all you have to do is take Vanetti out, and let him have it."
I gulped. The implications of actually taking another chap's life were haunting me again, but this time I would be face to face with my victim, looking him in the eye, dash it! "Just...ah...let him have it. You're sure he's not on our side?"
Hogan told me I had convinced him of Vanetti's perfidy, and so I had no choice but to carry out the plan. I crossed the compound in the darkness to climb into the staff car alongside Vanetti, who was muffled to the eyes in scarf, hat and overcoat.
The car started up and soon we were outside the gates. We sat in silence for a time as the car drove on in the dark, and I glanced anxiously at the man seated beside me, with my heart as heavy as the weapon in my pocket. But I knew my duty, and after a few minutes, I had the driver pull over. I turned to confront my companion, pulling the Luger out with one trembling hand. And then I realised something...
I gasped. "You're not Vanetti, you're Klink!"
Klink said, "Of course I am..." He babbled on in a nervous manner for a few moments, then he peered at me more closely. "Haven't we met before?"
I muttered, "Ah...I just remembered an appointment," and hastily exited the car.
Klink's agitated voice followed me. "Guards! Driver! He's an escapee from Stalag 16! Capture him!"
Even as I fled, I wondered how Klink knew I had escaped from Stalag 16 (since he had returned me to Stalag 18 on our previous acquaintance), but I felt absolutely no desire to go back and ask him.
What did it all mean? It wasn't until much later that I found out that Dr Vanetti was indeed seeking to escape Germany before he could be forced to create a bomb for the Nazis, and that Colonel Hogan had enabled him to escape through the tunnel system. Hogan and his men made it appear Vanetti had died in an explosion at camp, utilizing one of young Carter's bombs, just as I had planned! Except Vanetti was in no danger from this particular explosion, of course. And I had been used to decoy Colonel Klink out of camp while all this took place.
I cannot imagine why Hogan did not see fit to tell me all this at the time; I am quite sure I would have come round to his way of thinking eventually.
Emily placed the manuscript on the little table beside her chair and turned to gaze at me thoughtfully.
I became a bit nervous, don't you know, and cleared my throat. "Well, my dear? What did you think of it?"
I thought perhaps she would tell me that my stubborn refusal to listen to reason had once again caused trouble for myself. Which of course was quite true, and unfortunately it was not the last time it would happen in my dealings with Colonel Hogan.
But this was not what was weighing on her mind.
She sighed and reached out to touch my hand. "I know there was a war on, but I really hate that you felt you had to kill someone in cold blood. It's just not like you, Rodney."
"I suppose not," I said. "Would've if I had to, though. Duty, you know."
"I know. But may I say I am very glad you didn't have to do it, after all?"
I smiled. "You may, old girl."
Emily picked up the manuscript again and looked at the last page. "So what happened after you left Klink's car? Didn't the guards try to stop you?"
"Well, yes, of course! Gave me a ruddy fright, too, when they started shooting at me..."
"Shooting at you?" Emily's bonny brown eyes kindled with indignation, and she dropped the manuscript onto the table with a thump. "Are you telling me that was part of Colonel Hogan's plan? Just wait till I get my hands on him!"
I hastened to soothe her. "Well, yes, my dear, it was part of the plan, but I found out later he had arranged to put blank ammunition in the guards' guns. There was no danger, really, none at all."
She took a few deep breaths, and then nodded. "Okay. What happened then?"
I shook my head ruefully. "Recaptured yet again, by Jove! It was back to jolly old Stalag 16 for me, I'm afraid. But not for long, you see..."