Disclaimer: I don't own any Hogan's Heroes characters.
A well-functioning alarm system is priceless, but equally indispensable.
The first one to notice the new arrival was Sergeant Roades. He lifted his cap in the manner previously agreed upon, but Carter didn't take notice. Sergeant Andrew Carter was staring into space, obviously far away with his thoughts in the middle of a daydream. Keagan Roades sighed. The things about the spy game he considered exceptionally grand, were the secret signs they used for signaling each other and the idea that sometimes the guards saw them, but still didn't get what they were supposed to mean. The waiting around was not that popular, let alone the danger. Roades shook his head at the killjoy. That Carter disconnected the chain of signals by a daydream is simply dumb. Sergeant Roades put two fingers into his mouth and sounded a piercing whistle as alternative signal, a special one for Carter. With a start the American returned back to earth. Finally, he looked at the Irish Sergeant who lifted his cap again like he had done before. Carter nodded and walked away with the message that Klink had guests.
"We got company," Carter announced while entering Barracks 2, "where's the Colonel?"
"Le colonel is in his office," came the answer from LeBeau. He was standing near the stove and had just begun to prepare dinner.
"Thanks, pal." Carter walked right over to the Colonel's personal quarters, also known as his office, and knocked at the door.
Colonel Hogan looked up from his book. He had been trying to read this particular one for quite a while now and was once more interrupted by a tapping at the door. Mission after mission had forced him to postpone his readings, but because he was not the type who gives up easily he had started this same book for the twelfth time now. "Come in," Hogan said, trying not to sound too annoyed as he guessed he would have to delay his mystery novel once more.
Carter opened the door as soon as he heard his commanding officer give him permission to enter.
"Yes, what is it, Carter?" Hogan asked.
"A staff car just arrived, sir. Looks important. They headed straight for Klink's office."
Colonel Hogan put away his mystery novel and patted the back of the book lightly. I reckon we have our own mystery to solve then. "Alright. Get the others."
"You got it, boy, eh, sir." Carter whirled around and was just about to rush off when he bumped into Kinch and Newkirk.
"Hey, careful there," Kinch exclaimed.
"You break it you buy it, mate," Newkirk smirked, "we heard the blow of the whistle, sir, and saw the staff car drive into camp."
Carter, Kinch and Newkirk walked into Colonel Hogan's office, followed by LeBeau who had taken a second longer in order to prevent his cooking from burning on the stove.
Another dark-haired head appeared in the door, it was Roades. He carried an expecting smile on his face that vanished when he heard his CO order, "Watch the door, Sergeant."
Roades tried to keep his expression neutral to hide his disappointment. I'm new, sure, I've not been part of any important mission so far. All opportunity I've been given to prove myself were simple watch-outs. But those I've done well. Roades started for the barracks' door and his next watch-out mission, resigning himself to admire Colonel Hogan's core crew from afar.
"Oh, and well done, Roades," Hogan said.
That these simple words caused such a reaction surprised even the experienced Colonel. Roades' blue eyes sparkled and he began to sputter, "yes, sir. Thank you, sir, could I maybe ..."
"OK, but now watch the door," the CO interrupted him. Hogan studied Roades as he walked away. The Colonel had almost forgotten what it had been like when he was the young Sergeant's age; ready to prove himself. He really had to be more careful what he said to this eager Irishman, but he had to give him a chance as well. But now was definitely not the time.
Colonel Hogan's core group scattered throughout the room. Which was small enough anyway, considering it had to serve as Hogan's private quarters, Papa Bear's HQ, strategic planning centre and sometimes infirmary. Newkirk and Carter took a seat on the bottom bunk, LeBeau and Kinch stood closer to the desk.
Kinch set up the coffee pot while the rest of the men made themselves comfortable. "Let's hear what they've got for us today," he said and plugged it in.
"What a nice surprise! General Burkhalter, I didn't know you would visit here today." Kommandant Klink proclaimed joyfully.
"Of course you didn't. I haven't told you," Burkhalter said, clearly not sharing Klink's delight in the meeting. On the contrary, visiting Stalag 13 almost always seemed equivalent to trouble, for some obscure reason. He would rather have stayed in Berlin, but unfortunately had no say in the matter.
"Yes, yes, of course, of course." Klink agreed, anxious to stay as cheerful as he could, "to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"
"Shut up, Klink," Burkhalter ordered, becoming increasingly annoyed.
"Yes, shutting up, sir, shutting up," Klink repeated before he was eventually quiet.
General Burkhalter took a deep breath and counted to ten before he felt ready to deal with the Kommandant again. "This is Major Kießling, Klink. Major Kießling is currently on a top-secret mission. Part of this mission is to deliver this safely to Berlin. But first we have a joint business engagement in Hammelburg. Until our business is completed the Major will use the Stalag as a base camp. I suggested this because of the relative safety from getting bombed by the Allies," Burkhalter explained as if he was speaking to a child and added before Klink was able to voice any form of protest, "and you will accommodate him, Klink!"
"Yes, of course," the Oberst said meekly and turned to his new guest, "welcome to Stalag 13, Major Kießling."
"Thank you, Kommandant," the officer replied absent-mindedly. He had paid barely any attention to the previous conversation because he had other, more important things to think about. "I have a few papers with me that have to be kept safe. I'd prefer not to carry them around longer than necessary. Especially not at Hammelburg that is for sure crawling with spies. Is there a place in this camp where you can secure them for me?"
"Heureusement, there isn't a single spy in Stalag 13," scoffed LeBeau and relished the grinning faces around him.
"Shhhh," hissed Hogan, smiling himself.
"Of course. I can put them into my safe right away," Klink said happily. He enjoyed that it was him and not General Burkhalter whom Kießling had asked to take care of his secret and certainly vital papers. "You will find my camp most secure," he babbled on, "we have never had a single escape from Stalag 13, if I may say so myself."
"You would!" Burkhalter shot back, seriously irritated to hear Klink say this very sentence for the millionth time.
"So we have some goodies in the safe," Colonel Hogan said while Kinch put away the coffee pot. "Kinch, notify London of our visitor and his important papers. Ask for information on this Kießling character and if they have any idea what he is doing."
"Right away, sir," the American Sergeant answered.
"Tonight we have a little work to do," the CO said to his remaining men. "Newkirk," Hogan turned to face the safe cracker under his command.
"Yes, sir," Newkirk replied, eyes shining brightly because he already knew what his task for tonight would be.
"You think you can open that safe of Klink's tonight and take photos of the papers?" the Colonel asked out of habit.
"Piece of cake, sir," Newkirk replied with a grin from ear to ear, "as good as done."
"OK, then that's settled," Hogan said, pleased with the prospect of an easy mission for once.
"But who is going with him, mon colonel?" LeBeau asked, astonished that the matter seemed to be closed already.
"Yeah, you can't send him on his own, somebody has to watch his back," Carter piped up. "Boy, what if he gets caught?"
"Don't you think one man is a little less conspicuous when he walks across the compound in the middle of the night than two men, let alone the five of us?" Kinch remarked.
"That's right, thank you, Kinch," Colonel Hogan answered instead of Carter and explained patiently, "our beloved Kommandant will probably entertain his guest Major Kießling in his quarters tonight. We wait till the lights go out and everybody goes to bed. Then Newkirk gets us the information. It will all be done in a few minutes. Nothing to worry about."
"Yes, chaps, no trouble at all, we've done that before loads of times, remember?" Newkirk put one hand on Carter's shoulder and patted him lightly to reassure him, but it didn't have the desired effect.
Carter seemed to shrink a little into himself, "I've got a strange feeling about this." He jumped to his feet all of a sudden. "What if he gets caught this time?!" Carter burst out.
Everybody looked at Carter in astonishment. He usually wasn't the one playing devil's advocate. That was Newkirk's part. But as self-confident as Newkirk felt when it came to his own abilities and skills of shadier nature, he could not find a reason to doubt himself.
"OK, that's enough. It's gonna be done as I said. Newkirk, you take the pictures and develop the film. That takes what, about an hour? Then report back to me," the CO said in a commanding tone, not harsh but making clear that there was no room left for further objections. Colonel Hogan was not in the mood to defend his decision any longer nor to discuss something that they had done hundreds of times before without any problems.
"Yes, piece of pie," Carter muttered under his breath.
"Piece of cake, mate, it's cake," Newkirk said to his mate and smiled at him. "Don't worry Andrew, it's gonna be fine."
The compound had grown silent quite a while ago. The inhabitants of Barracks 2 were all in their beds fast asleep, except for one pair of green eyes that could be seen shimmering brightly whenever they reflected the light coming from the compound. Newkirk sat silently at the window and watched for the moment when the lights in Klink's personal quarters would be turned off. When the whole building finally went dark, the Corporal kept watching for a few more minutes just to make sure Klink and Major Kießling had snuggled down in their beds.
Newkirk got up from his window place and walked to the barracks' door. He barely caused any sound on the wooden floor, but Carter woke up nonetheless. Just when Newkirk slipped through the door, the American breathed as if to himself, "good luck," and to his surprise, heard his friend whisper back, "ta, mate."
Carter was sure he wouldn't go back to sleep before Peter had returned safe and sound and was lying on the bunk above him. In the meantime only Newkirk's side cap was resting on the top bunk.
It was hardly a problem for the Englishman to cross the compound undetected by the searchlights and unnoticed by any German guards. Newkirk reached the Kommandantur in no time. He took the three steps leading up to the porch light-footedly, then turned right and ambled to the nearest window. "Piece of cake," he said almost soundlessly. The window offered hardly any resistance as the Corporal carefully slid his pencil sharpener into the small chink between the two sashes and pushed up the locking mechanism; it swung open almost on its own.
Satisfied, Newkirk climbed through the window and made sure he left it only slightly open. He stood still for a moment to give his eyes the chance to adjust to their dark surroundings. When Newkirk felt ready, he walked over to the safe and kneeled down in front of it. "Hello, me old scallywags, it's only me again, your mate Peter," he whispered. The English Corporal put his hands gently on the safe to get the right feeling for it.
He jumped. A sudden noise in the outer office startled him to the core. Newkirk was on his feet in a flash and whirled around. Bugger! He inhaled sharply, trying to decide what to do. There was no way to get out of there in time, he was trapped.
I hope you liked the first chapter.
I'd like to thank a few people:
thanks to Oele and Tr00he for offering an opinion and encouragement.
Thanks to Flow Ryan for providing the French whenever LeBeau wants to say something.
Thanks to Corinna and Johanna for adding more language skill.
And very special thanks to Venea Taur for beta reading, patiently supplying help and advice. Thank you so much. You are the best!