The Day the Bell Tolled
All publicly recognizable characters and places are the property of CBS and Ryscher Entertainment. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
The explosion ripped through the quiet of the night, causing him to stumble, not from the concussive force but from what it represented. Shifting the unconscious Carter back onto his shoulder, he wiped at the blood and water disturbing his vision. Step. One foot in front of the other. Step right foot, step left foot. Fifty yards ahead is a big oak tree, just make it to the oak tree, he thought. The two miles back to camp was too much to comprehend carrying Carter, so he broke the journey into smaller goals. The rain had let up for the time being, so why was there so much water in his eyes?
"Quit your nattering about the explosives, somebody is gonna hear," Newkirk grumbled placing a brick of explosives under the bridge.
"It's pouring rain and no one is out here. That's why we're doing this job now cause the Germans are hiding inside," Carter said studying the detonator in his hands.
"You think this stuff will blow up, don't you?" Kinch asked as he ran the explosive cord between the bricks Newkirk was planting.
"Oh yeah, it'll definitely blow up."
"Then why do you keep goin' on about it?"
"This is some type of new German explosives and something seems off about them. I can't quite put my finger on what. They're a bit lighter, which is why we're doubling up. Plus the timer markers are in smaller increments than I'm used to seeing. Don't want to be to close when this blows up," Carter turned the detonator over in his hands.
"We'll be over on the ridge with me smoking a cigarette. I'm dying for one now."
"If you light up now, you will be dying along with us," Kinch reminded him. He held a hand up to quiet the other two listening to the sounds of the woods. All three turned their trained ears to detect the approach of a patrol, when a car came into view. The car didn't even slow as it crossed the bridge unaware of the saboteurs below. "That was close," he whispered as the car drove out of sight.
"Nothing to it. They didn't even know we were here. I'm going to the other end and start rigging the concrete block. Why is there only one concrete pillar and the rest are made of wood? Whoever thought up that bright idea," Newkirk said moving away from the pair.
"You're just grouchy because you're wet," Carter teased.
"Wet? I'm drowned right down to me socks inside me boots! I might catch pneumonia being out in a rain like this one."
"Summer rains are warm. Not like we're doing this in cold weather," Kinch reminded him with a grin. Newkirk hadn't stopped grumbling about the weather since they left camp.
He stopped at the oak tree placing Carter on the ground, who was still breathing without any problems, but the goose egg on the side of Carter's head had grown even larger. He wanted Carter to wake up, but the farther they were away from the explosion would be better. Carter needed protection from what lay behind them. When he did wake up, he'd be crushed by the truth and he wasn't sure he'd have the strength to battle Carter all the way to camp. As difficult as this was, Carter staying unconscious on the trip back made things easier. The cut on his head kept banging against Carter as he walked reopening the wound, so he took out a handkerchief and tied it around his head. So far, he heard no patrols or sounds of dogs but it wouldn't be long, he had to get them out of there. He picked Carter up lifting him in a fireman's hold, putting one foot in front of the other as his mind continued to blaze through every detail of the wretched night no one could have predicted.
"Are we going to use the dynamite?"
"Nah, Kinch, I think this will be enough. Besides it's some of the best I've ever made, so I want to save it for something special. It can stay up by the road until we're ready to leave," Carter said.
"Okay, let me help Newkirk finish up," he didn't even try to hide the grin at Carter's love of his explosives.
"I hope LeBeau has something good for us when we get back," Newkirk said as he handed Kinch the detcord.
"Oh he will. He promised to have hot chocolate ready for us when we get home," Carter said grinning.
"Now where is he gonna get chocolate? We ain't had any Red Cross packages in over a month."
"He raided Schultz's stash of chocolate in his quarters and got six bars," Carter walked closer to his buddies.
"Can't believe Schultz hadn't eaten them all."
"He saves some for bribing the other guards. Set the timer for five minutes and I'll get the other one started," Carter said heading over to the opposite side with Kinch alongside.
"Was hoping for something stronger than hot chocolate, like some nice Scotch," Newkirk chuckled as he took the timer out.
Carter sat on the ground as Kinch shielded the light from the torch to avoid the wrong people seeing it. "Are you ready to put it on yet?"
"Just testing something," Carter mumbled watching his watch. "Holy cats!" he yelled jumping up, "NEWKIRK DON'T…," the sound of the explosion drowned out anything else he'd said.
He'd covered more than three hundred yards since the last stop, and kept putting one foot in front of the other. Just over a mile to go. Germans should be at the bridge by now finding the gruesome sight he'd left behind. His body involuntarily shook, but he concentrated on his march right foot, left foot. The horror of the bridge played continuously in his head; so much that at times he couldn't even see the woods in front of him. Today would be the nightmare which stayed with him for the rest of his life. How did a simple bridge assignment turn into such tragedy? His head pounded furiously with each step he took, almost in tune with the pounding of his broken heart.
"Kinch? Carter? Answer me someone," Newkirk struggled to get up but was pinned by the concrete bridge support. A groan came from the other end of the bridge. "Kinch? Is that you?"
"Yeah," a weak voice replied.
"Is Carter all right?"
"Give me a second," Kinch rolled over on his side pushing up with his hands. The world spun severely in the wrong direction as stars danced in his eyes. However, they might only have minutes before descended upon by a German patrol; he looked up seeing Carter lying face down in the mud. Crawling on his hands and knees, Kinch reached Carter feeling for a pulse letting out a deep relief sigh locating it. "He's alive but unconscious. Carter! Carter, wake up," he lightly slapped the younger man as he turned him over. "He's not responding."
"I'm gonna need your help mate to get up, then we can get him back to camp. Don't want to overstate the obvious…."
"Where are you?" Kinch stood up as the world spun faster and had to lean down with his hands on his thighs in order to not fall, while taking deep breaths to steady his head before he attempted to locate his friend.
"By the pillar."
Kinch made his way to the far side of the bridge as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, a slight break in the clouds made it easier. "Newkirk?"
"Over here mate, by the big concrete slab."
"Umm…Newkirk, do your legs hurt?"
"Can't really feel much of anything under this thing. Help me get it off so we can get Carter back to camp." Instead of answering, Kinch dropped to his knees vomiting. "You hurt mate?"
Kinch moved away from Newkirk's legs which lay bent the wrong way and three feet from his body, making his way over to his friend.
"You got a head wound also. We need to get you back home soon. Help me up." Kinch didn't respond just staring at Newkirk. "What mate? You're making me nervous."
"I'm sorry. Are you in much pain?" he asked gravely.
"A bit but nothing I can't handle. What's going on? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"I think I'm talking to one."
"That knock on your head's got you confused. What are you going on about?"
"Kinch, get me out from under this thing. You might out rank me but that's an order. Pull it together so I can get up and we can get both you and Carter back," Newkirk tried to shift the block off of him again.
"Don't," Kinch stopped him meeting Newkirk's eyes. "The only thing keeping you alive is this block. I don't even understand how you're able to talk to me."
Fear shone through Newkirk's eyes. "I'm a dead man?" Kinch nodded his head yes. "Well doesn't that beat all? Are you sure? I don't feel like I'm hurt as bad as you say."
"Your legs are about three feet from your body, and I'd say your pelvis is crushed. Don't understand why you're not screaming in pain, but as soon as the support is moved, you'll bleed to death," moisture formed in his eyes.
"Now don't go getting up in a wind about me. If it's me time it's me time," Newkirk licked his lips. "How about Carter? Will he live?"
"I think so. He's still unconscious, but I didn't see any other injuries," Kinch kept looking directly into Newkirk's face knowing any second his friend's life would pass. As hard as it was, he couldn't deny Newkirk anything at this point.
"He's got a hard head, so he'll be fine. Tell him…."
"Are you sure I'm a goner?" Kinch nodded his head yes, unable to answer the question aloud. "I was gettin' a mite tired of this war anyway. Tell Carter, this ain't his fault. Make him understand for me. If he blames himself, I'm going to come back and haunt him until he realizes he's not to blame. While I was waiting for you to wake up, I figured out those hash marks on the timer were for ten seconds not a minute, because less than a minute after setting it the dang thing blew."
"Carter must have figured that out at the last second when he yelled," Kinch said wiping at the blood dripping down into his eye.
"Tell Louie, when he learns to cook I hope he gets to open the restaurant he's dreaming about, but don't tell him I said his most of his cooking isn't half bad," Newkirk grinned.
"I won't. I promise," Kinch let a sad smile appear.
"Tell the Gov'nor, well….just tell him that I said he was the Gov'nor."
"And me sister, Mavis. Tell her I died heroically. She doesn't need to know the details, just that she can be proud of her big brother," tears formed in Newkirk's eyes.
"I will buddy," Kinch put a hand on Newkirk's shoulder.
Kinch stopped resting against another tree, afraid if he put Carter down he'd not be able to pick him back up. They were now less than a half mile from camp, and he had no idea if anyone would be worried about them yet. His watch was busted in the blast, so he didn't know the time. Newkirk's dead. Dead. His breath caught in his throat. No time to grieve, must keep moving, he admonished himself as he started walking again. How could he live with what he did? Did he do the right thing? Would he ever be able to tell anyone the truth of tonight? Would the others blame him? If he couldn't understand, how did he expect anyone else to understand? Newkirk's eyes would haunt him the rest of his life. Those green eyes urging him on. Begging him.
"You've got to get Carter and get out of here. It's not safe and the Germans will be here any minute," Newkirk said.
"I'm not leaving you here alone," Kinch was adamant.
"You're going to have to. What I'm going to ask of you will be hard, but I don't see any other way around."
"Anything you want."
"I need you to take out your weapon and shoot me."
"What? I can't do it."
"You have to. Now listen to me. I ain't got long and when the Germans arrive they'll try to make me talk. I don't want my last minutes to be in their hands. What's happened is enough for any man."
"Newkirk," Kinch shook his head.
"That's not all. I want you to take the dynamite in Carter's bag and blow up the rest of my body," Newkirk said looking directly into Kinch's eyes.
"What you're asking…"
"Has to be done. If I'm alive then they'll torture me trying to get me to talk. When Hochstetter sees my body, he'll recognize my face. Don't let my final act be causing all me mates to fall down in front of a firing squad. That can't be my legacy. You have to make sure everyone is safe. You said anything and this has to be done," Newkirk reached up touching Kinch's face. "Please."
"Carter says it's some of his best dynamite, and I'd be proud to keep the team safe using his best. That downed airman we brought in last night who died a few hours ago, is about my size and the Gov'nor will find a way to use his body to fool Klink into thinking it's me. Hochstetter won't have anything on the Colonel or anyone else. Besides, you have to get home to tell my sister something good about me. Make her proud of me," Newkirk said.
"She's already proud of you. I've read her letters and she adores you," the tears fell faster from his eyes.
"I still want you to talk to her in person. And this is the only way to keep Hochstetter from finding out about the team. Kinch, time is short. I'm glad it's you with me at the end. We've had some great times haven't we?" Newkirk looked up at him.
"Yes, we have," Kinch stood up with sad eyes. "I'm so sorry Newkirk." He pulled his weapon from his holster.
"It's all right mate. Thank you for everything," Newkirk's eyes showed gratitude and urged Kinch to do this wretched task.
With a deep breath, Kinch slowly pulled the trigger.
The tunnel entrance in sight, he stopped lying Carter on the ground breathing hard trying to catch his breath. The shot still rang in his ears. Would the sound ever leave him? He knew he had to get inside, but how could he face the people down below? Carter needed help, which outweighed every other consideration. He opened the hatch and carried Carter down the ladder. Someone tried to take the injured man from him, but he didn't allow them. Without a word, Kinch walked to the radio room and gently laid Carter on the cot. Then he sat down on the stool with his head in his hands.
"I'll get Wilson," Olsen yelled taking off down the tunnel.
"Where's Newkirk?" LeBeau asked, his voice a half an octave higher than normal.
"Kinch," Hogan pulled Kinch's hands from his face attempting to lock eyes with his second in command. "Talk to me. What happened out there?"
Newkirk nodded his head slightly telling Kinch this was the right action to take. He didn't close his eyes, when the shot came. Kinch holstered his weapon before dropping to his knees. He held Newkirk close for several seconds. Next, he stood and walked over to the satchel, pulled out two sticks of dynamite adding extra-long detonation cord. He wanted, no needed, to be as far away as possible when they went off. Kneeling down beside Newkirk, he placed the two sticks so they would destroy what was left of his body leaving no identifiable part and dropped the backpack next to the body. "I'm so sorry my friend." He stood walking quickly back to the other side of the bridge, lit the fuse, then picked Carter up and took off towards the camp with tears streaming down his face.
Wilson was standing in front of Kinch, although he was unaware when the medic arrived. "He's in shock, sir. He'll need a couple of stitches on his forehead, but that can wait a bit."
"Kinch, can you hear me? Where's Newkirk?" Hogan asked again standing next to the radioman.
"Mon Colonel, we have to go out and find Pierre now." Hogan turned towards LeBeau; understanding the desire, and was fighting the urge to run out looking for his missing man.
"Dead." Everyone turned back towards Kinch.
"Mon Dieu no, say it isn't so," LeBeau cried out.
"We can't leave his body out there for the Germans to find. Sir, LeBeau and I will go get it," Olsen said.
"Kinch, I need to know what happened," Hogan asked gently placing a hand on his shoulder. Before he could send anyone else out of camp, he needed to know what awaited them out there.
"No body to bring back. Explosion. Newkirk's gone." Kinch said staring at the wall not making eye contact with anyone.
"Non," LeBeau cried out. Olsen put an arm around the little Frenchman in just as much shock as LeBeau was.
Hogan ran a hand over his face. Theirs was a dangerous job, and he knew he could lose a man at any time, but he wasn't prepared to lose one tonight. A thousand questions flooded through his mind. Could Newkirk be identified? Were the rest of the men in danger?
"How is Carter?" Kinch asked barely above a whisper.
"He will have one heck of a headache when he wakes up, but he should be fine," Wilson answered him.
"Olsen, help Wilson and LeBeau get Carter upstairs please," Hogan ordered.
Once they were alone in the tunnel, Hogan straddled a chair sitting in front of Kinch. "I need you to explain what happened. Every detail of what occurred. Don't leave anything out."
Kinch looked up at the Colonel, their eyes truly meeting for the first time tonight. The trust between them palpable; he knew the story would stay between them and there would be no condemnation. Only once in his lifetime would he ever be able tell this story and only to Hogan. With a sad sigh and a trembling voice, he began at the beginning.