I do not own any of the characters from the series Hogan's Heroes. However, I claim ownership of any original characters appearing in this story.
"Good morning, gentlemen," said Sergeant Schultz, strolling into the barracks.
"What's good about it?" Newkirk, still in his upper bunk, directed a killing glare at the intruder.
"Well, let me see," replied Schultz. "The sun is shining, the hyacinths in the woods are almost in bloom, the cook is making potato dumplings for lunch, and Kommandant Klink will be going away for two days' leave, starting straight after roll call."
"Old Blood and Guts is going away?" Colonel Hogan had come out of his quarters just in time to hear this. "He didn't tell me."
"He doesn't tell you everything, Colonel Hogan," said Schultz.
"You know where he's going?"
"Leidenbach, so he says. Where that is, I have no idea, but he's in a very good mood about it. As a matter of fact," Schultz went on confidentially, "he is in a better mood than he has been since...well, you know."
"Yes, I do know," sighed Hogan. "Well, I guess he was bound to get over his bereavement some time. It's been almost three weeks."
"Three very good weeks for us," muttered LeBeau under his breath. "Coffee, Schultz?" he added brightly.
"There is no time for coffee," rumbled Schultz. "Roll call is in five minutes. Everybody, out of bed, and get ready, schnell."
He bustled off to rouse the next barracks.
"Does anyone happen to know where Leidenbach is?" asked Hogan.
"Never heard of it," mumbled Newkirk. He dropped out of his bunk with a thud, eliciting a mild protest from Carter who was sitting just underneath, putting his boots on. "But if it's going to put old Klink in a better temper, I'm all for it."
"Maybe he has a girlfriend there," suggested LeBeau, with a snigger.
Newkirk scoffed the idea down at once. "She'd have to be a right stunner. He's already in one of the great romances of all time, with himself. What woman could compete with that? Matter of fact, I don't see him giving his heart to anyone, or anything, except that old violin of his. And we all know how that ended."
There was a brief silence, during which almost every eye in the barracks turned in one direction. Carter squirmed a little under the mass scrutiny. "Well, it wasn't my fault. If he was all that fond of it, why'd he have to go and dump it on a chair for a guy to sit on?"
"Nobody's blaming you, Carter," said Hogan; though as a matter of fact he sometimes wondered, given Carter's ear for music, whether the destruction of Klink's violin had really been completely unintentional. "If anything, we're grateful. All that nightly practice was getting on everyone's nerves. You probably averted a mass escape by bringing an end to it. How are the bruises, by the way?"
"Still there." Carter grimaced, and adjusted his position slightly.
"Oh, well, it was all in a good cause, Andrew." Newkirk's voice was briefly muffled as he pulled his jumper over his head. "Poor old Beethoven must have got very tired of spinning in his grave, night after night. A few splinters in the backside was a small price to pay for a bit of peace and quiet, if you ask me."
"That's easy for you to say," grumbled Carter.
A few minutes later, at roll call, it became clear to Hogan and his men that Schultz's assessment of the Kommandant's disposition was something of an understatement. There was an unfamiliar spring in Klink's step, and an alarmingly cheerful set to his features, as he came out of his office to review the prisoners on formation. "Yes, thank you, Schultz," he said, waving away the sergeant's report. "You can dismiss the men. Colonel Hogan, a word with you, if you please."
"You're looking pretty chipper this morning, sir," remarked Hogan.
"Am I?" Klink drew himself up, with a jaunty waggle of his head. "Well, as it happens, Hogan, I have good reason."
"So I hear. Leidenbach, hey? Well, if you're going to take a couple of days R&R, I can't think of a better place for it," said Hogan, with a knowing grin.
"You've been talking to Schultz," replied the Kommandant, waving his forefinger with mock severity. "Yes, I will be leaving shortly, and I expect to be back tomorrow evening. And I warn you, Hogan, if you think my absence will give you and your men an opportunity to escape, you're very much mistaken. Captain Gruber will be in charge, and you know what that means."
"Yeah. Extra roll calls, increased patrols, and the guards in the towers will have to stay awake all night." Hogan gave a nonchalant shrug. "Well, I guess we can stand it. I must say, though, Kommandant, it seems a long way to go, just for one night. Doesn't leave you much time to do anything once you're there."
"Oh, I'll have plenty of time," said Klink cheerfully. "Dismissed, Hogan." He turned and strutted off toward his private quarters, while Hogan rejoined his team at the door of Barracks 2.
"Boy, is he ever happy," observed Kinch.
"Yeah. I don't like it," replied Hogan. "He's only ever that pleased with himself when he's up to something. I think we should make it our business to find out what's at Leidenbach for him to get up to."
With his men at his heels, he went into the barracks. "Watch the door," he said to LeBeau.
Kinch had already pulled down the map of Germany which was concealed in the frame of one of the bunks. For a minute or so, he and Hogan pored over it. "Well, I can't find it," said Hogan at last.
"If it's not on the map, it can't be a very big place," observed Newkirk. "Perhaps it's just some little village somewhere."
"I don't think so. Villages aren't Klink's style." Hogan straightened up, frowning. "Carter, get the Baedekers from the shelf in my office. Kinch, I don't suppose the radio is working yet, is it?"
Kinch shook his head. "It's receiving, but I can't send anything. So if you were thinking of asking London, you'd better think again."
"I still can't see how it matters, Colonel. I mean, who cares where Klink spends his holidays?" said Newkirk, leaning back to allow Carter room to get past and dump the two old and worn travel guides on the table.
"It matters because it's not like him to go to some out of the way place," replied Hogan. "Think about where he's taken his furloughs before. Paris, Baden Baden - okay, he never actually got there; then there was that mountain resort, whatever it was called. All of them pretty classy. So why is he suddenly taking a trip to some little town so obscure that it's not even on the map?"
"Found it." Carter had been leafing through one of the Baedeker volumes. "Leidenbach. Right here on page 312. It says it's about forty kilometres east of Diebniz."
"Yeah, and what else?" said Hogan.
"Okay, so what does it say about Diebniz?"
Carter flipped over a few pages. "About forty kilometres west of Leidenbach."
Hogan leaned across to look for himself. "A fat lot of good that is," he grumbled.
"Klink is just leaving now, mon Colonel," put in LeBeau from the door. Hogan and the others joined him there, and they watched the staff car pull out of the gate and disappear down the road.
"Well, I guess we'll have to wait till he gets back before we find out where he's been," said Kinch.
There matters stood for the rest of the day, and into the following afternoon, which found most of the prisoners out of doors. Kinch had gone below ground to work on the radio, but his mates set themselves up outside the barracks, the better to enjoy a few minutes of leisure by taking them in the soft spring sunshine.
Carter had brought one of the travel guides with him; he'd spent most of the last twenty-four hours delving into the contents and paraphrasing for the edification of his fellow prisoners.
"Say, did you fellers know that the natural history museum in Felsbrunnen's got three fossil mammoths, and a blue whale skeleton, as well as the biggest collection of stag beetles in Europe?" he said. "Next time we have to blow something up out that way, Colonel, any chance we could go and have a look?"
"It'll be difficult, Carter," replied Hogan. "That guide book's a little out of date. The natural history museum in Felsbrunnen isn't there any more. It was right next door to the chemical works the RAF bombed last month."
"Well, gee, you'd think those guys'd learn to be a bit more careful," grumbled Carter. "How about the menagerie at Schlossheim? Says here they got a couple of Galápagos tortoises, and a goat with two heads."
Newkirk glanced at the page, apparently trying to read it sideways. "I always wanted to see one of those tortoises. Where is it?"
"It's in the grounds of the castle," said Hogan, before Carter could answer. "Which is now a hospital for SS officers. So I wouldn't hold out much hope of the tortoises still being there, or the goat for that matter. Hi, Doyle, what's up?"
Lieutenant Doyle had come around the corner of the barracks, carrying with him as usual an air of being concerned with far more important matters than a mere worldwide conflict. A born musician, he was in some ways an ill fit into this or any other prison camp; but behind his condescending manner resided an essentially decent man. The other prisoners liked him, and more importantly, they respected him.
"I'm afraid I have bad news, Colonel," he said. "The Gilbert and Sullivan concert will have to be postponed. Most unfortunately, the orchestra's had a slight accident, and broken his accordion."
"Your orchestra consisted of one accordion player?" Hogan raised his eyebrows.
"My dear man, why would we need two of them?" responded Doyle patiently. "Actually, it's probably a blessing in disguise. I had a feeling some of the performers had rewritten the words, and I wasn't at all sure which version of I've Got A Little List we were going to hear on the night. I suspect it would have included a recommendation for the Kommandant to insert his monocle somewhere it was not designed to go."
"Well, it doesn't matter, does it?" drawled Newkirk. "Just so long as Klink doesn't work out what up the Khyber Pass means."
"Yes, I thought you'd had a hand in it." Doyle gave him a cool, critical look, which Newkirk, not even slightly abashed, countered with a smirk. The lieutenant's gaze moved on towards Carter, and fixed on the Baedeker in his hands. "Planning a little sightseeing?"
"Yeah, if there were any sights still around to see," replied Carter, slapping the book closed.
"We were just doing some research," said Hogan. "I don't suppose you've heard of Leidenbach, by any chance? Klink's gone there on a two-day pass, and I want to know why."
Doyle pursed his lips. "It sounds vaguely familiar. But then, they all do. That's the trouble with German place names. Variations on a theme. No, I'm sorry, Colonel, I can't place it. But if it comes to me, I'll let you know."
"I've got a bad feeling about this," murmured Hogan, as the lieutenant sauntered off towards his own barracks.
"You may have good reason for it," said Kinch, who had emerged from the barracks with a slip of paper in his hand, just in time to hear this. "I got a message on the radio. Urgent, from London."
Hogan took the note and perused it, then looked up at Kinch. That's all they told you?"
"That's it. I still can't send, so I couldn't acknowledge it, or ask for more information. But it seems pretty clear."
"What's the go, Colonel?" asked Newkirk.
"Just this," said Hogan. "Top priority delivery arriving Papa Bear's house tonight. Retrieve package from courier and await further instructions. Courier is Bald Eagle."
An astonished silence held his audience for three seconds. LeBeau was the first to recover. "They're using Klink as a courier?"
"Without his knowledge," said Hogan. "Chances are, whatever this package is, it's been hidden somewhere in his car, or in his luggage, while he was in Leidenbach. Which means we have to find it before he does, and we don't have a clue what it is, or where to look for it."
"Well, we'd better start guessing," remarked Kinch, his eyes on the road outside the fence, where a familiar black staff car had just come into view.
Hogan straightened up. "Okay, you know the drill. Start with the car. I want it cleaned thoroughly, inside and out. And underneath, as well."
"And what if it's not in the car?" said Newkirk
"That's when it gets tricky." Hogan watched as the car rolled through the gate, coming to a stop in front of the Kommmandantur. "Klink's not going to let any of us unpack for him, he'll get Schultz to do that. So this is how we'll do it..."
The interruption came from Doyle. He had reappeared from around the end of the barracks, in an unusual state of agitation.
"Well, there's no need for that kind of language," said Carter reprovingly. Then, remembering he was speaking to an officer, he added, "Sir."
But Doyle ignored the interjection. "Leidenbach, Colonel. I knew it sounded familiar. Joachim and Matthias Kreuz, of course. Their workshop is in Leidenbach, or was before the war." He paused, waiting for the light of understanding to appear in the faces around him. "The Kreuz brothers, the finest luthiers in Germany. Surely you've heard of them."
"I wouldn't bet on it," said Newkirk. "What was it you called them - luthiers? Sounds a bit dodgy. What do they get up to, then?"
"I think I can answer that," said Hogan, whose eyes were still on the staff car. A couple of the guards had unloaded the Kommandant's luggage from the trunk, but as Schultz went to remove something from the back seat, Klink waved him away, and with tender solicitude retrieved it himself; a long, narrow case made of some light wood so beautifully finished that it seemed almost alive in the sunlight, and carefully shaped to the curved form of the precious item it contained.
A faint, almost inaudible sigh rippled through the little group of prisoners.
"Well, now we know why Klink was so happy about going to Leidenbach," murmured Kinch.
"Say, Colonel, about that no escape rule..." Carter began.
Hogan didn't let him finish. "Yes, Carter, you still have to stay. And now we have a real problem. We know Klink brought something else back from Leidenbach, something that he doesn't know about. We'll still have to check the car, and his luggage, but I've got a pretty good idea of where the Underground stashed it."
His men stared at him in bewildered consternation. "Colonel, you don't think...?" said Newkirk at last.
"I do." Hogan watched as Klink proudly bore his new treasure up the steps and into the building. "I'll bet anything you like, there's more in that violin case than just a violin."