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Hogan's Heroes: The Edge of the Night (3/?)

Title: The Edge of the Night (3/?)
Series: Hogan's Heroes
Pairings: None
Rating: PG
Beta: frauleinfrog
Notes: Supernatural AU not the show

Summary: The Great War brought the kin out of the shadows when, launched into bloody warfare, they cut through entire regiments like scythes. Two decades later, they are expressely banned from all military organizations. But there's always an advantage to men who make their own luck, and the Allies can't afford to lose this war.

Prologue
Chapter 1
Chapter 2


I set traps; I catch men
Dorothy Sayers, Busman's Holiday; Jeremiah 5:26

The first thing Hogan did after dressing that morning was borrow a chocolate bar.

The second thing he did was tame a full-grown man.

The fat sergeant was, as before, the one to perform the bed check. He performed the task, like everything else, in a lazy and careless manner. It was only the presence of a much more vigilant pair of guards with scowls suggesting jumpy trigger-fingers that kept the men from jumping the sergeant.

Today, just after the two watchdogs filed out, Hogan sidled over to lean up against the door-side bunk, casual and friendly. He produced the chocolate bar and dangled it from the tips of two loose-jointed fingers.

“Sergeant Schultz, right?”

The sergeant turned, blue eyes widening at the sight of the paper-wrapped rectangle. “Ja – I mean, yes. That is me, Schultz.”

“Figured it wouldn’t do any harm for us to get to know each other a bit, Sergeant. Like the lieutenant colonel said, we’re gonna be in this together for a while.”

“That is very true; the lieutenant colonel is a wise man. Such a pity, such a pity about his health.” Glancing around conspiratorially, Schultz plucked the candy bar from Hogan’s hand and tucked it away in his pocket with a grin.

“Oh, is he sick?” asked Hogan, all innocent concern. Schultz plastered a frown onto his face.

“Didn’t you hear, Colonel? He was taken very ill yesterday. He looked terrible, terr-i-ble yesterday evening! And this morning, whoosh, off to the hospital.” Schultz illustrated the sentence with a sweep of his hand, shaking his head. “Such a pity,” he said again, overacting his part. Hogan nodded in sympathy.

“Well, let me know if he recovers. Hey, maybe the guys could gather some flowers, or something. I think I saw some over on the east side of camp.”

Schultz’s eyes narrowed in belated suspicion. “Why would you do that, Colonel? You do not know the lieutenant colonel, and he removed your rations and confined you to barracks.”

“Just because it’s a war, doesn’t mean a man can’t admire good organization in the enemy, Sergeant! Like he said, we’re stuck with each other. Best to be friendly.”

“That is a very nice sentiment, Colonel,” said Schultz, softening immediately like butter left out in the sun. “I will tell you if he is to return.”

“Thanks, Sergeant.”

Schultz saluted, winked, and walked out.

Hogan counted to ten before turning slowly to walk over to the stove. Standing with his back to the door, he glanced around at the men. Most were reading or doing some small craftwork. Kinch was writing in a notebook. Newkirk was lying on his bunk, staring up at the ceiling.

Hogan cleared his throat, and waited for them to put down what it was they were doing.

“You all know that Ackman got taken out last night; Schultz says he’s badly ill. Quite possibly he won’t be coming back. If he doesn’t the Krauts’ll have to assign us a new kommandant – no way a lieutenant will cut it.” Hogan knew nothing about Lundt, the lieutenant who had spotted the wine’s absence so quickly, but it hardly mattered; a lieutenant didn’t have the rank to command a camp this size, especially not one with an imprisoned officer. He dropped his voice, and to his side Kinch slipped off his bunk and hurried over to the door, opening it to keep watch.

“I’ll tell you all frankly: this is a big opportunity for us. We’ve got one nearly tame guard already, and he’s the only one who speaks English. Likely as not, we’ll be getting a new kommandant and that means that we’ll have the advantage. He’ll be playing catch-up, and we’ll be the ones setting the rules.”

“So what, sir?” asked Perlin. “Mass escape? Our tunnels aren’t nearly good enough for that, and a new kommandant won’t interfere with the tower guards.”

Hogan paused, saw Kinch turn to look at him out of the corner of his eye. “No,” he said, after a minute. “Not escaping. In fact… almost the opposite.”

Several of the men broke out muttering, shifted uncertainly on their bunks. “What then, sir?”

Hogan crossed his arms and looked around the room, long and slow. “I’ll tell it to you straight, boys. I’ve been sent here by London to set up an operation. A tie-in with the local Underground. A station to get men fitted out to escape the country, and possibly to gather information to send back to London.”

Someone whistled. Someone else hissed. Again, several men started muttering. Hogan let it go on a minute and then spoke again. “This is a big assignment. I can’t run it alone, and I can’t run it with just you. I need every single man in this camp to be on board with my – with our – mission. Because as long as it’s running, there can’t be a single escape from this camp.”

-------------------------------------------------------

Kinch, from his station beside the door, listened to the colonel lay out his argument. The need for the new kommandant to be convinced he was absolutely in control, the need for them to have proof of never having left camp to protect them if someone talked, the need to have a perfect record to protect as many bumbling guards and officers as they could collect.

Then listened to the colonel shift gears seamlessly into why they had to do this. Because they were soldiers, fighting for their countries. Because of their hopes, or beliefs, or the simple need to protect their homes and families. Because, although they might be behind barbed wire, they were still part of the war. Because he could read in their faces that they would not lose.

Back to the room, Kinch remembered his discussion with Hogan just before leaving for the mission. Remembered telling Hogan that, officially, the colonel had been chosen for his silver tongue. And remembered the colonel’s reply. Only silver?

Only silver indeed. Kinch grinned, and listened to Hogan lay the foundations of their operation.

-------------------------------------------------

They spent their days planning. Two men volunteered that they weren’t bad hands when it came to drafting, and were promptly set to drawing a detailed map of the camp. Another two had been outside the wire, one on escape and the other while being taken to the hospital in the windowed staff-car with appendicitis, and began to compile a map of the area as best they could to match with the printed materials Hogan had brought with him. Others were assigned to take the list of men in camp and add former professions, or to make lists of supplies kept in camp that could be appropriated for other uses. Newkirk, sullenly professing some slight knowledge in altering his handwriting when taxed, was ordered to begin perfecting his forging.

Kinch spent his time drawing diagrams for the radio set which would have to be built, and listing the components required. Hogan locked himself in his room for hours at a time and came out looking, if nor worn, at least a little taxed.

By the third day they had a tunnel system planned, including digging order; a map of the immediate mile outside the camp and more in some directions; a host of men with useful talents who could be roped in to the operation as soon as their containment was lifted; a list of where useful equipment was waiting to be liberated; and a man who could now duplicate every signature in the barracks, if he would agree to do it.

On the fourth day, a black staff car rolled into camp, flags whipping in the breeze. As the men watched from the windows and door, Schultz and Lundt paraded out to meet the man who stepped out of the car. A tall, thin, strutting colonel. With a riding crop. And a monocle.

Only Kinch saw Hogan smile in success.

-------------------------------------------------

“And I will need a phone line put in to the outer office. Really, I can’t imagine how Ackman managed without it.”

“Well, s-sir, the lieutenant colonel was always, was always just very plain, sir, and I don’t think he really… never really seemed to care, sir, if you know what I mean…”

Klink looked around the gloomy office with distaste. Of course budgets were stretched, but really, all the whitewash was abominable. And then there was Ackman’s furniture, barely holding together by the skin of its teeth. And this useless office boy he had picked up somewhere, who couldn’t seem to finish his sentences.

“Yes, yes, very well. Just add it to the list. And some curtains; these roll-downs are completely uninspiring. The men must fear me, must respect me! No one fears a man with roll-down blinds.” Seeing the boy’s blank look, he sighed and waved his hand. “Just write it down. And then send in Lieutenant Lundt, I must begin reviewing the books.”

Lundt hadn’t seemed too bad, but he was the only one. The boy was useless, and the Master Sergeant was a complete blunderer, shaped like a blimp. The secret of how he managed to maintain that weight on a sergeant’s pay could probably have earned him a promotion. Several, if General Burkhalter’s orders on the absolute necessity of economizing were any indication. And as for the rest of the guards, not a brain cell between them. Klink sat down in Ackman’s stiff chair, made a face, and adjusted the blotter in front of him.

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in.” He looked up, expecting Lundt’s square form. Instead the blimp sailed in, followed by an American colonel, cap in hand. Klink’s face froze half-way to welcoming. “Sergeant, what are you doing here?”

“Colonel Hogan here asked to speak to you, Herr Kommandant.”

“He can speak to me when I call for him,” replied Klink peevishly. “Or are you not used to following regulations, Sergeant?”

“Oh no, sir. I mean, yes, sir, of course. It’s just… he asked me, sir. I didn’t like to say no. Not when I wasn’t sure what you’d think, Herr Kommandant.”

“He asked you,” repeated Klink dryly. “And what does he want?”

Schultz turned to Hogan, and repeated the question in English, somewhat to Klink’s surprise before he realised that of course the oaf must speak English if the colonel had spoken to him. He nudged his estimation of the man’s usefulness up, slightly.

“I thought I should introduce myself as soon as possible. There’s something important I have to talk to the colonel about,” was the American’s reply.

He was a good-looking man, this American. Young, dark hair, good face, in trim shape. Probably the typical charismatic devil-may-care American. A subdued British officer would have been preferable, Klink considered.

Schultz began to translate, and Klink waved in irritation. “No need, Sergeant, I speak English. You are…” he glanced down at the notes in front of him, “Colonel Hogan?”

“That’s right, sir, Robert E. Hogan, US Air Corps.”

Klink nodded. “My name is Klink, Colonel Wilhelm Klink. I have been appointed as Kommandant to this camp.”

“Might I ask what happened to the lieutenant colonel, sir?”

“He had a relapse of an old injury. He has been confined to hospital, indefinitely.”

“That’s too bad, sir,” said the American, all sympathy and contrition. Klink frowned.

“Why should you care? You have only been in this camp for…” he checked the papers. “A week. You hardly knew the lieutenant colonel.”

“But surely you can know a man through his work, colonel. The men here are healthy and the camp is clean and well-kept. I appreciate that, and so do the men. I told Sergeant Schultz that they’d like to give him some flowers; could we give them to you later to bring to him?”

“Flowers? You want to give him flowers?” Klink blinked and adjusted his monocle to better survey the American. He still seemed perfectly sincere.

“Well, fruit’s on ration. There is a war on you know, Colonel.”

“Yes, I was aware of that, Colonel Hogan. However I was beginning to wonder whether you had noticed.”

“Of course, sir. Our barracks at home have a lot fewer termites. But what’s the point in getting upset? We’re here for the rest of the war; why should we fight? Better to get along.”

Klink rounded his desk slowly, excitement running through him. He had never expected to have such a prize in a head POW.

“That’s right, Colonel Hogan. I’m very pleased you see things that way. But I doubt your men do. You must know that, as the head of the Escape Committee.”

Hogan sighed. “You know, I’m embarrassed to say you’re right, Colonel. We’ve had two requests for escape submitted since I came! But don’t worry about that, I talked them out of it.”

“You talked them out of it?” Klink, hearing the shock in his own voice, straightened and backed off, clearing his throat. “I mean, of course you did. But, er… why did you?”

“It’s just stupid, sir. You must know the escape statistics. Hardly any men ever successfully break out of a camp, and if they do they almost never make it out of Germany. Besides, we have no supplies to offer them, no training in German or maps or anything. They could be caught – or worse – shot and killed! And if they are caught again, they might end up in a much tough – er – less well organized camp. It’s to their benefit to stay here. And I intend to make them all see it. I don’t want to see any escapes from this camp, sir.”

Klink could feel the grin trying to spread itself across his face. He turned swiftly, and pretended to look out the window. “That’s very … noble of you, Colonel Hogan. Yes, very commendable. You have a very astute grasp of the situation.”

“Thank you, sir, I try.”

“You know, I think we may get along very well indeed. We have very similar aims, after all. All we want, the two of us, is the safest and most secure camp possible. I think we can work together to ensure that.”

“I’m certainly willing to do my part, sir. But…”

Klink, scenting a catch, turned. “But?”

“Well, like I said sir, I’m very willing. But the men are a different story. They’ve all had it beaten into them that it’s their duty to escape, no matter what. It could be a bit difficult for me to convince them that they shouldn’t try.”

“Yes, yes, I can see that.” Klink nodded thoughtfully, tapping his fingers on his desk.

“I thought, sir, maybe we could give them a little incentive.”

Ahah! Klink looked up sharply, eyes narrowing. “Are you trying to suggest I bribe the men, Colonel?”

The American blinked in surprised, obviously shocked. “Colonel Klink! Of course not. I would never suggest you betray your principles. No, I was thinking more along the lines of fair trade.”

“Fair trade?”

“Right, sir. You show them that if they behave, their punishments will be reduced. If they don’t try to escape, they can expect reduced sentences on other less serious offences like showing up late for roll-call or doing a less thorough cleaning.”

“That seems reasonable, although of course any more severe offences would still be punished in full.”

“Of course, sir.”

“And you would be willing to suggest this… trade…. to your men?” asked Klink, trying to keep the suspicion out of his voice.

“Absolutely, sir. I’ve already pitched it to my barracks, just to test the waters, and they’re all for it. There’s just one thing that might really help matters along.”

“And what is that?”

“There’s a prisoner in the cooler for a month, LeBeau. If you let him out, it would show the men fair play. After all, they’ve already agreed not to go ahead with the two escape attempts they had planned for this week.”

Klink flipped through the piles of paper on his desk, trying to find the cooler roster. “LeBeau, LeBeau…”

“Corporal Louis LeBeau,” put in Colonel Hogan helpfully. “He was sentenced four days ago for playing a prank on Lieutenant Lundt.”

“A prank?”

“Yes, sir. I respected lieutenant colonel Ackman, sir, but frankly I was beginning to worry that he might be losing his sense of proportion a bit. I mean, a month is a long time, sir. Especially since LeBeau didn’t try to escape, or attack a guard, or do anything disruptive at all, sir.”

“I see. I see. Yes. A sign of good faith, eh?”

“Exactly, sir. I think I can guarantee that if you let LeBeau out, the men will agree not to escape. You could have the only camp in Germany with no escapes, sir. It would be a real feather in your cap.”

“No escapes… The only really secure camp in Germany. No. In all the Reich.” Klink stared into the distance, picturing it. The reports from other camps were certainly disgraceful enough. Attempts made monthly, and successful ones several times a year.

“It’d certainly get you into old Comb-Face’s good books.” Hogan indicated the picture of the Fuhrer on the wall.

“Colonel! That is our Fuhrer!”

“Yes, sir. Sorry.” The American wilted appropriately; Klink nodded, satisfied.

“But I do agree with everything else you said. I will see that this man… LeBeau? is released. In return you will convince the men not to attempt to escape.”

“Thank you, sir. You know, I think your coming to this camp could be the best thing that ever happened to it.” He held out his hand; Klink shook it, smiling.

“Thank you for that kind sentiment, Colonel. I look forward to our future association.”

----------------------------------------------------------

LeBeau always found the cooler a dangerous temptation. It was the one place in camp that he could be assured privacy. It was also the coldest place in camp, and his uniform wasn’t designed for it. It had been more than a year since he had been able to stretch his legs, to be the self the moonlight urged him towards. He felt it even through the barracks ceiling, pulling at him incessantly, dragging him towards the shape he should be. Here, in the cooler, there was no one to see him if he changed. Being human all the time was like being forced to sit in a cage too small to stretch in, like being forced to wear blinders and stop up his ears and nose. After more than a year, it was getting dangerously untenable.

The desire to change was eating away at him now, making his skin itch and his fingers scratch at the rough walls. Just a minute, an instant, would be delicious, would be like standing after being forced to sit for years. Would be like opening his eyes to see colour instead of black and white. And he could do it. All he had to do was give in. All he had to do was allow it.

LeBeau relaxed his strained control just a smidgeon, felt his bones shifting eagerly –

– And a key turned in the lock.

He slammed down the transformation and scraped his fingers across his scalp in desperate frustration, smothering a cry. The door swung open to reveal a guard and, behind him, the new American colonel.

“Let’s go, LeBeau,” he said, thumbing over his shoulder. LeBeau, head still in his hands, looked up and tried to appear normal.

“Sir?”

“You’re free. Sentence commuted.”

“But, I – sir?” He sat up anyway, frustration melting into confusion. Hogan was radiating triumph and success, a tart earthy scent.

“Come on. I’ll explain back at the barracks.”

“Yes, sir.” LeBeau stood and followed.

-------------------------------------------------------

There were a surprising number of men milling about when he exited the cooler, and although most of them seemed to be doing something, LeBeau wasn’t fooled. They were all watching him as he came out and crossed the compound behind Hogan.

They were welcomed into the barracks by Kennedy, who opened the door for them with a grin and then closed it behind them without leaving it. A watchdog. Glancing around the small room, the reason for him was apparent; the men had pulled up the floorboards under his bunk and were digging in the earth there under Kinch’s direction. LeBeau opened his mouth to ask a question, and met Hogan’s dark eyes.

“This way,” he said, indicating his office. LeBeau shut his mouth and did as he was told. He noticed Newkirk sitting alone in a corner as he passed, reading a book. He was the only man in the barracks not in any way involved in the secret proceedings. He gave LeBeau a wan smile and half a wave; LeBeau walked by in confusion.

Inside the colonel’s office, the officer closed the door behind them and then indicated one of the two chairs in the room. LeBeau took it and waited for Hogan to round the desk and seat himself.

“You’re probably wondering what the heck’s going on here,” said Hogan, smiling.

“Well, yes, sir. Why was I released?”

“Show of good faith. The new colonel released you on the condition that no one escape from this camp.”

Quois?” LeBeau stood up, and Hogan’s eyes flashed. The carefree joker disappeared for an instant, to be replaced by steel, and LeBeau tensed in reaction.

“Sit down, soldier. I’m not crazy, or a collaborator.” He waited for LeBeau to sit before continuing in a quieter tone. “You saw the work in the barracks. We’re starting an operation in this camp. A sort of aid station for escapees and persons of interest. I was sent here by London to get it off the ground, and keep it running under the Krauts’ noses. And I think you could probably help with that.”

“Me, sir?”

Hogan gave him a brief smile. “I know, LeBeau. I know that you know exactly where in this room I keep my silver, and I know what would happen if I sent you out tomorrow night.” Tomorrow, when the moon would be full. LeBeau tensed, but said nothing. “And I know you probably know what I am, and why I had you and Newkirk fetch what you did.”

He nodded, slowly. “Oui, colonel, I know it.” Sorcerer. A man who had made a pledge with something not of this world. A man who was human once, but never would be again.

“Fine. I can tell you, I was sent here because of my special talents. As was Sergeant Kinch. And we could particularly use a man like you, especially since you can obviously keep yourself under control.”

“I would not be here if I couldn’t.” He would be a second scorch mark on the other side of the fence.

Hogan ignored his words. “What I want to know is: are you willing to help us? The rest of the men in this camp are considering it; they know the proposition, and they know your release was a show of good faith. Many have already agreed. Nearly all the men in this barracks have.”

“Except Newkirk.”

A frown flashed across Hogan’s face; his scent said it far more clearly: disappointment, distaste. LeBeau felt his hackles raising.

“It is not what you think,” he said, before Hogan could speak, pressing his luck with the officer. “You think he is a coward, he lets others take the fall for him? He is untrustworthy? He isn’t. It is not my secret to tell, but just as I could not stand to pick up what is under that bed,” he nodded to the shadows, the scent of silver distractingly clear, “he could not stand to be in the cooler for a month. He has risked himself to save my life before. I did not hesitate to spend a month in the cooler for his.”

“He didn’t agree to the proposition.”

“You did not get me out of the cooler, sir. Not at once,” added LeBeau. “Let me talk to him. You think I would be useful? You are right, sir, but so would he. And the men set store by him; he is a rebel, if he does not do something, they do not do it either. If he does, they do.”

Hogan sighed. “Alright. Convince him if you can. But if you do, he had better have a good explanation for his conduct before he can be expected to be trusted with anything.”

LeBeau stood, saluting stiffly. “Oui, mon colonel.”

“Very well. Dismissed.”

-------------------------------------------------------

The best places to speak privately in the camp were out in the open where you could be sure no one was lurking around a corner or behind a door. LeBeau and Newkirk were both well equipped to know when they were being overheard, but they wandered out towards the dog kennels all the same. The growling German Shepherds were always left well alone by the men. Newkirk stuck his hands deep in his pockets and hunched his shoulders against the cold breeze. They walked back and forth a few yards from the fence, backs bent and eyes scanning the open ground around them.

“He got me out,” said LeBeau, twitching his fingers to make the dogs stop watching him. They whined but turned away, nosing off towards their kennels. “He is showy, but maybe that is what it takes. I believe he could do what he says. He and Kinchloe, they have talents to recommend them.”

“Don’t know about the sergeant, but I don’t trust anyone who makes bad bargains. You know almost half the lasting damage in the last war was done by him and his bally crew.”

“Yes, and most of the other half was done by mine. You don’t object to me.”

“You didn’t choose it. You really want to follow someone power-hungry enough to make a deal with the devil?”

“We don’t know what he made a deal with, or why. Me, I am willing to follow someone able to turn the whole camp upside-down in one week. Someone who keeps his promises, and looks after his men. Besides, it will give us something to do. Or would you rather wait for another Erwin?” He looked towards the black patch on the other side of the wire.

Newkirk shuddered; the wind blew across the acrid scent of fear and anxiety.

LeBeau nodded, tucking his chin into his collar. “Et bien. It is not so much to ask.”

There was a long silence. The dogs, scenting their nervousness, whined and shied away. “Kelly’s getting uppity,” said Newkirk, at last. “Playing with those goddamn matches all the time.”

“Perhaps the Colonel can deal with that, too.”

“If he can, then maybe I’ll think about joining up for this hare-brained scheme. ‘Til then, I’m only in as deep as he orders me.”

“Pierre…”

“Don’t push it, Louis.”

“Alright. But you’ll go along with it?”

“I won’t go against it. That’s the best you’re getting for now. And don’t try to tell me I should trust more.”

LeBeau shook his head, and turned back towards the barracks. “No. But maybe you should judge less.”

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
eviinsanemonkey
Mar. 28th, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
This fic is absolutely amazing. I love the world you've crafted and how well it fits together. I can't wait to see what happens next! Great work!! :D
seiberwing
Jul. 7th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC)
I must have missed this chapter the first time around. Your writing continues to be brilliant, and I loved the scene where Hogan ever so delicately twists Klink onto his side.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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