Day 8 (Evening)
Fritz, Miller and the three boys had
been safe at the safe house in Garrel for almost two hours by the time Emery
reached the outskirts of
The line of cars was short but Emery could see it was a road block. The flashlight beams from the Gestapo men crisscrossed in the dark and shined off windows and mirrors from cars as they checked each vehicle. Emery stopped the sedan several hundred feet back from the road block, pulling off to the side of the road and cutting the engine and lights. In the dark, he and the four boys sat quietly watching.
"They are...looking for us?" Avril asked.
Emery nodded. "I'm sure of it. This road normally does not have a roadblock or checkpoint."
"Herr Miller, Herr Fritz, Ahren, Adler and Erik...were captured?" Roderick wondered.
Silence enveloped the inside of the car. The boys had all feared this since Fritz, Miller and the others had failed to show up at the checkpoint back in Bersenbruck. Like Emery though, they tried to think that maybe Fritz had just fallen behind or got held up somewhere, by either mechanical trouble or an impassable road. But not by the Gestapo.
"What do we do?" Roderick asked. "Do we try another road?"
"I have the feeling the other roads are no different than this one," Emery replied. "The two main roads have well fortified checkpoints at all times and the secondary roads like this one I am sure have roadblocks as well."
Another moment of silence, only this time each of the boys appeared to be thinking. Johann peered out the side window and looked toward the canal. "What if we cross on foot?" he suggested.
"All of us?" Avril said.
"Well perhaps not all of us. Herr Reynard could drive through the roadblock with one or two of us, while the others cross the canal on foot and meet up on the other side."
"That would take less suspicion off this car as we passed through," Emery said. "I am sure they are looking for a group of young boys traveling with one or more adults."
"Yes, and the fewer boys in the car, the less suspicion," Johann said.
"But we would have to swim the canal," Avril said. "Perhaps you have not noticed but it is a little cold tonight!"
"You won't have to swim it," Emery said. "The canal lock was bombed a couple of months ago, preventing the water from flowing. The canal is dry."
Johann looked at Avril with a smile. "There. You won't even get your shoes wet."
Avril snorted. "Very well, I will go."
Johann nodded. "Me as well." He looked at Oskar. "You come with us?"
The boy nodded. "I will."
Emery looked at Roderick. "You best stay with me."
Roderick appeared a little relieved. He glanced at the other boys, who nodded in agreement and he gave a nod to Emery. "Very well."
Emery nodded and gave some quick instructions to the boys, explaining that the road on the other side of the canal turned to the right after about a hundred feet. Once they crossed the canal, they were to stay out of sight of the checkpoint guards, preferably along the edge of the woods and brush. Emery then explained that he would pull over after the turn and wait for them.
The boys nodded and Emery wished them luck. They then exited the car and crossed to the right side of the road, heading for the canal. Roderick moved from the back to the front passenger seat of the car as Emery started it. The car then rolled back onto the road and drove on toward the checkpoint.
Johann, Avril and Oskar moved as quickly and as quietly as they could, leaving the road and walking down the slight embankment to the small clearing that was between the canal and the woods. The boys stopped and looked toward the checkpoint that was probably a hundred feet away. Their car pulled to a stop behind another one that was already being questioned by the checkpoint guards. With the guards sufficiently occupied, the boys continued on into the clearing, keeping low.
The car was waved through and Emery pulled up next. He saluted the guards and presented his identification papers. The guard examined the Soldbuch while the second one walked around the vehicle.
The three boys reached the edge of the canal and paused to look toward the lights of the bridge. Their car was at the entrance to the bridge, being questioned by the checkpoint guards. There were no cars behind it. They had to keep moving while the guard’s attention was diverted. One at a time, they climbed over the concrete barrier of the edge of the canal and eased their way down into....
....about eight inches of water.
"So I'm not going to get my shoes wet, ja?" Avril hissed.
"Quiet!" Johann hissed back, grabbing a hold of both Avril and Oskar to keep them still. The small splashing noise sounded deafening and the three boys looked toward the bridge again. There was no change in the guard’s postures.
At least, not that they could see. While the first guard was talking to Emery, the second one heard the sound of water splashing in the canal. He stopped moving and listened, but he heard no more.
All the boys could hear was their hearts pounding in their ears. Finally Johann loosened his grip on Avril and Oskar. "We must move quietly and slowly, do not splash the water as you walk....come..." Johann started to walk, slowly moving his legs through the water to reduce the amount of splashing. Avril and Oskar followed suit.
Back at the entrance to the bridge, Emery was explaining that the young boy with him was his nephew. The guard took that at face value and Emery's Soldbuch was returned to him. The guard bade him a good evening and let him through.
The three boys weren't even halfway to the halfway mark of the two hundred foot wide canal when they each saw the car move across the bridge. They glanced at it as it crept across the bridge and they continued on, one slow watery step at a time.
The second of the two guards paused at the now empty checkpoint and lit a cigarette. He tossed his spent match over the railing of the bridge and looked down at what little water there was in the canal. The lights of the bridge reflected and danced in the water below. As he listened he thought he could hear the faint sound of water splashing up stream.
He could see nothing in the dark however, and the sound of an approaching car drowned out any other sounds from the canal. He took a drag on his cigarette and turned at the car's approach.
The boys kept on, reaching the halfway point of the canal. The depth of the water remained the same, mercifully, but the temperature was starting to have an effect. "My feet and legs are cold!" Oskar hissed.
"We're almost there..." Johann replied.
Up the road, Emery had pulled the sedan around the turn and was parked off the road, he and Roderick waiting in the dark.
The car on the bridge was soon allowed to pass. As the motor echoed across the nearly empty canal, the boys stepped a little faster, trying to gain as much ground as they could while they couldn't be heard. Avril glanced toward the bridge and then looked back ahead of him...just as his foot hit something in the water and he tripped forward.
The guards on the bridge suddenly came to life at the noise and were now looking in the general direction of the boys. "Halt! Who is out there?!"
Johann and Oskar stopped and reached to help Avril to stand back up. The boy had sprung back up as quickly as he went down and a barely audible sound of shock coming from his mouth once his body registered the cold water. "Let's go! Let's go!" Johann yelled and the three ran through the rest of the water to the embankment.
Warning shots rang out. A spotlight came on. The boys clambered up the embankment and darted into the woods. The spotlight was turned towards the woods, following them but they kept running, knowing they could be seen but using the light to their own advantage.
Another warning shot rang out. "Halt!" One of the guards came running off the bridge going after the boys.
Roderick and Emery had heard the gunshots and the sedan sprung to life. Emery swung the car around and charged back around the corner and barreled down the road. "Get down, Roderick and stay down!" The young boy obeyed and huddled down in the backseat, hanging on for dear life.
The guard stopped and was waving for the car to get off the road. But Emery wouldn't have it and kept his foot to the pedal eventually forcing the guard to dive out of the way.
"Dumpkof! What are you doing?!" the guard yelled at the sedan as it pulled up the road and then swung around in the dirt, aiming for the guard again. The guard scrambled and rolled out of the way as the sedan went speeding past.
Thoroughly annoyed, the guard opened fire on the sedan, aiming between the little red taillights of the car. Bullets danced across the trunk of the car and Emery swung the sedan around one more time. Johann, Oskar and Avril, meanwhile, kept running to the point where the road turned. They took cover behind trees and brush, keeping an eye and ear in the direction of the sedan and the belligerent guard. The guard was still on the ground and he managed one shot at the oncoming sedan that went wild. He rolled again out of the way and went down into the ditch on the side of the road.
The other guard on the bridge was shooting at the sedan now. Emery figured he'd harassed them enough and he swung the sedan around again for the last time, pushing the car back down the road and away from the bridge.
The guard on the bridge was hollering for his comrade. After a moment, the first guard answered back that he was okay and climbed up from the ditch and back to the road. He looked in the direction the sedan went, the dark revealing nothing, the night air settling back to its crisp quietness. He didn't know who had been in the canal or who was in the car and this angered him more than having been attacked to begin with. He stomped back toward the bridge so that he could radio to his superiors in town what had taken place.
Up around the turn, Emery told Roderick to keep a watch out for the others. The boy, trying not to appear shaken by the ride in the car and the gun fire that had crackled around them, looked out the window. The sedan crept along slowly and soon, Roderick spotted the other three as they came out from the edge of the woods.
"There they are..."
Emery stopped and the boys, wet and
chilled to the bone, piled into the car. Once the door shut, the sedan pulled
forward hurrying on into the town of
Before Emery had reached the outskirts of
He did manage to get through to Hammelburg and left a coded message with the Underground there: His baker’s truck broke down and he was concerned he would not be able to get his goods to market before they spoiled.
It was a message Fritz hated to send, because it meant the escape was in trouble. Big trouble. And it frustrated him and even shamed him a little. He had been running escapes on the route for a couple of years. He was good at what he did. He knew the area. But the Gestapo, with help from the SS and Lord knew who else, was pulling out all the stops. Being compromised at the military checkpoint had been a first. And it was a first he would have preferred to not have experienced.
After hanging up the phone, Fritz had paused to look at his charges; the three young boys and Major Miller. Erik and Adler were sprawled on the floor, Ahren sat quietly in a chair. They were quiet but it was a tense quiet. The stakes for escaping had been high to begin with, but when Ahren translated to the other two what the soldier had spoken in English at the checkpoint, the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to dim. They were more concerned about what would happen to Miller. Only as an afterthought did they realize that they too might suffer the same fate.
Major Miller occupied one end of the couch, a blanket over him and had his head leaned back, dozing. He'd been going for more than 24 hours with no sleep and exhaustion was issuing orders he couldn't really ignore anymore. At the same time, however, he was rattled enough knowing the Gestapo and the SS had a bullet with his name on it, and his slumbered thoughts tended to drift on the side of fatalistic. Always figured one of those damn V-1 rockets would get me first...
Fritz seemed to be drawing a blank on what to do next. Where to go. They were forty miles from
What they needed most was a miracle. And they needed all of it in less than an hour.
"Brandeis," Sturtevant said, one of the few in the Underground to refer to Fritz by his first name. "I can get you a car and uniforms. I have Helmut checking on an alternate route for you. The cover of night, however, will be your best advantage."
"It will be our only advantage. If we can at least make it to Varel we will be able to stay there the night."
"Ja. And they have heat." Sturtevant smiled.
Fritz chuckled and nodded at him.
The uniforms were German Army uniforms, complete with loaded side arms. Fritz woke Miller from his brief rest and handed him the uniform to change. Miller was half way to the little washroom before he realized what it was he would be changing in to. He only paused a moment, looking at the uniform and then turned to look at Fritz. The robust baker looked back apologetically and Miller just gave a light snort and shook his head. He then disappeared into the washroom to change.
An alternate route was worked out and Sturtevant’s helpers determined there was one checkpoint to pass through before reaching Varel. For Fritz, that was one checkpoint too many.
"I do not like it," Fritz said. "After what
happened I would rather travel on foot than go through another
checkpoint." He, Sturtevant, one of the Sturtevant’s helpers and Major
Miller were seated at the small kitchen table. Fritz and Miller wore their
German Army uniforms. A map of
"It is too dangerous to travel on foot," Sturtevant said. "It is also too cold. The car I am getting for you will help you through the checkpoint."
"How's that?" Miller asked.
Sturtevant grinned. "You will see."
The car was the one thing they had to wait for, however. In the meantime, Fritz and Sturtevant put together new identity cards and papers to go with the Army uniforms and then separated out the supplies from the sedan that would be needed for the rest of the trip, the rest to stay with Sturtevant for the next escapee to pass through.
Fritz looked at his watch. It was almost .
They would definitely not make it to
Major Miller looked at the car and saw pretty much just a German Army staff car. Military flags fluttered on the ends of the rounded fenders. The convertible top was up and covered a clean and plush interior, with a woodgrain dash board, polished wood molding and velour seats. What he didn’t see, was Sturtevant’s trick for getting them through the checkpoint.
The Dutchman opened the double back doors and revealed the car’s secret. The extended back seat, with two bench seats facing each other, had been altered in such a way as not to be immediately noticeable to a passing glance. Much like a box can be made with a false bottom, these seats were "false" seats. The cores had been removed, leaving only a modified outside shell. They still looked like the seats and could still sit a passenger as normal. But they provided nearly flawless hiding places.
The first bench seat, directly behind the front seats, could hide one person, although they would be packed in almost like a sardine. The back bench seat, towards the trunk, actually extended into the trunk, the paneling between the seat and trunk removable, to allow more room. This offered a spot for at least two people.
Ahren, Adler and Erik thought the false seats were incredible. Each of the boys climbed into the car and tried out a hiding spot, helping demonstrate the simplicity and ease of use. Major Miller was both impressed and amused by the modification. "Bootleggers during Prohibition would have loved this car," he said.
“Bootleggers?” Sturtevant asked.
“Whiskey runners,” Miller said.
Fritz chuckled and looked at Sturtevant. “I believe he is referring to when the Americans outlawed the making and selling of beer and liquors several years ago. There were people who found…other ways to continue making, and transporting, the liquor.”
“Ah, I see.” Sturtevant smiled at Miller. “
Miller nodded, looking into the car again. He then looked at Fritz. “You’re not going to try to stuff me in there are you?”
“Initially that is what I was thinking,” Sturtevant answered. “But it is obvious,” he continued, looking up at Miller and taking into account the bandleader’s height. “You are not going to fit.”
“I’ll just have to take the chance sitting up front.”
“It is a chance I do not like,” Fritz said.
“Well I’m not exactly crazy about it myself,” Miller said. “But with the boys hiding in the seats, we should be less obvious at any of those checkpoints.”
“He is right,” Sturtevant said. “The checkpoint before Varel is remote. You will cause no suspicion there.”
Fritz thought this over and nodded. “Very well.” He then looked at his watch. It was near six-thirty. “We have missed the boat for tonight, but we will be able to stay in Varel until tomorrow. Goldilocks should be able to pick you up tomorrow night.”
Miller nodded. He was about to ask if the twenty-four hour delay was risky, but inherently he already knew the answer.
As Fritz, Miller and the boys were heading out of Garrel,
Emery arrived for a quick stop at the safe house in
"This is not all of them."
Emery shook his head. "I am not sure what has happened to Fritz with Herr Miller and the others." He looked at his watch. "Can we wait?"
The fisherman checked his watch. "Ja, we can wait but not for long."
Emery nodded. This much he knew.
The subdued idling of the fishing boat engines was a stark contrast to the noise at Gestapo Headquarters in Düsseldorf. At about , Major Hochstetter received some bad news.
"You had them!" Hochstetter roared, slamming his hand on his desk for emphasis. The two Army officers, who had been given the unpleasant task of directly reporting to the Gestapo what had happened at the checkpoint east of Clappenburg, didn't flinch. They'd heard worse from the upper ranks of the German Army.
"You had them and those two dumkopfs let them get away!"
"Herr Major, the soldiers were trying to verify that it was really the American--"
"BAH! They should have detained him in such a manner
so that he would have no chance to escape and then ask the questions!
The only chance those two have now is for duty to the Eastern Front!"
Hochstetter stepped away from his desk and walked over to the map of
The two Army officers looked at each other, neither one particular on explaining the delay. But they had no choice. “The soldiers were tied up,” one of the officers explained. “We did not find out what had happened until their reliefs had arrived.”
"This may be a costly mistake. If your soldiers had been more proactive they would not have been tied up and we would not have to waste further resources in the chase. We would have had them!"
"Ja, Herr Major."
"You will inform your troops that from this point on, if they suspect that they may have the American at their check point they are to immediately detain him. Allow no chance for escape! Place him under immediate arrest and then do their questioning to verify."
"Jawohl, Herr Major."
"Also make it clear that a mistake such as what we've seen....will not be tolerated."
"Jawohl, Herr Major..."
"Dismissed." Hochstetter waved them out of the room. No sooner had the two Army officers left, when a courier came in.
"Herr Major." He held out a communiqué. "From
Hochstetter grabbed the sheet and read it quickly. "
A rare smirk crept across Hochstetter's face. "Now I've got him...."
came too quickly. The four boys had said their goodbyes and expressed their thanks for what Emery had done for them just after they had stepped on the boat. The captain had then sent them below deck, while he and Emery remained on deck in hopes that Fritz would arrive with the rest of the group. But there was little activity along the pier and no car pulled up. The captain apologized to Emery and said he had to leave immediately in order to meet the sub. Emery nodded. He wished a safe trip for the captain and stepped off the boat and back onto the pier.
The fishing boat's engines had already been idling and Emery watched as a couple members of the crew unlatched the dock ropes. Then the boat was pushed away from the dock and chugged away at a subdued pace and with minimal lights on. Emery sighed. His mission was complete and although he was relieved to have got the four boys to this point he found little joy in the success. Fritz, Miller and the other three boys were still out there somewhere.
Emery turned and walked down the pier, returning to the car. He had to find out where they were.
As the fishing boat cruised out of the harbor, Fritz, Major Miller and the boys were fifteen miles south of Varel. A few feet beyond the sign that told of the upcoming road block, Fritz pulled the car over so that he and Miller could assist the boys into the hiding places in the seats of the car. Once the boys were secure, Fritz and Miller returned to the front. Fritz paused looking at the American. Miller straightened his German Army officer's cap and removed his glasses. He tucked them into one inside pocket of his grey over coat and removed his new fake Soldbuch from the other side. He could feel Fritz watching him and he looked at the baker.
"Herr Miller...I can not lie to you. There is no telling what may happen when we reach the roadblock. We may pass through with no problem, or we may be scrutinized again, as we were in Clappenburg, even without them seeing the boys...."
"And if they figure out who I am, we'll all be killed," Miller stated matter-of-factly. He paused, opening the passenger side vent window and taking out one of his last remaining cigarettes and his Zippo lighter. "Fritz, I know this very well may be the end of the line here, but we don't have any choice. We can't stay here. All the other routes Sturtevant's sentries checked out had checkpoints and roadblocks that we couldn't avoid. This route was picked because it was a little more remote. Even if we tried to go on foot, we'd be caught by patrols. There's a chance we'll get through here, but if we don't, I want you to do something."
Fritz nodded. "Of course."
"If they order us out of the car, let me get out first. Then I want you to step on that accelerator and get you and the boys out of there." The cigarette went between his lips and he clicked the Zippo open, striking the flame.
Fritz was thunderstruck. "What?!"
"I mean it." Miller paused a moment for the lighter to catch the cigarette. After it did the Zippo clicked closed and a short drag was taken. "It's me they want," he continued. "I'm not taking anyone with me."
"Herr Miller, I...." Fritz was shaking his head. "I could not do that. Colonel Hogan, your Allied Command....they would demand answers. Answers I would not be able to give to them. They would demand to know why I would drive off and leave you to die at the hands of the Nazis. No! I will not do it."
"You'd stay and allow yourself and these boys to die at the hands of the Nazis? And they only reason you'd be killed is because you've associated yourselves with me? Don't be a fool."
"I am part of the Underground fight against the Nazis....I take that risk everyday."
"I think you're taking an unwarranted risk with me. Not
that I don't appreciate it. But Fritz....I'm not a General. I'm not a spy with
important information. I'm just a bandleader. If I make it back to
A car passed them and slowed, almost as if looking to see what was going on with this car parked by the side of the road. Fritz and Miller both looked at it until it sped back up to normal speed and continued on. Miller returned his blurred gaze back to Fritz waiting for a reaction.
The Underground man was avoiding the gaze. The American's offer of self-sacrifice was unnerving. Fritz merely took a deep breath and turned the ignition. The car pulled back onto the road and headed for the checkpoint.
Emery returned to the Underground safe house he had first brought the boys to. The husband and wife owners of the house, seated at their kitchen table, looked at the young man as he came in. His defeated look concerned them.
The woman stood up immediately. "The boys? Did they make it to the boat?"
Emery nodded. "Ja, they are safe. They are on their way to the sub. I am concerned for Fritz though. Has there been any message?"
The woman shook her head. "Nein. The radio has been most quiet. But then again, there is much Gestapo and SS around...Fritz may not be able to send out a message."
"That is what has me worried."
The silence of the radio was nothing compared to the deafening silence within the staff car. As they waited to pass through the roadblock, Fritz watched the two soldiers as they went through their routine of checking identity papers and talking to the occupants of the car ahead of them. The soldiers didn't seem to be giving any extra effort to the scrutinizing, but then again, Fritz didn't know what was in the car ahead of him. It could have very well been somebody they already knew.
Out of the corner of his eye, Fritz saw Miller sitting quietly looking downward, cigarette still in hand. Waiting.
I'm not taking anyone with me.
Fritz was still debating with himself whether he would drive off and leave the Major if the situation warranted it. He agreed the boys lives should be preserved but...at the cost of Miller's? Would Colonel Hogan understand? Would Allied command? Would he be able to live with himself if he did what the Major asked?
The car ahead of them pulled away. Miller looked up and held the phony Soldbuch out to Fritz. Fritz took it but then hesitated in moving the car. One of the soldiers was waving for him to move.
Miller looked at Fritz, sensing the hesitation. "Go on..."
Fritz gulped. "Ja..." He took a deep breath and put the car in gear, moving forward.
"Guten Abend....Heil Hitler..." the soldier said, looking at Fritz through the window. Fritz returned the greeting and handed over the Soldbuchs.
The soldier accepted them and looked at Fritz's first. Verified, the soldier than opened Miller's.
The soldier paused, looking at the photo. He then leaned down to look through the window at the passenger in the car. They were the same, but there was something else. The soldier straightened and appeared to be checking the validation stamps in the Soldbuch while he reached into his overcoat for one of the photographs he had been given earlier in the day.
US Army Captain Glenn Miller looked back at him. The man in the photo in the Soldbuch looked similar.
Fritz saw what the soldier was looking at and held his breath. You have the wrong man, soldier... this isn't the American....
But the soldier knew it was the American. However, he put the photo back in his overcoat and closed the Soldbuch, handing both of them back to Fritz. "Danke. Safe travel to you, Herr Oberstleutnant, Major.” There was the merest twitch of the soldier's eye, suggesting a wink. Fritz couldn't believe it. He accepted the Soldbuchs back but stared at the soldier. The soldier merely took a step back and saluted. "Heil Hitler..." He seemed to hold back a smile. A friendly smile.
Fritz blinked out of his stupor and returned the salute with a respectful and appreciative nod. The car rolled forward and passed through the checkpoint.
Miller had the sense that something strange just happened. He dug out his glasses and put them on to look at Fritz, just as the baker began to chuckle.
"Okay," Miller said, "what the hell just happened?"
Fritz laughed a little more in sheer relief. "Divine intervention, Herr Miller. Divine intervention!"
Once out of sight of the checkpoint, Fritz pulled the car over so that boys could come out of the hiding places. Major Miller was still trying to understand what had happened.
"You mean they had me pegged right there," he stated, looking at Fritz on the other side of the car through the open back door. The boys, out of their hiding spots were seated, looking back and forth between Miller and Fritz. "But they let us pass through? I feel like I'm being set up."
"Nein. The soldier, he is sympathetic to the Underground."
“How the hell do you know that? He hardly said anything.”
“If he was not sympathetic, we would not be having this conversation.” Fritz toned dropped softly. “We would already be dead, Herr Miller.”
Miller sighed heavily, resting a foot on the running board of the staff car. He closed his eyes briefly, exhaustion and the anticlimax of passing through the checkpoint freely instead of meeting his end were mounting a fierce battle to knock him out. The brief cat nap in Garrel hadn't helped much. The cigarette between his fingers, half burned, wasn't doing anything either. He opened his eyes again and looked at Fritz. "You don't think they're just going to ambush us down the road?"
"Nein," Fritz said. He looked at the American with concern. "Herr Miller, you have been going almost 36 hours with no sleep. From here we will have safe passage to Varel and then you can rest."
"You need it," Ahren spoke. "We all need it but I can tell you are exhausted."
Miller looked at the boy and gave a slight nod. "You're right. That's probably contributing to my more...dreadful thoughts." Miller looked back in the direction of the checkpoint and then at Fritz. "Let's get out of here, huh?"
Fritz nodded. The back doors of the sedan were closed and a moment later it pulled back onto the road.
The safe house in Varel was in the heart of the town, or rather the small city. Fritz guided the sedan through the narrow streets and very light traffic and on to a tenement building. He backed the car into the alley next to the tenement building putting it out of sight of the street and then he, Miller and the boys went inside through a door facing the alley.
They trudged up to the second floor, Miller bringing up the rear and stifling a yawn. Fritz paused at the door of the second floor landing to turn to the boys and Miller, bringing a finger to his lips, an indication they were to remain quiet once they were in the hall so as not to draw any un-needed attention to themselves.
They walked quietly down the hall and then Fritz stopped at a door, knocking lightly. After a moment, an older man answered. He looked at Fritz, saw the four additional faces and nodded. The door opened wider, allowing everyone in.
Besides the man, a girl who looked to be about twenty stood expectantly in the apartment. She gave a welcoming smile to the boys and Miller and then waited as Fritz spoke immediately to the man about Major Miller.
The man nodded and looked to the girl. "Elsa," he said. "Show Major Miller to the guest room. He looks about ready to collapse where he stands."
"Ja, Papa." She looked at Miller. "This way..." Miller followed the girl. The man in the meantime led Fritz and the boys into the living area of the apartment.
"This is the washroom," she said, pointing to one door. The next door she stopped at and opened disappearing into the dark. Miller waited at the door way until the light from a lamp illuminated the room. He stepped in as Elsa turned down the comforter.
"There you are," she said.
"Danke," Miller said as the girl started for the door. She paused and looked at him, surprised. "You...speak German?" she asked.
He snorted softly and shook his head. "Not really. Just a few words."
She smiled and nodded. "Rest well, Herr Miller." She stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her.
Miller paused for only a moment to look around the room, feeling terribly alone. He stepped toward the vanity dresser and removed the heavy German Army overcoat and officer's hat and placed them on the chair. He took a moment to look at his reflection in the vanity mirror as he loosened the necktie and unbuttoned the uniform jacket. He came to the quick decision that he looked like hell and turned away. The uniform jacket was slipped off, along with the tie and the articles were dumped on top of the overcoat on the chair. He then sat down on the bed to remove his shoes.
He paused, fighting off sleep for just a moment longer while he kicked off the footwear. Then he finally gave in, laid down on his back, his head against the pillows and was gone within a few moments. He never had the chance to remove his glasses or even turn off the light of the lamp.
About a half an hour later, after the boys were settled into another room, the man came to check on Miller and found the Major as he was at the moment he fell asleep. The man chuckled softly. "Goodness, he never made it under the bedspread..." He entered the room and walked over to the vanity. A heavy blanket was removed from a drawer and he unfurled it, and walked back around the bed to drape the blanket over Miller. He then carefully removed Miller’s glasses, hardly disturbing him in his sleep. The glasses were then placed on the nightstand and the lamp was turned out.
"Gute nacht, musik mann..."
Around seven-thirty, restless with worry and feeling useless, Emery changed into civilian clothes and walked down to a nearby Bierstube. It was a place frequented by both Underground operatives and Gestapo alike and Emery figured maybe he could find some information, one way or the other. He found a table and settled in with his newspaper and a beer. Several minutes later, three Gestapo officers came in and sat at a table near Emery.
"So, what is this that happened? The Army almost captured the American?"
"Ja, in Clappenburg. The American got away. Major Hochstetter thinks that he is heading this way however. Especially after what happened at the canal crossing earlier this evening. It is possible that some of those kids that escaped with the American were crossing the canal at the time."
Emery nearly choked. Almost captured?! Worse than that, the incident at the canal crossing was sending up a red flag and Fritz and Miller quite possibly were going to walk into a trap once they reached Wilhelmshaven. Emery turned the page in his newspaper and listened some more although he wanted to just jump up and get out of there to try to send out an emergency message to the rest of the Underground, alerting them of what might happen.
"The two main roads into
"There is also heightened observance of known and suspected Underground operatives within the area. Suspected safe houses are being watched. If the American is receiving any assistance, he should be spotted."
At this, a waitress had come over to take the Gestapo men's orders. Their attention diverted to food and to the pretty girl taking their order, Emery took a few quick gulps of his beer and then gently folded his newspaper. A few Deutschmarks were left on the table to pay for the beer and for a tip and then Emery stood up quietly and left the Bierstube.
While Emery was scrambling to figure a way to send out a warning message, and Major Miller and the boys were settled in for the night in Varel, Colonel Hogan and his men were gathered around the radio in the tunnel below barracks two. At a little after eight, the radio came to life with a voice transmission. "Goldilocks calling Papa Bear. Goldilocks calling Papa Bear. Come in Papa Bear."
Kinch glanced at Colonel Hogan and the others. They had been waiting all day for this radio transmission. Kinch adjusted his headphones and spoke into the mike. "This is Papa Bear, go ahead Goldilocks."
"Papa Bear, I have half the flock. Repeat, I only have half the flock. No Bluebird. Please advise on whereabouts of Bluebird. Over."
The change in Kinch's expression sent up a red flag with the others looking at him. He looked at Hogan. "They only have some of the kids. Miller's not with them."
"What?!" LeBeau exclaimed, with Newkirk and Carter equally concerned.
Hogan gestured for the headset. "Goldilocks, this is Papa Bear, could you please repeat?"
"I only have half the flock, Papa Bear. No Bluebird. Whereabouts of Bluebird are unknown. Can you advise?"
Hogan felt like he was going to be sick. "Negative," came his reply trying not to sound shaky. "We will inquire and get back to you, Goldilocks."
"Acknowledged, Papa Bear."
Hogan removed the headset and handed it back to Kinch. "Get the Underground. I want to know where the hell he is."
Kinch nodded, putting the headset on and changing the frequency to hail the Underground.
"I can't believe it!" Carter said.
"Do you think he was caught?" Newkirk asked.
"If he was caught I think we would have heard about it by now," Hogan replied.
"They may have decided not to wait for us to watch and they have already killed him," LeBeau said with a low growl.
Hogan held a hand up. "Let's try to think positive here. Maybe they weren't caught but they're in trouble somewhere. They may have fallen behind schedule for a lot of different reasons. Mechanical problems, an impassable road...."
"Too many bloody roadblocks," Newkirk added.
Hogan gave a nod to Newkirk's direction. "Depending how thick Hochstetter's coverage is of the area, that's possible. For all we know they're pinned down somewhere."
Kinch looked at the Colonel. "The Underground's not responding."
Hogan sighed. "Terrific. Guess we'll have to go knock on their door." He looked at his watch. "After lights out, I'll go."
"Maybe one of us should go with you..." Kinch suggested. They were all restless.
"Any volunteers?" Hogan asked. Immediately all four hands went up.
"Merci, mon Colonel."
The number of people in the Hofbrau after was typical. Things were busy enough so that two additional people coming in was hardly noticed, yet not so busy that the bartender could not take extra time with these two customers.
Hogan and LeBeau, dressed as German civilians, seated themselves at the bar and the Colonel dropped German marks on the counter. Immediately, two beers were delivered along with a slip of paper. The bartender, Bruno, then left to tend to other customers.
Hogan unfolded the paper. Truck has broke down and there is concern that the goods can not be delivered before they spoil.
LeBeau was looking at the Colonel expectantly. Hogan sighed, tucking the paper into his coat. "They're in trouble..."
Hogan shook his head. "More likely pinned down somewhere. Depending how old this message is."
LeBeau drew in a deep breath. "Punaise..." he growled softly. Damn. He picked up the beer mug and took a drink.
It was several minutes before Bruno returned.
Hogan looked up at the bartender. "Where?"
Bruno glanced at the clock and looked at the Colonel apologetically. "About four hours ago. I am sorry that we could not get that to you sooner. The play this evening..." The play...an Underground operation.
Hogan was extremely disappointed but merely nodded. "When do you expect the play to be over?"
"They should be on their way back now, as it was a long distance show. Probably a couple more hours."
Hogan nodded again. He took one last drink of the beer and then said, "We'll be back later..."
Bruno nodded. Suddenly the telephone rang. He turned to answer it as Hogan and LeBeau headed for the door.
"Hallo?" the bartender listened to the voice on the other end and looked toward the door anxiously. Hogan and LeBeau had already left. He asked the caller to hold for a moment and put the phone down, hurrying around the bar and heading for the door.
"Gentlemen! Just a moment...." he ran a little to catch up to them, darting around a few people. Hogan and LeBeau stopped and turned to him. "I think I overcharged you." Bruno said, "Please, come back inside I want to make sure I tallied your order right..."
Hogan and LeBeau followed the bartender back into the Hofbrau. Bruno returned to the phone and resumed the conversation.
Hogan listened to what Bruno was saying. He realized he was talking to Fritz.
After a moment, the conversation came to a close. "Ja....ja, I will tell him..." There was no goodbye and Bruno merely hung up the phone. He turned to Hogan and LeBeau and picked up his order pad scribbling a few short words on it. He then tore it off and handed it to Hogan.
Varel. Will need help delivering the goods.
Hogan read it and looked at Bruno with a nod. "We'll be back later."
"He's in Varel. Would they like to send a couple of divisions in and go pick him up?" Hogan said sarcastically. He then held a hand up and closed his eyes a moment. “Sorry.”
"Is he okay, Colonel?" Carter asked.
"For now. They're pinned down. Fritz did manage to get a message out tonight while LeBeau and I were at the Hofbrau. They're going to need help getting out of Varel."
"Which means we're going to Varel," Newkirk said.
"We're going to Varel. I don't know how yet, but I'm going back to Hammelburg a little later and figure that out."
"What do you want me to tell
"Tell them the Major's run into a SNAFU and we're working on fixing it."
Emery, meanwhile, was dealing with a communication issue in
his efforts to get a message out to the rest of the Underground. Finally, a
discreet phone call allowed for the short, two word message
to be passed along the Underground network. Hopefully it would reach Fritz if
he stopped somewhere, wherever he was, and let those back in Düsseldorf know
what the conditions were in
Nest der Viper.
A little after eleven, Hogan returned to Hammelburg alone, having told his men they should try to get some sleep while they could. There was no sense in staying awake all night anyway. There was no guarantee they were going to be able to do much to help Fritz. Varel was at least a hundred and sixty-fives miles north. To get there in any reasonable amount of time, they would have to travel by rail.
It was a long shot. Conning Kommandant Klink into allowing Hogan and his men out of Stalag 13 was the easy part. Conning a train conductor into thinking they were being transferred or escorted somewhere by orders of the Gestapo or German High Command, was questionable.
Hogan knew he had to try. Major Hochstetter had pulled out all the stops in his pursuit of Major Miller. Frankly, the bandleader had more combined Gestapo and SS troops after him then he probably would have cared to know about. But the point was the High Command was making a very big deal out of what the Major had done. To them, Miller represented everything the Nazis hated and his act with the radio broadcast, a proverbial rude hand gesture, had enraged them. Yet they knew what Miller represented to the Allies. Patriotism, duty, honor and self-sacrifice. His efforts with music helped build morale. His capture and subsequent end, the High Command felt, would deal a crushing blow to the Allies.
Maybe not a crushing blow, Hogan thought. But it would certainly piss a lot of people off. Myself included.
So now it was time to pull out all the stops against
Hochstetter. Assuming Hogan could pull a plan together with the local
underground, he could already hear
Every escape risks exposure to the operation. If we weren't willing to accept the risk, why the hell are we in this business?
This was the last thought Hogan had when he arrived at the Underground meeting place. Maurice Dubois was there, along with several of Hammelburg's Underground regulars, all ready to do whatever they had to, to help their comrades.
Dubois greeted the Colonel as he came in. "Mon, Colonel. I apologize for the message from Fritz not being delivered earlier. Our operation earlier this evening we had been planning for several weeks and we just could not deviate from it."
Hogan shook his head, waving off the apology. "Were you successful?"
"Okay then. Now let's figure what we're going to do for Major Miller..."
Within the span of an hour, a plan was developed that consisted of three phases. The first phase was getting Colonel Hogan and his men out of Stalag 13 which, as Hogan knew, was the easy part. The second phase was getting on board a train to travel north. That part would be a little tricky, but not entirely impossible. The third phase was dependent upon what they found once they got into Varel.
Phase one was set into motion immediately. Hogan hurried back to Stalag 13, while the Underground pulled together what they needed for the con. Things were going to move very, very fast. The Colonel could only hope that it was going to be fast enough for Major Miller…
At twelve-thirty, Hogan had returned to camp only to find his
men were still awake. None of them had been able to sleep. He told them what
was happening and that the Underground would be coming for them within the next
thirty minutes or so. He then went with Kinch down to the tunnel to send a
"Papa Bear, what is going on? What is this situation Bluebird has run into?"
"There's no time to explain. Just have Goldilocks on standby for a pick up. We're heading into the field ourselves."
"Papa Bear, that's not recommended. Security issues...."
Hogan ignored it. "We have no other choice, Mama Bear. Unless you don't want to see Bluebird fly again."
There was a long pause on the other end of the radio. A very long pause. Hogan was starting to think the transmission was lost when the voice returned.
"Goldilocks will be on standby, Papa Bear. We'll await further information."
"Acknowledged Mama Bear. Papa Bear out..."
A "Gestapo" staff car, with three Underground men in it, came through the gates of Stalag 13 just after . They demanded to see Klink at once and the Kommandant was rustled out of bed. Klink didn't bother to change into uniform and prepared to meet the officers in his office in his pajamas and robe. After all, this was his camp. What could they possibly want that can't wait until a more decent hour??
The "Gestapo" officers stood up when Klink entered his office. They each looked surprised by Klink's attire.
"All right, all right," Klink said, marching to his desk. "What could you possibly want at this hour?"
The ranking officer approached the desk and held out a piece
of paper. "These prisoners are to be taken to
Klink looked at the list. Carter, Hogan, Kinchloe, LeBeau, Newkirk.
"It is in relation to the incident at the radio station in Düsseldorf." The officer took the paper back from Klink and folded it back into his pocket. "They are to be questioned, amongst other things."
Klink looked at the officers. "What other things?—“ He suddenly thought of something. “Major Miller....has been captured?"
"He is surrounded. We have no time for your questions Kommandant. We must take the prisoners at once."
"I find this very unusual, Oberleutnant. I think I should check with Major Hochstetter before---"
"Major Hochstetter is the one who ordered us here to pick up the prisoners! Now, if you would be so kind Kommandant as to tell us what barracks they are in, we will not trouble you any further. We will take the prisoners and be out of your way." The officer leaned on the desk. "Unless you would prefer we shake down this entire camp...."
Burkhalter's words about Hogan and the others bearing witness to Major Miller's final punishment were echoing in Klink's mind. Hogan and his men would have no idea what it was they were going to see and he could not forewarn them. He also had no choice against the Gestapo. The Kommandant's posture slumped a little. "That won't be necessary," he said. "They are in Barracks Two. Directly across the compound."
The officer nodded and stood back from the desk. "Danke, Herr Kommandant." He then saluted. "Heil Hitler."
Klink returned a half hearted salute. "Heil Hitler. Schultz, accompany these officers to Barracks Two."
"Jawohl, Herr Kommandant."
The "Gestapo" officers exited the office with Schultz following. Klink returned to his quarters to get his heavy overcoat.
Although Hogan and his men knew the "Gestapo" was coming, a convincing act was put on as they were all rustled out of bed. Schultz had all he could do to keep the barracks from erupting into a riot and the "Gestapo" officers finally quelled everything with the pointing of weapons. Hogan and his men were ordered to dress quickly. When they were escorted from the barracks, Klink was outside waiting.
Hogan stopped, continuing his act. "What's going on,
Kommandant? Why are we being taken to
“Yeah, what’s the deal here? I need my beauty rest ya know…” The rest of the heroes chimed in as well.
"I am sorry, Colonel Hogan. Major Hochstetter's orders."
"Hochstetter? What he's too lazy to come here and interrogate us now? He has to have us dragged out of bed at in the morning?"
"If the circumstances were different, Colonel Hogan, I am sure Major Hochstetter would come here for any further interrogation."
"Circumstances? What circumstances?"
Klink shook his head. "I am sorry, Colonel. I can not say anymore."
"You can't say anymore?" he said. "What's the big secret here? What--?" Hogan paused, acting like he suddenly thought of something. "Miller. This has to do with Major Miller doesn't it?"
Klink said nothing and looked away.
Hogan was a little surprised. Obviously he thinks we're being led off to witness Miller's end and he really feels bad! Will wonders never cease....
"It is!" he exclaimed. "That's what it is! They've caught him! They're gonna....they're gonna...." Hogan appeared to not be able to say it. The "Gestapo" gave Hogan's arm a tug and he and his men were led across the compound to the waiting car, although Hogan continued his vocal protest with the rest of the boys shouting with him. They were all silenced once the car doors closed.
Kommandant Klink didn't look at the car again as it headed for the gate. He just walked back to his quarters in silence.