Varel, Germany
Day 9

 

Hogan and his men, along with six members of the Underground passing as Gestapo, boarded a train and traveled to Varel without incident. The train conductor was a loyal member of the Nazi party and had just the right amount of healthy fear of the Gestapo. His train, he said, was their train.

Once settled on the train, the entire trip took about three hours. Hogan ordered for everyone to rest and to get some sleep. Things would move very fast once they reached their destination.

There was hardly time to pause, or to realize the sun was starting to come up when they arrived just after five-thirty. Two "Gestapo" cars waited at the train station, both drivers standing together near one of the cars. Hogan and his men stood with their "Gestapo" guards, while Dubois, as the ranking officer, went to verify the identity of the drivers. Customary greetings were exchanged and then Dubois spoke a code word. One of the drivers removed his Soldbuch and opened it, where a jagged edged half of a poker card was hid. Dubois removed a half of a poker card from his uniform pocket and lined up the jagged edge of his to the other card. They matched perfectly.

Underground identity confirmed, the POW's and their "Gestapo" guards were split between the two cars and they were driven to a meeting place, an abandoned warehouse on the northern outskirts of Varel. Upon arrival, everyone one was quickly brought up to speed on the situation.

Hogan nodded. "Miller's safe where he's at right now. That gives us time to get some intelligence work done and pull together a few things before we go pick him up. First, we need to find out about the roads into Wilhelmshaven, how heavily patrolled they are and what there are for checkpoints set up. More importantly, which checkpoint do we stand the best chance of getting through? Second, I want to have Army uniforms on hand incase the Gestapo getups don't play into the plan or backfire all together. Third, we need to know where the Gestapo and/or SS are at here in Varel. Are they conducting searches, asking questions and the like? We need to figure out how easy or difficult it's going to be to move around in this town.

"Emery's message that we got just before we left Hammelburg last night I think summed up what we are to expect in Wilhelmshaven." Hogan looked around at everyone. "Let's get to work..."

A couple of hours later, Hogan had a good amount of information, a particular bridge crossing into Wilhelmshaven picked out and basic plan laid out in his mind. He and his men were checking a map of Wilhelmshaven and going over some of the details when one of the Underground men came running into the warehouse.

"Colonel," the man spoke, out of breath. "Gestapo. They are on their way to the safe house Major Miller is at."

"Right now?"

The man nodded. "The building has been under watch, apparently for a few days. We did not discover this until this morning. They know he is there and they are going to pick him up. We can not risk trying to warn them, as there is potential the phone line is tapped."

"Given Hochstetter's orders, a warning could turn into a blitz and could be dangerous," Newkirk said.

Hogan nodded. "Which is why we have to run interference instead. Carter, Newkirk, go get those Gestapo uniforms." Hogan looked at the man. "Where is this safe house?"

***

Elsa cooked up a robust breakfast for her, her grandfather and for their guests. Which was a good thing as Miller, refreshed after almost twelve hours of sleep, and the boys were quite hungry.

After breakfast, Major Miller stood by the window, looking out to the street three stories down, smoking a cigarette. The appearance of the street, for a brief, strange moment, gave no indication that a war was even going on. But that was soon interrupted by the sight of a Gestapo sedan coming to park on the side of the street opposite of the building Miller was looking out from.

He watched the four exit the car and they paused waiting for a break in traffic before crossing. Never taking his eyes off them, Miller called for Fritz.

The underground man was beside the bandleader in an instant and saw as the four Gestapo agents began to cross the street coming directly for the building. "Get the boys. We must get out of here..." Both men turned from the window, their observance already drawing the attention of the old man and Elsa. Fritz said nothing more than Gestapo and immediately everyone knew what was happening. The boys came to immediate attention at Miller's command and the five were out the door.

Fritz led them down the hall to the back stair well, where they descended the stairs quickly, quietly and in single file.  They came out to the alley between the two buildings and hurried the short distance to the car.

Miller pulled the passenger door open and paused, looking up and down at the alley as the boys dove into the back of the car. Fritz was in the driver's seat and the engine caught, turning over with an echo within the alley.

"Halt!"

Miller looked up and saw one of the Gestapo agents leaning out the window with pistol waving in the air in warning. Miller slammed the door and jumped back from the car, yelling for Fritz to go.

"Nein!"

"Go dammit! Get out of here!"

The Gestapo agent in the window opened fire, smashing the headlight on Miller’s side of the car. Miller flinched and ran for the back of the alley, staying along the wall of the building avoiding another shot from the Gestapo gun before an overhang put him out of sight of the officer. Fritz hit the accelerator and the car peeled out into the street before the gun could be turned on him.

In the back of the car, Erik was horrified. "We can not leave him here!"

"We're not going to. I am going to drive around and try to pick him up..."

At the end of the alley, Miller found himself at the crossroads of a maze. To his left was a short path that went up directly to a street. To his right, was another long narrow alleyway leading to another street. Directly in front of him was another building. He looked back in the direction he had come from.  He couldn’t see the window the Gestapo agent had been in but figured he was more than likely winding his way down those back stairs to the alley doorway and his three friends would be joining him. Miller came to a decision and headed down the long narrow alley, looking back one more time.

Had he taken the short path to the street, he would have met up with Fritz. The sedan slowed as Fritz and the boys looked to see if Miller was there. They saw him heading in the other direction before losing him in the shadows.  Fritz stepped on the accelerator and turned the car at the next corner to try to make it to the other street and be there when Miller came out of the alley.

The Gestapo men came out of the doorway of the building and ran down the alley. They saw Miller heading down the long alley. One of the Gestapo men grabbed another and they doubled back to go get their car. The other two continued after Miller.

At the same time, Hogan, Carter and Newkirk were coming down the street in their Gestapo car.  They saw as the two Gestapo men darted between traffic to cross the street to their car.

"I hate to say this guv'nor but I think we're too late," Newkirk said.

"Pull up behind them..." Hogan said quickly. Newkirk did so and the Colonel jumped out of the car.

"What is happening?" he asked.

"The American was in the tenement building. He has escaped on foot. There are two men after him now. We are going to try to head them off."  The Gestapo men jumped into their car and pulled away from the curb.

Hogan leapt back into his car. "Miller's on foot, they're going to try to head him off. Step on it!"

Newkirk was already hitting the accelerator. He followed the other car down the street and through the turn. Up ahead of them, they spotted somebody in a German uniform come out of the alley and continue running up the street to the next alleyway.

"That's gotta be him in the Kraut uniform," Newkirk said.

Hogan watched as the car ahead of them kept going, obviously to turn the next corner, go up the street and come back down to try to beat Miller to the end of the alley way.  "Pull up to the alley there, like we're blocking it."

Newkirk did so. Immediately Hogan jumped out of the car and ran down the alley after Miller. The other two Gestapo men came out of the first alley and ran up to the car. "Where is he? Where did he go?"

"Down the alley," Newkirk answered. "Don't worry....he's not going anywhere..."

A realization came to Hogan as he was running to catch up to Miller. The Colonel was dressed in a Gestapo uniform. Miller was being chased by Gestapo. Nice going, Hogan. Nice going! What the hell makes you think he’s going to stop for you? You might be able to “catch” him but he’s carrying a side arm, more than likely fully loaded. And he’ll put it to good use if he thinks you’re Gestapo.

That really only left one option.

"Major!" Hogan shouted.

Yeah right. Like Miller was going to stop for that?

A hundred fifty feet or so from the end the alley, however, Miller did stop when another car blocked it. He turned around, took a few steps forward and then saw Hogan heading towards him. Of course it wasn't Hogan he saw, it was just another Gestapo officer. Looking back and forth between the end of the alley and Hogan, the Major saw his options severely limited. He pulled the gun from the holster.

Hogan stopped cold, about fifteen feet from Miller, his hands out in front of him. He was right about one thing. The Major wasn't going anywhere without a fight. But if the Gestapo officers coming from the car saw the gun out, they'd take him down in cold blood. Miller would have no chance.

Miller had the gun aimed low toward Hogan and his stance blocked from the other two Gestapo officers the fact that he was holding a weapon.

"Major!" Hogan hissed. "Dammit, put the gun down! It's me! Hogan!"

Miller looked like a deer caught in headlights. Hogan?! He couldn't believe it!  "Colonel...How--?"

Hogan quickly approached the Major, relieving him of the pistol. "Follow my lead, I'm gonna get you out of here...."

Miller stared at the Colonel for another moment still disbelieving it was really Hogan. Where the hell did he come from?! The sound of approaching foot steps pulled his attention back to the two Gestapo officers coming from their car. "Colonel, we're dead where we stand..."

"No, we're not." Hogan tucked the gun in the belt of his Gestapo uniform. He took hold of Miller's arm and turned it behind the Major's back, making as if he had just apprehended him. "Trust me..."

"Well done!" one of the Gestapo officers spoke as the two approached. Hogan held both of Miller's hands behind the Major's back and the bandleader struggled a moment against the grip, for show. The second Gestapo officer approached Miller, looking smug. "You will wish you have not caused us so much trouble..."

The first Gestapo officer had removed his Luger from its holster. "I say we finish it right here..."

"Nein," Hogan spoke up. "My understanding is there are to be witnesses..."

The first Gestapo officer smirked, tapping the barrel against his left index finger. "There are. The three of us."

"General Burkhalter has POW's in mind for the witnesses."

"General Burkhalter is a Luftwaffe General....what business does he have deciding what the Gestapo should and should not do regarding its own escaped prisoners?"  The officer raised his Luger level at Miller. The Major was pulling against Hogan's grip for real this time.

Hogan turned Miller so that he was out of the line of fire of the Luger, and Hogan was in it. "As far as the Fuehrer is concerned, he has all the business!" Hogan replied. "Major Hochstetter issued the order, the Fuehrer wants it carried out that way. The POW's are to be witness." Hogan paused. "If you shoot this man, Leutnant than I will take it upon myself to shoot you for disobeying direct orders."

While the officer paused to consider this, Fritz and the boys were slowly passing the alley. Through the windows of the Gestapo car, all three boys saw the Major surrounded by Gestapo, his hands held behind him and the gun leveled at him.

"NEIN!" Erik yelled. Once they passed the Gestapo car, Erik lunged for the door and tumbled out of the back of the car.

"Erik!" Adler and Ahren both exclaimed. Erik quickly picked himself up and started for the alley. Fritz brought the car to a stop and Adler jumped out of the car running after the younger boy.

Erik reached the Gestapo car and squeezed around it and into the alley. Adler jumped up on the front bumper, then onto the hood and leapt off, tackling Erik to the ground.

The commotion caught the attention of the two Gestapo officers, Hogan and Miller. They looked as Adler was hauling Erik up and despite the fourteen-year-old’s vocal protests, forced him back to the end of the alley, physically pushing and pulling him.

"Sie!” the second Gestapo officer shouted. “Halt!"

The first Gestapo officer lowered his weapon and took off after the two boys who had squeezed their way back around the Gestapo car and out of the alley. The second officer looked at Hogan.

"Get him out of here. We will meet you at Gestapo Headquarters."

Hogan nodded. The second officer took off down the alley.

Hogan let go of Miller. The Major looked at him with concern. "That looked like Erik and Adler..."

Meanwhile, Adler pushed Erik back into the car and then jumped in after. The door slammed shut and Fritz stood on the accelerator, the car peeling away just as the two Gestapo officers reached their vehicle. They both saw it. "That is the car that was in the other alley!" the second officer said as they immediately got into their car. The chase was on.

Hogan and Miller were hurrying back the other way where Carter and Newkirk were waiting. "I told Fritz to get out of here," Miller complained.

"He would have. But obviously he was looking for one more chance to pick you up." 

"He should have just gone! Now he's got the Gestapo after him and those boys. I was trying to avoid that."

"We'll get him."

Hogan and Miller reached the car and Miller stopped momentarily, not sure who the other two officers were.

"It's all right," Hogan said. "It's Carter and Newkirk."

"Howdy Major!" Carter said with a grin.

Newkirk smiled too. "The other two are all set here, Colonel." He pointed to the two real Gestapo officers that were now seated on the sidewalk, tied together back to back. Both were unconscious.

Hogan nodded. "Good. We have a slight problem though. The other two are after Fritz and the boys."

"We saw two cars go zooming by up the street a minute or so ago," Carter said.

"That was them." Hogan looked at Miller. "If I know Fritz, he's going to try to stay around this neighborhood, lose the Gestapo long enough to try to pick you up."

"But Erik and Adler saw me surrounded by Gestapo. They'll think I've been captured."

"And Fritz doesn't know we're here," Newkirk pointed out. "This could get a might sticky."

"Fritz shouldn't even be looking for me," Miller said. "He should just lose the Gestapo and get the hell out of here."

"Thing is, he won't. Not unless he can pick you up or verify you've been captured. Either way, we have to get that car off his tail before they bring in back up. I'll drive. Newkirk, you ride in front. We may need your RAF sharpshooter skills."

Newkirk nodded and the four of them got into the car.  The sedan was turned around and pointed in the direction Fritz's car was last seen.

"Okay fellas," Miller said, now finally having the chance to ask the question he had wanted to ask the moment he had recognized Hogan. "How in the world did you get here?"

Newkirk turned in the passenger seat and grinned at the Major. "Ah, a little of that ol' Black Underground Magic."

"Fritz managed to send out a couple of SOS messages," Carter added, "so we knew you were in a bit of trouble. Then Emery sent one from Wilhelmshaven that wasn't very promising."

"Emery.... did those boys make it?"

"They did," Hogan said, never taking his eyes off the road. "But that's when we found out you hadn't. So once we were finally able to figure out where you were, the Underground got us out of Stalag 13 to here, by train. We figured to just meet with you at the safe house, go over the plan to get into Wilhelmshaven and get you there. Imagine our surprise when the Gestapo was already trying to pay you a visit."

Newkirk looked at Hogan. "How do you suppose they knew he was there?"

"Bad luck on our part. Emery's message alone told us there's a heavy Gestapo and SS presence in this area. They're probably watching every suspected safe house and Underground operative between Clappenburg and Wilhelmshaven, just waiting for the Major to appear. They found him here."

Miller paused. "What about that old man and his granddaughter...?"

"They should be all right. I'm sure they fled when you and Fritz did."

"I hope so..."

Hogan turned the car down another narrow street, all of them on the look out for Fritz's car being chased by the Gestapo. The neighborhood seemed practically deserted, although the occasional face appeared in the windows of the buildings as they passed. Nothing stirred on the side streets.

Carter and Miller both were looking out the back window when they spotted two cars go zipping across the street several hundred feet behind them. "There they are!" Carter announced. "Two streets down behind us."

Hogan turned the car sharp and brought the sedan around, speeding back in the direction they had just come.

"Which way?" he asked.

"Left."

At the second street, Hogan turned left and up ahead of them a fair distance they saw the two cars. As Hogan stood on the accelerator, demanding every once of speed the car could give to catch up to the chase, Newkirk readied his pistol. He removed his Gestapo uniform hat and rolled down the window.

"Make it a good shot," Hogan said.

"I intend to sir..." Newkirk leaned out the window and took aim.

Meanwhile, Fritz and the boys were too busy worrying about the road ahead of them and the Gestapo car behind them to be concerned with a second Gestapo car following them. And when shots rung out, they could only assume the Gestapo was shooting at them and thus Fritz yanked the wheel to the right, taking a sharp turn and barreling the car down another road.

Newkirk saw this and held his fire for only a moment before taking aim at the front right tire of the Gestapo sedan, nailing it just as the car went into the turn. The loss of control was immediate and the forward motion sent the car spinning wildly, the back end coming completely around.

"Woo!" Carter exclaimed.

Newkirk ducked back into the car just before Hogan made the turn. He grinned. "Now was that a good shot, or was that a good shot?"

"That was a damn good shot," Miller said.

They blew past the disabled Gestapo car, keeping an eye on Fritz's car up ahead.

The boys with Fritz saw the Gestapo car be knocked out of the chase and momentarily cheered, but then suddenly weren't so sure about the second Gestapo vehicle that was now after them. Fritz wasn't so sure either. Why would one Gestapo car knock another one out of the same chase? All the same, he wasn't about to stop and ask.

"How are you going to get Fritz to pull over?" Newkirk asked.

"I'm not. We're going to have to cut him off," Hogan replied. "Get him to stop long enough so that Miller can tell him who we are."  Hogan took a right at the next side street in anticipation of Fritz's direction.

When the boys announced that the car had disappeared from behind them, Fritz took momentary relief before his thoughts turned to Major Miller's fate and the relief turned to dread. Erik's distraught reporting of Miller having been surrounded by Gestapo in the alley had meant one thing: There was no going back for him. Fritz sighed heavily and whispered a prayer with apology as he turned the car down another street. The push and pursuit of the Gestapo had been unforgiving. Reflecting, Fritz knew the near miss at Clappenburg had marked the beginning of the end. I should have known it was only a matter of time.

He still had a mission to complete, however. He still had to get the boys to the sub.

He wondered though how he was going to explain things to Colonel Hogan, who in turn would have to explain things to Allied Command, who would then have to tell the world. Bad news all around.

Fritz was brought out of his defeated thoughts when suddenly a black Gestapo car appeared in the road up head, blocking it. Fritz hit the brakes, coming to a stop about ten feet from the car. He immediately put his car in reverse and turned in the driver's seat to look behind him as he backed up. Neither he, nor the boys right away, saw the back door of the Gestapo car open.

"Damn, there he goes..." Miller said as he stepped out of the car. He hurried after Fritz.

Fritz was still looking behind him, backing the car up. Reverse speed wasn't very fast, however, and it didn't take long for Miller to catch up to the car. "Fritz! Hey!"

Ahren looked through the windshield. "It is Herr Miller!"

"What?" Fritz hit the brake, jerking the car to a stop and he looked forward. Sure enough!  Figuring Miller had somehow escaped from the Gestapo car, Fritz pointed to the back of his, in gesture for Miller to hurry and get in. Miller chuckled and instead gestured for Fritz to put the window down.

"You'll never believe it," he said, glancing toward the Gestapo car. "It's Colonel Hogan."

Fritz blinked. He then looked at the car. "That is why the other car was knocked out of the chase!"

"Praise the Lord huh?" Miller smiled. "The Colonel says to follow, there's another safe house not far from here."

Fritz nodded. "Ja, I know what one he speaks of. I will follow."

Miller returned to Hogan's vehicle and the two cars made their way to the outskirts of Varel.

****

LeBeau and Kinch, along with Dubois and a few other members of the Hammelburg Underground, were waiting at the abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Varel. The large wooden structure had no heat but no one seemed to really care. They were too concerned about the Colonel, Newkirk and Carter making it in time to help Major Miller. LeBeau paced, absently rubbing his already gloved hands together. Suddenly he stopped when he heard a noise outside. He and one of the other Underground men went to look and saw the Colonel returning with another car directly behind. Hogan was waving for the large barn-sized doors to be opened. LeBeau and the other man pushed them open quickly and the cars immediately pulled in, never having to stop. Once the vehicles were inside, the large doors were pulled closed just as quickly.  The rumbling engines stopped and the cars were emptied of their occupants.

Erik, Adler and Ahren immediately approached Major Miller, relieved that he was okay. Hogan, the boys and the Underground men gathered around as well.

Miller looked at Adler and Erik in reprimand. "Just what were you two thinking, jumping into the alley like that?" he asked.

Ahren was startled and hastily translated. Erik looked offended and answered back, "Warum erklärten Sie Fritz, ohne Sie an fortzufahren? Dann sehe ich Sie in der Gasse, das Gestapo im Begriffwar, Sie zu schießen! Ich könnte nicht lassen, das geschehen!"

Ahren put a hand on Erik's shoulder, indicating the boy should settle down. Knowing Erik's animation was sufficient, Ahren translated back plainly. "He wants to know why you told Fritz to go on without you." 

"And?" Miller prompted, knowing Erik had said more beyond that.

Ahren paused. "We all saw you in the alley, with the Gestapo. Of course, we did not know of these men..." he gestured toward Hogan, Newkirk and Carter. "...all we saw was you being held with a gun pointed at you. Erik jumped out of the car because he could not allow what was going to happen, to happen. Adler only went after him to bring him back."

Miller looked at Adler and Erik, heaving a small sigh. Not only was Fritz determined to not leave Miller behind; the boys weren't about to allow it either. "The reason I told Fritz to go on without me was because I didn't want you boys to be captured, too. They're after me. I figured if I could draw off the chase, Fritz could clear out." Miller looked at Fritz. "But he didn't."

"I wouldn't," Fritz corrected.

Ahren translated quickly to Adler and Erik. Adler then spoke, much more subdued than Erik, but the determination in his voice needed no translation. " Wir sind er gingen nicht froh. Herr Miller, schätzen wir Sie alles nicht wünschend, uns zu geschehen, aber wir möchten nicht nichts sehen, Ihnen zu geschehen. Wir sind zu weit gekommen. Entweder alle wir gehen nach England mit Ihnen, oder wir nicht."

Ahren translated to Miller, emphasizing Adler’s end statement. “Either we all make it to England with you, or we don’t.” The long and short of it was that all five of them were determined that nothing happen to the other four. A damnable stalemate that could only be settled one way.

The look on the Major's face was clear as he regarded the three boys. Why do they have to be so damn loyal? If faced with another situation like that they had just faced, he would rather the boys got away safely, even if it was at his expense. But the looks on their faces, along with Fritz, was equally as clear and Miller found himself outvoted. He sighed and grudgingly nodded. "All right."

The boys chuckled and grinned at one another. Colonel Hogan came up beside Miller.  He smiled. "If these boys were under your command in the Army, you'd have a right loyal troop."

Miller gave a sideways glance at Hogan. "If these boys were under my command in the Army, they would've been ordered to get their butts out of Varel when they had the chance."

"Well I said they'd be loyal. I didn't say they'd follow orders."

The gathered Underground men chuckled. Miller was half amused. "Okay, so they're sticking with me no matter what. What happens now, Colonel?"

"Now we get you to Wilhelmshaven and get you the hell out of Germany."

***

With a map of Wilhelmshaven spread out on an old dusty table, Colonel Hogan explained his plan.

"From here, there's a few roads that cross the canal and go into Wilhelmshaven. The two main roads are heavily guarded and patrolled. There are a few secondary roads with a bridge crossing over this canal. Based on what information we've been able to get, this one here is in a fairly rural area. The checkpoints have been beefed up and even these ones in the sticks are no exception. There are two army soldiers backed up by two Gestapo and two SS.

"Carter, Newkirk and I will make the initial approach to the checkpoint, flush out the soldiers and lead a chase away from the bridge. The checkpoint itself is set up solely to find Major Miller, therefore there will be no reason for any of the soldiers to stay behind to man it, if they think they're chasing Miller.

"Fritz, you'll be waiting in a barn here with the Major and the boys. Once we've cleared out the checkpoint and have lead the soldiers away and past this barn, you'll pull out, go around the corner here and should be able to cross the bridge with no problems. Once we've led the chase to this area, Dubois, you'll be waiting with some of the rest of the Underground and the soldiers will be taken off our tails. We then regroup and get out of the area before somebody realizes what's happened." Hogan looked around at everyone. "Anybody have any questions?"

Miller raised a hand. Hogan looked across the map of Wilhelmshaven to the Major, having expected Miller to say something.

Miller looked a little embarrassed when he realized he was the only that had something to say. "Uh...with all due respect, Colonel, I don't think it's going to work with you as the decoy," he said.

"Why not?"

"Because it's this mug they're looking for." Miller pointed to himself. "Now maybe with a pair of glasses you might pass for me from a distance...but that's not going to be enough to lure them out. You'd have to get right up close to them, and up close you won't work as the decoy. If you were to pull a bait and switch, have me and Fritz draw them out of the checkpoint, we drive back and hide in the barn before they get up the road and then when they come around the corner, you're there to resume the chase, then the rest of your plan works fine." 

Hogan leaned his hands on the table. "If you think I'm going to risk you as the bait, you can forget it."

"I don't think you have any choice."

“Are you forgetting I outrank you?”

Miller paused, his dark eyes unflinching. “Rank doesn’t mean a hell of a lot right now.”

Hogan saw the meaning behind Miller’s critical gaze but ignored it. He would not put Miller at risk. "Major, I don't think you understand. That checkpoint is going to have two Gestapo and two SS soldiers there. If I allow you to run up to that roadblock, who's to say they won't shoot first and figure it out later?"

"Yes. And if you run up to that roadblock pretending to be me, who is to say they won't shoot first and figure it out later? And just what do you think they're going to figure out once they realize who they shot?"

"We're supposed to be trying to get you out of here."

"Yes, I know. But don't misunderstand me. It's not that I don't appreciate all this, but you're risking an awful lot for my hide at this point. Colonel, I'm a musician...."

"You're Glenn Miller."

"No. I'm a musician, who’s merely doing his part for the war effort. I had this same argument with Fritz yesterday. I'm not a General, I'm not a spy with important information, and I'm not a German defector. I'm just a musician. And in the grand scheme of this Second World War....I really don't amount to a whole lot."

"Well for somebody who doesn't amount to a whole lot the Germans are making a very big fuss about you," Newkirk said.

"That's beside the point." Miller looked back to Hogan. "Colonel, the word back in England is they think they can win this thing in a matter of months. The French have been liberated, half of Italy is under Allied occupation and the Russians are beating the hell out of the Germans on the Eastern Front. I know you boys have risked a lot already just to get me this far and I'm very grateful. But I think you're risking too much to get me through this one checkpoint, when I can just as easily be the bait and save you all a lot of trouble if something goes wrong. You're organization is much too vital to the war effort to be blown apart now."

Hogan looked at Miller's straight and serious expression for a moment, recalling their first conversation at Stalag 13 and Miller's willingness to accept sacrifice then. There's more at stake here than just my life, Colonel. You understand what I mean? At the same time, however, Hogan still found the prospect of putting Miller purposely in harm's way troubling. It wasn’t because Miller was a celebrity. Hogan was hardly swayed by star status and frankly, Miller didn’t carry himself like a celebrity anyway. It was what Miller was beyond that. Plus the fact that Hogan had a responsibility to see to it that Miller made it back to England safe. Those were his orders. That’s what he was supposed to do.

By the same token though, Miller had a convincing argument. Hogan broke the gaze, sighed and pushed away from the table with the sudden urge to pace.

The surrounded Underground members and Hogan's men were quiet, either watching Hogan pace or looking at Miller, who was watching Hogan pace. The Colonel then stopped and looked back at Miller.

"I’ll admit you make a valid point, but I’m not crazy about the idea of you risking yourself. How do I explain to London if something goes wrong?”

“You tell them the truth,” Miller said. “Tell them I was an insubordinate SOB. They’ll buy that.”

The men chuckled. Newkirk leaned across the table. “Ah sir, you’re my kind of officer!”

“Newkirk!”

Newkirk grinned at Hogan. “Yes sir.”

“Insubordinate,” Hogan said, amused. “How the hell did you get promoted to Major?”

Miller shrugged. “Considering how flustered I’ve made the brass over the past two years, sometimes I wonder. All the same though, I do take the rank seriously. I’m not trying to be a pain here, Colonel…I’m just making sure all things are being considered.” Miller stood up from the table and approached Hogan. "I know you have your orders, and I understand that. I just think you have a bigger obligation here than my hide. I made the Nazis mad on a propaganda level and my end might make them feel better for a bit, but it's not going to win them the war. On the other hand, if the Underground efforts were to be crushed in the process of my return to England, the Nazis will forget me, be more than happy to have you and might even win the war."

Hogan regarded Miller for a moment.  "You have a very subtle way of putting things into perspective, Major."

Miller snorted softly. "Sugar coating things was never my strong point."

Hogan weighed the risks for another moment and then finally nodded. "Okay," he said with a sigh. "You'll go in as the bait. We do the bait and switch." Hogan walked back to the table and the map and Miller followed. "You and Fritz will lure them from the checkpoint and then you'll drive like hell back up the road, around the corner and zip into the barn. As long as you stay far enough ahead of them, they'll only see you go around the corner here. They won't see you go into the barn. Up the road here, Newkirk, Carter and I will be waiting in the decoy car to resume the chase. Once we've led the Gestapo and SS away from the area, you head back to the bridge and cross just as you were going to originally." Hogan looked at the Underground members. "The rest of the plan remains the same. It'll be up to you to help us get the Gestapo and SS off our tails."

Heads nodded.

"LeBeau, as soon as you and Kinch see Fritz and Miller have crossed the bridge safely, you give the signal on the radio. At that point we can shake off the Gestapo and SS." Hogan paused and looked at Miller. "You realize I'm still putting myself and the organization at risk just by doing that..."

Miller looked at the Colonel and then at the gathered Underground men in the warehouse. "Perhaps. But the biggest risk is with the initial approach to the bridge. After the switch and you're leading those soldiers down that road with all your aces on both sides, those Gestapo and SS soldiers aren't going to realize they're in a rigged game.”

Hogan nodded. But I’ve got one more card I can still play…

Wilhelmshaven, Germany

Ironically, Hogan picked the same bridge Emery had crossed the night before. All bridge crossings over the canal had been beefed up after the incident and the two Army soldiers at this bridge were now supplemented with two Gestapo and two SS soldiers.

From the barn set atop a hill overlooking the canal and bridge, Colonel Hogan stood with Kinch. Hogan was dressed in a German army uniform, Kinch was in civilian attire. The traffic lined at the crossing was light and some cars were being waved right through. Hogan surveyed the scene through field glasses and then lowered them to trace with his own eyes the road that curved around coming up the hill and passed the barn. "As long as Fritz stays far enough ahead of them they'll never see him pull into the barn," he said.

Kinch nodded. "Dubois has everyone set up down the road to make sure you, Carter and Newkirk aren't caught."

"Good." Hogan looked down the road for a moment and then to Kinch. "It’s going to be up to you, LeBeau and those three Underground men to make sure Miller makes it into town and to the boat.”

Kinch nodded. “Are you still going to try and double back?”

“You bet I am.” Hogan glanced toward the road one more time and then nodded to Kinch. “Let's get started." They walked into the barn, where Fritz, Miller and the boys were waiting with LeBeau.

"Well, Major," Hogan said. "It's time." He paused noting Miller’s weary yet impassive expression. "You can still change your mind.”

Miller was sure Hogan could see right though him, but he refused to acknowledge the fact that deep down, he was scared to death. He looked at the boys. At the time he had made his suggestion to the Colonel, Miller had not intended for the boys to go with him. Instead, he figured they would wait in the barn and be picked up when he and Fritz made it back. But they had insisted on going with him. After all, they argued, the Gestapo was looking for not only him but a group of youths as well. Plus they reminded him of the all or nothing agreement they had.

Miller turned back to face Hogan and shook his head.

Hogan looked at the boys seeing their expressions nowhere near as guarded as Miller’s. They were scared, but would stand firm, the Colonel knew. He looked at Miller. “Then we say goodbye again."

"How about see you later?" Miller said, trying to keep the mood somewhat positive and keep his own concern at bay. He put his hand out.

Hogan gave a reassuring smile and gripped Miller's hand. "Paris?"

"When it's all over."

The Colonel nodded. "It's a promise." He let go of the handshake and saluted. "Good luck, Major."

Miller returned the salute. "Thank you, Colonel. For everything..."

Hogan nodded and then turned to leave the barn. "Wait for the signal that we're in position," he said to LeBeau.

"Oui, Colonel."

Hogan then stepped out of the barn where Carter and Newkirk were waiting in a second decoy German Army staff car. The car then drove down the road a couple hundred feet away from the barn and opposite the turn that led to the bridge. Newkirk pulled off the road and behind some brush, coming to a stop but leaving the engine idling.

"You can see the bridge from here, Colonel," Carter said, looking out the back window of the car.

Hogan looked past Newkirk and could see the bridge too. "Good." He raised the hand held radio. "Home Base this is Mirror Image. We're in position."

"Acknowledged." LeBeau signaled to Fritz and the sedan rolled out of the barn to the road.

It only took a couple of minutes to wind down the road to the bridge. A car was already ahead of them and Fritz slowed to stay back a good distance. Another car pulled up behind them. Otherwise there, was no traffic.

Miller had his window rolled down as did the boys behind him. Up on the hill, Hogan watched through the field glasses.

The car ahead of Fritz moved across the bridge. Fritz stayed on the brake long enough for the two Army soldiers to call impatiently to him to move. Fritz waited just a little bit longer.  This got the attention of the Gestapo and SS soldiers who had been hanging back while the Army conducted the checkpoint. They now moved closer to the road from the guard hut near the bridge to get a closer look at this car once it moved.

Fritz did, pulling to the left and then turning right so that Miller and the boys were in clear view of the soldiers. The soldiers didn't know what to make of this.

Miller leaned out the window a little, a fear induced cocky grin flashing briefly. "Hi…looking for anyone in particular?"

The two soldiers blinked and then every man at the checkpoint reacted once they registered the face looking at them, and the English Miller had spoken. Miller flinched away from the window as one of the army soldiers reached for the door handle, the other fumbling to bring his weapon up to bear. Fritz stood on the accelerator, turning the car around the rest of the way and taking off back down the road.

The Gestapo and SS men rushed forward as the army soldier fired a couple of wasted shots at the fleeing sedan. The Gestapo then ordered everyone after the car.

Watching the scene from the hill top, Hogan realized he had been holding his breath, especially with the sound of the shots being fired. He breathed again, seeing the sedan flee but then found himself holding it once more as he watched the soldiers disburse for vehicles parked off the road. All of them were taking the chase.

"He's got them all," Hogan said.

"Is Fritz far enough ahead, Colonel?" Carter asked.

Hogan looked and found the sedan barreling up the hill heading toward the turn. The two pursuing vehicles were a healthy distance behind as they had to negotiate around some traffic first as they got out of the starting gate.

"He's perfect."

Newkirk grinned. "Damn shame they're leaving that checkpoint wide open. Somebody might slip through..."

"Somebody is going to slip through." Hogan settled back into the passenger seat, grinning. Newkirk pulled the car around the brush and they waited, watching for the chase to come around the corner by the barn.

As Fritz's sedan was tearing its way back up the hill, Miller and the boys were looking the back window to see if they had picked up all of the soldiers. Seeing they had, and that they were sufficiently ahead of them, Miller turned back forward. "If they'd taken that bait any harder, they'd have taken the rod and reel."

Fritz pushed the sedan to the crest of the hill and through the turn, the tires digging into the dirt of the road. They made the short distance to the barn and pulled in, LeBeau and Kinch hurrying to pull the barn doors shut.

The two pursuing cars tore up to the crest of the hill and made the turn, flying past the barn.

Newkirk had the decoy car already on the road and he hit the accelerator once the German Army and Gestapo sedans came into view of the rear view mirror. The chase thundered down the road.

With the coast clear at the barn, LeBeau and Kinch pushed the barn doors open again and Fritz backed the car out. The two heroes waved to the sedan as it headed back down the road. Miller and the boys waved back before the car turned the corner and was gone from sight. LeBeau and Kinch went to the back of the barn to watch the car go back down the hill, approach the bridge and cross it...like it was doing nothing more than going for a Sunday drive.

They watched the car until they couldn't see it anymore and then returned inside the barn to send the signal and then wait for the Underground to pick them up. So far so good...

***

Carter looked out the window behind him with concern. "You’d better step on it, those guys are coming up fast!"

Newkirk already looked troubled. "I've got it t' the floor now...." He looked at his gauges but could see nothing wrong, other than the speed wasn't up to where it should have been. He shifted down and then back again and realized the problem. "I think she's lost a gear..."

"Lost a gear?" Hogan said. "We didn't just try to come up that hill."

"Well, no sir we didn't but..." Newkirk tried to shift again. "She's not shiftin'. And I can't skip the gear, it's the top one that's out."

"Terrific---" Hogan was interrupted by gunfire coming behind them.

"Aw great, they're bringin' out the artillery!" Newkirk said.

Shots danced off the back fenders and one bullet hit the corner of the back window. Carter ducked. "They're not fooling around, Colonel!" the sergeant exclaimed.

Hogan turned to look briefly out the back window. The Gestapo car was in the lead of the pursuit was about a car length behind them. They would be overtaken in only a few minutes. He turned back forward and saw they had at least a mile before reaching the woods where the Underground was waiting to assist. Hogan cursed the open fields on either side of the road where they were at right now.

Another round of shots were fired hitting the back window and forcing the three heroes to duck again. "We'll never out drive them, but we have to fend them off." Hogan looked at Carter in the back seat. "Carter, did you bring anything with you?"

"No, sir. All that came with this Kraut uniform was the side arm...." Carter looked down to the gun at his side and then looked at the small wooden box that had been in the back of the car since they had gotten it from the Underground. "Wait a second!" He pulled the lid off and found four German hand grenades. "Jackpot!" He held one up to the Colonel.

"God bless the Underground!" Hogan said, taking the grenade.

"There's three more, Colonel."

"I think two will be all we'll need." Hogan turned back forward and rolled down his window.

"I'll cover you," Carter said. He pulled the side arm and used the butt end of it to smash out some of the glass that was already shattered. He then settled the gun in his hand and looked toward Hogan. "Ready, Colonel."

"Now, Carter!"

Carter opened fire as Hogan leaned out the window, pulled the pin on the grenade and then lobbed it back at the pursuing Gestapo car. The driver of the Gestapo car saw the object coming and swerved out of the way. The grenade missed landing on the Gestapo sedan and hit the ground directly in front of the Army car, forcing the front wheels of the Army car upwards before the car turned and landed on its side.

"One down..."

The Gestapo answered with a barrage of gunfire, taking out more of the back window of Hogan's car. Newkirk flinched as one of the bullets went zipping by his head and cracked the dashboard.

"Bloody hell..."

Carter handed Hogan another grenade. When a pause in the gunfire came, they repeated their mode of operation and Hogan tossed the grenade. This time however, Hogan didn't aim for the sedan itself but directly in front of it. The driver had no where to turn this time and when the grenade touched the ground the entire front end of the sedan was swallowed by a ball of orange.

The force of the explosion rocked the heroes in their car too. Newkirk fought with the steering as the car fishtailed a little. He let up on the gas only to bring the car back under control and then gunned it again once they were straight. The two destroyed pursuit vehicles were left behind.

Although there was a sense of relief between the three heroes, there was little celebration. They still had a lot to do and Hogan knew that the two explosions were bound to have got somebody's attention. They had to meet up with the Underground up the road and get the hell out of the area before it was too late.

***

Wilhelmshaven was a fairly large seaport town and an extra Army sedan coming into town hardly raised an eyebrow amongst the citizens. But knowing that the Gestapo and SS were probably looking extra carefully at any Army car that came into town, Fritz and Miller both were watching the traffic around them and taking notice of any Gestapo soldiers on the streets. The boys were hunkered down in the back of the car, so as not to be obvious.

They passed one Gestapo car that didn't appear to take any notice in the Army car with the busted headlight. Miller turned to look out the back window, making sure the car kept going. It did, but the Major wasn’t exactly relieved. He turned forward again.

"I don't know about you, Fritz, but I feel like they know it's us and they're just quietly setting a trap."

"Unless they have heard of the disturbance at the bridge and are on their way out there to assist," Fritz replied.

"Wouldn't there be more of them?"

"Not if they had gone out another road."

That was possible. Miller looked back to the street, watching the pedestrians, people on bicycles, other cars....and a Gestapo soldier standing at a street corner.  Miller lowered his head and propped an elbow on the door panel, looking like he was dealing with a headache and obscuring his face from view of the soldier. Once they passed, he raised his head and looked behind him. The soldier was still watching the car. Miller turned back forward.

"They're watching..."

They would pass a few more like that, some scattered SS troops and another Gestapo sedan in the street. All the while, Miller felt obvious. Like there was great big neon sign on top of the car saying One American Bandleader and Three German Youths Here. Inquire within...

Major Hochstetter, as luck would have it, was in Wilhelmshaven, conducting his own personal search. At that same moment he was exiting a suspected safe house after his search turned up nothing. He paused to speak to another Gestapo officer near the street and then looked up as the Army sedan came down the street.

Miller and Fritz both recognized Hochstetter.

"Ohhh Lord..."

"Verdammt!"

Miller turned his face away from the window and looked at Fritz. "What the hell did you have to come this way for?"

"How was I to know he would be here?"

Hochstetter watched the sedan and noticed how the passenger had their face turned away. That was all he needed. The Gestapo major suddenly came to life and yelled for everyone to go after the car.

Miller looked behind him and saw the Gestapo scrambling for their car. "We've been tagged, Fritz..."

Fritz stepped on the accelerator, having seen the same in his side mirror. In the back of the car, three heads popped up and looked out the back window of the car, seeing the Gestapo sedan begin its pursuit.  Fritz drove as fast as he could, turning down another street and then another trying to stay ahead of and out of sight of the pursuing Gestapo.

"If I can stay ahead of them, there is a street I will drop you and the boys off at. There's a safe house there, you can get there on foot. When you go there tell them you were sent by Fritz."

"What?! Wait a minute, what about you?"

"I will do what I can to lose the Gestapo. But I will take no chance of them catching you and the boys. Not when we've made it this far."

"You don't care for long goodbyes do you?"

"Do you?"

"Not really, but I didn't figure it to be this short either!"

Fritz laughed. He weaved the car through some traffic and turned down yet another road, heading closer toward the piers. The Gestapo sedan got held up momentarily in the traffic.

"Get ready..." Fritz said. "I'm going to drop you at the end of this street right up here. The building is just up a little bit and it is number sixteen..."

Miller nodded, his hand on the door handle ready to open it. "It's been nice knowing you, Fritz. I truly appreciate all you've done."

"Herr Miller, I wish you the best of luck."

"I think you need it more than I do..."

Fritz pulled to a quick stop at the next side street "Go..."

Miller and the boys spilled out of the car and hurried away from it to the side street. Fritz pulled away and Miller and the boys paused at the side of the building, out of sight of the pursuing Gestapo sedan once it came around the corner. Miller gently pushed the boys behind him and watched as the sedan flew past them and continued after Fritz. He watched the car until it disappeared and sighed heavily. He looked around the street, the quiet neighborhood a stark contrast to the events that were unfolding.  The boys were looking around too and looking at him anxiously, as if to say we must move, quickly! He sensed this and nodded to them. They started to walk down the street looking for number sixteen...

Day 9 - Conclusion