****

 

After reaching the woods, Newkirk pulled the sedan off the road and Dubois met up with them after a few moments.

 

"So much for our rigged game," Hogan said.

 

"What happened, Colonel? We heard explosions. Major Miller---?"

 

"Is on his way into Wilhelmshaven as we speak. But we had to take other measures to get the Gestapo off our trail. We're going to have every goon in Germany in this area in no time because of those explosions, which means we have to clear out of here. Now. Hogan looked at Dubois. “Your men are on their way to town with Kinch and LeBeau?"

 

"Oui, mon Colonel."

 

"Then let's get the hell out of here."

 

***

 

Major Miller and the boys tried to look unhurried as they walked down the sidewalk looking for number sixteen. There were a few pedestrians on both sides of the street and of course the passing traffic. Miller kept one eye out for Gestapo and SS soldiers and half expected one to just jump out of nowhere, making the Major feel like an eight point buck on the first day of hunting season.

 

The buildings on the street were tenement type buildings and there was hardly an alley or a driveway to jump into should a car or foot soldier spot them. Finally though, they reached number sixteen and hurried up the steps, Ahren and Erik in front of Miller, and Adler behind.  Inside, Emery had seen them coming down the street and he hurried to the door to open it before anyone was able to knock. Startled, Miller grabbed hold of Ahren and Erik's shoulders to pull them back but recognized the face looking back at him from the door way.

 

Emery stepped aside and waved them in. He said nothing until they were all inside and the door shut. "Good Lord, I thought you had all been captured!"

 

"We've come pretty damn close," Miller replied.

 

"How did you know to come here? What has happened? Where is Fritz?"

 

"He told us to come here. The Gestapo spotted us after we came into town. He threw us out of the car down the street, the Gestapo's after him now."

 

Emery's expression revealed the fear for his comrade for a split second, then he was suddenly he was all business. "Then we must hurry. We must get you and these boys to the pier." Emery turned to call for the other two Underground operatives, when Miller grabbed his arm and turned him back around. Miller, too, had the same sinking feeling what might happen to Fritz but he realized as he looked into Emery's now guarded gaze that there was little he, or Emery or anybody could do about it. Slowly he let go of Emery's arm and looked away.

 

"We must get you out of that uniform, Herr Miller..." Emery said softly. He then turned again and went to get the other two.

 

***

 

LeBeau, Kinch and three Underground men drove an unassuming delivery truck into town on a different road and turned a corner just in time to see the careening Army staff car.

 

“Look!” LeBeau exclaimed. The Underground driver stopped the truck and they watched the chase go barreling past them.

 

“That looked like Hochstetter,” Kinch said.

 

LeBeau muttered a string of expletives in French. Another Gestapo car came off a different street and joined the chase.

 

“Maybe we can still help,” one of the Underground men said. He slapped the driver on the arm and pointed for him to follow the chase.

 

Major Hochstetter, meanwhile, was to the point of swearing at his driver, who was finding the task of keeping up with the fleeing army sedan a daunting one. Having an especially animated and often threatening superior in the car wasn't making things any easier.

 

"He's turning! He's turning! Don't lose him!!"

 

The driver was becoming tempted to ask the Major if he would like to drive instead. He stayed after the army sedan, weaving through traffic and turning down another street.

 

Fritz was trying to lead them as far away from the pier as possible.  He saw in his rearview mirror he had now not one, but two Gestapo cars after him. Up ahead, another one pulled out into the street, blocking it. Fritz pulled to the right, aiming for the sidewalk.

 

The three Gestapo men had guns drawn and were aiming at Fritz. The windshield exploded in glass and Fritz ducked but ended up taking a bullet in the shoulder. The force threw him back against the seat and he gripped the steering wheel, although for about a second he didn't know where he was going. The sharp pain in his shoulder radiated through his chest and neck. More shots were fired, piercing the passenger side window and door. Fritz’s sedan made it past the Gestapo car, scraped a lamp post, nicked a telephone booth and then crashed through some wooden crates of vegetables that had just been unloaded from a truck and were being delivered to a restaurant. People in the vicinity scattered like birds from the mad car and it bounced off the sidewalk and kept going down the road.

 

The three Gestapo men were scrambling back into their car. Hochstetter in his car was screaming at them to get out of the way. Fritz had a few extra moments to flee and he would need every second of it.

 

LeBeau, Kinch and the Underground men held on for dear life as the truck pulled around the Gestapo cars and then stopped in the middle of the road, creating another temporary road block to buy more time for Fritz to flee.

 

Trying to ignore his shoulder, Fritz glanced at his rearview mirror and saw the delay in the chase. He turned the sedan down another street, drove and then turned down yet one more street, bringing the car to a stop in the middle of the road. He got out, nausea hitting him briefly and he stumbled a moment. He could see the red of his shoulder out of the corner of his eye but he refused to look. He mustered up all the strength he had and went to the back of the car, opening the trunk.

 

The Underground men, meanwhile, were pretending they didn’t understand the Gestapo men’s shouted orders to move their truck. Horns blared and arms waved for them to get out of the way. Finally Hochstetter persuaded them with the point of his pistol and the truck backed up out of the way. The three sedans tore off down the road and the delivery truck followed at a distance.

 

Fritz’s left hand was tingling and damn near useless so he worked quickly with his right hand. The trunk had carried rations, extra clothes, a pistol, a rifle, two hand grenades and supplies that he couldn't allow the Gestapo to capture and confiscate. The car itself he couldn't allow to be confiscated by the Gestapo. He could leave no trace of the Underground, and if he survived he would have to find a way to make this up to Sturtevant. Fritz threw the lid off the small box that had the two grenades in it and he pulled one out. He pulled the pin with his teeth, spit it out and left the grenade in the trunk, running as quickly as he could away from the car.

 

The Gestapo had almost blown past the street Fritz was on. The first car spotted the Army sedan sitting in the middle of the road and came to a halt, signaling to the other two cars behind them to go down the street. Hochstetter's sedan had no more than turned the corner when the Army car suddenly ripped apart in a ball of orange.

 

Hochstetter's driver hit the brakes and skidded to a stop. The Gestapo men could do no more than watch the fire and wait for the debris to settle. Hochstetter was stone quiet as he watched the other car burn, the fire reflecting in his own dark eyes. It wasn't long before people started coming into the street to see what was going on, and there was shouting to bring water to put the fire out. Hochstetter then stepped out of his car.

 

Two other Gestapo officers came up beside him. "Do you think he was in there?" one of them asked.

 

"I could hope for no less..." Hochstetter growled. "Still they may be on foot. Spread out and search this neighborhood."

 

"Jawohl, Herr Major."

 

The delivery truck paused for only a moment at the end of the road letting two of the Underground men out. They would mingle with the crowd, get information, some answers and then meet up with the truck away from the scene.

 

Fritz, meanwhile, was only just up the street in a narrow alley way where he had collapsed just before the explosion occurred. He could afford no rest and he fought the urge to do so. He got back to his feet and put his back against the building. He peered around the corner of the building and saw the sedan was pretty well destroyed and that the Gestapo was hindered for a little bit. But he knew they would ask questions and search the area on foot and that he could not remain where he was. He had to get somewhere safe.

 

He turned back into the alley and paused a moment, taking a few deep breaths. He held onto his shattered shoulder now and continued walking down the narrow path.

 

 

***

 

Major Miller had made a quick change into civilian clothes and then he, Emery and the boys got into Emery's car and drove the short distance to the pier. The waterfront was quiet and tranquil compared the commotion Fritz was creating in town. Miller, Emery and the boys had no more than stepped out of the car when they heard the boom of the explosion.

 

All of them stopped and looked toward the town. Miller turned to look at Emery but the Underground man knew he had a mission to finish. "This way..." he said.

 

***

 

Colonel Hogan, Carter and Newkirk had traded their ill-handling staff car and German Army uniforms for the Gestapo attire again. With Dubois and a couple of Underground men following in another car, they drove into town arriving several minutes after the explosion.

 

“Something’s happened…” Hogan said, watching the scene around him. A regular Polizei was directing traffic away from a street. A small group of citizens had gathered trying to see what had happened but were held back by Polizei and Gestapo. Newkirk pointed the sedan toward the street and was waved through by the Polizei. Dubois followed.

 

“I don’t like it, guv’nor,” Newkirk said, driving slowly toward a cluster of Gestapo cars at the end of another street. “Even though we’re disguised there’s too much Gestapo crawlin’ around here for my taste.”  He pulled up behind another sedan and stopped.

 

“I don’t know if I wanna know what’s behind that corner, Colonel,” Carter said.

 

“I’m not sure I do either. But we have to know. C’mon…” Hogan stepped out of the car, with Newkirk and Carter following. The Colonel signaled to Dubois to stand pat for a moment and the Frenchman nodded.

 

The three heroes walked to the end of the sidewalk, turned the corner and stopped at the sight of Fritz’s destroyed cloned staff car. They immediately assumed the worst.

 

“Oh my God…” Hogan said quietly. The three of them stared at the wreckage. Cater then turned to the Colonel, as if seeking confirmation that what he was seeing was true. They couldn’t all have been killed….could they?

 

Newkirk apparently thought so and seethed. “Those bloody bastards!” he hissed. “They got ‘em all! They must have been waiting for them!”

 

Hogan blinked out of his stare just in time to see Major Hochstetter. He turned suddenly to Newkirk, turning the corporal around from the wreckage. Carter turned too. “Take it easy,” Hogan said. He glanced back once more at Hochstetter and noted the Major’s facial expression seemed infuriated, almost as if…. 

 

No, that might be too much to hope for, Hogan thought. He turned back to Newkirk and Carter. “Hochstetter’s here. C’mon….I don’t want him to see us, but we’re going to find out what happened here.”

 

The two nodded and started to walk back to their car. One of the two Underground men who had been mingling through the neighborhood, spotted Hogan, Carter and Newkirk and approached casually. They then stepped off to the side and he explained what he had learned.

 

“Everyone here only saw one man in the car. He got out and detonated an explosive in the trunk and then took off on foot.”

 

The heroes looked temporarily relieved. “That must be Fritz,” Hogan said as he glanced around the scene. “And they’re looking for him.” He looked at the Underground man again. “Which means he dropped Miller and the boys off somewhere.

 

The Underground man nodded. “Yes, but there is something else. The man who fled from the car is wounded.”

 

“Badly?”

 

“Unknown.”

 

“Colonel,” Carter spoke up, “with all this Gestapo crawling around Fritz won’t make it a mile from here. Whether they know he’s wounded or not.”

 

Hogan nodded. “We have to find him and get him out of here. And find out where Miller ended up.” He glanced up to see Hochstetter talking to several Gestapo men. “And do it without being spotted….”

 

***

 

Emery led Miller and the boys down a boardwalk, to a dock and then to where the fishing boat was moored. The Captain of the boat and two of his crew members were standing on deck. Recognizing Emery, the Captain turned to one of his crew and instructed him to go start the engines. He then went to greet his new passengers.

 

"Ah Guten Tag!" he said with a smile. "You made it!"

 

"Ja," Emery replied with a nod.

 

"With a lot of luck," Miller added.

 

“Erhard, this is Glenn Miller."

 

The Captain shook hands with Miller. "Welcome aboard. We've been expecting you."

 

“Thank you.” Miller turned to Emery. "Okay, you got us here. Now go get Fritz out of trouble and get yourselves out of here."

 

"Fritz is in trouble?" the Captain said.

 

"Last I saw him he had the Gestapo chasing after him," Miller explained.

 

"Oh! Then go on, Emery, go on. Herr Miller and the boys are safe here now."

 

Emery nodded. He looked at Miller and put a hand out to him. "Herr Miller..."

 

Miller shook hands. "Thanks for everything." He let go. "Go on..."

 

Emery nodded again and turned to leave the boat. The boys said goodbye to him as he returned to the dock and Emery waved. He then continued on to the boardwalk.

 

The Captain looked at Miller. "Come. I will take you below deck where you will be more comfortable. I'm sure you've had quite a trip..."

 

From the pier, Emery walked back to the safe house, changed into the Gestapo uniform and then took the car to go find Fritz. He saw the smoke coming up over the tops of buildings a short distance away and drove toward it.

 

Gestapo and Polezei presence thickened the closer Emery got. Soldiers were on foot, searching doorways, footpaths, and alleys and stopping people to ask questions. Emery drove slowly, taking in the scenes around him, trying to figure out what was going on, what had happened.

 

He turned down the street Fritz had left the car and now saw what had happened. The sight startled him and he stopped the car, looking at the destroyed vehicle a few feet away. The doors were blown out and hanging limp off the car, the trunk lid was completely severed and sitting a few feet away. The entire back side of the car was a blackened hulk of metal, wood and fabric. The front end was slightly damaged but Emery saw the German Army fender flags. Major Miller had been wearing an army uniform. Emery had a sudden sinking feeling.

 

"Soldaten?" A knock came on the glass.

 

Emery jumped and looked to see a Gestapo man was at the window. He rolled the window down. "What happened here?" he asked before the Gestapo man could ask him what he was doing there.

 

"The Underground. The American, Miller, was spotted in that car. We gave chase, but when we came around the corner the car exploded."

 

"The American was killed?"

 

"Nein. Witnesses say there was only one person in the car and they saw him get out before the explosion. The American, in appears, has gotten away."

 

"Then you are looking for an Underground man?"

 

The man nodded. "He apparently went that way," he pointed behind Emery. "We figure he can not be far from here. We think he is wounded."

 

"I see. Well, I will be on the look out here."

 

The Gestapo man nodded. "That would be appreciated."

 

Emery nodded and gave the customary salute. He then backed the car up, turned around and headed in the direction the Gestapo man had pointed.

 

Hogan, Carter and Newkirk, meanwhile, had returned to their vehicle. Dubois and his men were quickly brought up to speed on the events that were unfolding and that their task now was to locate Fritz before the Gestapo did. The Underground man Hogan had been talking to returned to the delivery truck with his comrade and they too set out to find Fritz, letting LeBeau and Kinch know that Hogan, Carter and Newkirk had made it to town.

 

Before sending Dubois off, Hogan asked about safe houses in town, and where Fritz might have possibly dropped Miller and the boys. Dubois gave the address of the closest safe house and Hogan, Carter and Newkirk drove in that direction.

 

Fritz, meanwhile, was waiting for his luck to run out. Nausea was grabbing at him but he fought it back, adrenaline keeping him standing and moving. He stayed ahead of the Gestapo but knew they were pretty much right behind him.  Gestapo cars passed on the street slowly, soldiers were on foot. Fritz ducked into doorways, hid behind empty crates, snuck down a footpath, hid behind a pile of trash and down underneath stairwells to stay out of sight of the vehicles. The foot soldiers were far enough behind him as not to spot him yet. All the while however, he fought the urge to just collapse.

 

He wasn't even sure of where he was going. He knew he had no chance of making it back to the safe house. But he would not allow himself to be caught alive by the Gestapo. He would keep going until death itself finally took him.

 

From behind his latest hiding spot, a wooden ox cart parked in a narrow alley, Fritz ventured a peek to the street. The Gestapo foot patrols were still a good distance down the street. And there were no Gestapo vehicles prowling the street at that moment.  Fritz took a chance and came out of the alley. He did a sweep as he crossed the street, looking both ways, looking all around. He reached the other side and continued up the street to the next narrow alleyway.

 

Up the street, Emery stopped at an intersection, debating which way to go. The sight of a soldier down the street holding his shoulder as he walked caught Emery's attention. He knew it had to be Fritz and that he indeed was wounded. Emery stopped short of pulling out into the street. He was dressed as Gestapo and surely Fritz would see the uniform before the face.

 

As he sat a moment, trying to figure how to approach Fritz without causing too much alarm, an ordinary delivery truck passed by. Emery noted the speed of the truck and found it odd. The truck was not merely passing through this residential area, it was as if the truck was looking for something. Emery watched and saw the truck slow considerably as it came closer to Fritz. He concluded they had to be Underground and he pulled out onto the street.

 

Out of the corner of his eye, Fritz saw the truck and then he looked up, seeing the Gestapo car. Busted. He stopped only a beat before picking up his pace to get to the next alley before the car got to him.

 

The men in the truck had started to get out when Fritz took off. They hesitated seeing the Gestapo car. Emery recognized the Underground men and he stopped the car behind their truck, flashing the headlights so they would know he was no threat. He then got out of the car, was recognized and followed them to the alley.

 

Fritz wasn't moving very fast. The nausea was becoming much more than he could stand and finally his knees buckled out from under him and he went down. Emery hurried to where his friend had fallen in a heap. "Fritz..." 

 

Fritz turned slightly, raising his right arm in a vain attempt to fight against the Gestapo man who had him. There were other faces surrounding him too, but it was all a blur.

 

"No," Emery said. "Fritz, it's me, Emery..."

 

Fritz looked up at the face and at recognition he touched the side of his friend’s face and gave a weak smile. "Emery, old friend..."

 

"Come on, we’ll get you out of here."  Emery started to pull Fritz's right arm to sit him up with LeBeau spotting Fritz’s wounded left side.

 

Fritz resisted a moment. "Herr Miller...?" he said. "The boys...?"

 

Emery nodded. "They are on their way to the England." He smiled. "We did it."

 

“They made it to the boat?” LeBeau said. “Colonel Hogan will be happy to hear that!”

 

Fritz's smile was still weak but was now filled with relief.

 

"Come," Emery said. "If you can stand up I can carry you out of here to the car..."

 

Fritz nodded and shifted his feet to stand once Emery pulled him up. Emery steadied his friend for a moment before leaning forward and lifting Fritz over his shoulder. He carried the wounded man back to the street.

 

A few pedestrians were mulling around and saw the Gestapo man carrying the wounded Army soldier. But that was all they did was look. When they came out of the alley, LeBeau spotted the foot soldiers that were a distance down the street and he alerted the Underground men. They all returned to the truck and started it, turning the vehicle in the road to block the view of the foot soldiers. Emery hurried to the car, brought Fritz back to his feet and pulled the door open, offering a steady hand while Fritz got into the car. Once Fritz was in, Emery closed the door and got in behind the wheel. The delivery truck then completed the turn and drove on up the street. Emery pulled the sedan into the street with little fanfare and followed the truck. The foot soldiers saw this but thought little of it, thinking it to be one of theirs asking questions. The truck and car went up the road and turned, disappearing from sight.

 

LeBeau picked up the hand held radio. “Home Base calling Mirror Image. Bluebird has flown!”

 

Newkirk had no more than parked the car in front of the address Dubois had given when LeBeau’s voice came over the radio. Hogan picked up his radio. “You sure about that Home Base?”

 

Oui! Got it straight from the man who set the bird free.”

 

“That’s good news, Home Base. What about our Apple Dumpling?”

 

“Found him. We’re taking him to be patched up.”

 

“We’ll catch up to you.” Hogan turned to a grinning Newkirk. “Let’s get out of here.”

 

The truck and Emery in his Gestapo sedan managed to slip out of Wilhelmshaven by going to same road Fritz had come in on. The checkpoint, of course, was still wide open and Emery didn't look back once they cleared the bridge. The vehicles headed for Varel. Not long afterward, Dubois and Colonel Hogan in their respective vehicles crossed the bridge as well.

 

About thirty minutes after Emery and Fritz crossed the bridge, Major Hochstetter was coming to the grudging conclusion that Major Miller, and the Underground, had slipped out of Wilhelmshaven. The trail was going cold. The answers from residents were becoming a monotonous "no" when asked if they saw anything or anyone. Continued searching of the area revealed nothing. Reports of the bridge checkpoint having been cleared out and the subsequent destruction of the Army and Gestapo vehicles were finally reaching Hochstetter's already burning ears.

 

It was over. Hochstetter stood in the middle of the street looking at the destroyed cloned Army staff car clenching his teeth. The damnable Underground had succeeded again. He turned to one of the other Gestapo officers and ordered the rest of the search called off. "There is nothing to find now," he said. "Only a mess to clean up."

 

At the time Hochstetter called off the search, Major Miller and the boys were transferring from the fishing boat to the Royal Navy submarine. It would be another two hours before German intelligence confirmed that Miller was back on English soil.

 

 

Stalag 13

"Yes, Herr General...He has?" Kommandant Klink was saying into the phone. "So it has been confirmed? ... Yes, terrible, I know, what he did was a complete insult to
Germany....Yes, Herr General..."

 

As Klink was speaking, Sergeant Schultz came into the office. He waited for the Kommandant to finish.

 

"Yes, Herr General, their punishment will remain in effect despite Major Miller's return to England....Yes...Danke, Herr General.... What? Oh yes, Heil Hitler."  Klink hung up the phone and looked at Schultz. "Yes, Schultz what is it?"

 

"Pardon me, Herr Kommandant, but the Gestapo has returned with Colonel Hogan and his men."

 

"Of course. I was just speaking to General Burkhalter. Major Miller has returned to England."

 

"He has? Oh that's wonderful---er, I mean that's too bad."

 

"Schultz! Watch what you say." Klink came around the desk and stopped next to the portly staff sergeant. "Although just between you and me, I'm not all that upset that he made it back to England."

 

Schultz nodded. The two then left the office to greet the returning POW's.

 

"Just play it cool," Colonel Hogan told his men as the car passed through the gate.

 

The car came to a stop at Klink's office, the Kommandant already waiting on the stairs. As everyone exited the car, Klink approached, looking at the "Gestapo" officers.

 

"Did they give you any trouble?"

 

"None at all, Herr Kommandant."

 

"Hmph. Naturally. Only me they give trouble to! Schultz, see these prisoners back to their barracks." Klink looked at the group of POW's. "And keep in mind gentlemen that despite Major Miller's miraculous return to England, you are still confined to the barracks for the remaining 30 days."

 

Hogan had to do all he could to hold back his grin. The rest of the boys were exchanging happy congratulatory glances.

 

Klink obviously noticed this. "Well, if you like being confined to barracks that much, I can add another 30 days to that."

 

"No, that won't be necessary," Hogan said, sobering quickly. The others followed suit. "My men and I will return to the barracks at once." He saluted.

 

"Dismissed." Klink saluted back.

 

Hogan and the boys turned and started across the compound, trying not to look like they were hurrying.

 

Schultz paused a moment beside the Kommandant. "I've never seen prisoners so happy to be confined to the barracks."

 

Klink could only shoot an annoyed look before heading back into his office. Schultz shrugged at the "Gestapo" men and followed after the POW's.

 

The "Gestapo" men exchanged amused glances before returning to their vehicle. Another Underground mission had been completed and was a success…

 

...thanks to Papa Bear.

 

 

 

London, England

 

Major Miller had no more than stepped on English soil when he was told that G2 wanted to have a talk with him. He asked if they could wait, at least long enough for him to partake in a shower and put on an American uniform again. They allowed this. But when Miller wanted to meet with his band members to find out where they were at, G2 balked and the Major was ordered to SHAEF headquarters immediately.

 

Down the hall from General Walter Bedell "Beetle" Smith's office, Major Miller sat in a room waiting, albeit impatiently. He was exhausted and just wanted to put this whole thing behind him. He lit a fresh cigarette and looked around at the English furnishings of the room. The door behind him clicked open and Miller stood up.

 

In came a refined, sharp eyed, silver haired general. Miller paused in surprise and then saluted. The general looked at Miller somewhat sternly and returned the salute. "General Aloysius Barton**. At ease, Major," the man said. He walked to the desk and put his attaché down. He remained standing a moment and looked across the desk at Miller.

 

Miller too remained standing and was getting the feeling he was in some serious trouble for blowing off G2's initial request for this chat. Although he didn’t outwardly squirm at this general’s unflinching gaze, inwardly he cringed.  "Sir I...apologize for my tardiness."

 

The general snorted. "You call four hours tardy?" He sat down behind the desk and opened the attaché. "However, I'm not surprised you would blow off Army protocol at this time. You've been doing it since day one. Sit down, Major."

 

Miller did, without a word.

 

"Perhaps this is insignificant to you, but you were kidnapped and held by the enemy for approximately nine days. We're just a little curious as to what has transcribed over the past nine days."

 

"And you need to know this the minute I'm back?"

 

Barton's look was sharp. "No, not the minute of your return. But certainly sooner than four hours after. Major, obviously you're not aware of what Supreme Headquarters has been doing for the past nine days while you've been gone. Since the Germans never publicly admitted to having captured you in the first place, SHAEF has not revealed you were captured at all. Your conspicuous absence has been explained that you have been under the weather. Your band has continued its regular performance and recording schedule, but all of the live broadcasts were suspended for the time as the Germans had threatened life and limb if your band was heard on the radio. The explanation for that was given as technical difficulties."

 

Miller had known of the suspension of the live broadcasts but was stunned at the rest of it. "You mean...this whole thing has been kept quiet? Nobody knows I’ve even been gone?"

 

"With the exception of your band members, no. Eisenhower's orders. Preservation of troop morale."

 

"I see..."

 

"Therefore, the importance of this debriefing is three fold. We want to know what happened while you were there, what was it the Germans were planning to do with you for propaganda and who helped you to escape. And had you reported here four hours ago as you were supposed to, we'd be through a good portion of all that by now."

 

"With all due respect, sir, I'd like to just put this whole thing behind me and get back to the band. We've got a lot of work to do before we transfer to Paris. But if you want to know everything that happened, I'll tell you everything that happened."

 

Barton nodded. "Then let's get started...."

 

***

 

A little over two hours later, the door of the office opened and Major Miller stepped out, holding his crush cap in hand. He appeared uncharacteristically subdued, and if anybody had seen him at that moment, they would have seen him reveal more in his expression than he had ever let show before. Miller had seen a lot in this war, just as a bandleader and just in the six months he had been in England. His usual stoic facade didn't always hold up. And at that moment right there, it was down completely.

 

He took a couple of steps away from the door after closing it and then paused again. General Barton would be the last person to know of what had really happened in Germany. Due to the sensitivity of Colonel Hogan's operation, Miller was sworn to secrecy. He could tell no one of what he saw at Stalag 13.

 

That itself wasn't what subdued him. He had expected to be hushed about it anyway. What subdued him was the vast clandestine aspect of the whole thing, combined with the knowledge that very few people even knew where he had really been. The Germans never said they had him, SHAEF never said he was missing or had been captured. It was like he was neither here nor there and he could tell no one what really happened.

 

In essence he was getting what he wanted -- to put the whole thing behind him. If asked, he was to say he had been ill. Period at the end.

 

But something was nagging at him. Colonel Hogan, his men and all those people of the Underground put a lot on the line to get him back to England. More than he deserved. And he hardly had a chance to express appropriate gratitude.

 

The door opened again and General Barton stepped out. Miller turned and the General looked at him. "Something wrong, Major?"

 

Miller thought about his idea for a moment. "Well, no sir, but....I was wondering something. Would it be possible to send a message to..." Miller caught himself and looked around the empty hall, "...those boys?"

 

Barton considered this a moment and then nodded. "Yes, I think that can be arranged. I'll have a cryptologist contact you, they can work your message into code."

 

Miller hesitated. "I was thinking more of something that could be read on a broadcast?"

 

Barton didn't look so sure. "Major..."

 

Miller held a hand up. "I know, I know. But...if I'm going to express my appreciation to those boys I want to do it the same way I've been doing for all the other boys fighting in this war."

 

Barton thought it over for another moment and then nodded. "It can be done. I'll let the cryptologist know."

 

Miller nodded and gave a respectful smile. "Thank you, sir." He saluted the General and turned to leave.

 

Barton let the bandleader go a few feet before calling after him. "Miller."

 

Miller stopped and turned. "Yes sir?"

 

For the first time that afternoon, Barton smiled a little. "Welcome to the club."

 

Miller snorted. "Thank you, sir. I...only wish I could put together a house band for it."

 

Barton laughed.

 

 

Stalag 13

 

At seven-thirty that night, Kinch came up from the tunnel.

 

“Good news, Colonel,” Kinch said as the entrance clattered shut behind him. “The Underground says that Fritz is back in Düsseldorf and will recover from his wound.”

 

Carter, Newkirk and LeBeau, who were all seated at the table and had been fiddling with the radio, cheered. Hogan nodded with a smile. “That’s good to hear, Kinch.”

 

“Got a message from London too. There’s apparently going to be a coded message in Miller’s broadcast tonight.”

 

Hogan raised an eyebrow. “Coded message?”

 

“That’s what they said. The usual signature, Unsung Heroes.”

 

“Hmm. Interesting…”

 

“I wonder what kind of message London would have Miller send?” Carter asked.

 

“Probably our next mission,” Hogan said. “It’s probably some corker and they want to sweeten it up with a little Moonlight Serenade.

 

The men chuckled.

 

“If you ask me,” Newkirk said, “I think we should have a little time off before our next mission.” He turned the dial on the radio to tune it, clearing the sound of the BBC broadcaster doing the news.

 

“Unfortunately, nobody asked you,” LeBeau said and slapped Newkirk’s hand away. “I had that tuned just fine before!”

 

“I was just fine tuning it---“

 

“Colonel! Schultz is coming.”

 

Hogan no more than looked at Newkirk then the corporal had the radio snatched up and heading back to its hiding place in a foot locker. Newkirk then dove for the bunk that was over the tunnel and lounged back, appearing relaxed.

 

Everyone else in the common room appeared oblivious when Schultz came in with another guard.  Hogan looked up from the table. “Hi Schultz! Little early for the poker game aren’t you?”

 

“Jolly joker… Nein, the Kommandant has ordered a surprise check of the barracks.”

 

Hogan looked at his watch. It was ten minutes to eight. “Now? This is the first night of our poker tourney and some of the guys are getting anxious. Can’t this wait until morning?”

 

“No! We will inspect the barracks right now!” Schultz turned to the first bunk near the door and then suddenly stopped, turning back to the Colonel. “And there is not suppose to be any gambling in the barracks! Colonel Hogan, you know that!”

 

“I know that, Schultz. And you know that. But we can both pretend that we know nothing, can’t we?”

 

Schultz chuckled. “No, no….I know nothing. You…” Schultz stopped chuckling and sighed. “…know everything.” He turned back to the bunk and went about his duty.

 

The men of the barracks stood, rather impatiently, as Schultz and the other guard went through the spot check. Colonel Hogan glanced at his watch and then bore his gaze into the two guards. Hurry up!

 

Finally, at five minutes after eight, they finished. Schultz however, still seemed to be looking for an excuse to hang around and the talk of a poker game had done it. Hogan looked at Schultz with admonishment. “Schultz, I’m ashamed of you. You know there’s no gambling allowed in the barracks!”

 

“There isn’t? Oh! That’s right!” Schultz looked sternly at all the prisoners. “There is NO gambling allowed in the barracks!”

 

“Exactly. And given how much you lose you should be sticking to that rule for awhile.”

 

“Don’t remind me.” Schultz rolled his eyes and headed for the door of the barracks. Once he was gone, Newkirk pulled the radio out of the footlocker and turned it on.

 

“I hope we didn’t miss it…” he said. With the BBC tuned in once again, he placed the radio down on the table and everyone gathered around to listen.  Kinch readied his pad of paper and pencil.

 

“….for the medley this evening we have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue for all of our unsung heroes out there. We know you are ever vigilant and remain steadfast and all your duties, even against truly incredible odds. Our thanks for what you do we express often and our prayers are with you in everything you do. Together we will all see this through. You remain in our hearts from London to Paris to Rome and to Moscow. Our first tune….”

 

As the music played, Kinch transcribed the message. He then smiled and looked at Hogan. “‘You are all truly incredible. Thanks for everything. See you in Paris.’”

 

Hogan looked from Kinch to the radio and smiled. “I’ll be darned…”

 

***

 

At the AEF band’s makeshift studios in Bedford, England, the music from the orchestra filled the ears and hearts of the seven boys who had made the trip to England with Miller. Despite the uncertainty of their futures, the boys were confident things would turn out okay. Hearing the orchestra live and in person was a thrill they only could have dreamed of. There was a sense that, for a moment at least, things were right in the world.

 

Back home in Germany, there were two more boys listening. Hans and Josef were huddled near a radio in Hans’s room, tuned to the BBC and playing low. They smiled to one another hearing Major Miller’s voice and then the band start in.

 

Yes, for one brief moment, all was right in the world…

 

 

~End~

 

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

Notes 

 

** "The General Swap" ep.49 -- Jeff's story Debriefing: A Navigator's Story prompted the idea for this scene which has me thinking of a potential Part Three (but if I never get around to writing it, it’s no big deal, as Part One and Two are pretty darn sufficient. LOL). Given Miller's sworn secrecy of Hogan's operation and then his eventual disappearance just a few short weeks after the events in this story…I’m thinking more alchemy with history let’s say. Frankly, I probably could have had this story take place within the same 9 day span from the day Miller disappeared to the day he was announced missing. (I had no idea how many days this story would cover. Kinda weird that it turned out to be 9 days). Unfortunately that would’ve involved a not so happy ending and I wasn’t comfortable doing that.

 

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