The time roll call had come and gone and Hogan and his men were still at Stalag 13. Hogan looked at his watch, slowly pacing the floor of the barracks like an expectant father. The rest of the heroes sat at the table, playing cards and watching Hogan pace.
"Would've been nice if they had told us when they were going to need us," Newkirk said.
"Yeah," Carter said, "instead of leaving us sitting here, feeling like we're waiting for the axe to fall."
Hogan stopped pacing. "Carter..."
"It's true though," LeBeau said. "We do feel like we're waiting for the axe to fall!"
"I know..." Hogan resumed pacing. The door to the barracks opened and Schultz came in.
"Time to go, Schultz?" Hogan asked.
"Nein. The Kommandant wants to see you."
"Oh. You wouldn't happen to know what time we're supposed to leave for Düsseldorf do you?"
Schultz shook his head. "The Propaganda Ministry will notify us when we are to bring you in."
Hogan nodded. "Okay." Schultz stepped aside of the door to let Hogan out first.
"Colonel Hogan," Klink said, after Hogan had entered and took a seat by the Kommandant's desk. "This broadcast this evening is very important and I want you to remind your men that you all must be on your best behavior. There will be many important people at the radio station tonight and it is rumored that the Fuehrer will be listening to the broadcast."
Hogan's smile was broad. "I bet ol' Adolph is a great jitterbugger."
"Hogan! The Fuehrer will not be listening for the music content!"
"Why else would he be listening?"
"To hear the voices of the youth pledge their loyalty and allegiance to the Reich."
"Ah, I see. And as an added bonus he'll hear Major Glenn Miller pledge his new found forced allegiance to the Reich."
"I have been told by the Propaganda Ministry that Miller has been most cooperative. And I expect you and your men to be most cooperative as well."
"Oh we have been, Kommandant. But I'm not aware that any of us will be speaking during the broadcast."
"No, but it will be mentioned that some of the band members are POW's. Your names will all be announced by Major Miller."
"You don't think he'll come down with a sudden case of laryngitis and not be able to speak?"
"The Major's resistance thus far has been minimal. The Propaganda Ministry is sure that he will go through with the broadcast and will not pull any tricks."
"You mean he'll be heavily persuaded not to pull any tricks."
"Colonel Hogan, when are you going to realize that the Major's lack of heavy resistance only shows that he wishes to cooperate? It's quite possible that, given he has seen the war from the other side in the same time that you've only seen it from a prison camp, the Allies may just be crumbling in their fight."
"It's more possible that he's been threatened enough to cooperate." Hogan stood up from the chair, grabbing his crush cap off of Klink's spiked helmet. "And the Allied fight has not and will not crumble, Kommandant. For that is certain." Hogan turned to the door.
The Colonel stopped and turned back.
"Remember, I expect you and your men to behave during this broadcast."
"Don't worry, Kommandant, we'll act no worse than we ever have here." Hogan gave an apathetic salute before walking out of the office.
Major Miller sorted out what was left in his kit, carefully placing various items within the pockets of his uniform. He had only a few items left from what he had started with five days earlier. He was down to three-quarters of a pack of cigarettes, one chocolate bar, and one package of crackers. The SPAM, coffee and cookies were gone. The loss of the SPAM was unfortunate, as the crackers were a bit on the dry side and benefited from being paired with the SPAM. But, the crackers were edible at the least and Miller knew he was in no position to be choosy.
He pocketed the comb and spare blade for the razor easy enough in one of the breast pockets. He wrapped the spare blade in bath tissue, hoping to provide at least enough of a barrier that if he turned the wrong way or bent over to quickly the blade wouldn't cut into him too deep. Of course, it had a lot of material to cut through first, the most of which was the brown uniform jacket he wore. But better to be safe than sorry. The razor head itself was placed in one of the bottom pockets of the jacket along with the soap. The crackers found a spot in the other pocket with his cigarettes. The chocolate bar was opposite the comb and spare blade.
So with the few items of his kit now distributed between the four pockets of his uniform jacket, Major Miller stood before the mirror in the washroom and eyed the pockets, making sure they didn't look too bulky or showed that they were hiding anything. He adjusted the jacket upon his shoulders, turned, keeping an eye on the pockets and determined that the pockets hardly betrayed a thing.
Of course he had plenty of room. As he studied the pockets and the jacket as a whole he was reminded once again of the fact that he had lost a few pounds since the uniform was originally cut and tailored for him, nearly two years earlier. Somehow it seemed like a lifetime ago...
He sighed and exited the washroom, turning the light out. The small pack that had been used for his kit was placed on the bed, empty. He could do nothing more now than wait.
Fritz and his men were waiting too, as patiently as they could. Fritz's men were already dressed in the Gestapo uniforms, and had been for several hours. Although they were all well hid, the passage of time increased their chances of being caught. Some alleyways and hallways only stayed empty for so long. Fritz especially was concerned with the radio station appearing practically deserted during the morning hours. There had been no sign of the youths, of Major Miller or of Colonel Hogan and his men. Fritz wondered if something had happened and if the broadcast was to be called off. Surely the principles of broadcast would have been there by now?
"It is too quiet," Fritz's partner, Emery, noted. The two of them were seated at a table in a Bierstube that was across the street from the radio station and where they could watch the front entrance. They too were dressed in Gestapo uniforms.
"Ja," Fritz said, never turning his eyes from the window. "I'm not sure I care for it."
"Perhaps we are just too early," Emery said. "The broadcast is not until , they may not bring everyone in until this afternoon."
"Perhaps. And that is logical." Fritz sighed. "But it makes for a long wait."
It wasn't until almost three-thirty that activity started to pick up around the radio station. Fritz and Emery, along with all of the underground agents who had been waiting, watched as cars pulled up with Gestapo and Propaganda Ministry people. Hochstetter was there, giving orders, sending his guards to their positions. The Propaganda Ministry people went inside the radio station.
About ten minutes later, a Gestapo truck pulled up to the radio station and the young musicians climbed out of the back. Fritz watched them file through the front door of the radio station. He then looked at Emery.
"Now it begins..."
Once the young musicians were inside the radio station and everything was secure, Hochstetter went with two of his guards in his Gestapo staff car to the Düsseldorf Hotel to pick up the star attraction of the broadcast.
Major Miller watched from his hotel
window as the car drove down the street and disappeared around the corner to
the front of the hotel. He then looked up to the horizon, looking
He turned away from the window and stood in the middle of the hotel room, holding his crush cap in hand, waiting for Hochstetter's impending arrival.
A little after , Schultz came to the barracks and announced that it was time to leave. Hogan checked the time on his watch and then looked at Schultz.
"You know, making prisoners wait this long should be a violation of the Geneva Convention," he said as he started to walk out of the barracks.
"What does the Propaganda Ministry care about the Geneva Convention?" LeBeau complained following after the Colonel. Kinch, Newkirk and Carter filed out of the barracks as well.
"Only when it serves propaganda, Louie," Newkirk answered.
Düsseldorf Radio Station
Hochstetter and his staff car returned to the radio station no more than five minutes after they had left. Fritz and Emery were still watching from the Bierstube. Major Miller emerged from the car and paused on the sidewalk for only a moment, before being persuaded into the building by Hochstetter's two guards. At the same time, two of Fritz's sentries were making their move at the back of the radio station, knowing all the attention would be focused at the front of the building and removing the one guard at the back entrance would take little effort.
The first sentry, dressed as a Gestapo guard, walked up to the real one posted at the door. He talked to him, and in effect distracted him as the second sentry, wearing just civilian clothes came up behind the guard and knocked him down with a club. The first sentry grabbed the guard before he fell to the ground and with assistance from the second, they carried him down the alley way to the street where one of Fritz's disguised bakery truck was waiting. The unconscious guard was deposited in the back and the first sentry hurried back to the back door of the radio station to take his position.
Major Miller hardly had a chance to acknowledge the band members who were already in the studio when he had Reigels coming up to him. The Ministry Captain led Miller away from the bandstand and introduced him to two other higher ranking Ministry officials. The two officers didn't offer a hello or even a nod in acknowledgement. They just regarded Miller dourly, looking him up and down and seeming to be offended by either his appearance or just offended in general because he was an American.
Miller looked down at his uniform. During his seven days of captivity he'd managed to keep it clean and straight. He had shaved, his hair was combed. All in all he was neat as pin, despite his status as a prisoner. He looked back up at the two Ministry officials and gave each of them the once over, his brown eyes critical as he examined each officer's uniform. Truthfully, he could find little fault, but as long as they were going to look down their noses at him, he would let them know he wasn't going to stand for it.
He pointed to one of the officer's eagle and swastika emblems. "Your swastika's crooked."
The officer, startled by the American speaking, looked down at the emblem on his uniform. The badge wasn't really crooked and he looked back at Miller with a glare.
"Tsk," was all Miller said.
"Major Miller," Reigels spoke up, not wanting this scene to go further. "We would like for you to read from the script I gave you last night. Do you have it with you?"
"Sure..." Miller retrieved the script from inside his uniform jacket. He unfolded it and Reigels saw that it was ripped in two.
"I can see that. How?"
"Um..." With the other two Ministry officials eyeing him suspiciously, Miller figured maybe he better play this one dumb. He had no command of the German language and claiming that he figured out some of what the script said was an invitation for trouble, especially if he was asked which parts and what words. And truthfully, he wouldn't have been able to tell what was what. So he kept it simple. "Well, it fell on the floor and when I went to pick it up I stepped on it and pulled it up at the same time." Miller gave a shrug. "Sorry."
Reigels exhaled slowly. "Can you still read from it?"
Miller looked at the two pieces of paper and held them together. "I think I can manage."
"Very well. We're going to record you reading this message."
Miller hesitated. "Record it? I thought this was something for the broadcast?"
"It is, but we would like a separate recording of it." Reigels gestured with his arm toward the microphone that was set up in the middle of the studio. Miller glanced back at the microphone and Reigels gave a nod before walking with the two Ministry officers to the control room.
Major Miller turned toward the microphone, his back facing the control room for a moment. A recording? Damn... He looked at his watch. It was . He could stall, sure, but could he stall long enough? He knew he had to try. He turned to face the microphone, catching a glimpse of the kids watching him. Their looks were concerned.
Once Reigels and the two other Ministry officers had settled themselves in the control room with Anna and a recording engineer, Miller went about doing his best to stall.
He cleared his throat and waited for
the cue from the recording engineer. Then in his usual unanimated,
straightforward baritone voice, he spoke, " and seven years ago our fathers
brought forth upon this land a new nation, conceived in liberty--"
"Herr Major," Reigels said sternly through the intercom. "Please read the script."
"Don't you want to do a test run first?"
"We don't have time for a test run."
"Well, I at least need a minute to warm up."
"You don't have a minute."
"Okay, okay..." Miller looked at the script again and then made like he was having trouble reading it, bringing it closer then holding it further away. "You wouldn't happen to have a better copy would you?" He looked up at Reigels, who took in an agitated breath.
Miller held his other hand up. "Never mind, I said I'd make do with this one. Okay..." he cleared his throat again. He looked about ready to start to read it when he looked up at the people in the control room. "Would any of you happen to have a cigarette?"
Anna buried her face in her hands. The recording engineer looked at Reigels, annoyed. Miller hid his smile by looking down as he patted the pockets of his uniform jacket. "Oh, never mind, I have one..." He withdrew a cigarette from his pocket and held it up. He then took his time lighting it and taking in that first drag. The smoke he blew out hung in the air of the studio, and he looked through it at the people in the control room.
"Are you ready now, Major Miller?" Reigels asked.
"Yes, yes...sorry. I'm a little nervous, I'm sure you understand. My German's terrible. Truthfully I think you should just have me keep my mouth shut."
Anna looked at Reigels. "That may not be a bad idea..."
"Major Miller," Reigels said offering a phony smile and trying to maintain some sense of control of the situation. "Please, just read from the script. I'm sure you'll be fine once you start. Remember we have heard you on the Allied broadcasts and you've done fine."
Miller shrugged. "If you say so..."
From the Bierstube, Fritz and Emery could see the bakery truck get into position for swapping out the guard on the side of the radio station building. Fritz nodded to himself. His men were taking advantage of the lull in activity. Good. If things remained quiet, he and Emery could probably switch the guards at the front door soon.
It took approximately a minute and the second guard had been switched. The bakery truck then backed up and backed into the narrow alley behind the radio station. Now it was up to Fritz and Emery to make their move when they were ready.
But they would have to stand pat for a moment. Major Hochstetter had come out of the building and was standing on the sidewalk, looking to be waiting for something, or someone.
Road to Düsseldorf
The truck from Stalag 13 rumbled over the dirt road on it's way to Düsseldorf. Accompanying Hogan, his men and Schultz was Kommandant Klink, obviously looking for a brown nose opportunity with the Propaganda Ministry. After all it was prisoners from his Stalag that were volunteering to help in an effort of the Third Reich. At least, that's what Hogan let Klink believe. That they were willfully volunteering to help the Reich.
The other reason Klink was going with them to Düsseldorf was to make sure Hogan and his men behaved. He would not tolerate being embarrassed by Hogan and have to hear about it later from General Burkhalter. The Kommandant hoped his presence would make Hogan think twice.
Of course it wouldn't. Hogan had no intention of doing anything different, whether Klink was there or not. Truthfully, the more audience members there was, the bigger the show Hogan would try to pull off. The only thing that might change was whether or not there would be an opportunity for Carter to slip the magnesium explosive device into the control room. The sergeant had it with him, Hogan knew, but they also all knew that the more eyes that would be watching them, less chance they had of using it for what they wanted. Hogan took some relief in knowing that the transmitter, at least, would be destroyed.
The men were all quiet as they rode. There was nothing left to discuss anyway, each man knew what had to be done.
And they would do it.
Fritz and Emery watched as a staff car pulled up to the radio station and a portly Luftwaffe General emerged. Hochstetter greeted him and then led him into the radio station. The staff car pulled up and around the corner to park with Hochstetter's and the Ministry staff cars.
"Burkhalter," Emery said. "This is turning out to be a big crowd."
"Mmm," Fritz agreed. He watched the scene in front of the radio station. Burkhalter's driver stepped out of the car and started across the street, heading for the Bierstube. "His driver is heading this way. Act normal."
Emery nodded and picked up his paper, turning the page. Fritz looked down at his half eaten sandwich and beer stein. The driver came into the Bierstube and walked past Fritz and Emery, heading for the bar. Now it was Emery's turn to watch. The driver looked to be no more than a kid and appeared to pose no possible threat. A stein of beer and pretty girl, and he would be oblivious to anything going on at the radio station.
Emery looked at Fritz and gave a slight shake of his head. He will not be a problem.
Fritz nodded. He glanced at his watch. It was a little past four-thirty. He looked back out the window to the radio station and wondered where Colonel Hogan and his men were.
Düsseldorf Radio Station
Major Miller was wondering the same thing as he went through his fifth...or sixth false start with reading the script. He essentially butchered the first few words of the script, over pronouncing the sounds and saying the vowel sounds the opposite of what they should be. For example, he purposely screwed up Guten Abend so badly that it came out "goo-ten ay-bend" instead of "goo-ten aa-bent" with the 'a' sounding like that in 'car'.
Longer words that involved several syllables, Miller butchered even worse, dragging out the pronunciation and even repeating some of them in the middle of word. When he made it through a couple of such words he would immediately ask in English, "Have I said that right?"
The agitation in the control room was marked on everyone's face. The two higher ranking Ministry officials were regarding Reigels and Anna with skepticism. General Burkhalter who, along with Hochstetter, had come in to the control room during one of Miller's previous false starts, didn't look too happy with what he was hearing either. Hochstetter....well, he never looked happy to begin with.
Reigels, having had enough, stood up and came out of the control room, approaching Miller.
"Major Miller, this is most unusual. We have heard you speak German on the Allied broadcasts with out nearly this much difficulty. Therefore, I can only conclude that you are purposely stalling, and you're continued resistance will not be tolerated."
"How do you expect me to read this when you won't even tell me what the hell it is that I'm saying?"
"You don't need to know what it is that you are saying. Only that you must say it." Reigels paused and looked to Miller's hands that were holding the torn script. He took hold of the Major's right hand gently, turning it so the palm faced up. "Tell me Major....how hard is it to play the trombone when one hand is broken?"
Miller yanked his hand away. He clenched it into a fist and glared at Reigels. "All right. I'll read your rotten script."
Reigels chuckled. "Of course you will." He turned and walked back to the control room.
When given the cue, Miller began to read.
"Good evening. This is Major
The truck from Stalag 13 pulled up to the front of the radio station. From across the street, Fritz and Emery watched from the Bierstube as the portly Luftwaffe camp guard, stepped out of the truck and walked to the back, holding his rifle in a somewhat lazy fashion. He dropped the tail gate and let Colonel Hogan and his men out of the truck. They then disappeared around the other side of the truck, which was blocking the view of the front door.
"I hope they're not going to leave that truck there," Emery noted.
Fritz was quiet, still watching. "Once the prisoners are inside, the camp guard may come back out to move it."
Düsseldorf Radio Station
With the recording finished, Reigels, Anna and the two other Ministry officers looked pleased. Miller felt sick. He folded the script and shoved it into the pocket of his uniform, turning away from the microphone and toward the band. They were all looking at him, horrified. He approached and Hans and Ahren stood up and came up to him. They spoke quietly.
"Herr Miller," Hans said gravely, "do you know what they just had you say?"
Miller nodded. "Most of it." He sighed heavily. "In a nutshell, I just committed treason."
"They will use that record during the broadcast."
"Hans, they're going to use that record for a lot of things."
"I would have let them break my hand," Ahren said defiantly. "I would not have let them force me to say what they made you say."
"It's easy to say that now, but you might change your mind when you’re faced with the moment," Miller said.
"You would let them break your hands?" Hans said, turning to his friend. "Your hands. You would not be able to play your instrument. Provided they would let you live after you refused long enough, would it have been worth it to not be able to play your instrument? Perhaps to not be able to walk?"
Ahren was silent as he looked at Hans. Slowly he turned his gaze to Major Miller.
"There's some fates worse than death, Ahren," the Major said.
"Ja.." Ahren said softly. "So there is." He paused a moment, dropping his gaze from the Major. He then looked back up, his eyes suddenly renewed with defiance. "That is why you should have escaped before now. Now they will force us to play for the broadcast. Swing music for Nazi's! You will let them make us play!"
"No," Miller said evenly. "We're not playing swing music for the broadcast."
Hans and Ahren both looked dumbfounded. "We will suffer a worse fate than broken hands if we do not play!"
"No, we won't." Miller looked at the two boys directly in their eyes. "Look, you're right, I should have escaped before now but I didn't. I made one vow though, that if things got this far, I would not have you boys play any actual swing music for the broadcast." Miller paused. He knew both boys were thinking that he was making no sense. He had given in to reading the script, now he was talking about blatant defiance by not playing any actual swing music? He had his reasons, which made perfect sense, but he couldn't risk telling the boys anything, not even at this stage of the game. However, he decided to toss a little something out. "You have to trust me. Nothing will happen to any of us."
Hans and Ahren were quiet for a moment and then Ahren pulled Hans aside and away from Major Miller.
"How does he know nothing will happen to us?" Ahren asked. "They were willing to break his arm for that script. If we don't play music, they'll think of something worse for us."
"None of us want to play swing music for this broadcast, and you and I both told him that if he should escape, we, as in all of us, would suffer whatever consequences were dealt, right?"
"Yes, but he has not escaped! He is still here. Now he has committed treason against his country--"
"But not treason against Swing. Remember, there are fates worse than death."
"You are speaking in riddles, Hans. What could be worse than death?"
"Being tortured, instead of just killed. Don't you understand? It is one thing to be alive, in the sense of being aware of what's around you. It is something else to be alive and to be part of what is around you." Hans pointed to Ahrens hands. "If you're hands were broken, you would not be able to play your instrument. Wouldn't that kill more inside of you than just ceasing to exist?"
Ahren nodded impatiently. "Ja, ja but the broadcast! They were able to force him for that script, they will force him to make sure we play what we're supposed to play. He just said himself, it's easy to speak defiance but when you're faced with the situation it could change. I don't want to play real swing music for the bastard Nazi's...but we don't know what they'll threaten."
"It doesn't matter. Herr Miller says nothing will happen to any of us."
"Wishful thinking, perhaps."
Hans paused and glanced over at Miller. The Major was watching the other idle activity in the studio. "I don't think so," Hans said, looking back at Ahren. "The prisoners, the other American officer talks to Miller one on one frequently. I am suspicious enough to think..." Hans let the rest of it hang.
It took a moment before Ahren's look turned startled. He looked around the studio cautiously before turning back to Hans. "Escape?" he whispered. "During the broadcast?"
"Possibly. If there is such a chance, then I am willing to put my faith and trust in him." Hans studied his friend. "Aren't you?"
Now things were making sense. Ahren nodded, but was still troubled by something. "Ja, ja...but the disc. He will still be considered to have committed treason."
Hans paused, looking around the studio. The recording engineer hadn't returned yet. "Perhaps, something can be done about that." Hans walked back to Major Miller and Ahren followed.
"Herr Miller," Hans said. "We will pass the word to the others. There will be no swing music for this broadcast."
Major Miller had heard the two boys as they were talking to each other but didn't know enough of what they had been debating. That much he knew at least, that they were debating. Then the tone of the conversation had relaxed and Ahren's posture had changed. Whatever it was Hans had said, it must of convinced Ahren. Now, Miller looked at the two boys and read the expression of trust on each of their faces. He nodded to them and they turned to pass the word to the rest of the band.
The studio doors opened a few moments
later and in walked Colonel Hogan with his men, escorted by Sergeant Schultz
and Kommandant Klink. Seeing the
Hogan and his men walked over to Major Miller with no protest coming from any of the Germans in the room. Most of them, particularly Burkhalter and Hochstetter were wondering, out loud, what Klink was doing there. The Kommandant happily explained what his contribution was to the broadcast: Making sure Hogan and his men behaved.
Ignoring Klink's strutting and the collective groans from Burkhalter and Hochstetter, Hogan stepped up to Miller and cut to the chase. "Everything's set to go," he said quietly. "Things will start rolling as soon as you have us hit those wrong notes. We've also got it set that the transmitter will horribly malfunction around the same time."
Miller nodded. "There's just one problem," he said. "That script that LeBeau tore up? They still had me read it, and they made a recording of it."
The heroes all did a double take. "Oh no..." Hogan said.
"Bloody hell," Newkirk cursed quietly.
"Colonel, I stalled and hemmed and hawed and mispronounced everything as long as I could. I was hoping I could hold out until you fellas got here but..."
"How'd they force your hand?"
Miller held his right hand up and looked at Hogan. "They threatened to break it."
"Terrific." Hogan paused in thought. "Where's the disc now?"
"Being processed. Should be ready by the time we go on the air."
"Metal or acetate?"
"Destroying it will be easy," Newkirk said. "We just have to figure how to get our hands on it."
"Maybe I can use the magnesium?" Carter suggested, pointing non-chalantly to his thick bomber jacket.
"Maybe," Hogan said. "Truthfully, all we need to do is get a hold of it and drop it on the floor. Crack it, break it."
"Stomp on it," LeBeau added.
"That might be kind of obvious," Hogan said.
"But just as effective." LeBeau smiled.
"True. Okay, let's all keep an eye out for any opportunity to get that disc." Hogan looked at Miller. "Including you."
The Major nodded.
"They should have moved that truck by now," Emery observed.
Fritz looked at his watch. It was close to . "We still have time," he said. "If they don't move it we will still continue as we have planned."
Düsseldorf Radio Station
Any opportunity for Carter to get
into the control room wasn't presenting itself immediately. In fact it looked
like the room was going to be perpetually occupied by somebody at all times.
The two higher ranking Ministry officials basically camped out in the room,
watching the activities in the studio through the glass. Major Miller had to
make do with idle conversation from Kommandant Klink and General Burkhalter,
both individually and then together. Watching the German Luftwaffe General
Hogan and his men were seated with the kids on the bandstand, trying to appear casual. Major Hochstetter observed the activities in the studio from where he stood near the door. Anna and Reigels were in and out of the studio, taking turns to take care of last minute details, final scripts and checking on the production of the incriminating disc that had been recorded. They also were waiting for the arrival of a photographer. Anna was determined this time to get photographs.
At five minutes to six, a photographer arrived. It was the same man who had tried to snap pictures before and he wasn't looking all that confident that he would be successful this time. Carter and Newkirk, seeing their special part of the mission had arrived, stood up one at a time, appearing as though they had become restless with waiting.
"We're not trying this again?" Miller said to Anna.
Anna only smiled. The photographer raised his camera and Miller immediately grabbed his own crush cap, placing it over the lens of the camera. The flash bulb popped.
The photographer lowered his camera and glared at the Major.
Miller replaced his cap back on his head and looked at Anna. "You just don't give up do you?"
Anna shook her head, still smiling, and turned, walking away. Miller looked at the photographer. The man had replaced the flash bulb and looked at the American, seeing the testy look on the bandleader's face. Just try it... he seemed to be saying. The photographer decided he would not try to take another picture of the Major and instead would try to catch him off guard later. The man stepped around the Major and walked away.
Carter and Newkirk came up from behind Miller and stood at either side of him for a moment. "Don't worry, sir," Newkirk said, "we'll give them some nice pictures..." Newkirk then stepped forward and Carter followed. Miller watched them.
The photographer looked to be contemplating taking a shot of the band. Hogan, Kinch and LeBeau all turned their faces the other way but would sneak a look back to see what Newkirk or Carter was going to do. Even the kids didn't look to want to have their picture taken either and several of them either turned away or held their instruments up to obstruct their faces. Newkirk was looking around the studio, appearing to not be paying attention to where he was going as he walked toward the band stand. He walked straight into the side of the photographer, forcing the photographer to push the shutter too soon and the camera to move just as the picture was taken.
"Oh I'm terribly sorry about that mate!" Newkirk said putting a steadying hand on the photographer's arm. "Messed up your photograph, didn't I? I'm very sorry..."
The photographer just glared at Newkirk and pushed the Englander's left hand away. But not before Newkirk's right hand managed to swipe a flash bulb from the photographer's pocket.
"Sorry," Newkirk said, keeping his left hand held up, while the one that held the flash bulb was brought down to his side and back a little. Newkirk then turned to his right and held the flash bulb out of sight of the photographer as he walked back to where Hogan sat with Kinch and LeBeau. LeBeau put his hand behind him and as Newkirk went around the Frenchman, dropped the flash bulb into LeBeau's hand. LeBeau then placed the bulb in the pocket of his brown overcoat.
Newkirk sat down beside Hogan. "He's got at least five more," Newkirk reported quietly.
Next was Carter's turn. He stood patiently while the photographer put another flash bulb in and then watched as he lined the camera up again to try another shot. Carter waited a heartbeat and then suddenly jumped in front of the camera. "Hey, that's a neat looking camera ya got there!"
If anything, the photographer got a an up close and blurred shot of a US Army Air Corp bomber jacket. The camera was lowered and the German looked at Carter.
"Oh..." Carter said, pretending to realize what he had done. "Sorry..." He smiled awkwardly and turned, walking back to the bandstand.
While the photographer was preparing yet another flash bulb, the recording engineer returned to the studio with the processed disc in hand. He paused to speak to Anna and Reigels a moment and then continued to the control room.
Miller looked at Anna and Reigels. "Gee," he said with sarcasm, "aren't you going to try take a photograph of me holding your precious disc?" He suddenly realized what he had suggested. He maintained his sarcastic look but was hoping they would jump at the idea.
So did Colonel Hogan.
And they did, hook, line and sinker. Anna smiled and looked to the control room. "Wendell, bring the disc out here please."
The engineer came back out of the control room with the disc in hand. Anna held her hand out for the disc. Wendell hesitated, knowing this was a very important recording and that he was responsible for it. He didn't want anyone else handling it but him. "What are you going to do with it?" he asked.
"We are going to take a photograph of Major Miller with the disc."
Wendell thought about that for a moment and then apparently decided that was okay and he handed the disc to Anna. Anna then handed it to Major Miller and turned toward the bandstand. "Colonel Hogan. Would you and your men come here please?"
Hogan and the heroes followed. Hogan put on a charming smile. "Let me guess. You want to take a picture of all of us, right? C'mon fellas, gather around..." The men gathered around the Major and Hogan turned slightly to Miller's anxious look. "I'll cue you when to drop it, don't hang on to it too tight."
Miller gave a half nod and held the disc gingerly in his hands. Anna and Reigels stepped back as the photographer prepared to take the picture.
"What's the German word for cheese?" Carter asked.
"Kase," Kinch replied.
"Say "Kase" everybody!" Hogan called out. He then suddenly leaned an arm on Miller's left shoulder, which was Miller's cue. The Major didn't even have to fake it. The sudden unannounced drop of his shoulder forced the record from his hands and down it went, hitting the floor and breaking apart into at least three pieces.
Everybody looked down at the smashed record just as the picture was snapped. In the control room, Wendell, the engineer, paled. Miller looked at Hogan. "Now look what you made me do," he said in a mock scolding tone.
"Me?" Hogan argued. "You were holding the record!"
"You hit my arm!"
"I didn't hit your arm, I was leaning on your shoulder."
"Same difference." Miller looked at Anna and Reigels. "I'm terribly sorry..."
"No, no," Hogan said. "He's right, I bumped him. It was my fault. I'm sorry."
"Silence," Reigels said. He stepped over and bent down to pick up the broken pieces of the disc. He straightened, looking at the pieces and then at Major Miller.
"Was that the only copy?" Miller asked.
"Yes. This was the only copy."
"Well, you have to admit," Miller said, "it wasn't my best effort."
Reigels only looked at the American bandleader, grinding his teeth as he did so.
"Maybe you can have him record another one?" Hogan suggested.
"There is no time," Reigels replied coolly. "We have a little over an hour and half until the broadcast. I think the time would be best used for rehearsal..." He waved the Allied servicemen away and they shuffled quietly back to the band stand.
"That was beautiful, gov'nor," Newkirk said, grinning. The rest of the heroes were smiling in relief. Hogan looked at Miller with a nod. "Nice job."
"I'm just glad it broke when we dropped it....er rather, when I dropped it."
The heroes chuckled and Hogan nodded. "That and I'm glad there's only one copy!"
The kids in the bandstand were all exchanging glances of relief too.
Fritz was becoming a little edgy. The time on his watch was clicking toward six-thirty and he looked at the truck from Stalag 13, still parked directly in front of the entrance to the radio station. It still had not moved. Fritz stared at it hard, as if trying to force it to move with his eyes. Just roll down the street a little, just so I can see the doorway...
The truck remained. Nobody was moving it.
Fritz sighed, glanced at his watch again and looked at Emery.
"Now?" Emery asked.
Fritz looked back at the truck. "Now."
"We don't know what's going on, on the other side of the truck."
"We'll find out when we get there." Fritz moved to stand up from the booth. He removed the appropriate amount of marks, plus tip and left it on the table. "Come..."
Emery stood up and followed Fritz out of the Bierstube. Fritz paused beneath a street lamp to light a cigarette and stood for a moment on the sidewalk, looking around in both directions of the street. The evening was pulling a dark shadow over the street. The sun was gone behind the buildings in the western horizon. Only a little tint of blue remained in the sky, sprinkled with a few of the night's first stars. At the left end of the radio station building, one of his men signaled to him. Everything was clear. At the right end of the radio station, another signal. Everything was clear.
Fritz took a long drag on the cigarette and blew a string of smoke out to the right. This was his reply signal. He and Emery would move in now.
As they started to cross the street, another signal went between the left and right flanks of the radio station. Next, Hochstetter's staff car, which along with the other staff cars had been left unattended on the side street, pulled away from the curb and went down around the block, coming back up on the right side of the radio station building. It slowed and stopped at the corner, the sentry driving it watching Fritz and Emery. With the truck from the Stalag blocking the place where the bakery truck was supposed to go, the sentry figured to use Hochstetter's car to carry the two replaced guards around to the backside of the building to join with the others.
The Stalag truck at least was providing the same amount of cover from the traffic on the street as the bakery truck would have. Fritz was appreciative of that at least.
"Guten Abend," he said as he and Emery approached. "Lovely evening."
Fritz was sure he and Emery looked imposing enough in their Gestapo uniforms, as the two guards who didn't look any older than twenty, came to immediate attention. Good prompt soldiers, Fritz thought. Coming to direct attention. The two guards responded and raised their arms in salute. "Guten Abend, Oberstleutnant. Heil Hitler."
Fritz and Emery never saluted. Instead they grabbed at the two arms that were out straight and sucker punched the two young guards. The two guards were hit again and were relieved of their rifles. Hochstetter's staff car now came around the corner and pulled up in front of the truck from Stalag 13.
With rifles in hand, Fritz and Emery both savagely knocked the two guards unconscious with the butt ends of the rifles. They then slung the rifles over their backs and dragged the unconscious guards across the sidewalk to the waiting staff car. The sentry was waiting with the back door open and he helped to load the two guards into the car, pulling and dragging them in. Once completed, the sentry shut the back door of the car and Fritz and Emery walked back to the front entrance of the radio station. Hochstetter's staff car drove away from the curb, unhurried, and turned the corner. The two guards would be moved from the car to the bakery truck in the alley.
Fritz and Emery came to stand at the entrance way, straightening their uniforms and trying to breathe normally. The each looked around. It appeared they had caused little attention from anyone on the street. They glanced at each other and nodded. A job well done. So far...
Düsseldorf Radio Station
Miller led the band through a halfhearted rehearsal. To anyone else the band sounded pretty good. But Miller could hear beyond the music. The kids were nervous and admittedly, he was too. Hogan said everything was going to start moving at , but just what exactly was going to happen? And what was going to happen when the transmitter malfunctioned? And more than that, what the hell was going to happen once they were all out of the radio station?
Playing music passed the time, but didn't answer any of the questions. And Miller couldn't stop to ask the Colonel for much detail, not with all the extra ears in the room that might hear. Much the same way the young musicians had collectively put their trust in Miller, the Major would have to put his trust in Colonel Hogan...and the higher authority of the Lord.
At seven-thirty, Miller suspended the rehearsal. Next would be the longest thirty minutes he had ever had to wait through. Carter and Newkirk successfully spoiled the photographer's last five chances at getting a photograph. Once he ran out of flashbulbs, the photographer left to get more, figuring to try again during the actual broadcast.
The kids in the band talked quietly amongst themselves, Hogan and his men were quiet as they watched Burkhalter, who was talking now with the higher ranking Ministry officials, and they watched Hochstetter, who was watching them. Reigels and Anna were in the control room, in discussion with the engineer.
Miller sat by himself at the base of the bandstand, smoking a cigarette and observing what was going on. He didn't turn to look when Ahren came and sat down beside him.
"You should have tried to escape last night," Ahren said softly.
Miller snorted softly, tapping his ashes into the ash tray. "I didn't have the opportunity," he replied.
Ahren was quiet for a moment. Finally, he couldn't hold back any more. He had to ask. "Is somebody going to try to rescue you?" he whispered.
Miller looked at the young boy, surprised by the question. He was sure the boy was wondering how it was that nothing would happen to them when they didn't play any music. But Miller knew he couldn't risk admitting anything. Not now. Not until they were all safe. He gave a slight shrug. "I don't know."
Ahren was quiet again, but he never took his eyes off the bandleader. The young German was trying to figure out if there really was going to be an escape. Miller by the same token, avoided Ahren's gaze and instead looked at the cigarette he held between his fingers.
"They won't like what you're planning to do for the broadcast..." Ahren said. "If we don't play music, we will all be punished..." the boy's voice went soft, "you will not be able to escape then. Nobody will be able to save you...or any of us."
Miller looked at the cigarette a moment longer and then raised his eyes to Ahren. The young German saw something in them that made him pause. Miller knew something and for a brief moment he revealed the playing card. Defeat? No....no, he was not accepting defeat. They would not be punished. Somehow they would be saved.
Miller dropped his gaze, revealing no more. However, he spoke softly. "Somebody," he said, "will save us..." He looked back at Ahren, this time looking for the young German's understanding and, most importantly, his trust.
He would have it. But he also saw the questions that came through Ahren's eyes. How? When? Who?...
"Herr Miller...?" Ahren started.
Miller shook his head. He'd already said too much.
"Do the others know this?" Ahren asked quietly.
"No...and I don't even know for sure. But there is a chance." Miller looked at Ahren. "That's all I know, that there's a chance..."
Ahren looked at the American Major. The curiosity was just too much. "The prisoners?"
"No. Ahren, don't ask any questions, I've already told you more than I should have." The Major's tone wasn't scolding, but it was uneasy. And the uneasiness startled Ahren.
There was a chance.... Ahren wondered why Miller didn't tell all of them about this. But as soon as Ahren pondered the question he came up with his own answer. It was too risky, especially where the Gestapo and the Propaganda Ministry had questioned all of them after each rehearsal. Ahren was fairly sure that none of the boys would have implicated the Major, but there was enough of a seed of doubt to prevent the Major from revealing too much. Especially with Hans, Josef and Adler in the HJ. Part of being in the HJ was reporting things and any of the boys could have been easily persuaded or manipulated to tell the Gestapo everything...
But they wouldn't....would they? He knew Hans wouldn't, but it had been months since Ahren had last seen Josef and Adler. He was beginning to the understand the Major's dilemma. He also understood the urgency for secrecy and would honor that.
"I will say nothing to anyone, Herr Miller..." Ahren said. "That is a promise."
Miller looked at Ahren. He nodded. He could only hope that Ahren kept that promise, as there were ten lives depending on it.
At a few minutes to eight, the loudspeaker system outside the radio station announced that a special broadcast would be coming up. Fritz looked at his watch. Things looked to be moving on schedule. He nodded to Emery.
Abend," Anna said into the microphone in the
middle of the studio. "Tonight, we have a special broadcast for the youth
Miller raised his hands up, ready to cue the band. The players readied their instruments and Miller waited for the cue from Reigels. When it came, and Miller directed the band to play, the most horrendous sound filled the small studio.
Like fingernails on a chalk board, the sudden explosion of instruments playing off key notes, screeching and out of sync, was so traumatic sounding that even the Major cringed inwardly. Hogan was crashing out an erratic drum beat while LeBeau banged the piano keys like an artist possessed and having no recognizable melody. Kinch's base line was all over the map. Meanwhile, the brass instruments were like a pack of shrieking wolves, while the reeds just moaned and wailed like wounded animals. The sound was so hideous it was amusing. Newkirk and Carter, who were supposed to be adding some terrible singing to the mix, couldn't get themselves to do much. They were too busy trying not to laugh.
The amused bandleader turned to see what kind of effect the noise was having on the assembled guests. He found it was hitting the mark. People covered their ears while the Ministry officials were animated in the control room, telling the engineer to cut the live feed for a recording. He did but that didn't spare the people in the studio, who still had to endure the Dying Wolves Overture.
Reigels scrambled out of the control room and made a beeline for the band. "Stop!"
Miller saw him coming and having heard enough himself he signaled the band to stop. He found himself really having to work to keep a straight face as he turned to Reigels. "Something wrong?"
Reigels was clearly flustered. "Major Miller, that is not what we've heard this band playing in rehearsal for the past three days!"
"You're right. It's not." Miller paused as Anna came up beside the Ministry captain. "Seeing as you were so kind to say that American swing music was noise I'd thought I'd give ya some." He paused, holding back a smile. "You didn't like it?"
"I have heard drunken fools play better than that!"
"Then perhaps you should have got drunken fools for your broadcast, Kapitän..."
Reigels was quite frosted by this. He drew in a sharp breath. "There will be severe consequences for this insubordination, Herr Major..."
Miller raised an eyebrow, as if to say oh really?
Hogan stepped down from the drum kit. "What's the matter, Major? They not like the selection?"
"That's too bad," Hogan said. He looked at Reigels and Anna. "We practiced especially hard on that lil' number too..."
Miller had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing. Reigels saw this and glared at the band leader. "This is an outrage!" he said before turning on his boot heel. Anna looked at Miller.
"You will regret you've done this, Herr Major," she said. She turned and followed Reigels.
Miller turned toward the band, finally letting the smile break open. "Oh I'm not going to regret that one bit..." The kids too were grinning and trying to hold back snickers. Before Reigels and Anna got to the studio door, it suddenly burst open and five masked Gestapo guards came marching in.
"Achtung!" the lead one spoke up. All five had guns drawn and one of the guards immediately persuaded Reigels and Anna to the side of the studio.
"What is this?" Reigels asked, surprised.
The kids in the band were all looking too and the grins and snickers ceased. Miller made eye contact with Hans and Ahren and gestured with his hands for the kids to stay calm.
None of the guards spoke immediately. Another guard went to the door that led to the control room, opened it and stood in the open door way, with gun drawn and keeping an eye on the engineer, the other two Ministry officials and Major Hochstetter, who was clearly livid by what he was seeing.
"What is going on here?!" he demanded.
"Silence!" the lead Gestapo man said.
A third guard waved for Hogan and the heroes to be separated from the rest of the band. The prisoners from Stalag 13 stepped away from the bandstand were gathered in a group in a corner of the studio.
Miller kept an eye on the band members, making sure to look at each one individually, gesturing to them to stay calm. He could tell the sight of masked Gestapo men was not a comforting sight for any of these kids, but the kids looked at him and gave slight nods. They would follow the Major.
The lead Gestapo man, which was Fritz, stepped before Major Miller and pointed his rifle in a persuading manner. He had to make this look good. "Herr Major...if you and your band here would come with us please..."
Miller eyed the gun. "And if I refuse?"
"Then everyone in this room will be shot."
"You drive a hard bargain. Where are you taking us?"
"You will know when you get there." Fritz waved the gun. "Let's go..."
"Where are you taking him?" Hogan demanded.
"That is none of your concern," the Gestapo man that was watching over the heroes said.
Miller looked at the band and nodded for them to gather up their instruments. "Herr Miller," Hans said quietly. "What is happening?"
"It's okay, Hans. Just follow me. You boys are going to be all right. I promise..."
Hans nodded and told the others quietly to follow the Major and that they would be okay.
"Quiet," Fritz said. He gestured with the gun. "Schnell."
The band members had gathered their instruments and stood. Fritz pointed to one of the other men, Emery, who waited at the door of the studio. The band members walked to the door quietly. Miller paused a moment and looked at Colonel Hogan and the heroes standing in the corner. He couldn't say anything, not thank you, not goodbye, not anything. All he could do was give a nod, silently expressing his gratitude. He then turned back and walked to the door of the studio.
Fritz waited a few moments, giving time for Miller and the band to be escorted out of the building. He then nodded to the guard that was watching the heroes, who stepped backwards, keeping his sights on the heroes but moving for the door way. The other guards moved away from their positions as well and they were soon making a quick exit out the door with Fritz remaining for a moment.
"The Gestapo thanks you for your cooperation everyone..." He was then gone.
"BAH!!" Hochstetter shouted, running out of the control room. The other two Ministry officials came out as well.
"Major Hochstetter," Reigels said, coming up to the Gestapo Major. "I hope you have an explanation for this!"
"I don't! But I will find out--"
Hochstetter was cut off by the deafening boom of the dynamite going off on the roof.
"What was that?" Klink said.
"Air raid?" Schultz wondered.
The screaming sound of metal could be heard as the transmitter tower went crashing down on the roof and suddenly the power was cut inside the building, putting the studio into darkness and creating a mad dash for everyone to get out. Carter took the opportunity and pulled the magnesium pencil from his bomber jacket. He never set the timer on the pencil, not knowing when he would have the chance to get rid of it. So instead now, he just pulled the wire to trigger the detonator and he tossed the pencil into the control room, near the engineer's panel.
In the time Fritz had paused, Miller and the kids had been hustled out of the building and into the truck that the kids had been transported back and forth in. The remaining fake guards came running out of the building and they climbed into the truck, pulling the tarps down on the back, concealing those who were traveling inside. Fritz hollered to the driver to go as he jumped into the truck and the truck pulled away into the street, just as the explosion occurred sending the transmitter tower crashing down across the roof of the building.
Major Miller peered out the back tarp just before the truck turned a corner. The roof of the radio station was lit up like a fireplace, the remains of the tower hanging over the edge and broken pieces, dangling with their own small flames, reached to the sidewalk in vain. Colonel Hogan hadn't been kidding when he said it would horribly malfunction.
"Boy, talk about a barn burner," Carter said once everyone was outside. Schultz corralled everyone near the truck they had rode in on while chaos was starting to creep in elsewhere. Inside the radio station, Carter's magnesium pencil was doing its job, igniting a fire and catching on to whatever it could that would burn on the engineer's control board. As fate would have it, Reigels had left the three broken pieces of Miller's recording on the board itself and once the fire reached it there would be no telling that the recording ever existed.
Outside, Hochstetter was shouting orders to anybody that would listen to him. First was to get a fire brigade to the radio station, second was to find out what happened to his guards. Reigels then turned to Klink and Schultz and told them to take the POW's back to their camp.
"Nein!" Hochstetter said. "They are to stay here and be questioned! When I find out what happened and who is responsible, heads will roll!"
"The only head I see rolling so far, Major, is yours!" Reigels shot back.
"BAH! You are all under arrest!
Nobody is leaving until I say so. The entire town of
Black uniformed men blanketed the
Oil lamps were lit by the few underground agents who had been waiting in the barn. The tarps on the back of the truck were lifted and the Gestapo dressed underground agents moved quickly, spilling out of the truck and then assisting the kids and Major Miller out. The kids were separated from the Major and huddled to one side of the barn by two of the underground agents. All of the underground operatives kept their black face masks on, and the ones that had been waiting in the barn also wore coverings over their faces, as none of them knew if all of the kids would be going along on this trip. If some reason any of the kids balked at going, the underground could not afford recognition.
The exception to this was Major Miller. The lead Gestapo dressed agent walked Miller to the other side of the barn, away from the kids, and with his back facing the direction of the kids, he pulled his mask down a little bit.
"Major Miller, I can now
introduce myself to you. My name is Brandeis Fritz. I will see to it that you
Miller nodded. "Thank you."
"We will not be here for long. Once Emery and Claus determine how many of the young men will be going back with you, things are going to move very quickly. I can not guarantee that this will be the most comfortable trip for you, however."
"Don't worry about that. Whatever you have to do, do it. Whatever you want me to do, just tell me."
"I'm glad you say that," Fritz said with a smile. "Because I'm going to need you to trade your uniform there....."
Miller made a face, recalling the last time he had traded for the Gestapo uniform.
"...for civilian clothes." Fritz smiled.
"Oh..." Miller chuckled. "All right then."
Fritz nodded and looked at one of the non-Gestapo dressed agents, nodding and motioning with his hand. The other agent came over with a duffel bag in hand. He handed it to Fritz who turned it over to Miller. "There's a tool room at the end here." Fritz pointed. "Once you've changed, put your uniform in this bag."
"What are you going to do with it?"
"We'll have to destroy it. We don't want to leave behind any traces of you that the Germans can pick up. Before we leave here, we'll burn it."
"Oh." Miller paused and looked down at the uniform he wore. "Well, I suppose seeing as I've been wearing it for a week, burning it is probably the best thing you can do to it."
Meanwhile, the kids were finding out what was going on from the other two underground agents. Neither of them removed their face masks and the first one spoke directly to the point.
"Listen," he said.
"Major Miller is being taken to
The boys were silent, some exchanging glances with one another. Some of them looked like they would go, a couple of them seemed hesitant.
"Mein mudder..." Josef said suddenly.
Hans and Adler looked at Josef and then at the Underground agent. "How much time do we have?" Hans asked, in German.
"Five...maybe ten minutes. We will be moving very quickly."
"Adler and I will talk with the others. Those that don't want to go we will prepare them as best we can for what may happen."
The Underground agent nodded. He looked at his partner and nodded. The two stepped away from the kids and walked to the other side of the truck.
Hans and Adler turned to Josef.
"I would go," he said, "but my mother, my younger sisters...I can not leave them. Not if the Gestapo might question them too, or punish them for my escaping." He paused. "I wish I could have them come with me..."
"The Underground will not be able to make the time," Adler said.
Hans shook his head. "Maybe not this time...but they will at another time." He glanced at Josef. "I will stay behind with him. My family too I would not want to see be punished for my escape. We can tell the Gestapo we jumped from the truck to escape, especially if we believe it was Gestapo that kidnapped us to begin with. They'll believe that, we're all delinquents to begin with, so naturally we would try to escape from the Gestapo."
Adler gave a small smile. "That's true. Once they tell you it was the Underground however, they will question you."
"We don't know anything. Which is true, we didn't know of any of this until they put us into the truck." Hans paused. "I wonder who's idea it was to take us all along anyway?" His tone was genuine in wonderment.
"Probably the Underground..." Adler said. "To make it look good. Take Herr Miller, take the band too."
Hans nodded. "It is an unexpected, but wonderful opportunity...but I'm afraid Josef and I have one thing that keeps us here."
Adler nodded. He looked at the other band members. "Is there anyone else who wishes to remain behind?"
No one spoke, but six heads all turned from side to side. They would go with Miller. Adler nodded at this and looked at the swastika arm band on his HJ uniform. He grabbed a hold of it and yanked it off, dropping it to the floor of the barn. Then, with a savage boot, stomped it into the dirt. The kids laughed and then each took turns stomping on it, turning the arm band into a dirt stained and nearly mutilated piece of red, white and black cloth. Even Hans and Josef took their turns trampling the arm band. Having had to swear an allegiance to National Socialism and the Fuehrer out of fear and intimidation, the young musicians indulged in the moment where they could freely express their true opinion of the Nazi Party and each stomp of their feet made it perfectly clear.
Wondering what the commotion was all about, the two Underground agents came over to see what was going on. The kids stopped what they were doing and jumped back from the arm band, looking at the Underground agents. The two agents looked at the scuffed and torn swastika on the floor and then looked at the kids. Although their faces were still hidden behind the black masks, their eyes held mirth.
"I take it you boys have all decided to go with the Major?" one of the agents said.
"All but two," Hans said. "Josef and I will not be going. Our families...."
The agent nodded, the mirth in his eyes now sobered.
Major Miller emerged from the tool room, dressed in a dark suit with a black overcoat. His military crush cap was replaced with a dark grey fedora hat. He held the duffle bag with his Army uniform, in hand. One of the Underground agents walked up to him and gestured for the bag. Miller handed it to him and the agent stepped away.
Fritz then came up to the Major, the black face covering back in place. He paused a moment to give Miller the once over and then reached into his uniform coat and pulled out a photograph. He looked at it, looked at the Major again and sighed. "They'll spot you a mile away."
Miller gestured to the photograph. Fritz handed it to him. The photograph was of Miller, in civilian attire taken at least three or four years previous.
"It is expected they will circulate your civilian and military photos. Getting you out of the uniform is easy...disguising you more than that will take some effort." Fritz excepted the photo back from Miller. "We will work on that."
Another agent came up to Fritz. "We are just about ready."
"Are all of the boys going?"
"Nein. Two will be staying behind because of their families."
Fritz paused and nodded soberly. "They show much honor and courage to do so." Fritz looked at the agent. "How much longer?"
"Just a few minutes. One of the HJ boys is discarding his uniform for civilian clothes."
"Very well. Place his uniform with the Major's and we will destroy them together."
"Ja." The agent walked away.
Fritz looked back at the Major. "We are almost ready. Emery tells me that all but two of the boys will be going back with you. The two that are staying are doing so for their families."
"Who?" Miller asked. Fritz merely looked toward the other side of the barn. The boys that were making the trip were gathered together. Separated away from them were two, Hans and Josef. They in turn were watching him. Miller glanced at Fritz. "Excuse me."
Miller headed toward the two boys, removing his hat. The two stood up a little straighter, coming to attention at the approaching adult both out of habit, and out of genuine respect for Major Miller. The two youngsters tried to look brave, and their expressions were pretty good, but Miller could tell there was a natural fear behind the bravado. Their eyes betrayed them.
Hans drew in a deep breath. "Herr Miller..."
"I was just told," he replied. He hesitated a moment, trying to find the words. "You're doing the right thing, to stay behind."
"We would rather go," Hans said truthfully. "But more than that we would want to bring our families, what is left of them, with us."
"I know. I hope that one day you can. Better yet, I hope the day will come soon where you can stay here without fear, instead of wanting to flee."
Hans nodded. "So do we." He turned to Josef and translated what Miller had said.
"It will come. It will come soon, I am sure."
"It will come soon," Hans said softly. He hesitated a moment, wanting to say more but he knew they had no time. He put his hand out to the Major. "Good bye, Herr Miller...good luck."
Miller grasped the young boy's hand. "Auf Wiedersehen, Hans. Be careful..."
Hans nodded and stepped aside. Josef then shook Miller's hand. "Auf Wiedersehen, Herr Miller. The opportunity to play for you and with you was an honor. We will never forget this. Or you."
Miller nodded. "Auf Wiedersehen, Josef."
Josef then stepped back and Hans looked at the Major. "Josef speaks what I could not a minute ago. He says the opportunity to play for you and with you was an honor. We will never forget this, or you."
"The same goes for me."
One of Fritz's men approached unobtrusively. He looked at the boys. "We must be leaving," he said gently.
Hans and Josef both nodded. They looked at Major Miller one last time, gave a final nod in good bye and followed the underground man toward the exit of the barn.
"Hans! Josef!" one of the young voices spoke up from the rest of the group. The two boys stopped and turned and Adler had stepped forward, dressed now in civilian clothes but holding his Hitler Youth uniform in hand. He paused a moment and then gave the only salute he knew, putting his arm out straight and diagonal. "Heil Freedom. Swing Heil..."
Hans and Josef returned the salute, their shoulders squared with pride. "Swing Heil. Heil Feedom."
"Swing Heil," the other boys intoned, raising their arms in salute as well. "Heil Freedom." Hans and Josef stood for a moment longer before letting their arms down and turning to follow the underground agent out of the barn.
Adler and the other boys disengaged their salutes once Hans and Josef left, but Adler stared at the shadows of the end of the barn realizing he would probably never see them again. The young boy took a deep breath, said a silent prayer for his friends safety and turned back to the group of boys. Another of the underground agents came up with the duffel bag that already held Major Miller's uniform. He held the bag open to Adler, for the boy to place his HJ uniform in.
The boy looked into the bag just as he was about to deposit his uniform. He stopped and looked at the underground agent. "Herr Miller's?"
The underground man nodded behind his black face covering. "Ja. We will destroy it, along with your uniform as well."
Adler suddenly dropped his HJ uniform to the barn floor and took a hold of the duffel bag, reaching in and pulling out the dark brown uniform jacket. The underground man, not knowing what Adler was doing, grabbed the duffel and jacket. "Nein, you can't have it."
Adler shook his head.
"Nein..." He pointed to the rank pin on the shoulder of the jacket
and the "
The underground man turned to Major Miller. "Herr Miller? I think he wants the pins off your jacket..."
Miller stepped up to the group and Adler turned to him, holding the jacket toward the Major and pointing to the badges on the lapels again.
Miller said. He took the jacket from Adler and the underground man and turned
the bottom side of the lapels out, removing the "
"They all want one," the underground man said.
"That's what I figured," Miller replied. "And we're one short. You have something I can cut one of these buttons off with?"
The underground agent produced a small knife from his pocket and handed it to the Major. A moment later, one of the brass buttons from the jacket was removed and Miller handed it to Adler. Adler then handed it to Erik and the young trumpet player palmed the button, curling his fingers around it and holding it tight in his hand.
"There." Miller handed the jacket to the underground agent. Adler picked up his uniform from the floor and shoved it into the duffel bag. The brown jacket followed and the underground man gave a nod before hurrying away to dispose of the uniforms. Fritz and Emery then stepped up and told everyone to get back into the truck.
Each of the boys climbed into the truck, with Major Miller climbing in last. The heavy cloth tarp was dropped back down over the back of the truck and the unsettling darkness took over. The two doors of the truck were opened and shut and then the motor turned over. What sliver of light shown through the breaks in the tarp, was extinguished and the massive barn doors were opened once again. The truck jerked backwards and rolled slowly out of the barn and then turned around on the dirt drive, heading for the road.
Major Miller ventured a peek from behind the tarp. The farmhouse they were leaving had no lights on and surrounding landscape was dark, tinted only by the light of the moon. He looked toward the clear night sky, filled with stars and saw one star blinking. Home... it seemed to be saying. I will lead you home....
(End Part One)