This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any actual resemblance to persons or historical persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Hogan's Heroes characters, settings, ect. are owned by other entities who have not endorsed this fic nor have they given permission for their use. Author makes no claims to these characters and is not making any profit off their use.
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© Copyright: 2004. Lisa Philbrick
Sustaining the Wings, Part Two
by: Lisa Philbrick
Another truck. Somewhere out in the middle of a darkened nowhere, the commandeered Gestapo truck stopped and everyone was moved from the truck to one of Fritz's empty panel trucks, the same truck that had been used to hold the unconscious guards from the radio station. At the time Fritz and his men had gone into the radio station the unconscious guards were pulled from the truck and left in the alley behind the building. The truck then took off in order to be where it needed to be for the switch.
Another drive. It was a thirty minute ride over bumpy roads, the only noise coming from the truck itself, as metal creaked and rattled with each bump and the exhaust note changing as Emery stepped on the gas, or let off it.
Another barn. Only this time, there were no underground agents waiting when the truck pulled in. Fritz and Emery quickly got out of the truck and hurried to the doors of the barn, pulling them closed. With the moonlight blocked out, the barn was thick with black but only for a moment. Fritz found an oil lamp and lit it, hanging it upon the wall of the barn and warm orange glow crept into the room.
Emery went to the back of the truck and knocked to signal that everything was okay. The back door opened and Major Miller looked relieved.
"We will be safe here for the night," Fritz said, coming towards them. Emery pulled open the other door and extended a hand to help Miller step down from the truck. Miller then turned and, with Emery, helped the kids to step out of the truck.
"Where are we?" Miller asked.
"We are a few kilometers outside of Soligen, about 25 kilometers southeast of Düsseldorf."
"Southeast? I thought we were heading north?"
Fritz chuckled. "We will be from this point."
"Fritz!" a woman's voice caught everyone's attention. Standing in the door way of the barn a heavy set German woman, who looked to be well into her fifties, stood wearing a brown cotton floor length dress with a white apron over it and holding an oil lantern. Her graying brown hair was pulled up into a bun and she wore no make up. Her face was kind, but her features were creased with the concern and worry of war. She stepped towards the gathered men, keeping her eye on Fritz. "A cold barn is no place for these young men to be, bring them inside!”
"I was just about to," Fritz replied with a smile. He gestured back toward the door for her to lead the way. She gave a sigh and turned, heading back to the door way. Fritz gestured to the Major and the kids to follow her.
Miller led the way and followed the light of the lantern and the swishing sound of the woman's dress fabric as she moved quickly across the yard to the house. When they reached the house, she held the door open and looked at Major Miller and spoke with gentle persuasion. "Go in.”
Miller removed the hat he wore. “Danke,” he replied. He stepped inside the house and found himself in a large kitchen, the room softly illuminated by two oil lanterns that sat upon a table in an open dining area off to his left. Black-out coverings hung on the windows, blocking the light from escaping outside. There were a few pictures hanging on the colorless walls, and a large oak cabinet, full of delicate dishes and tea cups behind it’s glassed doors. There was the smell of food that was welcomed by the senses and the old pine wood floor creaked as he stepped aside of the door, letting the other kids in as well.
The Major watched the kids file into the kitchen area, their noses pointed into the air at the smell of something good cooking. The first sounds of carefree chuckling brought a feeling of peace and safety that hadn’t been felt for quite a number of days. They were safe....for now. He wouldn’t rest easy until he was back on English soil again, but for now some of the tension was released from his shoulders. He drew in a grateful deep breath and smelling the food again, was becoming curious as to what it was.
Fritz and Emery were the last to come into the house and the woman came in closing the door behind her. She stepped behind Major Miller and placed the lantern on a countertop in the kitchen. She then turned to Fritz.
“Wilhelmina, this is Major Glenn Miller...” Fritz said, pointing to Miller.
Wilhelmina looked at Miller and smiled warmly, the creases of her features becoming more apparent. “Fritz has told me much of you,” she said, her English heavily accented. She took a hold of Miller’s forearm, giving a reassuring grip. “You will be safe here.”
Miller nodded at Wilhelmina and raised his right forearm to place his left hand over hers in appreciation and friendship. “Danke,” he said. “I know you take a great risk by having us all here.”
She shook her head. “I take risk
because it helps to defeat the Nazi’s. It will not be long before the Allies
Fritz swelled with pride at
Wilhelmina’s words. Miller too felt a chill and he gave a solemn nod,
acknowledging her duty and promising that the arrival of Allied troops would
see the defeat of the Nazi’s and the rise of a new
She gave his arm a gentle grip again before letting go and smiled at him. “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” she asked hopefully.
Miller chuckled softly. "Not a lot. A few words here and there."
Wilhelmina nodded, still smiling. "You are hungry, ja?"
"Gute! I have fixed good meal for you and these boys. Come..."
Major Hochstetter wasn't kidding
when he said the town of
Unfortunately, Colonel Hogan and the others didn't know that for sure. Hochstetter had taken them, along with Schultz and Klink to Gestapo Headquarters for questioning. They were locked in two cells, side by side, for the time being, Hogan and the heroes in one, Klink and Schultz in the other. The heroes could only hope the truck had slipped out of town, especially when they realized that Hochstetter's threat of Miller not making it out of Düsseldorf alive was turned to a promise. Shoot to kill orders were issued, explicitly.
Hogan nodded. "And by the time we get out of here to tell them, they'll have worked themselves up into a conniption fit."
"Maybe they'll figure Miller's broke out and that we're all being questioned," Kinch suggested. "On that chance they might order the sub to be there for tomorrow anyway."
"They might. Of course, they might figure we've all been killed in the escape attempt." Hogan paused, looking around at the other cells in the lock up. "The sooner Hochstetter lets us out of here, the better."
There was a pause as the heroes considered their plight. Carter looked especially troubled by something and he looked at the Colonel.
"They're really going to shoot him, aren't they?"
"If they find him," Hogan replied.
"And we're stuck here!" LeBeau hissed. "The dirty Boche will try to kill him and we can not do anything!"
"Shhh..." Hogan held his hands out, indicating for his troop to stay calm. "Even if we weren't here, there's little we'd be able to do at this point. All of us know that once somebody is on the escape route, it's out of our hands. Fritz and his men know what they're doing and Miller will be well protected. The best we can do is make sure things on this end don't end up compromised."
The door to the lock up opened with a loud click and everybody in the cells looked to see who was coming. Major Hochstetter marched from the door down the length of the cells with two guards in tow behind him, eyeing the one that held Hogan and his men. Klink immediately stood up and went to the bars of the cell he and Schultz were in.
"Major Hochstetter, I must protest our being held like this. Surely you can't think that I, or Sergeant Schultz here could have had anything to do with what happened at the radio station?"
"Quiet! Everyone who was there is being questioned."
"Even General Burkhalter?"
"Even General Burkhalter! Even the Propaganda ministers! Everyone!" Hochstetter turned from Klink and walked to the cell were Hogan and his men were. "Unlock it," he ordered the guard. The door was unlocked and Hochstetter stepped inside with the other guard, who held his rifle pointed at the heroes.
"Who were they, Colonel Hogan?"
"Who were who?"
"Do not play stupid with me. You knew about the escape didn't you?"
"Escape? Looked more like a kidnapping to me..."
idea was it to not play any actual music for the broadcast?"
"That was Major Miller's idea. He ordered us not to play real music."
"He ordered you?"
"Hogan, that's ridiculous!" Klink said from the other cell. "You're a Colonel, he's a Major. You outrank him."
"Shut up, Klink!" Hochstetter snarled.
"Well, that may be true," Hogan continued, answering Klink. "But when you play in a band for Glenn Miller, he outranks everybody."
"Then Major Miller knew there was going to be an escape," Hochstetter concluded.
"Was it really an escape? Truthfully it looked more like a kidnapping..." Hogan said.
"It was an escape, Colonel Hogan. There is no doubt. And if Major Miller ordered all of you to not play music, then he must have known there was to be an escape as the....noise that he did have you play served as a cue."
"And here I thought he was just saving his best expression of telling the Propaganda Ministry to go to hell for the broadcast. He's essentially embarrassed everyone now hasn't he? The Gestapo, the Propaganda Ministry..."
"What he has essentially done is sign his own death warrant," Hochstetter said cooly. "I ask you again, Colonel Hogan, who were the men that came into the radio station dressed in Gestapo uniforms?"
"You mean they weren't really Gestapo?"
"No. They were fakes. My guards were all found unconscious in the alley behind the radio station. Each one of them remembers being approached by someone and then knocked out. Who were they, Colonel Hogan?"
"How should I know?! They looked Gestapo to me..."
"Perhaps Major Miller told you there was going to be an escape, when you and your men here went to see him last night at the Düsseldorf Hotel?"
"No. We discussed the broadcast." Hogan chuckled. "I...commandeered...some sheet music from the Major. I was going to do my own rehearsal back at Stalag 13 with Carter and Newkirk, but Schultz over there, he doesn't miss a thing. He spotted the sheet music I had and he turned us right back around and brought us right back here to Düsseldorf to have me return the sheet music."
Hochstetter turned and looked at Schultz.
"That is true, Major," Schultz said. "I brought them di-rectly back here to return the sheet music."
"Hmmm..." Hochstetter turned back to Hogan. "And it took you two hours to turn the sheet music over to Major Miller?"
"It took two hours to rehearse," Hogan corrected. "See, the Propaganda Ministry brought Carter and Newkirk in too late for Miller to get a good rehearsal with them, so I thought, seeing as we had come all the way back here why not just do a couple hours of rehearsal right then and there. Schultz stood right outside the door the whole two hours."
"That I did, Major!" Schultz said. "And I did hear them sing. They sounded very good..."
"Baahh..." Hochstetter waved Schultz off. He looked at Hogan again. "Why would you spend two hours rehearsing music that wasn't going to be played?"
"Because for all we knew, we were going to actually play music. Miller didn't say anything about playing it the other way until just before the broadcast."
"Then he knew! He had to have known! Colonel Hogan, you are lying to me..."
"Major, I volunteered to do this broadcast for one reason and one reason only. I couldn't believe that Glenn Miller had been captured, let alone was going to do this broadcast and in essence freely commit treason. Once I found it really was him I couldn't back out and neither could the others here. He made it very clear to us that he was not going to allow himself to commit treason. But he was going to push it just far enough so that he could throw a really nice monkey wrench into the Propaganda Ministry's works. I warned him though, I told him it was dangerous. I told him we could all end up being killed for it. But he was willing to accept that risk, and frankly so were we. Now putting that all in perspective, Major Glenn Miller wouldn't have risked the hair on any of us if he couldn't help it. Which makes sense that maybe he did know there was going to be an escape attempt. But, if that's true...why didn't he take us with him?"
Hochstetter paused. He hadn't considered that. He smirked at Hogan. "Maybe he didn't like you, Colonel."
Hogan chuckled. "Possible. But he's an allied officer and even though he's a bandleader he knows it's every officer's duty to escape. And had he had such an opportunity he would have taken us with him, whether he liked us or not." Hogan stood up now from the cot in the cell. "No, I think you're going about this the wrong way." He paced a moment toward the bars that looked to Klink and Schultz's cell. The Gestapo guard kept his rifle pointed at him. "You know there's no possible way that Kommandant Klink here or Sergeant Schultz could have had anything to do with the escape--if it was indeed an escape. You know General Burkhalter is even less likely to have had anything to do with it. Nope, I don't believe Miller escaped at all." Hogan turned to face Hochstetter. "I think he was kidnapped."
"By who?" Klink asked. "It was our side that kidnapped him in the first place..."
"Well, could be someone in the Gestapo," Hogan glanced back at Klink and resumed his slow pacing again. "Or it could be the Propaganda Ministry. Or it could be some combination of both." Hogan stopped and turned to Hochstetter. "Major, the only thing me and my men are guilty of is having an ounce of fighting spirit still left and following Major Miller in messing up that broadcast. Now we know we'll be punished for that, but to suggest that we had anything to do with the Major being led away by five Gestapo dressed individuals is ridiculous!"
"No one in the Gestapo would do anything like this!" Hochstetter insisted. "It would be high treason!"
"Would it, if they were ordered by a higher authority? Something to think about, Major. Maybe somebody in the Gestapo, or the Propaganda Ministry was jealous and wanted Miller as their own prize catch."
Major Hochstetter paused to consider this. "Remotely possible," he conceded. "However, until I find evidence to suggest such an endeavor, Major Miller will still be considered to have escaped and either way he will be shot when found. I will not allow him to humiliate the Gestapo, and the Third Reich, or be part of a division in ranks and get away with it." He turned to his guards. "Release them, along with the Kommandant and Sergeant Schultz and get them out of here."
"Jawohl, Herr Major!"
Hans and Josef were dropped off on a dirt road about three miles outside of Düsseldorf. The underground could not bring them any closer than that. They were given last minute instructions and wishes of good luck before the underground men drove away. To look like they had jumped from the truck, the two boys smeared dirt over their HJ uniforms and Josef went so far as to drag a rock across his shin, creating a convincing scrape. As prepared as they were ever going to be, the two boys began to walk the darkened road, the shining moon above them providing the only light.
It wasn't long before a Gestapo patrol spotted them, a mile outside of Düsseldorf. The boys were promptly picked up and brought to Gestapo Headquarters, arriving the same time the group from Stalag 13 was leaving. Hogan had to stop himself from doing a double take, as the two boys were led down the hall past him. What had happened? he wondered. He saw their HJ uniforms were soiled so he figured they must have jumped from the truck. Fritz had said the HJ kids gave him pause, but Miller was sure all of them would go. Damn! This is what I was hoping to avoid!
Now these two kids were in Gestapo custody. They were HJ therefore, Hogan concluded, they would tell everything they could, being good little Hitler Youth brats that they were. They'll ruin everything!
He wondered where they were picked up. Probably the same road used to get Miller out. Meaning the Gestapo would be on that in no time, they'd find him and the rest of the band and Fritz and the underground and....
"Damn," Hogan said softly as he and his men exited Gestapo Headquarters. At Schultz's command they climbed into the back of the camp truck and settled in for the ride back to Stalag 13.
"Colonel?" Carter whispered. "Weren't those two kids in the band?"
"Yeah...and I have a bad feeling they might betray everything."
Wilhelmina had prepared a grand dinner of pork chops, steamed carrots, cole slaw and dinner rolls. She ushered everyone into the large dining room and with help from Fritz and Emery, served her guests. The meal was enjoyed immensely by all, and everyone had seconds of something. The atmosphere was homey with the fire going in the fireplace and the placement of candles on the table. There was the continued feeling of safety and security. Major Miller looked around the table occasionally, as the kids chatted amongst themselves, seeing they were at ease.
"Wilhelmina," Fritz said, when everyone had finished their second helpings. "You really didn't have to go to all this trouble. Simple rations would have done fine."
"Nonsense! You have a long journey ahead of
you tomorrow and you must eat well so that you have strength. Besides, all of
these boys look like they could use a good home cooked meal. And him," she pointed to Miller,
"looks like he hasn't eaten in weeks. Don't the Americans feed their soldiers?"
Miller looked up when Wilhelmina pointed to him. Fritz chuckled and looked at Miller. "She wants to know if your American army feeds you."
"Yes, but not like this," Miller replied with a smile.
Wilhelmina laughed. "Oh it has been long time, since I have so many good looking men at my table. And all hungry too." She stood up and started to collect the dishes. A couple of the kids and Miller himself stood up to help.
"Nein, nein," Wilhelmina said. She smiled at the boys and Miller. "You are guests," she told them. "However, these two..." she looked at Fritz and Emery, "are more than capable of helping. Come..."
Fritz and Emery smirked at one another and stood up to assist Wilhelmina with the dishes.
Ahren looked at Miller. "Herr
Miller? What will happen to us once we get to
Miller paused. He wasn't a hundred
percent sure. "I believe you'll be considered refugees and they'll try to
match you with families in
Miller nodded and looked at Ahren. The young German boy nodded and his gaze drifted away from Miller. A family... The thought scared him and gave him hope at the same time. He wondered what the family would be like, where they lived, who they were Suddenly the fifteen year old had a sense of a future. There was uncertainty, which was natural and had always been, but the uncertainty now was more in wondering where he would be and who he would become, instead of wondering if he would live or die.
With the dinner dishes cleared away, Wilhelmina served an apple tart for dessert. After that, she invited the boys and Miller to adjourn to the living room where they could sit and relax for a bit. Miller stood back near the entryway as the boys settled into the room surrounded by bookshelves with several books. He lit a cigarette and watched the kids, some checking out the book titles, others sitting and quietly talking amongst themselves, while a couple of the boys checked out the phonograph player in the corner, pouring over the cylinders and 78's that were stacked near it.
Miller stepped into the room and looked down at a small table near the window. On it were several photographs of young men, dressed in German army uniforms, looking proud and brave. He noticed Wilhelmina in a few of them.
Fritz came up to Miller, seeing the Major looking at the photos. "Those are her sons."
Miller nodded. "I figured. How many does she have?"
"Six. All of them serving in the Heer."
Miller paused a moment and then looked at Fritz. "How can she help the Underground when her six sons are fighting in the German Army?"
"Because," Wilhelmina spoke as she approached from the doorway, "it will help end the war sooner. And those of my sons who are still alive, can return home."
Miller looked at her with apology. "I didn't mean to sound callous."
Wilhelmina shook her head. "I am not offended. It is an acceptable question. You see Herr Miller, two of my sons have been killed. One is missing. One is still with his unit and the last two....were captured. This may sound odd to you, but I thank God every day that they were captured because I hear from them and I know they are alive and that they are being treated well and when the war is over they will come home. And I also thank God every day that the one who is still with his unit has had the good fortune to remain alive. And I pray to God every day that the one who is missing, will come home alive. That....is how I can help the Underground."
When everyone returned to Stalag 13,
Hogan was immediately summoned to Klink's office. Kinch went ahead and radioed
"Papa Bear calling Mama Bear. Papa Bear calling Mama Bear. Come in Mama Bear."
"This is Mama Bear. Go ahead Papa Bear."
"Bluebird is on his way and he's bringing the flock with him. Repeat, Bluebird is on his way and he's bringing the flock with him. Have Goldilocks waiting on her park bench tomorrow evening if she wants to see the birds..."
"How many in the flock, Papa Bear?"
"Less than ten total, counting Bluebird."
"Acknowledged, Papa Bear. Well done."
"Papa Bear out."
"Hogan," Klink said, the agitation clear in his voice, "you promised me that you and your men would behave at the radio station this evening."
"Actually, what I said was that we wouldn't act any worse than we ever have here. And given that, how we acted at the radio station was pretty tame compared to here."
"Hogan!" Klink slapped his hand down on the desk. "You caused the Propaganda Ministry's recording of Major Miller to break, your men managed to spoil every photograph the Ministry photographer attempted to take and then you and your men along with the rest of the band played the most horrific noise I've ever heard!"
"Well, now the record was an accident, the photographs were just bad timing and like I said to Major Hochstetter, Major Miller told us to play awful."
Klink stood up from his desk and paced around it. "It was a disaster," he said, coming to pause in the middle of his office. "And the transmitter....I don't know how that could have caught fire like it did."
"Well, we have a saying back home about some shows being a real barn burner. This is the first time I've ever seen a performance actually burn a barn." Hogan chuckled. "Or in this case a radio station."
"Hogan, it's not funny!" Klink said, turning to face the senior POW officer. "The Propaganda Ministry, the Gestapo, and General Burkhalter are embarrassed and irate by what took place! I have no choice but to punish you and your men for your roles in the events. I am revoking all the special privileges that would have been earned and am revoking all privileges for the five of you for the next 30 days. You and your men will be confined to barracks for that same time and you will come out only for roll call."
"There goes the volleyball tournament." Hogan shook his head. "Newkirk and LeBeau are going to be extremely disappointed, sir."
"Of course. They are being punished. Truthfully, Hogan, you're lucky I'm not throwing the five of you into the cooler for 30 days."
This was true, and Hogan was thankful for that. He looked at Klink, curious. "Why is that?"
Klink walked back to his desk. "Because, during the chaotic moments at the radio station you and your men did not attempt to escape, when you probably could have. For that, I am thankful. Not only because my no escape record remains intact but also..." Klink's voice dropped to somber, "Major Hochstetter's men would have killed all of you." The Kommandant sat down at his desk.
That was true too and Hogan took a deep breath. Thing was, now Hochstetter's men were looking for Major Miller and were planning the same fate. Hogan hid this concern though and smiled at Klink. "Are you saying you would have missed us?"
"Hogan..." Klink leaned forward. "Major Hochstetter is furious by what happened at the radio station. You heard him say that Major Miller will be shot when he's found. Whether he escaped or was taken by other factions as you suggested, they will kill him, regardless." Klink leaned back a little. "I only hope that when you warned him about the danger of what he was doing, that he truly heeded your words."
Hogan glanced at his crush cap that he held in hand, as Major Miller's words came back to him. I don't consider myself much of a soldier...but I am a patriot. There's more at stake here than just my life, Colonel. You understand what I mean?
Never taking his eyes off the cap, Hogan spoke, "I know he did."
Per their instructions from the underground agents, Hans and Josef told the Gestapo what the Gestapo thought it wanted to hear.
"Nein, nein," Hans was saying to his interrogator. "We jumped from the truck to escape." He paused, appearing to suddenly realize something and looked at the Gestapo officer. "You mean those men that marched us out of the studio, weren't taking us to be punished because of what happened with the broadcast?"
"Nein, we think it was a
part of an escape plot to get Major Miller out of
Hans nodded shamefully. "I know. I have failed the Fatherland." He hung his head.
"Perhaps not completely. You and Josef could help us. If we can get a track on where that truck went, your redemption to the Fatherland could go a long way and the unfortunate display of immaturity at the radio station could be overlooked as simply a young man's prank."
Hans looked up, hopeful. He nodded earnestly. "Ja, I will help."
The Gestapo man smiled. "Gute."
It was ten-thirty when the dinner dishes had been cleaned and put away and Wilhelmina, Emery and Fritz went about settling the boys in for the night. The many rooms in the upstairs of the farm house provided plenty of space for the seven boys who were paired two or three to a room. Wilhelmina had extra blankets and pillows for those boys who had to make due with sleeping on the floor of whatever particular room they were in. Major Miller, Emery and Fritz each had a room of their own.
With the boys settled in, Fritz and Emery paid Miller a visit. Emery carried with him a small suitcase. They were both still dressed in their Gestapo uniforms. Emery placed the suitcase down on a chair near the three drawer dresser with vanity mirror. Fritz looked at Major Miller and gestured for him to have a seat in the other chair near the dresser.
As Emery went through the suitcase, Fritz pulled the two photographs he had of Glenn Miller, civilian bandleader and Glenn Miller, US Army officer. He placed them down on top of the dresser and then turned to Miller.
"How well can you see without your glasses?"
Miller shook his head. "I can hardly see at all."
Fritz nodded. "Despite that, we're going have you remove your glasses for the identity card picture, and then at every checkpoint we come upon during the travel north, you will have to remove your glasses." He picked up the civilian photograph again and compared the man in the picture to the man who sat before him. Emery stopped what he was doing and looked too.
Miller looked back and forth between the two, feeling something like a patient being given a critical review by two doctors. To help though, he removed his glasses.
"Hmmm..." Emery said. "A mustache is really the best I can come up with. We can comb his hair different. I can not do anything more complicated than that, as we will not have much time in the morning, and any makeup we put on him would have to be touched up frequently." Emery turned back to this suitcase of tricks.
Miller raised an eyebrow. "Makeup?"
Fritz chuckled. "Stage makeup. Emery used to do work in the theatre with costumes and makeup."
"Ah. For a minute there I thought you were going to put lipstick and eye shadow on me, in which case I'll keep my own face thank you." He put his glasses back on.
Fritz and Emery both laughed. Fritz put the photograph back down on the dresser and stepped aside for Emery to do his work.
Several different mustache styles were laid out on top of the dresser. "You have been in films, ja?" Emery asked turning to Miller.
"Then you know something of the kind of makeup I speak of."
Miller chuckled. "Yes. Though that makeup made us all look a little green..."
Emery smiled. "Ja, because of the black and white film." He held one of the mustaches up just below Miller's nose. "But the makeup I was considering here would make you look like a completely different person. The problem with it however, is it would wear off easily." Another mustache was tried.
Miller looked at the mustaches on the dresser top as Emery picked another one. "Don't give me one of those damn Hitler mustaches."
Emery snorted. "None of the kind."
While Emery was doing his thing, Fritz was preparing fresh film for the camera and getting together the materials to finish the forged papers and identity card for Major Miller. Fritz and Emery's own were done and ready, their papers identifying them as Gestapo officers. Miller's papers identified him as Gestapo as well, which would be much to his chagrin once he found out.
Although Fritz and Emery both understood Miller's reluctance to wear a Gestapo uniform, the Gestapo cover was the best they could do, especially with the kids traveling with them. Their bluff through the checkpoints would be that they had "found" the kids, who had escaped from whatever nearby work camp, and were heading to the nearest Gestapo headquarters to turn them in. The Gestapo had no idea what Fritz and Emery looked like and thus no soldier at a checkpoint would think twice about them being the ones actually helping the kids to escape. Miller, however, was too easily recognizable in civilian attire as himself, making the slight change to his appearance necessary. With identity papers stating he was Gestapo as well, no soldier would take the time to look very closely at him, making the identity papers themselves the most effective part of the disguise. To be Gestapo was to nearly be invisible.
Once Emery found a satisfactory mustache style, the fake whiskers were affixed temporarily to Major Miller's face. Miller combed his hair back differently and Fritz then snapped several photos to be picked from for the identity card. Thirty minutes later, the Gestapo Soldbuch was completed with photo, official stamp and forged signature, provided by Fritz. Major Alton Glenn Miller now had the identity of Captain Claus Maynard.
With their task finished, Fritz and Emery packed their materials and bid Miller goodnight. Miller looked at the forged Soldbuch again, not particularly caring for the photograph. He then shrugged to himself before placing the Soldbuch in the pocket of his overcoat that lay across the foot of the bed.
He hoped everything would work out
Hans and Josef traced out on a map their route from the point they had "escaped" from the truck. Starting with the road they had been picked up on, the boys traced a route southwest of Düsseldorf as they had been instructed by the Underground, leading the Gestapo away from the direction Major Miller and the rest of the band had gone. The Gestapo then took off like a group of volunteer firemen, organizing several search teams complete with dogs and search lights and with Major Hochstetter at the helm.
They would search most of the night, checking wooded areas, nearby farm houses, occupied or otherwise, and any barns or out buildings. The dogs sniffed around aimlessly, failing to find any trace of a trail, but relentless nonetheless. And Hochstetter was relentless in the search and pursuit, barking orders to his troops to keep looking, to check everything, to shine the search lights over every inch and in every corner.
Despite every empty barn they found, every undisturbed patch of woods, Hochstetter knew Miller was out there somewhere and the Gestapo Major vowed to leave no stone unturned.
As the clock inched toward , the old farm house had settled in quiet slumber. The boys were all fast asleep. Fritz and Emery were sound asleep too, after they had had a little meeting between themselves discussing some last minute details of the impending trip north and checking over a map with their route and alternatives. Wilhelmina was the last to turn in for the night, stopping by each room to check on her guests, seeing that each, still dressed in their civilian clothes, were fast asleep.
Each except for Major Miller. Wilhelmina couldn't tell that he was still awake though as he was laying on the bed, still in his civilian clothes, facing away from the doorway. But he saw the glow of the oil lamp reflected on the wall above him and then it faded as Wilhelmina made her way to the next room.
He was trying to sleep, Lord knew. But sleep just wasn't interested in paying him a visit. The concern for the safety of the kids and the uncertainty of what awaited them come morning was slowing creeping it's way back into the forefront of his thoughts. He stared at the darkness in front of him and found nothing to ease the worry. Time ticked by. Restless, he sat up and found the heavy overcoat at the end of the bed. From the pocket he retrieved his Zippo lighter and flipped it open. He then retrieved his glasses off the night stand and with sight returned, read the time on the clock. It was five minutes to two.
It was useless by this point. They would be leaving in less than three hours. If he managed to fall asleep between now and then, it would probably be ten minutes before they would all have to get up and he'd only end up lethargic at best once they got on the road. What he was going to do to occupy his time for the next three hours, he didn't know, but he knew he couldn't lay there staring at the darkness.
So he got up and with the light from the Zippo, found his way to the door. The farm house was quiet and the floor creaked lightly as he stepped out into the hall. He moved quietly toward the stairs and descended them slowly, pausing every few steps at each creak in the wood. He'd have never made it as cat burglar.
Finally, at the bottom of the stairs, he paused and let the flame from the Zippo go out for a moment. The metal cigarette lighter was starting to become hot. After a moment, he realized that moonlight was shining through the windows. With all the lights in the house turned out, the blackout coverings had been pulled opened. With the moonlight, Miller recognized he was just a few short steps from the large living room with it's two bookshelves lined with books and the phonograph player set up in the corner. He had noticed earlier the stack of 78's and even some older shellac cylinders that were on the shelf of the cabinet just below the phonograph player. Curiosity had tugged at him, not so much about the 78's, but the cylinders. Hardly anybody had the means to play those things anymore.
He walked into the living room and saw an oil lamp on the table next to the settee. He lifted the glass of the lamp and with the flame from the Zippo, lit the glow for the lamp. The Zippo was then extinguished and pocketed and the light from the lamp lent an old fashioned warmth to the room. Conscious of the heavy drapes on the windows, and their purpose, Miller went to each of the four windows of the living room and pulled the drapes closed.
He paused a moment when he finished and looked toward the stairs. He was trying to stay quiet and hoped he hadn't disturbed anyone. From this point on, he would be as quiet as a mouse, occupying himself with the books on the bookshelves. He wasn't expecting to find any English language books, but he would make do with whatever he found. Anything to pass the time.
To his luck, and consolation, he did find an English language book. The Bible. Actually, there were two bibles, the other in German. Miller took the English bible and settled on the settee with it. No matter how many times he read passages, no matter that he had several practically memorized, no matter that book itself didn't change...he always found something new in it. And solace. There was a passage, a story, a quote, something that always seemed appropriate for whatever the situation was, that spoke to the hope and the fear and offered something for strength and peace.
It was a little while later when Miller heard the creak of the stairs. He looked up and saw Wilhelmina was standing on one of the last few of the steps, an oil lamp in her hand. She was looking at him, surprised to see him sitting there.
"Herr Miller?" she said quietly, stepping off the last step of the stairs. She walked into the living room. "What are you doing up? You should be getting some sleep."
"I know, but I couldn't." He closed the bible, keeping a finger at the page he had been on for a place holder. "Too much on my mind, I guess."
Wilhelmina nodded and eyed the book in Miller's hand. "A good book for when there is much on your mind."
Miller smiled, looking at the bible in hand. "Yes, it is."
Wilhelmina placed her oil lamp down on the coffee table and sat down in one of the chairs, opposite of the settee. "You worry for the young boys," she said. "It will be a long journey to the coast. It will take you all day to get there."
Miller nodded. "That's what Fritz and Emery told me. A lot could happen on the way."
"Ja, but Fritz and Emery, they
have done this many times. They know this part of
Miller nodded. "I believe that."
Wilhelmina looked at the American for a moment. Suddenly, she was curious. "Do you have children, Herr Miller?"
Miller was quiet a moment as he looked at a far corner of the coffee table. "I have two," he said softly.
She was right. She had a hunch about something else too. "You miss them," she stated.
He didn't answer immediately because he was there. Back home. There was a little girl he hadn't even seen yet. There was the little boy he hadn't seen in almost five months. For a very brief moment he was there.
And then it was gone and he was back
to the reality of being in a farm house in
Wilhelmina nodded with understanding. "Of course. But you will be back with them before too long. Just as my sons, those that remain, will return home." She stood up now, picking up her oil lamp. "You should get some rest," she said.
"I know...I'll try."
She nodded and paused, looking at the Bible Miller held in hand. "Things will be very busy when you leave in a few hours. Remember the Lord's gift of peace as told by John. 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid...'"
Miller nodded to her in appreciation. Then, as she turned to walk back to the stairs, he opened the bible to the page he had been holding, reading the words of the very passage Wilhelmina had just spoken.