The moment Peter Newkirk stepped through the barracks door, Ace Egan knew that Colonel Hogan wanted to see him. Seconds later, the two men were crossing the compound to Barracks 4.
“Has the colonel decided to meet with this Doppelgänger character?” Ace asked quietly.
“Not yet,” Newkirk replied, “but he does have someone he wants you to meet.”
Newkirk just smiled. “You’ll see,” he finally said.
When they entered the barracks, Andrew Carter stepped outside and took his place just under one of the loudspeakers. Standing watch, he could be heard in the tunnels, thanks to a slight modification to the speaker, should any of the guards decide to inspect the barracks.
Inside, Ace was climbing down the ladder when he heard something that made him pause, only for a second, in his descent. It was the voice of a woman. Glancing up, he saw Newkirk and Louis LeBeau grinning down at him. Dropping the last couple of feet to the tunnel’s floor, he stepped quickly around the corner and saw Colonel Hogan talking to one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen.
“Ah, Lieutenant Egan,” Robert Hogan said. “May I introduce one of our Underground contacts, Tiger.”
Ace stared at the young woman. Never in a million years would he have suspected that this attractive blonde with the high cheekbones, button nose, and slightly pouty lips was a member of the Underground. He had looked her up and down several times before he realized he hadn’t spoken to her. He stretched his hand out to her.
“Forgive my rudeness,” Ace said. “It is truly a pleasure to meet you.”
“Think nothing of it, Lieutenant,” the young woman said.
Ace thought her soft voice, with its German accent, was one of the sweetest sounds he had ever heard. He was sure that the other men in this camp who had met her felt the same way.
“Tiger is going to check with our other contacts in the Underground and see if anyone knows anything about Doppelgänger,” Hogan said.
Ace nodded. “I hope we can find something out soon.”
Tiger did not appear overly hopeful, but she smiled anyway. “If you people do not know who this agent is, and he is one of yours, I’m not certain we will be able to discover who it is. Still, we will do our best.”
“That’s all we ask,” Hogan said.
Upon her promise to do so, Hogan led the attractive agent to a table whereupon lay the map of the area where Ace was first captured. No one spoke as she studied the drawing.
“Do you have a clue as to where this might be?” Hogan asked.
Tiger traced a slender finger over the paper and, after a few seconds, began to nod. “This appears to be part of the area around Eisenach. We have long suspected that there was a base of some sort in the Thuringian Forest, but we have been unable to find it. We lost an agent in the area.”
“We suspected the same thing,” Ace said, “so I was sent to investigate. That’s when I was captured.”
Tiger gave Ace an odd look. “They sent one man?”
Hogan spoke up. “The lieutenant is a very capable special operative.”
“He must be,” Tiger remarked. “Why are you interested in this area?”
Hogan took a deep breath. He knew that the German Underground counted on him and his men, and there had been many sacrifices to aid in their mission. When they found out what was being planned, he suspected that their reaction would be what he had originally expected from London.
“We need to get there to recover some of the lieutenant’s equipment.”
Tiger’s eyes grew wide, and her mouth dropped open. “To undertake such a mission would put your mission here at great risk.”
“We aren’t planning on coming back,” Hogan told her.
“Not only are you going on a suicide mission,” Tiger said, very agitated, “but you are endangering the Underground and all we have worked for.”
“Everything here will be destroyed or sent to England before we leave,” Hogan said. “We will leave no trace of a connection to the Underground or any of its operatives.”
The young woman turned and started down the tunnel to the outside entrance; tears were beading up in the corners of her eyes. Ace suspected they weren’t solely for what she saw as a betrayal to the Underground.
The colonel caught up to her with a few quick steps and gently caught her by the arm. Tiger allowed herself to be stopped and turned and looked at the tall, dark-haired man. Although Ace and the others tried not to eavesdrop on what was, apparently, a private conversation, the echo in the tunnel made it impossible.
“I know we have no guarantees of tomorrow,” Tiger said, “but I can’t bear the thoughts of you throwing your life away like this.”
“You don’t understand the importance of this mission,” Hogan told her. “Not only is it important we succeed for the war efforts, but we must succeed for reasons that go beyond the war.”
“But,” the young woman said, “I don’t want to lose you.”
Hogan pulled her close and held her.
The rest of Hogan’s team looked at each other, waiting to see what the colonel’s reaction would be. During their mission in Germany, Hogan had met numerous female agents and had become intimate with many of them. They couldn’t picture their leader as a one-woman man. True to form, he manipulated the conversation until it led back to where he wanted it to go.
“That is why we need to find out who Doppelgänger is,” he said. “He has contacted London with an offer to help us; we need to know if we can trust him, or her.”
Tiger bristled at the last two words.
“He has offered to help bring us back safe,” Hogan told her.
Tiger wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her coat. “I will see what I can do,” she said, but did not pull away. Looking up at the American, she closed her eyes, and her lips parted.
The silence coming from the tunnel told the men that Hogan was back in control of the situation.
Colonel Wilhelm Klink glanced up when he saw a flash of white out of the corner of his eye. Helga, his attractive secretary, was laying the daily mail on his desk.
Noticing that the colonel had stopped working and was looking at her, she smiled. “Can I get you anything, Colonel?” she asked.
“Could you refresh my water pitcher?” The water he had was fairly fresh, but the colonel enjoyed watching his secretary come and go. She had a figure that appeared very well suited for movement.
“Right away, Colonel,” Helga said as she picked up the pitcher and turned toward the door.
As the door closed behind her, Klink released a sigh that one might have heard come from a lovesick schoolboy. Laying his pen aside, the colonel removed his monocle and wiped it with his handkerchief. After putting it back in place, he picked up the mail and began sorting through it. Most of it was mundane and would lead to tedious paperwork. However, he did come across one envelope that seemed to stand out. It was from General von Schlomm’s office.
Colonel Klink opened the envelope and began reading its contents just as Helga returned with the pitcher.
“Is something wrong, Colonel?” she asked, as she put the water pitcher on the corner of the desk.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “It appears that I am to provide a work detail.”
“That doesn’t seem out of order, Colonel,” Helga said. “You are always providing prisoners for work details.”
“True,” Klink said, as his eyes scanned further down the page. “But this request for prisoners is to work in the city of Eisenach.”
Now Helga was confused. “It seems like they would just use prisoners from the local camps.”
“Ah,” Klink said, pointing to a line on the letter’s second page. “General von Schlomm wants my men, because he knows that my guards will make sure there are no escapes.” He looked up at his secretary, his eyes resting briefly on her body before moving to her face. “He has also listed the men he wants sent along.”
Helga nodded. “That makes sense,” she said, somewhat speaking to herself.
“What makes sense?” Klink asked.
“Someone from the general’s office called a couple days ago requesting a prisoner list,” she replied.
By the look on Colonel Klink’s face, Helga could tell that she should have notified him of the request, but she didn’t think she would be in trouble for it. Glancing down at her blouse as if she were just noticing something wrong, she slowly brushed away an imaginary piece of lint. The colonel watched her every move.
“He is a general, after all,” he said, pouring himself a glass of water. “You did right by answering his request so promptly.”
“Is there anything else, Colonel?” Helga asked.
“Have Sergeant Schultz bring Colonel Hogan to me,” he said.
“Right away, Colonel,” she replied.
Again, the colonel watched the woman leave. As she opened the door, Helga paused, bent slightly, and adjusted her nylons. After running her hand over the offending portion of material, she straightened up and closed the door behind her.
Colonel Klink poured himself another glass of water.
“Pack your gear, Hogan,” Colonel Klink said as the American entered the office. “It appears you are leaving us.”
Colonel Hogan was stunned by this announcement and wondered what had brought this all about. He looked at Sergeant Schultz, but the guard looked away and sniggered.
Klink removed his monocle and wiped it on his sleeve. Holding it up to his mouth, he moistened the glass with his breath and wiped it off again. He wanted to tell his adversary the rest of the message, but was enjoying the look on Hogan’s face.
Hogan recovered from his surprise enough to toss a quip at the German. “Finally decided to send me home with Adolph’s personally signed surrender papers, have you? How about giving me your cuckoo clock as a going-away present?”
“I do so hate to be the bearer of bad news,” Klink said, replacing his eyepiece, “but your time away will be short.”
“OK, Colonel,” Hogan said, “you’ve had your fun. What’s this all about?”
“My fun is just beginning,” Klink replied. “You see, the day after tomorrow, you, the cockroach, the Englishman, and Carter will be temporarily relocated to the town of Eisenach.”
Colonel Hogan’s knees went weak.
Klink purposely ignored the American, instead pretending to look at the list as though he forgot someone. “Ah, yes,” he said, after a few seconds, “it appears that I forgot Lieutenant Egan.”
Now, Hogan was really off balance. Hans Schultz grabbed him by the elbow while Klink quickly poured the man a drink of water.
“Are you all right?” Klink asked. “You don’t look so well.”
“I… I think there is a case of the flu circulating through the barracks,” Hogan replied.
Klink smiled as he handed the glass to Hogan. “Then a few days away is just what the doctor ordered.”
Hogan couldn’t believe their luck. Things couldn’t have gone any better if… He never finished that thought. Instead, a new one popped into his head, and it consisted of only one word. Doppelgänger.
“I don’t like it, Colonel,” James Kinchloe said, watching his friends gather their gear together. “It feels like a trap.”
“You think I don’t know that, Kinch?” Hogan said. “I’ve gone over it in my head a dozen times, and I end up feeling that same way.”
“It seems too bloody coincidental to me, sir,” Newkirk added.
LeBeau muttered something in French, but never spoke his thoughts out loud.
“Colonel?” Carter asked.
“Yes, Carter?” Hogan replied.
“I’ve been thinking about this whole deal,” the sergeant said, “and I don’t think it’s a trap.”
“And, pray tell, Andrew, why is that?” Newkirk asked.
“Well, if it was a trap, then why not send all of us? If we’ve been singled out because of what we do, then wouldn’t whoever set the trap know that Kinch was one of us?”
Everyone stopped what they were doing and began to listen to Carter’s reasoning.
Carter continued. “The way I’ve got it figured, Kinch was left behind for a reason. No offence to Newkirk or LeBeau, but of all of us, Kinch is best suited to cover for the colonel as head of operations while the colonel is gone. Plus, if we were all gone, there would be nothing to stop the krauts from going through our barracks and finding out all of our secrets.”
“I have to admit, Colonel,” Newkirk said, “Andrew does have a point.”
Hogan slowly nodded.
“I still don’t like it,” Kinch commented, realizing that he had suddenly become the focus of everyone’s attention.
“But it does make sense,” Hogan said. “Good work, Carter.”
“Thanks, boy… er, Colonel,” Carter replied.
Colonel Hogan looked at Kinch. “First thing you need to do is contact London and let them know what is going on. Also, stay in touch with the Underground. If they find out anything about Doppelgänger, I’ll trust your judgment on what you think is best to do with the information. Also, restrict operations to helping prisoners escape; no demolitions. Newkirk, go find Captain Lett from Barracks 2. Tell him it’s urgent.”
The Englishman left off packing and left the barracks.
“As next ranking officer, he will be in charge. He will need to know a little more about what we do here,” Hogan told the remaining men.
Moments later, Newkirk returned with the captain. Hogan quickly began to fill the man in on what was going on. “I’m putting Kinch in charge of the mission,” Hogan said. “I need you to make sure everything else runs smoothly. Any new prisoners arrive, don’t let them do anything stupid and jeopardize what we are doing.”
Captain Lett saluted. “Trust me, Colonel,” the man said. “I’ll make sure that things run as smooth as silk, and that Sergeant Kinchloe has all the help he needs.”
Hogan stuck out his hand. “Thanks, Captain,” he said, “I appreciate that.”
The captain started to leave, then stopped at the door. “I know things have been busy since Klink broke the news, but have you heard the latest rumor?”
Hogan shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
“One of the men in my barracks said he overheard a couple guards talking about Klink taking a short vacation,” Captain Lett said. “Apparently, he thinks with you gone, he won’t have as much to worry about.”
“Any word on his replacement?” Hogan asked.
“The guards mentioned that Captain Gruber taking over for him,” the captain said.
“Then definitely make certain everything runs smoothly,” Hogan said. “The last thing we need is for an overzealous replacement to start snooping around.”
“One more thing, Colonel, before you go,” Captain Lett said.
“Godspeed, to all of you,” the captain said. “We’ll keep you in our prayers.”
“Thanks,” Hogan replied. “I’m pretty sure we’ll need them.”
Once the captain was gone, LeBeau spoke up. “Colonel?”
“If this Doppelgänger can arrange something like this, including having the lieutenant as a part of this group, then he almost has to be someone of major importance in the German military.”
“Thanks, LeBeau,” Hogan said.
“For what?” the corporal asked.
“For making me nervous again.”
There was a loud thumping on the barracks door a split second before it opened and Sergeant Schultz entered. “Fall out for inspection,” the burly German began to bellow.
Quickly, the men began to climb from their bunks, most of them wrapping their blankets around them as they shuffled toward the door.
“What’s the meaning of this, Schultz?” Hogan asked, as he emerged from his quarters. “It’s three in the morning.”
“The commandant wants to make sure no one has decided to use your leaving as an opportunity to escape,” the guard replied. “And, besides, once the inspection is over, you and your men are to gather your things. We will be leaving shortly.”
“We?” LeBeau asked, as he was passing by.
“Jawohl,” Schultz said. “I am in charge of the guard detail assigned to watch you while you are gone.”
LeBeau glanced at Hogan. They both new things had just gotten a lot harder. Despite the fact that Sergeant Schultz appeared, outwardly, to be a simple-minded kraut, he was Colonel Klink’s eyes and ears to everything that went on in camp.
Fifteen minutes later, a truck carrying five prisoners, five guards, and a driver pulled through the front gates of Stalag 13. Taking one last peek through the gray tarp that offered their only protection from the cold, Hogan couldn’t help but wonder if they would ever return.