Tell Your Troubles to the Stove
A/N: A missing scene in the aftermath of "Operation Briefcase", which would place the events herein from July 9, 1944 onward.
And no, I do not own any part of Hogan's Heroes, all this is mine is the prose and the imagination.
They had buried the agent in a dead end section of tunnel where they had created a tiny cemetery. At least the bomb got to Stauffenberg, at least they should hear something soon - that's what he kept telling himself. Hercules would not have died for nothing.
And they waited for word.
They had gotten the bomb to their man on the 9th and it was almost two weeks later and they had heard nothing. Had the attempt failed and the Nazi Regime covered it up? Had the attempt succeeded and what was left of the regime covered it up?
In all that time, all they had heard to the good was that Rommel's car had been strafed by the RAF, with Rommel in it
Then the afternoon and evening of the 20th, all Hell seemed to break loose; some said Hitler was dead and a coup was under way; others that the fiend had escaped harm and said coup petered away. Some even claimed that there was fighting in the streets of Berlin, and no one knew who was alive or dead.
It took another day before it became clear; Hitler was alive and the coup had failed, with the top conspirators already executed, and a bloodbath in progress.
The last straw for Hogan was the news of an additional tragedy: one of their most reliable contacts, an elderly woman from the Dusseldorf area named Mother Goose, died after an illness of several months. "She might have recovered," claimed her son, code-named Old Shoe, "but when she heard that, that, madman escaped justice yet again, her heart just gave out."
Hogan couldn't take it anymore.
It was late, hours after lights out, but he didn't bother to check the time as he hurried through the tunnels, not truly caring where he wound up, so long as it was private.
His feet led him to one of the purpose made side branches; he knew where the tunnel led, recognized was that no one would be coming down the shaft and that it was far enough away from any of the main corridors that no one would stumble upon him accidentally.
'Can't let them see, can't,' he thought to himself as he folded neatly at the bottom of the ladder at the tunnel's end, sobbing as softly as he was able.
The next morning, Hogan was called to Klink's office.
He was in no mood to be there, no mood to appease or entertain the Kommandant.
Hogan had to pause when he got to the door, had to put his feelings aside, had to stop blaming Klink, when, for once, it really wasn't his fault.
The American squared his shoulders, rapped on the office door and barged in, affecting his normal jaunty voice: "Kommandant, you wanted to see me?"
Klink was facing the wall, looking at the map of the compound located behind his desk: "Yes Colonel, please sit down, by the chess set if you will." Oddly, Klink didn't turn around, just stared at the map, riding crop clenched as usual under his left arm, right hand fisted behind his back.
Hogan sat at his usual place, and waited, curiosity replacing the lingering anger. He knew Klink well enough to know that this was not business as usual.
Something was wrong.
He looked at the table and saw that a glass of schnapps was already in place obviously for him.
Something was really wrong.
"Please, Colonel, help yourself."
Yep, something was really REALLY wrong.
"I have a problem; several in fact. And I need, no, I wish for your help. I realize that you have no obligation to help me, you -" and Klink stopped, heaved another breath, and then, "you have no reason to do so. I am your enemy, and you have no need to be," another breath, "you are the enemy, and yet you are a fellow officer, and a very good man."
Oh, boy, this was serious. Klink wasn't buttering him up; his tone was unmistakably the tone of the confessional. Klink was in trouble, and plainly, hurting.
"What can I do for you, Kommandant?" Hogan asked neutrally.
"I need only an opinion, nothing that would breach your obligations to your own. I need to know what to say to a friend of mine, who is hurt and in pain, but who cannot reveal it to anyone."
"That is the main problem, the rest stems from that dilemma."
"Kommandant, I - I really don't understand."
"I shall explain. You see, my friend is doing something very hush-hush for the war effort. But recently, he was hurt doing this thing, and now he is in great pain. But because the mission is a secret, he cannot even admit as much to others, but must go about as if nothing has happened. Now I found out, quite by accident, and I cannot reveal what I know, lest I put us all in danger; still, he needs help. I want to give him some good advice. What can I do?"
"Not much you can do, unless you just beat around the bush a lot, and hope that he picks up on the message. Is your friend clever?"
"He is the cleverest man I have ever met."
"Well, if he's that smart, then he should pick up the clues. May I ask what you want to tell him?"
"Certainly. I need to tell him to 'tell his troubles to the stove.' "
"That's what you need to say?"
"Absolutely. And I am sure he will understand it."
"Well he's better than me."
"Come now, Colonel, don't tell me you have forgotten the tale of the Goose Girl?"
"Isn't that the one where the Princess was forced by her evil servant to switch places, so the maid was mistaken for her, and she had to pretend to be a lowly servant, so she wouldn't be killed?"
"Exactly. And when the King became suspicious and asked her to tell the truth, she said that she would die if she revealed her sorrows to any being, and he told her"
"To tell her story to the stove."
"And the King was listening, and heard everything, proving his suspicions and enabling him to rescue the Princess -"
"And they all lived happily ever after."
"We can only hope."
The two men fell silent. Pondering deeply, Hogan asked: "You say he's hurt and has to pretend that he's okay. What good will talking to a potbellied stove do?"
"In this case, everything. You see, he thinks he is alone, that he has no one to share his burdens. So if he tells the stove, he will have someone, er, thing, something to confide in, to make the burden lighter. And I know this to be true, because," and Klink paused.
"Because why?" Hogan prompted gently.
"Because it was a success for me. You see, last night, I received word of a personal nature and -"
"I hope you will not laugh, Colonel, but part of my bad news was one of my last remaining friends was nearly killed by the Allies."
"Hey! We may not be on the same side, but I'd never laugh at something like that!" Hogan flushed indignantly.
"You might, you may, when I tell you that this dear friend is Erwin Rommel," Klink's voice was so soft, Hogan almost didn't catch the name.
"You're kidding, right?"
"See?" Klink turned around to face the American for the first time since he had entered, and Hogan could see red eyes and the traces of a recent scrubbing on Klink's face. The pained grin said it all, but Klink added anyway, "No one believes me, so I no longer bother. Had Rom been in the country when I had my party, the Blue Baron would not have been so willing to throw our 'plane crash in my face."
Silence and a sigh, as Hogan bought himself some time by downing the schnapps, when Klink put down his riding crop on the desk, walked towards the chess set and continued: "I think I would be bearing this better, as befits a Prussian officer, but," and he proceeded to sit at the chess table, pouring himself a schnapps, downing it at a gulp before he went on, "but, then last night, I received word that my mother had passed away and I must confess that I needed relief, a release. Großmutter had been a great believer in the old ways and tales, so all I could do, all I could think of was to get to the stove and cry.
"So - I did.
"I went to the stove in the parlor and I cried. And do you know? It felt like there was someone else there, someone else sharing my pain and mourning. I fancied that I could hear the echoes of weeping, coming up from below the earth."
It took all of Hogan's skill not to start, not to let his expression change from polite interest to stark horror – Klink, KLINK of all people, had heard him crying.
Klink had paused, hardly looking at Hogan, when he added: "I even believed that I heard the voice moan, 'Mother Goose', a family nickname for her that I had not thought of in many years."
Again, Hogan held on to his bland expression for dear life, while Klink rambled on: "Odd, for that to be so comforting; no matter how hard it was to hear another in such agony, it felt as if I were no longer alone, that I had someone to share the burden."
Klink poured himself a shot; then added: "I wanted to help, to be with this voice that cared for my mother so much," as he swigged the liquor, "that I burned my hand, foolishly trying to move the stove." Klink showed Hogan the red marks on his right hand: "Of course, the stove did not move, there was no way down. There was no friendly but mischievous kobold in a secret tunnel beneath my feet. But before I could despair utterly, I heard the voice say 'I care, and I'm sorry' a strange thing for my imagination to bring forth. However, it consoled me marvelously well."
Klink sighed, "The weeping stopped, but I opened the stove door and whispered to the coals, 'I am sorry also, but thank you for your care' and I closed the door quickly. The Old Ones are touchy, but they do appreciate good manners."
Hogan didn't know what to make of that statement, still flustered thinking of all that his nominal custodian had heard, but before the younger colonel could ask for clarification, Klink went on: "I feel myself consoled over my mother, but the living remain a worry. Rom is recovering slowly, and for you and I, this is both bad and good."
" 'You and me' Kommandant. The correct way to say it is 'for you and me'. " While Hogan was not feigning interest in what Klink was saying, the interruption was almost involuntary, a force of habit: to twit Klink whenever the chance came - although, for once, he really wanted to help Klink out, even if it was only to correct the precise Prussian's grammar.
"Thank you, Colonel. I appreciate that." Klink too, meant what he said, since he prided himself on his excellent English (it was one of his few boasts that was actually true).
"Now what was I saying? Ah yes, I was saying that I am worried for Rom, and for my friend. And not just that he will, they will die in battle. What will the Allies do to Rom when they find him? He has been the most effective general that the Third Reich has had, yet he is truly not of the Reich, has come to hate it. He may not survive his enemies in the Reich and they are legion! But if he does, who will be left to speak for him if recovers?"
"You will! And there's more than just you. We may be on opposite sides, and not in the same theater, but I've heard nothing but good about him. Heck, ask anyone - even Patton likes him and you know how hard it is to impress ol' George!" added Hogan with a jaunty confidence that surprised them both; surprised them, because they both realized Hogan was being entirely sincere.
"So don't worry about how the Allies will treat him, he'll be okay."
They were silent for a minute; then Klink looked up with a very small but genuine smile.
"Colonel, are you busy this morning? Do you think the war can proceed without us for an hour or so?"
"I don't see why not. Kommandant," Hogan added with a real smile of his own, "today, I have all the time in the world. Why don't you go first?" The American held out the white pawn to his opponent, which his German counterpart clutched gratefully.
"I will, so long as you promise to play as if you are my friend, so do not let me win."
"Wouldn't dream of it, Kommandant. Wouldn't dream of it."
They played like friends.
They played to win.
They played to a tie -
(but Hogan won on points).
Schultz found them in the office, quietly talking like old friends with a lot of catching up to do.
"I am sorry, Kommandant, Colonel Hogan, but it is time for rrrroll call."
"Already? Com'on Schultzie, it can't be," and Hogan's voice trailed off as he checked his watch, stunned that for the first time in the Kommandant's presence, he'd lost track of the time - in a good way.
Klink also looked surprised, as Hogan confirmed: "Guess it is, time's up."
"But I do not want it to be!" Klink could not help the whine, he couldn't remember the last time he'd had so much fun.
"Now, now boys, don't cry, you can play again tomorrow," said Schultz, out of habit, which garnered a laugh from Hogan and a scowl from Klink.
"Come on, Kommandant, we shouldn't keep the gang waiting." Hogan was behind Klink as the American shepherded the Germans out of the office, but Klink was certain he could hear the smile.
Klink stopped and told Schultz to go on ahead, and once the Sergeant of the Guards was out of earshot, the Kommandant turned to his companion: "Robert, you have been a great help to me and I cannot thank you enough. Perhaps we can have these chess games more often?"
"We already play once a month, I'll have to check my dance card."
"Oh." Hogan couldn't stand the sad look on Klink's face, so he did what he did best; he came up with a solution:
"But hey, that doesn't mean that we can't; we'll just have to play it by ear, that's all."
"Yes, that is true. And with that idea in mind, I will advise my friend that he should consult with the stove on a regular basis. Perhaps weekly, every Friday at 10 o'clock in the evening?"
"Better make it every Thursday at 11; it's quieter then, less traffic."
"Very good, an excellent suggestion. Now after you, Colonel, we have kept the men waiting long enough."
Hogan grinned and snapped off a salute (a respectful one, for a change) and went to join his men in formation.
December 3rd, 1944
Hogan entered the Kommandantur at 23:00 hours precisely, and through there into Klink's private quarters, still wearing the SS captain's uniform he'd spent the day in.
Even though it wasn't their weekly meeting, Klink was already at the stove waiting for him, a glass of schnapps on offer: "How did it go?"
"It went." Hogan downed the shot in a gulp.
"Come now, 'partner'. Do not, as you say, 'hold out on me'! Details, Hogan. I want details."
"Okay. Details. Right. It was rough. Faking the cold-blooded murders of 107 men, after making them dig the very real holes, pretending to bury them but being careful so they can breathe, then coming back under cover of darkness, loading them into trucks, driving to the sea and having three subs ferry them to a waiting destroyer in stages? And somehow or other, the whole thing goes off without a hitch? I think we had a little help tonight. Must have been under some kind of glamour. Think Mother Holle would appreciate a fresh omelette as a gift? I might sacrifice something, but LeBeau wants Herman alive to keep laying eggs, the dogs, the horse and Freddie the Chimp are our friends and allies, Carter would be devastated if anything happened to Felix or Hasenpfeffer, and offering Hochstetter would be just plain insulting."
"Funny, very funny, but I suppose that your summary is essentially what occurred. I will get the 'nitty-gritty' from the others later. Still your mission was a great success. We could not have stretched our supplies to feed everyone, so sending to England our hardship cases and troublemakers, adding those Resistance members that Hochstetter 'lost' and the ambulatory wounded rescued from Stalag 7, will relieve the pressure and make the camp more secure."
"Not to mention throwing the SS off the scent and preventing Major Kessel from becoming a war criminal. Now he's just your garden variety coward."
"But how are you? Are you all right? As you say, it was rough."
"No worse than your mission today. Wish I could have been here."
"Not to worry, the dead from the tunnel cemetery were reburied with all due respect, and the ceremony that Father Mulcahey crafted was lovely."
"With Sergeant Kinchloe. I have clearly marked the real identities of the dead, whether they were Allied agents, downed airmen or Resistance, and the corresponding 'dead' POW with the designated plot; the decoy list is of course with the camp records. The last report that Hilda typed advised General Burkhalter and the Protecting Powers that there was sickness in the camp, brought by the Jewish prisoners from Stalag 7 -"
"Who were of course segregated with our Jewish prisoners – not that we ever did segregate anyone in the first place, but it will sound Nazi-like and impressive," added Hogan smugly.
"Who of course then contracted the illness -" Klink was still marveling at Hogan's ingenuity.
"Who were all quarantined for the protection of the rest of the camp population - "
"Who are now all 'dead' and -"
"Buried. Sure was nice of Father Ritter in Hammelburg to 'loan' us the Baroness' ancestor collection."
"Yes, and we have properly transferred the ashes from the ornate urns to simple metal boxes. If the Inspector is curious enough, he will find real human remains and real human ashes in every grave."
"And when the Inspector gets here looking for Jews, the records will match the graves, and we'll all be able to honestly say that there aren't any Jewish prisoners. Clara is overjoyed to have Sam sleeping, I mean staying, with her, and fellas that can't stay in the servants' quarters in the house will be over at the tenant farm."
"Do they know enough Italian to accomplish such a ruse? Not so much those men on the farm, but what of the ones at the house? Hochstetter will want to interrogate anyone working personally for his mother."
Hogan shook his head and chuckled: "We've got that covered; Goldman and Sam are both good enough in Italian to carry on conversations that will sound native to German ears, especially since Hochstetter doesn't understand a word of Italian. The rest will just keep their mouths shut."
"I should like to see Hochstetter's face when he finds out that his mother is hiding all of our Jewish and our four Russian POWs on her estate as furloughed Italian workers. Do you think that Sam will have Hochstetter call him 'Uncle Vladimir' or 'Uncle Minsk' after he marries Clara?" Klink mused.
"Only thing I think Hochstetter will be calling is plain old 'Uncle' when all's said and done. What I'd like to see is Wembley's face when all those guys show up, and when he figures out that six are girls. According to Goldilocks, he was betting against us getting everyone there in one piece, and he bet double that we could never hide even a single woman among all those men."
"Bah, Wembley is a fool. He should know better than to bet against you. If he has lost a week's salary, so be it. Come, it is getting late. We have anticipated our weekly session, and we can do no more tonight. If Inspector Abendroth comes tomorrow, he comes tomorrow. The guest room is ready for you."
"Nuh-uh, not tonight, not yet. We'll switch everybody around after the New Year, but for now, it'll be easier to pull off this mission if we're in our usual places, one less thing to remember or worry about."
"As you wish."
They finished their drinks in companionable silence. Then Hogan roused himself, handed the empty shot glass to his companion, and moved the stove, revealing the tunnel hidden beneath.
"You know, it still amazes me that there really was a friendly but mischievous kobold hiding beneath the stove."
Hogan chuckled at this, and as he disappeared down the opening, sent his parting shot: "Wilhelm, you have no idea."
A/N: Thanks are ever due to my amazing betas – Kat & Wolfie & Snooky - & to Gene for hearing me out.
The Tale of the Goose Girl was an old one that was first published by the Brothers Grimm, re-told in Andrew Lang's collection, specifically "The Blue Fairy Book". I left out a bunch of interesting details, but I'd always admired the King for figuring out how to get around an oath not to tell a living being what's wrong. A very Hogan thing to do in my humble opinion.
Patton's admiration for Rommel was not made up but was historical fact -Patton was the one who called Rommel a "Magnificent Bastard" and due to Rommel's example and outright contemptuous disregard for orders to mistreat or even murder captured soldiers or civilians, only the Afrika Korps did not have a single abuse charge levied against them. Wiki or TV Trope it, it's all there.
Also, as a general reminder, Vladimir "Sam" Minsk was one of the original Heroes in the pilot episode, and since there was no explanation as to what happened to him afterward, I posit that he remained on the team but that the younger guys did all the running around, and Sam, due to mild arthritis and weakened lungs, was transferred to Barrack 9 (warmer and less tunnel traffic) and put in charge of general, non-emergency tailoring and upkeep. He had been captured with the three surviving members of his crew, and they were all sheltered at Stalag 13/Major Hochstetter's family estate for the rest of the war.
Major Kessel is an OC, previously mentioned in the double epilogue for my story "Fairy Tale" and was the name of the Kommandant of Stalag 7. We'll be seeing him again.
And for all those who don't know, "Mother Holle" was once the greatest German goddess figure and predates the Norse gods. She is the guardian of the spirits of small children, and brings snow when she shakes out her bedding, among other attributes. Although actively avoided whenever she rides out with her entourage of toddler ghosts, if one were brave enough, or in one celebrated example, drunk enough, to aid Mother Holle or one of these little ones, then your kindness would be well rewarded. My references are the Time/Life Book series on the supernatural (the Ghost volume) and Wikipedia.
Now, as to HOW Hogan and Klink know Mother Holle – that's another story.