Author's note: contains quite a few spoilers for "How to Catch a Papa Bear".
No Day is Perfect
A rendezvous near midnight
With the underground resistance;
They were gathered at a farm house,
Tracing rail yards to knock out.
He'd been "volunteered" last minute,
When the Colonel was restricted
By a late surprise inspection.
Just a routine trip, no doubt.
As they waited in the barracks, through the roll call they'd expected,
Thoughts kept straying to the exploits of their team mate still outside.
They had covered for his absence, and they knew he would be careful,
But the risks of any mission could not truly be denied.
He had made brief introductions:
To three men and one smart lady,
As they spread hand-detailed maps
And showed him what the unit knew.
But before they'd finished speaking,
He was stunned as doors burst open;
And he stared in disbelief at armed
Gestapo storming through.
In the barracks, most were sleeping, four were wide awake and restless,
As the hours ticked by so slowly, leaving midnight far behind.
He had not returned on schedule and pale dawn was now upon them;
There was nothing to restore his close companions' peace of mind.
He reacted to his capture
With instinctive acquiescence;
He could play the hapless prisoner,
Outraged captive, in his sleep.
Hands held high, his thoughts were racing
Through the steps before disaster;
He had fallen in past exploits,
But not fallen quite so deep.
Morning role call at the barracks, and the Corporal was still missing;
Their dismay and apprehension proved impossible to mask.
They could fool with sound recordings and could fake a rising fever,
But could not disguise their worry at the outcome of his task.
As they bundled him at gunpoint,
Into guarded transport waiting,
He maintained an air of innocent
Alarm at his arrest.
It was clear there was betrayal
At the heart of what had happened.
He would play his part while waiting
For his friends to do the rest.
He was summoned from the barracks, he regained his blithe composure,
And he reinforced the notion that his man was truly ill.
He deflected extra measures which might compromise positions;
One more triumph for the Colonel, simply gained by strength of will.
Bleak grey walls, door locked and guarded;
Not the best of situations,
But he reassured the lady
That they should not lose all hope.
Hackles rose at interruption,
And at violent separation;
And he knew what must be coming,
And he prayed for strength to cope.
It was quiet in the barracks, as they waited; all were conscious
Of an unused pack of playing cards; a silent empty space.
An emergency transmission, once repeated and decoded,
Not good news; the mood dropped further as they saw the Colonel's face.
Knees tucked up, arms wrapped around him;
Woollen coat across his shoulders,
Flimsy blanket draped beneath him,
Head propped awkwardly on wall.
Foul remains of meagre foodstuff,
And a scant supply of water;
Yes, the odds were stacked against him
Getting any rest at all.
Consternation in the barracks; they arranged a hurried meeting
With a contact, who, remarkably, escaped their comrade's fate.
And she gave the North Star code words during aimless conversation,
And they took her to the Colonel and they hoped they weren't too late.
From his bench, he heard guards moving,
As his sleepless night was ending,
And he stretched cramped, stiffened muscles;
He'd been still for far too long.
And he thought about that lady,
Her appearance then departure,
And the question of betrayal;
And he hoped that he was wrong.
Rising anger as she told them of the ambush at the farm house;
Of the three detained, her thankfulness that two broke free, alive.
Then she sent the Colonel's message; to his team's distress and horror,
He would not arrange a rescue...three weren't worth the risk to five.
Twenty tiles across the ceiling,
Twenty more, he changed direction;
Counting tiles to pass the time,
He'd no idea how long he'd got.
He was under no illusions
As to what would happen later;
But he would not let his friends,
His brothers, down...
No matter what.
Faith and hope restored in seconds, as the Colonel's plans were altered,
For a vital missing phrase revealed a double crossing scheme.
There were now two clear objectives; the destruction of their target
And retrieval of a fundamental member of the team.
Idle fingers traced the stitching
Of the overcoat's soft collar,
And the outline of the pick locks
Felt so tempting in his hand.
If he made a bid for freedom
And he failed, he'd fail the Guv'nor...
He would wait, and face whatever
Consequences fate had planned.
As they dressed in hand-sewn garments, picked from racks of items ready
In the alcove: two Gestapo, set to storm a prison cell,
And two figures in dark clothing, set to flit amongst the shadows,
Thoughts returned to one deft tailor who had measured up so well.
He still waited, tired and hungry,
For the summons he was dreading;
For the clipped, unhurried footsteps
Which would halt outside his door.
But instead, a loud commotion
From the corridor confused him,
Till he heard an anxious voice
He'd heard a thousand times before.
As they held the girl securely and they strode into headquarters,
They progressed through rooms and stairways, in a state of high alert.
Once they'd rounded up the guards, the Sergeant called his missing buddy;
Such intense relief on hearing a response, it almost hurt.
Friend from foe at last untangled,
Worst case outcome circumvented,
Raw emotions swiftly hidden;
A sarcastic, light reply.
A relaxed, amused demeanour,
When united with the others;
But composure briefly vanished
When he caught the traitor's eye...
Two shadows slipped through darkness, setting charges under canvas,
Then retreated to a safe and prudent distance from the blast.
The joy which lit the Sergeant at the subsequent explosion
Was nothing to the Frenchman's joy; his friend returned, at last.
A moment of reflection,
Heading home with friends around him,
Who behaved as though he might
At any moment disappear.
His capture had not ended
With the nightmare scenes envisaged.
As a team they'd worked together;
Beaten odds, confounded fear.
Safe and sound, inside the barracks, and their lives returned to normal;
Days of boredom, nights of sabotage and travellers' aid between.
And they dealt with constant danger and they rarely dwelt on failure;
And the Corporal never viewed another mission as routine.