Papa Bear Awards 2014
The Mission Briefing
Murphy’s Law on Steroids
“Hello there, chaps. Can I speak with Papa Bear himself, please?”
Kinch wasn’t sure if he liked the sound of that voice on the radio, but he knew his duty. “Yes, sir. One moment, please.” He pulled off the headphones and jumped up the ladder.
“Colonel,” he began as soon as his head appeared over the side of the bunk. “London wants to talk to you.” Better not mention that...
“Right.” The Colonel put down his cards and followed Kinch down into the tunnel. He picked up the microphone, Kinch switched to the speakers, and Hogan spoke professionally, “Papa Bear here. Go ahead, Mama Bear.”
“Hello there, old boy! Everything alright out there?”
Hogan thought he couldn’t believe his ears, and glanced at Kinch with his eyebrows raised.
But Kinch merely shrugged.
“Yes, we’re fine. But... is this really you, Mama Bear?”
“Of course it is me! How do you like my new job? Jolly good show, eh?”
Hogan groaned. “Alright, what do you want.”
“Well, we’ve got a mighty hot package coming your way. It’s scheduled to be dropped at... let me see... Y 23 on Thursday, the seventh of January, 11 p.m. That’s tonight,” he added helpfully.
Kinch shook his head. “The seventh was Tuesday. It’s the ninth today.”
“Mama Bear, are you sure it’s the seventh?” an already exasperated Hogan inquired. “It’s already the ninth today, you know.”
“It is?” They heard some rustling – Crittendon was probably turning to look at the calendar. Or at his watch. Or whatever. The bumbling fool... “My, you are right! That Wembley chap really needs to work on his handwriting though. But yes, I suppose it could say ‘Tuesday’ there instead of ‘Thursday’. Oh. Well, then the package is already there. You can just go and pick it up.”
“Alright. Let’s hope it’s still there.” Hogan already felt a headache coming on. “Are you sure it’s Y 23 then?”
“Let me see... Well, it’s definitely a Y. Though it may be a G. Or a J – that’s difficult to tell. And the 2 might be a 7 perhaps, and the 3 could also be an 8. Or a 9. Yes – I think that covers it all.”
Hogan closed his eyes. “More than enough, yes. Let’s hope the Jerries didn’t find that package first. What’s in it, if I may ask?”
“Of course you may. It’s the stuff for the Papa Bear Awards – stories, instructions and all!”
“What?! You mean that stuff is lying out there, for anyone to find? Mama Bear, has it perhaps escaped your notice that our operation is supposed to be classified? Top secret?”
“Of course not, good man. Now you just go out there and pick up the package, and all will be right as rain. Mama Bear over and out.”
Hogan slammed down the microphone. “Swell. Just swell!”
“So what do we do?” Kinch asked. “Do you want to risk going out during the day to try and retrieve that package?”
Hogan shook his head. “Too dangerous. Besides, we don’t even know exactly where to look.”
“But leaving it out there is dangerous, too,” Kinch pointed out. “Although I think we may assume that Hochstetter hasn’t found it. If he had, he would be here by now.”
“Exactly.” Hogan frowned in thought. “Kinch, get on the radio. Get all the Hamelburg Underground units you can reach, and tell them to go and look for that package. And tell them that if they find it, they have to hide it, and let us know. Then we’ll pick it up after dark.”
That afternoon, the woods in the area around the Y section on the map were crawling with people. It wasn’t even a good day for a stroll in the woods – it was dark, and gloomy. But they were there, searching for some kind of package – not knowing that the package had long been found...
As usual during the night, two of the dogs went on patrol outside the wire without a guard on leash. That Tuesday night, it had been the turn of Wolfgang and Friedrich to roam the woods outside Stalag 13, on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary.
“Listen. A plane.” Friedrich stopped and pricked his ears, and Wolfgang followed his example.
“It’s only one plane. And not a plane with bombs. Those sound heavier,” Wolfgang deduced.
“Maybe it’s one of those planes that brings Colonel Hogan his food?”
“Perhaps.” Wolfgang set off towards the nearest clearing to determine the location of the plane. For if the plane was going to drop something, that meant Colonel Hogan or one of the others of his pack were outside the wire. They’d better keep an eye on them.
“There. They’ve thrown something out.” Friedrich had excellent night vision, and noticed the dark parachute floating down against the dark night sky.
“Then Colonel Hogan cannot be far.” Wolfgang sniffed the air. And again.
“I don’t smell him,” Friedrich said, looking around. “Perhaps they’re on the lee side of the wind.”
“Let’s go and look.”
They trotted over in the direction where the parachute would be coming down. But there was no scent of Colonel Hogan, or any other human from his pack.
A dull thump in the sand marked the landing of the package on the parachute nearby. But of Colonel Hogan no scent. They combed out the woods, scanned the entire area, but all they smelled were the scents of the wood and its creatures. No human in scent.
“Maybe we should have a look at that package,” Friedrich suggested.
Wolfgang agreed, and together they went back to the sandy patch where the package had come down. It still lay there, out in the open.
They smelled it on all sides. “It smells like the good humans,” Wolfgang decided.
“But there is no food in there.” Friedrich sounded a bit disappointed.
“And no stuff to blow things up either.” Wolfgang frowned. “I think it’s just paper.”
“Yes. Remember around this time last year, in the beginning of the winter, there was a drop of lots of stories on paper? Maybe this is the same. Stories.”
“Yes. And we won!” Friedrich was still immensely proud. “Do you think there’ll be new stories about us in this package?” He tried to open the lid of the crate, but unfortunately, neither his paws nor his teeth were designed for such a task.
“Maybe we should just take the package back to camp. Before someone else finds it,” Wolfgang thought.
“How? By rolling it over and over and over?”
“Hm.” Wolfgang studied the situation. “You’re right, that’d be way too conspicuous. Let’s just bury it, like a bone. And then we can show the Colonel where it is as soon as he shows up.”
Friedrich agreed, and for a while, the two dogs dug into the sandy ground of the clearing.
“There. That should do.” They pushed the crate into the hole, filled it up again, and pulled a large pine branch from the woods to lay on top of it, to hide the obvious signs of something being buried here.
“Now let’s get back to camp. I think it’s close to roll call – we better not be missed.”
The following day however was awfully busy – and so the first ones to learn of the package were the dogs tuned into the evening’s twilight barking.
“I’ll try and take Schnitzer out to the woods tomorrow,” Blümchen barked from the vet’s farm. “We should be able to find it.”
Schnitzer had been unwilling to go out further than the chestnut tree in the rain that morning, but for some reason, in the afternoon he suddenly wanted to go to the woods himself. Happily, Blümchen danced around him. “Yes, to the woods! We need to go to the woods!”
Unfortunately, Schnitzer insisted on staying on her leash, but Blümchen knew where to go. She easily picked up Wolfgang’s and Friedrich’s scent, and the buried package was just as easily found.
She pulled at the branch, and Schnitzer helped, too. Yes, it was easy to tell that a dog or two had buried something there. She quickly started digging, but Schnitzer pulled her back.
“What are you doing? We’re not digging for bones – we’re supposed to look for a package!”
Blümchen barked. “But there is a package here! Just let me dig it up!” She started digging again, and this time, Schnitzer let her. Maybe because within a dig or two, something flat and made of wood came in sight.
“Steady, girl. What have you got there?” Schnitzer knelt down next to her, and tried to help her clear the sand away from the package. There was some material and ropes as well.
“Okay, that’s it. Good girl!” Schnitzer complimented her. “I guess Wolfgang found it then on his forays outside the camp, didn’t he?”
Blümchen barked her confirmation.
“Right. Then let’s close this up again. It’s better if Colonel Hogan picks it up himself tonight. Dig, girl!”
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Hogan groaned that night, shovelling another handful of sand away from the marked place. “And all for a bunch of stories?!”
“If you do it like this, it’s easier.” Carter bent down and started digging like a dog.
But Newkirk pushed him aside. “Who taught you that – Hasenpfeffer?”
“No, the dogs in the kennel actually.” Carter kept at it. By now he was the only one who was still digging.
“How deep did those dogs bury that thing anyway?” Kinch asked.
“Maybe we’ve got the wrong spot,” LeBeau helpfully pointed out.
“No, this is what Schnitzer said. Under a large loose pine branch in a sandy clearing at approximately Y 24.” Hogan scanned their surroundings for possible danger.
“At least Crittendon got the coordinates right – more or less,” was Kinch’s opinion.
“There!” Carter cried, and was immediately silenced by Newkirk.
But they all saw it – a piece of dark material was sticking up out of the sand now. Suddenly, everyone pitched in again, and soon they were able to lift not only the parachute, but also the crate attached to it out of the hole.
“There we go. A whole crate full of stories again!” Newkirk dusted off the top and wanted to crack open the lid already.
But the Colonel stopped him. “We take it back to camp first. There we can see what’s inside.”
And his word was law, so obediently, they all trudged back to camp, taking turns in carrying their pretty heavy treasure.
But upon entering the tunnels...
“Watch it!” LeBeau suddenly called as he was about to climb in after Newkirk.
Before Newkirk realized what he had to watch out for, the crate that had slipped from LeBeau’s hands already knocked him out.
As LeBeau jumped down the ladder and called for a glass of water to try and revive Newkirk, Kinch and Carter set out to collect all the papers that had scattered from the broken crate.
“You’ve got to say one thing though,” Carter pointed out. “Newkirk really has a hard head!”
“Yeah.” Kinch grinned and held up one of the papers in his hand. “Welcome to the Papa Bear Awards!”
"Papa Bear calling Goldilocks. Come in, Goldilocks. Papa Bear calling Goldilocks. Come in, Goldilocks."
Static was the only reply, and Kinch pulled off the headphones with a dejected jerk. "It's no use, Colonel. I don't know what they're doing there in London, but nobody is answering our calls. Do you think Headquarters might have been hit in the latest raid?"
Hogan adjusted his cap. "Maybe. But it shouldn't take them that long to get operational again. They've got lots of radio bases around London - surely they can't all have been hit at once." He sighed. "Just keep trying regularly, okay? They must get back on the air soon."
Kinch nodded, and put the headphones back on. "Papa Bear calling Goldilocks. Come in, Goldilocks. Papa Bear calling Goldilocks. Come in, Goldilocks."
"Oh, hello Papa Bear. Is everything alright there?"
"Yes, it is. But what's been going on at your place? We've been trying to get in touch with you for days!"
"Oh my." Crittendon's slightly embarrassed laugh came to Kinch's ears. "Well, it's to be expected, I assume. I only work on the radio part time, you know. My primary job is in code making."
"Code making? Or code breaking?"
"Code breaking? Me? Oh no... I'm very good at breaking things, from china to airplanes. But not codes. No - I make them instead. They told me I have the perfect mind for the task - Jerry would never be able to make sense of my messages."
"Well, that's good then." From the corner of his eye, Kinch saw Hogan gesturing that he wanted to talk to London himself, and he handed over the mike.
"Papa Bear himself here, Goldilocks. We've got a few questions regarding the awards."
"Alright, fire away! Actually, we just had a major meeting this afternoon about the awards. Seems some stories had snuck in that shouldn't be in there at all, and others were not listed in their correct category. So that's why I proceeded to the radio as soon as the meeting was out - to inform you of the changes. I do hope you chaps hadn't been making any major decisions yet regarding your nominations?"
"Well, some." Hogan pinched the bridge of his nose. "But let's have it - what are those changes?"
"Well, there's been a story in there - a crossover called A Tiny Little Job - of which one of our informers informed us that apparently it got in thanks to a renewed posting, but that it had already participated and won silver in a PBA from some ten years ago. So can't have it participating again, can we."
"No," was all Hogan said.
"And then there's been an awful lot of hassle about which stories should be eligible for the category of 'based on an episode'. We've spent hours and hours in meetings trying to come to a decision, for the parameters everyone agreed on didn't seem to fit the stories we had. So in the end, we've decided that every story with a link to a particular episode - even if it's only by the use of a guest character - will be eligible in the 'based on an episode' category this year. So that means the stories Evil on the Homefront and A Private War are now eligible in this category as well. Just so you know."
"Anything else?" Hogan's voice was beginning to sound a little sarcastic.
"Um... No, I think that's it for now. So let me wish you a nice day, as you Yanks say, and..."
"Hey, wait - we still have a question of our own!" Hogan began.
"Yes? What is it? As long as it's not chocolate. Chocolate has been terribly rationed here lately."
"Well, the stories got a bit mixed up. The crate fell and broke, and the papers scattered all over the place. We've been putting the stories back together to the best of our abilities, but we're still switching from werewolves to aliens and on to skunks with the turning of every page."
"Skunks? Papa Bear, let me teach you one thing while you're here on our side of the Atlantic. There - are - no - skunks - in Europe. I bet the Indians grew them to scare off you Yanks in the hope you'd go away. But any tale including skunks around that base of yours is an abominable aberration from the truth of nature. There are no skunks in Europe!"
"Fine. I'll keep it in mind. But could you perhaps send us another copy of the stories? We've spent days trying to put them back in order, but as I said, it's still a mess. Difficult to put things in order when you've never read the originals."
"What?! My good man, are you out of your senses? Do you have any idea how much paper that is? There's a war on, you know - and paper shortage reigns our offices!"
Kinch chuckled. "Maybe if they concentrated on fighting instead of filling out reports, there wouldn't be a paper shortage."
Hogan grinned, but Crittendon went on, "I'm sorry, chaps, but it simply can't be done. You'll have to manage the best you can in sorting them out. What? Oh... Sorry, chaps. Got to go. It's tea time. Have a nice day!"
Beeeeeep beeeeeep beeeeeep beep beep beep beeeeeep beeeeeep beeeeeep... Beeeeeep beeeeeep beeeeeep beep beep beep beeeeeep beeeeeep beeeeeep... Beeeeeep beeeeeep beeeeeep beep beep beep beeeeeep beeeeeep beeeeeep...
"Yeah, yeah." Kinch jumped off the ladder and suppressed a yawn as he fell down on the stool by the radio. He put on the headset and took the mike. "Papa Bear here. Go ahead."
"So you finally picked up my S.O.S., eh? About time!" came an exasperated voice in his ear.
"That was an O.S... Never mind. What is the problem?"
"What's the problem? Don't you know what the problem is?!"
"Why don't you tell me."
"It's next week!"
"What is next week?"
"Of the... My good man, have you forgotten? The biggest event of the year in your dreary prisoner lives, and here you are asking me what deadline!"
"Um..." Kinch scratched his head. "Sorry, Colonel, it's..."
"Group Captain actually," Crittendon corrected.
"Group Captain," Kinch complied wisely. "But you see, it's the middle of the night, and you just woke me up, so don't expect any fancy brainwork from me at the moment. So... what's the problem?"
An audible sigh. "The deadline, my good man."
"Of the Papa Bear Awards - your very own Papa Bear Awards! Don't tell me you forgot?"
"Oh!" Kinch rested his head in his neck. "No, we haven't forgotten. But the deadline is next week, isn't it? Next Friday, the 21st."
"Yes. But what are you chaps doing out there? So far, we've only got four sets of nominations in. Four!"
"So?" Kinch refused to see the problem. "The guys are still working on it. Every free moment they're poring over the stories, trying to make up their mind. But they still have a week left, don't they? So what's the problem?"
"Well, as long as they're working on it... And as long as they really won't forget...?"
"I promise." Kinch sighed. "We're not forgetting the Papa Bear Awards. The guys will be standing in line to have me transmit their nominations next week - I promise. It's always like that - last minute decisions. They want to use every moment available to make sure they choose the most deserving stories."
"Ah. Alright." A sigh. "But do give everyone a reminder, will you? We can't run a decent PBA with only four sets of nominations."
"I will. Tomorrow. But don't worry. Everyone is mighty eager to make sure that their personal favourites get in. Can't rely on others to nominate your favourites, can we."
"Indeed, we cannot. I will personally see to it that my favourites will be included. So you better see to yours!"
"Right. Anything else, Colon... Group Captain?"
"No, that's all. May I wish you pleasant dreams then?"
"Likewise," Kinch muttered. "Over and out."
It was full. It was cramped, but sociable. Men from all barracks mingled and mixed as they waited their turn for the radio room, discussing their choices. And some perhaps even making last minute changes on their lists.
And in that radioroom sat Kinch, the operator, and transmitted one set of nominations after the other. "And that is quote number three. And that completes the nominations of Sergeant John Walters."
Walters nodded his thanks, and moved towards the ladder.
"Next!" Newkirk called. But he needn't have bothered - McPherson was already there.
"Here are my nominations." He handed Kinch a scrap of paper, and the Sergeant peered at the scribbly writing by his not so good light.
"Let's see..." He picked up the mike. "Right, Goldilocks, stand by for the next set of nominations. From Sgt. Jock McPherson. Best story of 2013..."
Suddenly a fountain of sparks erupted from the equipment, and Kinch tore off the headset and backed away.
"What's that?" McPherson cowered against the wall.
"Kinch?" Newkirk came running, with Carter on his heels, just as a bright pink flame shot up to the tunnel ceiling.
"Wow! That's some fireworks display!" Carter gasped in awe. "How did you do that?"
"Kinch?" Newkirk pulled McPherson out of the way to get to his mate.
"I'm okay, Newkirk," they heard Kinch's ragged voice through the bellowing smoke. "I am, but the radio isn't. It must have overheated with so many people wanting to send in the nominations."
"But I haven't sent in mine yet!" Carter protested.
"Well, you won't be sending them in over this radio." Kinch appeared out of the smoke curtain. "I bet I'll have to rebuild the radio from scratch. So unless you find another means to let Crittendon know what you want to nominate, I'm afraid it's all out."
"Gee..." Carter put his hands in his pockets. "Well, we better start thinking then. Do you have any idea how many men haven't sent in their nominations yet?"
"Lots," was Kinch's wry reaction. "Actually, Crittendon mentioned that the nominations were finally picking up, but they could really do with some more input. Especially to determine which stories will compete in the Best of 2013 category."
"Well, then we'll have to rig up some other way to communicate with London. Anyone have a helicopter handy?"
A little teaser to keep up the tension while waiting for the results!
Sometimes, a real story can emerge from random lines. In this case, that happened with the 13 nominated teasers. Enjoy!
Once upon a time, a group of Heroes unknowingly saved the planet Earth from an alien invasion...
This was one mission that had really gone to the dogs...
They keep trying to escape no matter the outcome, because it's better than the alternative.
It was in that moment that I swore an oath. An oath that I would have sworn on a Bible wrapped in an American flag if one had been available. I swore to my country and to my God that I would escape Stalag Thirteen and report the treason of Colonel Robert E. Hogan or my name was not Samuel Flagg.
What's a guy supposed to do, when duty calls and nobody else can answer?
He has his identity papers, a rail pass and a packet of cheese sandwiches. What could go wrong?
Sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants, no matter how long ago it was.
Marya always had a few surprises up her sleeve for Colonel Hogan...
Something is driving him crazy. Something he can't tell us about.
When you are forced to listen in silence, you might just learn to listen well. And sometimes you find out things you never knew.
If you need to keep your neighbourhood Gestapo man from finding out what's really going on, there's one sure way: throw a party, and don't invite him...
Don't look now, but something is watching you...
"interesting" [ˈɪntrəstɪŋ]: adj. 1. Capable of holding one's attention. 2. Evoking a feeling of interest. 3. Oh God, we're all going to die.
"Perhaps we could use smoke signals," Carter suggested.
"There is too much wind," LeBeau pointed out.
But Carter was not to be discouraged. "Or a rocket? That new baby rocket we stole from the Germans last month is still lying around in the tunnels. If we write down our nominations and put them inside..."
"Forget it." Hogan picked up his coffee and drained the mug in one go.
Protests broke out among the other residents of Barracks 2.
"Cool it!" Hogan shouted. "I'm thinking. I didn't say we're going to have to forego on nominating; I just said we're not going shoot our nominations to London in a rocket."
Everybody watched him in silence as he paced the length of the barracks and back. And snapped his fingers.
"Yes?" Carter asked wide-eyed.
Hogan gave Kinch a grin. "If our radio is out, where can we find another one in this camp?"
"Bloody charming!" Newkirk butted his cigarette. "Surely you don't mean to steal Klink's radio and use that?"
"Of course not. The Kommandant will be happy to let us use his radio." And with that, Hogan straightened his cap and walked out the door.
"Kommandant?" As usual, Hogan barged into the office without knocking.
And Klink, who had gotten used to it over the years, didn't even look up from his paperwork. "Yes, Hogan, what is it."
"Permission to use your radio, sir?"
"Aw, come on, sir! We're not going to break it or anything."
"Of course not." Only now did Klink look up. "Because you're not going to get it. Prisoners are not allowed to use the radio. I am sure not even the Geneva Convention would require that."
"Perhaps not, but... Oh well. There goes your chance at fame." With a dejected mien, Hogan began to leave the office. Only to be called right back – as he expected.
"Hogan! What do you mean – my chance at fame?"
Hogan looked back. "Why should I bother telling you? You're not interested in our little games."
"Oh yes, I am! Tell me, Hogan – what game is it that would make me famous?"
"The Papa Bear Awards of course! Do you know how many stories there are about you? Great stories, showing the tough but fair Kommandant as a hero?"
Klink dropped his jaw. "There are?"
"Of course! Someone like you could inspire even the most dismal writer into literary bliss." He shrugged. "Oh well. If we can't use your radio, it's all for naught anyway. Then we can't send in our nominations."
"Oh, but Hogan...!"
"For such a worthy cause, I'm sure I could make a little... exception?" Klink waggled his head. "I'm sure General Burkhalter wouldn't mind."
"Especially if he never finds out," Hogan grinned.
"Yes. Exactly. So... for how long would you need to use the radio?"
Hogan looked at his watch, visibly made some calculations in his head and... "Until midnight, I'd say."
Klink raised his eyebrows, nearly losing his monocle. "So long? What do you have to transmit?"
"Well, there's hundreds of POW's who want to send in their nominations. And in the category for Best Story of the Year, it's the number of nominations that'll determine whether or not a story qualifies to participate. So the more people send in their nominations..."
"Yes, of course. Well then." Klink rubbed his hands. "You go and get your men, and I'll bring the radio into Fräulein Hilda's office. She's gone home already; she won't mind. But...!" He raised a finger. "Schultz will be guarding every word you say on that radio. We cannot allow you to use it for any clandestine messages to the Allies. Understood?"
"Understood, Kommandant." Hogan saluted. "You really are the best, you know."
Ten minutes later found Kinch at the Kommandant's radio in Hilda's office. Schultz sat next to him, and had already fallen asleep after a long night shift.
Outside stood a long line of POW's, talking and chatting and trying to keep warm in the perpetual winter of Hamelburg. And strutting back and forth along the line was Kommandant Klink, exhorting the men to nominate stories featuring him. "If you don't, you're not allowed into the office!" he threatened. "And Schultz is there. He'll hear every word you transmit. So you can't fool me!"
"Schultz. Schultz?" Kinch carefully prodded the big Sergeant until he blearily opened his eyes.
"What's for breakfast?"
Kinch grinned. "Nothing yet. But we're through with all the transmissions for the Papa Bear Awards. Perhaps you should escort me back to the barracks – before the other guards shoot me for being outside after roll call."
Schultz moaned. "Don't make me exercise before breakfast. It's bad for my indigestion."
"Sorry, Schultz." Kinch got up.
But at that moment, the radio came to life again. "Goldilocks calling Papa Bear. Come in, Papa Bear."
Kinch grabbed the mike. "Go ahead, Goldilocks." He refused to look at Schultz who mouthed, "You are Papa Bear?"
"Hello Goldilocks. I just want to acknowledge the receipt of your transmission tonight. Our boys in the cryptogram department have put it through the codebreaking machine, and we want to confirm that the urgent bombing run on Stalag 13 tonight will go ahead as requested."
Even Schultz sat up in alarm. "What what what what what... What bombing run?"
"Goldilocks, we did not – repeat: NOT – request a bombing run. All we transmitted were our nominations for the Papa Bear Awards. And they were NOT in code!"
"Oh! Ha ha. Jolly good show, Papa Bear. I suppose you have Jerry listening in with you, have you? Well, don't worry. We understood your message anyway. Bombing run confirmed – tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. Or is that p.m.? I always forget..."
"Goldilocks!" Kinch cried. "We did NOT request a bombing run! Please cancel it immediately!"
"Sorry, chaps – can't be done. The plane is already under way. It's a long flight to Hammelburg, you know. And the pilot is nightblind. He needs to bomb by daylight."
Kinch could have strangled the man – if he had been within reach of his hands. "Goldilocks, I repeat – call off the bombing run. We don't need to be bombed."
Schultz pulled the microphone out of his hand. "No, we really don't want to be bombed. Please, Goldilocks! Be a nice little girl and go and play with the three bears!"
Shocked silence on the other end. "I say..." Crittendon's voice came at last over the radio. "Was that Jerry speaking to me?"
"No, it was Hans. Sergeant Hans Schultz. Serial number 824..."
Kinch took back the mike. "Never mind that now, Goldilocks. Are you going to call off the bombing run, or do we have to evacuate?"
"Evacuate? Why on earth would you want to evacuate?"
Kinch rolled his eyes. "Because – you just told us that you've sent a bomber to bomb us out."
"I did? Oh my... Well, nothing that can be done about that now. Just keep calm and carry on, chaps! Goldilocks, over and out."
Schultz looked up to Kinch with big, frightened eyes. "Sergeant Kinchloe, what is going to happen?"
Kinch straightened up. "We better prepare for the worst, Schultz..."
Meanwhile, over at Headquarters in London...
"Group Captain, here is a file for you from the cryptogram department." The beautiful lieutenant handed him a folder, together with a nice cup of tea, and Crittendon felt his heart melt.
"Thank you, my dear. That's extremely kind of you." He put down the file and stared after the luscious curves as they moved away, back up the stairs. Yep – there were definitely perks to being stationed in London compared to a German prison camp!
Another Group Captain came running in in a rather agitated manner. "Has anyone seen my folder? The cryptos said they sent it back to me an hour ago, but I haven't received anything!" He bustled about, lifting up papers and folders, opening drawers and looking into cupboards – and bumping Crittendon's arm. "Oh, I'm ever so sorry."
"Oh, never mind." Crittendon shook out the folder he had had on his lap. Tea was dripping from it.
The other Group Captain's eyes went wide. "But... that's my folder!"
"Oh, you're quite mistaken, my friend. I just received this folder from..."
The Group Captain didn't wait for an explanation – he pulled the dripping folder out of Crittendon's hands. "Yes. See – Group Captain Romney Crittendon, RAF. How could anyone ever have thought that it was yours?"
He walked off with it, leaving our Crittendon at a loss for words – which was quite a feat – and returned to his own office.
"Now, finally," Romney Crittendon sighed. "The info I need to instruct my bomber group." He opened the file, brushed away some tea drops and... frowned. This didn't look anything like the codes he had been given so far. Was there a new code out perhaps? He grabbed the telephone and asked to be connected with Captain Dingle at Supply.
"I'm sorry, sir," the posh operator said. "Captain Dingle is away on a top secret assignment concerning the development of the gonculator. He will not be back until next week."
"Alright. Thank you." Romney put down the phone and stared at the gibberish in his file. Well, perhaps his pilots had been given the new codebook, and they had just forgotten to give one to him as well? With all the hustle and bustle in the bombing raids these past days, that was entirely understandable. Well, then he better pass on this info to his pilots right away.
He looked through the pages. It was quite some info. But it was an excellent code – he could make heads nor tails from it.
The night had passed in a feverish frenzy. Trenches were being dug all along the wire, with the guards and the prisoners working together in the sweeping beams of the searchlights.
To be honest, Hogan had tried to get the Kommandant to let the prisoners go to town and be locked in the church or something in order to evade the bombing raid on Stalag 13.
But Klink had refused. He was not to be persuaded. His motto, he said, was that no one ever escaped from Stalag 13. If he were to take the prisoners to town, there was nothing to stop them from escaping from that church - something they could never do when they remained in Stalag 13. So they'd just have to brave the bombing within the fences of their unescapable prison.
The inmates of Stalag 13 were good at digging. Trenches had appeared all along the fence, and Klink kept making rounds, and urging the guards to keep a keen eye on their charges, to prevent any attempt at escaping while digging.
But time was running out. Dawn was approaching over the eastern horizon. And with dawn came the dreaded 6 a.m. bombing promise.
Hogan looked at his watch, and joined the Kommandant in his rounds. "Colonel Klink, it's nearly six o'clock. We need to stop digging and get the men to safety."
Klink took out his pocket watch. "Yes. You are right, Hogan." He turned, and went back to his office. And a moment later, a voice blared from the loudspeaker system.
"Achtung Achtung. Attention attention. All prisoners are to hand in their shovels to the nearest guard. The guards will place these shovels in the nearest hut. Then all prisoners and guards will go in the trenches to await the enemy plane that will bomb us. Achtung Achtung!" He repeated the text in German for the guards, and as well as they had been working together throughout the night, all the less organized the prisoners suddenly became. Shovels disappeared instantly, prisoners were milling here and there and everywhere, and...
"Cut it out!" Hogan called out over the ruckus. "You all want to get killed? Get in those trenches - now!"
That helped. Within a minute or two, not a living soul went around the compound, or lingered between the barracks. Even the dogs had been taken over to a special trench (dogs only), that had been covered with spare wire for the fence, to prevent the deadly animals from getting out.
And their they sat. Counting the minutes till 6 a.m. Would they still be alive at seven? Did the trenches offer sufficient protection from a serious bombing raid?
"I hear something," Carter whispered. "A motor. The motor of a plane." His eyes searched the quickly brightening sky. If that pilot was nightblind, he sure wouldn't have any trouble finding the camp anymore now.
"There!" LeBeau called.
And yes, over the trees to the west of the camp, a low flying aircraft was approaching the camp in a straight line.
"Get down!" Hogan ordered.
Both Germans and Allies obeyed him - even Colonel Klink.
The silence was intense; the sound of the plane ever closer. How much longer till...?
There! A whistling sound - a bomb!
A dull thud - a bomb?!
"Is it...?" Carter started.
"I don't know." Hogan was the only one looking out over the rim of their trench now. Something had been dropped into camp. But what was it? Was it a bomb? Then why...?
LeBeau looked up. He had his hands over his ears. "Mon Colonel, has it exploded yet?"
"No." Hogan pushed himself up. "I'm going to take a look."
"Sir, with all due respect," Newkirk began. "I can't let you do this. You..."
"I'm ordering myself to do it, Newkirk." A fleeting smile. "But thanks." Stealthily, the Colonel crept from barracks to barracks. He had no idea where the 'bomb' had fallen, so the best thing to do was to go to the compound first. And as he reached the corner of barracks 2...
Cautiously, he peered around the corner. Yes, there... There it was? But... that was not a bomb!
He looked back up in the sky. No. The plane had turned and disappeared. What the...?
Carefully, he approached the big package in the middle of the compound. It looked like... it was... paper.
He took out his secret pocket knife and cut the wires around it. The cover removed and...
Suddenly he burst out laughing.
"Colonel?" There was Newkirk, who obviously had followed him. "What's going on? What are you laughing about? Have you gone barmy in the end?"
"No." Hogan wiped the tears from his eyes. "But I think London has. Here, look at this."
He pushed the paper in Newkirk's hands, and the corporal's jaw dropped. "This was their bomb?"
"Looks like it." Hogan pulled out another. "The Stalag 13 Gazette - announcing the winners of the Papa Bear Awards!"
Newkirk grimaced. "Bloody charming... That's what we've been digging for all night?"
"Looks like it," Hogan repeated. "Come on. Let's go get the others!"
"I don't get it, Colonel." Kinch squinted against the burning sunlight. "Why are these authors always writing that we're shivering in the freezing cold, with patches of snow everywhere? It's burning hot here!"
Hogan shrugged. "They've probably never been to Germany. And considering that we're at about the same latitude as the Canadian Calgary, they probably think the climate is about arctic here."
"Yeah, but it must be close to 80 degrees today. In the shadow! And it's only April!"
Carter was busy rolling up his shirt sleeves - his bomber jacket had been left inside. "Personally, I don't mind," he said. "With a sun like this, I won't have to use these silly tin plates to catch as much sun as I can."
"No, before you know it, you'll be as brown as a nut," Newkirk scoffed.
"I don't mind," Carter repeated.
"Neither do I." LeBeau, too, had taken off coat and barret - and even his red shawl and his sweater. "This reminds me of Paris. The benches on the quays along the Seine, with the sun burning hot at the wall behind us, and with a beautiful girl in my arms..."
Newkirk snickered, but the next moment - splat! "Blimey, what was that!" He went with his hand over his head. It came off wet and whitish. "What...?"
Carter tried not to laugh. "It looks like that bird over there mistook your head for a toilet."
"What bird?" Newkirk looked up, and indeed, at the roof perched a grey dove, looking at him with interest. "You ruddy...! LeBeau, grab it! I want to have bird steak for dinner tonight!"
"Rookoo!" replied the bird. It sounded like he was laughing at him.
"But... look!" Kinch held out his hand, and quickly, the bird hopped onto it. "It's got a message tied to its neck!"
"Well, then we got a message and bird steak for dinner," Newkirk declared. He was still trying to wipe the bird poo out of his hair.
While Kinch expertly held the bird, Hogan fumbled to untie the string with which the paper was tied around the bird's neck. "Now what have we here..." He finally managed to get it loose, and unrolled the small paper.
"The Gazette?" LeBeau exclaimed.
And Carter read, "Special Addition to the Special Edition." His face brightened. "Yes, that's right - they hadn't figured out the quotes yet! So which ones won?"
You can find the results here!