Title: A Death in the Family, chapter one
Originally posted on fanfic.net under my penname Snooky-9093
Wilson was already waiting when they came down the ladder. He hadn’t even bothered changing out of his pajamas. When the runner poked his head through the secret entrance in the medic’s barracks, and said, “We need you, it’s bad,” the medic threw on his jacket, grabbed his bag and ran. “Find the dog tags and get some donors,” he yelled when he arrived.
“Already taken care of,” someone replied. The men had already cleaned off the table and brought over some lights.
The limp body was gently placed on the table and the men crowding around moved back to give the medic some room.
“Newkirk. You’ve got to take your hand off.” Wilson gently placed his hand on top of the corporal’s. “I need to take a look.”
“I can’t, Joe.” Newkirk eye’s showed the fright that everyone was feeling. “The blood.”
“Newkirk.” The corporal turned. “Step back. Let him look.” The voice was firm and calm. The Englishman nodded and then asked, “How?”
“I’m right here.” Wilson put his hand next to Newkirk. “Go ahead.” Newkirk removed his hand and stepped back. He then began to shake uncontrollably.
Wilson quickly began to cut away what was left of the wounded man’s shirt. “Has he been unconscious the entire time?”
“Yes.” Lebeau, the first one in the tunnels after the patrol started shooting, was off in the corner.
“At this point, it’s a blessing.” Wilson began to examine the wound. Newkirk’s quick thinking had helped. His hand had staunched the bleeding.
Oh man, the medic thought to himself. He didn’t speak. He just kept working. The man on the table began to stir and his eyes fluttered open. A small whimper slipped out of his lips. Wilson grabbed the morphine. “You’ll be OK,” he said soothingly. “This will help.” He looked up and shook his head slightly. “Hold his hand,” he whispered.
The fingers dug sharply into his palm, the pressure dropping and then increasing with the levels of pain. As the morphine began to take hold, the tension subsided slightly. The medic ignored the two blood donors, still waiting by the ladder. That was not a good sign. More men from the barracks had silently congregated nearby. Carter had joined Lebeau a few yards away, while Kinch had taken Newkirk, whose shirt was drenched in blood, over to the side.
His head turned slightly towards the figure standing next to the table. He felt the man’s presence; his hands clutched tightly over his own left hand. Through vision that was just beginning to blur, he could just make out the brown jacket. “Colonel?”
“I’m here, Olsen. Hang in there. Wilson’s got you covered.” Hogan moved in slightly closer. “Look at me. Keep looking.” Wilson, who had been bent over Olsen’s side, straightened up and backed away.
“Wilson?” Olsen’s breathing increased slightly.
“He’s still fixing you up,” Hogan lied.
“Louis?” Olsen whispered.
Lebeau, trying not to glance at the blood, came around Olsen’s other side. He spoke softly into the sergeant’s ear. “I’m here.”
“Heidi. Tell her I…”
“You can tell yourself, Brian.” Lebeau stroked Olsen’s forehead. No other words were spoken. Minutes later Olsen’s eyes closed for the final time. Moments later, he took his last breath. Wilson placed his fingers on the young sergeant’s neck. “He’s gone.”
“Oh, Mon Dieu.” Lebeau, tears in his eyes, backed away. The rest of the men in the tunnel were in shock, for this was the first time in the camp that they had lost one of their own. They looked to their commander for guidance.
Hogan was fighting back his own tears. He removed his fist and gently placed Olsen’s arm on the table. Now emotionally drained, he had to deal with both his grief and the practical problem of explaining a death, disposing of the body and notifying the next of kin. Grief would have to wait. A natural multi -tasker, he quietly began to issue orders.
“Kinch, call Oscar. Tell him to come straight to the tunnel entrance. I need two of you to meet him and bring him down.” Kinch left without saying a word. Hogan walked over to another table, sat down and thought. Olsen was a main team member, but normally handled outside activities. He doubted Klink would even know who the sergeant was. Schultz knew of course, but Olsen was in and out so much, the Sergeant at Arms was used to him missing or being replaced by others. Hogan then decided the best course of action was to remove Olsen’s records from the camp and pretend he was never there. He described the plan to the others in a monotone. “But if any of you have a better alternative, I’m listening.” No one was willing to fake a shot while escaping scenario. They all agreed with Hogan’s plan.
“Schultz’s records will have to be fixed, sir. His clipboard as well.” Newkirk assumed he would be the one to filch that and the files from the office.
“Anything we can do, sir?” Hammond asked.
“Yes. Clear out his bunk. Empty it. And bring down his footlocker and anything else that’s his.”
“What about his mail?” was Carter’s question.
“I don’t know.” Hogan had no answer. “We’ll think of something.”
“Oscar is on his way,” Kinch reported.
Twenty minutes passed. Most of the men headed up top and cleaned out the sergeant’s personal items and brought them down. Newkirk and Carter broke into Klink’s office area and removed the file and then into Schultz’s quarters to remove the clipboard.
“He’ll think he lost it,” Newkirk told Carter.
“We’ll fix it and leave it in the barracks” Carter suggested. The chores seemed to help the men, as they waited for Schnitzer to arrive.
Mills and O’Brien met Schnitzer outside and guided him through the woods into the tunnel. He didn’t ask what the meeting was about, figuring he’d find out soon enough. It was not the first time he had received a call from the stalag the middle of the night. He descended the ladder. The deathly quiet that filled the tunnel unnerved him. Suddenly shaken, he spotted Hogan walking towards him.
Schnitzer took one look at the colonel and understood why he had been called. . “No, no,” he whispered. “No.”
“I’m so sorry.” Hogan choked on his words. “There was a patrol.” He held out his hand and guided the now grief-stricken man to the table, where Olsen, a blanket now covering his body, lay.
Oscar removed the blanket and gazed at the young man he and his wife considered their adoptive son. He threw himself over the body and sobbed. Hogan had never seen such emotion from the veterinarian in the two and half years he had known him. He couldn’t look and turned away. After what seemed like an eternity, the vet pulled himself together.
“Did he suffer?” He asked Wilson, who was still standing by.
The medic shook his head. “He was unconscious as soon as he was shot. He came to for several minutes. I gave him some morphine. No, he didn’t suffer.”
“I have to go home and tell my wife.” Oscar looked at Hogan, who had come back over to the table. “What… What are you planning?”
“I know this is hard, Oscar, but is there any way you can help with his body? We can’t bury him near here. It’s too dangerous.”
“Out on my farm. I have a spot. Yes. I’ll come back tomorrow night. I’ll need help with the digging.”
“We’ll be there,” Hogan said.
Lebeau stepped forward and spoke with Oscar in French. “Do you want me to talk to Heidi?”
Oscar had not forgotten about his niece, but he was too overwhelmed to think about how and when to tell her. “No, my wife and I will talk to her.” Mills and O’Brien gently took the veterinarian’s arm and guided him back up top to his truck.
Every man in Barracks two that morning was thinking the same thing; I can’t get through this. Schultz’s clipboard was placed on a table in the common room. There was no shuffling or any good natured chattering, as the barracks guard approached. The 14 men stood there, frozen.
Schultz, having – he thought – lost his clipboard, was a bit distraught.
“Something wrong, Schultz?” Hogan asked quietly.
“I lost my board,” he whispered back.
“I think you left it inside on the table,” Newkirk spoke up. “I’ll get it.” Before the sergeant could protest, Newkirk left the line, retrieved the clipboard, and handed it over. “Here you go.”
As usual, Schultz started on the right. He was concerned about the lack of patter and the usual humorous attempts to throw off his count, but figuring his boys were up to monkey business during the night, he shrugged it off and continued down the line. Most of the men’s eyes were downcast, and as he got closer to the left side where Colonel Hogan stood, a few began to shuffle nervously.
“Fourteen, fif… Colonel Hogan. Where is Olsen?” Not again, he thought.
“Who, Schultz?” Hogan looked up at the sergeant, who noticed that Hogan’s eyes were bloodshot.
“Olsen. He stands right behind you in line. Where is he?” The sergeant whispered. “If he’s not here, someone else is here.”
“We have no Olsen in our barracks, Schultz.” Hogan answered. “You should know that. Check your clipboard.”
Schultz glanced downward and saw that indeed, no one named Olsen was listed.
“Colonel Hogan. What kind of game are you playing?” Schultz glanced at the hut and decided to check inside. The men parted for him as he walked to the door. No one followed. Schultz walked in and headed towards Olsen’s bunk. It was empty. The mattress was rolled up and Olsen’s footlocker was missing. Now confused and anxious, he headed back out. “Colonel Hogan. I must report this.”
“There are 14 men in this barracks, Schultz. Always have been. Like I said,” he said softly, “We’ve never had any one with that name in here. I don’t think there’s one in camp. You can check the office.”
“Check the office?”
Hogan nodded and then took a step back. Schultz, who knew Klink was on his way, capitulated. He looked into Hogan’s eyes, then turned and reported to the Kommandant that all were present and accounted for. The men silently marched back into the hut, found a place to sit and waited. What they were waiting for, they didn’t know. For Hogan to say something, they supposed.
“Call a barracks chief meeting in the tunnels, in 1 hour,” the colonel mentioned to no one in particular. He then went into his office, shutting the door behind him.
“He’s gonna have to notify London,” Mills mentioned to Kinch.
He’s got to come to terms with this first,” was the radioman’s answer. “I think we should try and get some sleep. Tonight’s going to be a long night.”
It was the first time Hogan had been alone since the men that had gone out on the small sabotage job had returned. He had been in the tunnel with Kinch, when LeBeau came flying down the ladder. “We need a medic!” he had said before he hit the bottom rung. “It’s Olsen and it doesn’t look good.” Another man in the barracks quickly took off, while Kinch had the presence of mind to find Olsen’s tags and run upstairs to look for blood donors.
“What happened?” Hogan, a sinking feeling now hitting his stomach, asked the French corporal, who was out of breath and pale.
“A patrol. Two men. They started shooting. We got them, but Olsen was hit. Newkirk and Carter are carrying him back.”
A few men, having heard the news, and two donors, congregated in the tunnel. “Clean off a table and get some lights,” Hogan ordered. Wilson arrived within several minutes and then they waited. Hogan knew. As soon as Newkirk removed his hand and he got a quick look at the wound, he knew. The colonel sat on his bottom bunk. Although there was always the nagging fear that something like this would happen, he wasn’t really prepared. He never was. He had lost men under his command before. But, this was different. And Olsen… Hogan’s eyes began to fill with tears. It was on this bunk he and Olsen had formed a bond. Hogan’s retelling, in German, of his own experience after being captured, was the first step in bringing Olsen back from the brink of a mental breakdown brought on by severe psychological trauma the sergeant had suffered after being shot down. The sergeant’s recovery didn’t happen overnight. It was a long process, but within months, he became a vital member of the operation and the sergeant’s connections with the outside proved indispensable. And now somehow, as his German adoptive family was mourning his death, the colonel had to arrange with London the notification of Olsen’s family back in the states.
How am I going to do this? Hogan thought as he contemplated the two letters he would be writing. One that would be held until the war’s end, if and when the operation was declassified, and one that would be sent now. A letter filled with lies; missing a great deal of information. The upcoming task made the colonel even more upset. He lay down on the bunk and stared at the bottom of the top bunk for almost an hour, until a quiet tap on the door let him know the barracks’ chiefs were waiting down below.
“Kinch?” Hogan said before he entered the tunnel. “Contact London and have them arrange for voice contact with General Butler. If he’s not available, get me Wembley.”
“Yes, sir.” Kinch followed him down.
The chiefs milling around the tunnel sensed something was wrong. As soon as Hogan appeared, they knew there was a fatality. It showed in Hogan’s eyes. But who? Hogan came right to the point.
“We lost a man last night. Olsen. Shot by a patrol.” He let the news sink in for a moment. Olsen’s body wasn’t in sight. It had been moved to another area.
“The way we’re handling it is this. His records have been purged. He’ll be buried out on Schnitzer’s farm tonight. Inform all of your men. Dismissed.” Stunned, the chiefs left the main area and headed back to their barracks. The camp chaplain, who had somehow been informed that he should attend the meeting, walked up to the colonel.
“Anything I can do, sir?”
Hogan looked up. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t know you were here.” He sighed. “Circulate. It’s going to be hard. The men can only talk about it in secret.”
“Who was with him?”
“LeBeau , Carter and Newkirk. You can go up top.”
“I think it would be a good idea. When you’re ready, sir?”
“I know. Thanks.”
The chaplain disappeared.
“Colonel.” Kinch had shown up. “They patched you in. It’s General Butler.”
“Thanks.” Hogan put on the headphones. “General.”
“Colonel Hogan. I understand this is a priority call.”
“Yes, sir.” Hogan took a deep breath. “A Member of my team was killed last night, sir.” There was a moment of silence on the other end and then the general spoke.
“I’m sorry, Colonel. I take it since you are calling; it wasn’t out in the open.”
“No. We purged his records. As far as Stalag 13, Klink and the German POW System are concerned, he was never here.”
“I see. And his body?”
“Buried at the home of an Underground contact. The problem is what to tell his family for now. And his mail will have to be stopped, or confiscated if there’s anything out there.”
“We have discussed this at HQ, Colonel. We’ll handle the notification from here.”
“Thanks, sir. Let me know how I can send a personal letter by courier. And his personal things, as well.”
“What is the name and serial number?”
Hogan told him. Before signing off, Butler promised to explain the notification as soon as they had one.
Oscar drove back to his home on auto pilot, quietly entered the house, went into the kitchen and sat at the table. He was sure Greta, his wife, was still asleep. When he had received the phone call, she muttered “Going out?” After he replied, “Emergency call,” and gave her a kiss, she had rolled over. As the veterinarian’s wife, she was used to late night calls. After deciding he wouldn’t wake her, Oscar made a cup of tea and a piece of toast, but the recollection of the snacks and meals he, Olsen and Greta had enjoyed around the kitchen table saddened him. He moved to the living room and stared at the wall.
The clock on the mantel appeared to move in slow motion as he waited for daylight. Images of Olsen’s family back in the states now intruded, and the picture of his parents reading a telegram or letter, notifying them of their son’s death, hit him and he began to silently rock back and forth. And then he stopped. They’ll never know the truth, he thought. What would the army tell them? He assumed a lie. Hogan asked him to bury the body, so, Oscar figured, somehow they removed Olsen’s records. It wouldn’t be marked as an escape. Oh god. His eyes tearing, Oscar wondered how that brave kid who showed up on his doorstep on a whim over two years ago had morphed into the confident young man and essential espionage operative.
He and Greta, childless, had quickly accepted Olsen as one of their own. They ignored the danger and Olsen had paid them back. With what? It wasn’t the help with the chores of the vet runs, Oscar thought. No, it was him being there. Oscar took his plate and cup into the kitchen, mindlessly washed them and put them away. He then thought of his niece. He would have to tell her after the school day was over, he realized. And then would come the trip to camp to pick up the body. He shuddered and sat back down on the sofa, where his wife found him when she came down at dawn.
“Oscar?” She shook her husband awake. “Was it the horse?” A nearby farmer’s mare was expecting a foal any day now.
“Greta? No. It was the camp.”
“Oh.” That didn’t phase her. It wasn’t the first time he’d been called out to Stalag 13 at night. She never asked what the meetings were about.
“Greta. I have something to tell you. Sit down.” Oscar motioned to the spot next to him on the sofa. Now concerned, Greta sat down and took a good look at her husband. His face was puffy and his eyes were red. Her heart began to beat faster.
“What happened?” she whispered, dreading the answer.
It’s… It’s Brian. He’s been…”
“Brian?” Greta, now in daze, asked.
“He’s been killed, Greta.” Oscar took his wife’s hand.
Greta began to shake; then sob. She buried her head in her husband’s shoulder and the two remained there on the sofa for several hours.
A few of the prisoners with carpentry experience got together, and offered to make a coffin. Hogan was grateful, and accepted their offer. They were able to use extra wood stored in the tunnels for emergency tunnel repairs and completed the work by the afternoon. Unfortunately, for security reasons, nothing, including the sergeant’s tags could be buried with him. The colonel, when told of the completion, solemnly followed them into the tunnel to look at the handiwork. The pieces weren’t totally put together. That would have to be done at Oscar’s home. But, having extra protection for the body, to everyone, felt right.
Hogan and the rest of the prisoners in his barracks spent a mind-numbing day, attempting to keep busy and not give anything away to the guards. He dreaded being summoned by the Kommandant, but fortunately, he was left alone. Hogan decided to circulate throughout camp, look around, and remind the prisoners they had to continue, that the operation had to continue.
“I’m going out,” he announced to the barracks. A few of the men stood up. “Stay here.” Hogan didn’t want company.
“He’s taking it hard.” Carter was beside himself, but his concern for Hogan made him forget his grief for a moment.
“He needs time to himself.” Newkirk, who had been one of Olsen’s first friends in the camp, had been reliving the experience all morning. It was like a bad nightmare that kept repeating, over and over.
“The colonel and Olsen were real close. Especially when he first came to camp.”
“I didn’t know, Newkirk.” Carter automatically thought everyone was close.
“Olsen had a rough time after he was shot down; because of his background, I think,” LeBeau said. “The colonel helped him out.”
Carter mulled that information over, plopped back down his on his bunk, and stared at the ceiling.
The compound was abnormally empty, possibly because the chiefs had informed the men and everyone was in shock. It wouldn’t do, Hogan realized. It wasn’t normal. It was a nice day and the men were allowed outside at this hour. Not wanting anyone to get suspicious, Hogan, who had been walking aimlessly, went over to the first group of men he came across; three prisoners from Barracks six were smoking and talking quietly outside their hut. Respectfully, they stopped their conversation.
“Do me a favor,” Hogan said. “Start circulating and get more men outside. It doesn’t look right.” They acknowledged his orders and Hogan continued his walk. He found himself outside the infirmary, and seeing shadows moving inside, he walked in.
Wilson was standing over some equipment. He looked up, and seeing who the visitor was, stopped what he was doing.
“Busy?” Hogan asked.
“Cleaning my, I…” Wilson didn’t want to say.
“It’s all right.” Hogan understood. “I decided to go for a walk and, well, the compound was too empty.”
“Makes sense,” Wilson said as he wiped his hands on a towel. “Do you need anything? You should get some sleep. I can give you something if you want.”
Hogan smiled. “I’ll try to take a nap this afternoon.”
“Here. Sit down.” Wilson grabbed two chairs.
There was an awkward silence for several minutes, and then Hogan said, “I wasn’t there.”
“I know.” There was nothing else Wilson could say. As a medic, he had seen this too many times. Buddies, officers, C.Os, all feeling guilty, all hurting. It took time, but eventually the survivors moved on. They had to. This was war.
“I should have been there to protect them.”
“And it still could have happened, Colonel. Have you had a thing to eat today?” Hogan shook his head. “Wait.” Wilson got up and brought back a sandwich and a mug of coffee. “Here.”
Hogan knew better and didn’t protest. He finished the sandwich and coffee. “Olsen had a girl in town, Wilson. He didn’t think I knew. Oscar’s niece.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Wait. You never stopped him?”
“Well, after I found out, I thought about confronting him. But, he took so many risks.”
“So did Heidi.” Wilson said. “But if the Gestapo had taken her…”
“And Oscars wife, or Max’s daughter,” Hogan shrugged. “The trail never ends, you know.”
Oscar and Greta were waiting for Heidi outside her apartment when she arrived after school. “Hello,” she said, a bit surprised to see both of them there in the afternoon. “Come on in. Let me put my things down. Do you want some tea?” she said, still chattering.
“No, dear.” Greta said. “Come here and sit down.” Heidi, now suspicious, looked at her uncle.
“Something’s happened.” Terrified, she sat down. It could be anything. Her parents caught in bombings. Her cousin Helga, now married and living elsewhere. Brian. Her hands began to shake. It was Oscar who spoke.
“Heidi. I was called out to the camp last night.” He took hold of her hands. “Heidi. Brian was out on a mission with three other men. They ran into a patrol and he was shot.”
“He’s all right. He’ll be all right?” Heidi was praying.
“No. He didn’t make it.” Heidi’s lower lip began to tremble and she collapsed into her uncle’s arms.
Schultz had seen a lot, knew a lot and never admitted it. He knew the prisoners left camp and came back. He was aware Hogan and his men had something to do with the sabotage in the area. This morning’s roll call disturbed him. Out of curiosity, he checked the files in the office and to no surprise, Olsen’s file was missing. At first, Schultz thought Olsen, on Hogan’s orders, had escaped for good. But that scenario wasn’t right, he was sure of it. If that had been the case, the demeanor of the men at roll call wouldn’t have been so muted. Butterflies hit the sergeant’s stomach as he recalled the downcast eyes and the lack of shuffling. He decided to pay Barracks two a visit. He noticed more prisoners were outside. But everyone from barracks two was inside.
“Schultz, we’re busy.” Lebeau protested. “What do you want?”
“I wish to speak with Colonel Hogan.” He gazed at the room. No one was particularly busy. Most of the men were either sleeping or just laying on their bunks. Only Kinch was missing.
“He’s in his office?” Schultz walked towards the door.
“Please, Schultz.” Newkirk tried to block the sergeant. “Don’t bother him. He’s resting.”
Schultz ignored Newkirk and barged in. Hogan was indeed resting, but he wasn’t asleep. He sat straight up.
“Schultz, I’m busy watching the inside of my eyelids. What you want?” He said crossly.
“Colonel Hogan. You know I can count to 15 despite your attempts to throw me off at roll call.”
“What’s your point, Schultz?”
“What happened to Olsen?” Schultz asked point blank.
“I told you, Schultz,” Hogan said sharply as he hopped down. “There was never an Olsen in this barracks. Do you follow me.?” Hogan’s eyes bored into Schultz’s. “Oh, and Schultz, don’t bother us tonight. Some of us are coming down with something.”
“I’m truly sorry, Colonel Hogan. Truly sorry. It was my mistake.” Schultz didn’t say another word. He just left. Hogan took a deep breath. He had been holding it in. He then sat down and buried his face in his hands.
Greta tried unsuccessfully to get Heidi to eat. Taking care of her niece was therapeutic. It gave her something to do. Oscar had gone home to prepare his truck.
“I want to be there tonight,” Heidi said through her tears. “What does it matter now if they find out we were together?”
Greta, who was planning on staying overnight, agreed. Both she and Heidi needed closure. Oscar took his family car, picked the women up, took them to his house, and then headed for the camp, waiting at the rendezvous point until the last roll call was complete. Shortly afterwards, two men escorted the vet into the tunnel, where he was shown the planks of wood that would make up the coffin.
“I’ve got two of my carpenters coming to put it together. We have an extra truck and some tools.”
“Thanks, colonel.” Oscar was touched.
“We’re ready,” Hogan announced. Several men began bringing the planks up through the tree stump and loaded them into the truck. The carpenters carrying their tools popped in, while two other men, a driver and a lookout, took the front. The carpenters began working as soon as they were inside.
The next part was difficult for everyone. Kinch and Newkirk picked up Olsen’s body, which was wrapped in blankets, and carried him to the ladder. Hogan, Carter and LeBeau were already at the top to help guide him out. They waited for everyone else to follow, and then carried him into the truck. Hogan’s main team rode in the back, while Hogan sat in the front with Oscar. Several other men from the barracks, and the chaplain, joined the men in the other truck.
As the convoy pulled up outside the house, Greta came outside.
Hogan stepped out. “Mrs. Schnitzer, I’m so sorry. “ He gave the woman a hug.
“Thank you Robert. I don’t know how to say thank you for the time we had together.” Hogan offered a wan smile and then looked up. Heidi was standing in the door frame. She left the house and slowly walked over. Hogan held out his hand, which she took.
“I knew,” he said quietly. Lebeau, surprised, looked up.
“Can I see him?” Heidi asked.
Hogan nodded. He took Heidi and Greta past the truck where the coffin was almost completed. Oscar, who was waiting by his van, opened the door.
“Are you sure?” He asked.
“Yes,” both Greta and Heidi replied. The vet removed the top of the blanket, exposing everything down to Olsen’s chest. Greta went in first. She quickly stroked his face and then made way for her niece, who, now shedding silent tears, rested her body on his chest.
While this was occurring, Oscar showed some of the men where to start digging. It was in an area several 100 yards away, near a dog pen and a tree which would be the marker.
“We have to go. We’re ready. I’m sorry.” Hogan said to both women.
“Of course. I understand.” Heidi pulled herself together.
Soldiers and Oscar’s family walked to the grave site. Heidi knew the location. “He loved the dogs.”
“Yes he did.” Oscar patted her hand.
The chaplain, who was on his first trip outside of camp, said a few words, and the coffin was lowered in. The men hopped out and then quickly and efficiently covered the grave.
Oscar did not explain to anyone that the ground would appear to have been dug for dead animals. “Hopefully, after the war,” he said, “We can send him back to his family.”
“Thanks, Oscar. I’m sorry, men, but we can’t stay.” Hogan pointed to his watch. They all piled into the motor pool truck and headed back to camp, while Oscar, Greta and Heidi went back to the house.
Great offered to call Heidi out sick in the morning. “I think you should go to bed. I’ll make up the sofa.”
“No. I’ll go upstairs. I want to be near him.” Olsen used the spare bedroom when he was in town, and some of his civilian clothes were in the wardrobe and chest.
“All right.” Greta looked at her husband. “I’ll get you a spare gown.”
Heidi entered the room. Oscar walked in behind her.
“Sweetheart, I want you to take something to help you sleep.” He held out a glass of water and a pill. “Go on,” he urged.
Heidi took the glass and pill, and handed the glass back. “I’ll be fine,” she said.
She closed the door. Ignoring the nightgown, she took a pair of pajamas out of the chest of drawers and rubbed her cheek against the shirt. Removing her clothes, she slipped the pajama top over her head, climbed into the bed and cried herself to sleep.
The truck made it back to camp safely, and all of the men sacked out for the few hours left before roll call. That morning, Schultz didn’t comment, but counted and reported 14 men.
A few hours later, Kinch ran up to Hogan’s office with a message. Hogan looked at the blue sheet. “Well, that’s it then,” he said, “A small pneumonia epidemic. I’ve got two letters to write.”
“Yes, sir. He said to send the first one, along with the personal items, out with the next flier.”
“Hopefully that won’t take too long. And the second, Kinch?”
“They want it in code. For now.”
“Makes sense,” Hogan sighed.
“Do you need anything else, sir?”
Hogan looked up. “No, thanks, Kinch.” The sergeant left, closing the door behind him.
Hogan removed a sheet of writing paper from a drawer and started to compose the first letter.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Olsen,
It is with the deepest regret and sorrow…