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Title: The Case Of The Hammelburg Strangler (3/12)
Author: BradyGirl_12
Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Robert Hogan, James Ivan Kinchloe, Louis LeBeau, Peter Newkirk, Karl Mueller, Tom Davis, Helga Heidel, Wilhelm Klink, Peter Mueller, Hilda Schindler
Fandom: Hogan’s Heroes
Genres: Angst, Drama, Mystery
Rating (this chapter): R
Warnings: Major character deaths; Descriptions of strangulations
Spoilers: None
Summary: Hogan and his men encounter the Hammelburg Strangler.
Chapter Summary: The Hammelburg Strangler hits close to home.
Date Of Completion: January 4, 2015
Date Of Posting: January 5, 2016
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Paramount does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2010
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: This one took me awhile as I hit a major logjam so it lay untouched in my notebook for 11 months until the Muses cooperated. Please heed the warnings!
All chapters can be found here.



III

THE STARS ARE BRIGHT


The stars are bright,
Every night,
Until the time
When they disappear
Without a tear.


Elise Gottfried
"My Broken Heart
And Other Poems
Of The Great War"
1919 C.E.



After the January thaw, winter came back with a vengeance. A blizzard blanketed the camp with two feet of snow. The guards shoveled out paths to their barracks and other buildings while the prisoners were put to work shoveling paths from their barracks to the main compound.

Hogan pitched in. He liked being out in the fresh air, cold as it was. The barracks were not exactly toasty warm, anyway. He and his men were making good progress. They should be finished soon.

The barracks door opened and Kinch came out. He carried a shovel and went over to Hogan.

“London says that they lost a bomber in the Dusseldorf raid. We might be getting visitors.”

“In this snow?”

“It’ll be tough, but we’re the closest stalag.”

“We’re a full-service station, oil change and everything.” Kinch’s smile pleased Hogan. He still had the old Hogan touch when it came to quips. “Okay, we’ll send out a patrol tonight.”

“Better wear snowshoes.”

This time Hogan laughed. He and Kinch bent to their work.

& & & & & &


LeBeau gestured silently to Newkirk as their boots crunched on a small path. They had struggled through high snowdrifts all night and were worn out.

“’Ere now, we ought to go back.” Newkirk zipped his parka up higher.

“I agree, but we had better look around a little more. The Colonel will not be happy if we don’t find the fliers.” LeBeau smiled fondly at his companion. If Newkirk was not complaining about something, he would not be Newkirk. “Come on, mon ami, just a little while longer.”

“All right, ten minutes, then we go back.”

LeBeau agreed. He had no desire to stay out in the cold much longer, either. He led the way deeper into the woods.

A low whistle caught his attention. He listened carefully. Newkirk heard it, too.

LeBeau answered the whistle with one of his own. The familiar figure of Karl Mueller emerged from behind a tree.

“What have you got for us?” LeBeau asked.

“A late Christmas present for Papa Bear.” Karl gestured and six men emerged from the woods. LeBeau and Newkirk recognized the look of controlled wariness and fear in their eyes. All men who dropped out of the sky and found themselves surrounded by the enemy wanted to get out as their first instinct.

There are days when it’s still my first instinct, LeBeau thought wryly.

“Papa Bear accepts the gift.” LeBeau looked at a blond American in the forefront with major’s bars. “You in charge?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. Goldilocks, come with us. Papa Bear has some questions for you.”

“Ja.”

The fliers looked nervous at the German word but followed LeBeau and Newkirk without trouble. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt so they kept up a good pace.

They reached the tree stump that hid the tunnel entrance and LeBeau lifted the lid. The whole procession climbed down the ladder.

“Wow!” said a kid who looked like he might start shaving next week for the first time. “What a set-up!”

“First-class all the way, mate,” said Newkirk cheerfully.

The fliers began to relax as they realized that they were safe, at least for now. Newkirk provided coffee and Hogan and Kinch arrived from upstairs.

“Welcome, gentlemen. I’m Colonel Robert Hogan and this is LeBeau, Newkirk and Kinch.”

The blond major introduced himself as Tom Davis and introduced the rest of his men.

“Well, men, you’ll have to camp out here for awhile. The latest storm has caused a few problems.”

“Whatever you say, Colonel. We’re just tourists here,” Davis quipped.

His men and the Heroes chuckled. Hogan put his hand on Karl’s shoulder. “We need to talk.”

Hogan led the Underground agent to the communications center. Kinch sat down behind the radio.

“I need to find out if you’ve heard from Erika?” Hogan asked.

Karl ran a hand through his brown hair. “Not recently. Was she supposed to get in touch?”

“We were supposed to receive a message from her yesterday. She’s working the Heidelburg thing.”

“All right, we will see if she can reply to our frequency and let you know.”

“What’s going on in town?”

Karl shrugged. “Not much except for the Strangler murders.”

“No clues on that?” Hogan leaned against the table as he crossed his arms.

“So far nothing. The whole town is on edge. The war is bad enough, but now this series of murders has everyone scared of their own shadows.”

“Understandable.”

“Ja.” Karl shrugged. “We are extra careful, especially our female operatives. Though during the last time, a few men were victims, too?”

Hogan frowned. “What do you mean, ‘the last time’?”

“Several years ago similar murders were committed.” Karl drank his coffee.

Hogan and Kinch exchanged looks. “Complete with the red ribbon?” Hogan asked.

Surprise showed on Karl’s face. “How did you know that? The police have not given out any details.”

“Klink’s dinner guest a few nights ago spilled the beans. Apparently he’s palsy-walsy with the police chief.”

Karl frowned. “Chief Langenscheidt is not going to like this. That is confidential.”

“Yeah, well, then he shouldn’t be yakking to every bigwig that cozies up to him.” At Karl’s confused look, Hogan smiled. “Sorry, guess I threw a few too many collaquialisms at you. I just meant that the chief shouldn’t give confidential intel to anyone if he wants to keep it a secret.”

“Ah.” Karl took another gulp of coffee. “It is odd that the murders should start up again.”

“So they never caught the killer years ago?”

Karl shook his head. “Nein. The murders stopped just as the Great War started.”

“That long ago?” Kinch asked in surprise.

“Ja. Our man in the police station told me that they have kicked around the idea that this is a copycat. They think it because the first string of murders was twenty-nine years ago.”

“So men who commit a series of murders don’t lay low and then take it up again years later?” Hogan asked.

“It is possible, but Marcus thinks it could be a relative or someone who merely studied the cases.”

“Creepy.” Kinch shivered.

“Ja.” Karl finished his coffee. “They think the killer might have died in the Great War, and someone has taken up the mantle.”

“Well, let’s hope they find this guy quick, original or copy,” said Hogan.

“Amen to that, Colonel.”

& & & & & &


Hogan breezed into the outer office. "Mr. Big in?”

Helga laughed. “Yes, Colonel.”

Hogan reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a sheer pair of nylons.

“Ah, danke, Colonel.” Helga took the nylons. “I will wear them on my date tonight.”

“Oh? Is your young man on leave?”

She nodded. “Peter is back from Italy.”

“Have a good time, honey.”

“Thank you, Colonel.”

& & & & & &


Hogan knocked and went inside. Klink was busy with paperwork.

“Go away, Hogan, I have no time for you.”

“But, sir, I just wanted to know if you’ll be hosting Herr Burger again.”

“No. As a matter of fact, he has invited me into town at the Grand Arms Hotel.”

“Pretty swanky, sir.”

“Mmm hmm.” Klink scribbled something on a form. “You may go now, Hogan. Dismissed.”

Helga came in with a form that she needed signed right away.

“Going to dance the night away at The Hofbrau tonight, Kommandant?” Hogan asked cheerfully.

“No, going to bed early.” Klink looked up. “Hogan, why are you still here? Dismissed!”

Hogan returned Klink’s salute and left with Helga. He gave her a kiss and said, “Have a good time tonight.” He winked as he left the office.

& & & & & &


“Lieutenant, you have been taking dancing lessons.” Helga felt very pretty and fashionable in her new nylons on the dance floor.

“I have?” Peter Mueller beamed. “Am I that much better?”

“If I did not know better, I would say Madame LaGrange had taught you.”

“Who is she?”

“A Frenchman of many talents.”

Of course then she had to explain about LeBeau posing as Madame LaGrange to teach Major Hochstetter how to dance. They laughed at the image of LeBeau and Hochstetter dancing in the cooler.

They returned to their table and enjoyed frosty beers and wiener schnitzel with Flenzheim potatoes. Helga and Peter talked about things that young lovers do, and just as they contemplated dessert, Hilda Schindler called Peter to the telephone. When he returned, he began apologizing.

“I am sorry, leipchin, but I have to leave. My cousin is staying with us and she has taken ill. I have to meet my parents at the hospital.”

“I will go with you.”

“Nein, it is going to be a long night and you have work tomorrow. Stay and have another beer, then go home.” Peter handed her some money. “I will call you tomorrow.” He leaned down and kissed her.

After Peter had gone, Helga went to the bar and sat down. “Here is our payment, Hilda.”

“Danke, Helga.” Hilda drew two beers from the tap. “Where is your charming boss tonight? I wished to speak with him. I have been very busy.”

Charming? Oh, Hilda, you must be hard up!

Loyalty to her boss caused her to say only, “He called it an early night.”

“Ah, well. I will see him soon, ja?”

“Oh, I am sure.” Colonel Klink would never let a beautiful woman who finds him ‘charming’ get away, have no fear.

“Your young man is quite handsome.”

“Danke.” Helga smiled proudly.

“Hold on to that one.”

“Oh, I intend to.”

Helga chatted with the older woman as Hilda worked behind the bar. Gradually she became tired and bade Hilda good night.

Stepping outside the noisy tavern, she took a breath of fresh air. It was a moonless night but the sky was clear and stars twinkled to make a pretty picture as Helga began walking home. Her family’s cottage was only ten minutes away, nestled on the outskirts of Hammelburg in the woods.

The scent of snow-dusted evergreens was like home to her. The family cottage was surrounded by tall trees of spruce, pine, and evergreen. They shaded the house in the summer and made a charming picture in the winter.

She paused as she heard a branch crack. Looking over her shoulder nervously, she chided herself. The Hammelburg Strangler hunted for his victims in town, not out here in the sticks.

She entered the lane that led to her house and the dwellings of a few neighbors. It was blessedly quiet after the noise of Hilda’s Hofbrau. That was one thing she liked about her job at Stalag 13. It was mostly quiet except when Hogan and his men stirred up shenanigans.

She smiled as she thought of Hogan: handsome, charming, and a good kisser.

Pity he’s a…

This time she was certain that someone was behind her. Before she could react, steel-hard arms clamped around her chest and neck. A gloved hand sealed her mouth shut as she tried to scream.

“Ah, my pretty whore,” her attacker whispered in her ear as she kicked and struggled. “So sweet.”

Terror nearly blinded her as she thrashed, but his grip was unyielding. He moved his other hand up and began to squeeze her neck.

Helga let out a half-strangled sob as she fought to breathe. The smell of leather from the gloves was strong. If only she could kick back…she thrust back hard and pushed him off-balance. His grip loosened and for one giddy moment, she was free.

He grabbed her again, knocking the back of her head and taking advantage of her disorientation to wrap his hands around her neck. She cried out but he cut her off as maniacal strength began to squeeze.

Her limbs began to grow rubbery as her oxygen was slowly cut off. She whimpered as tiny pinpricks of light danced before her eyes, mingling with the stars.

Her last thought before darkness swallowed up the stars was of her beloved Peter.





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