Wolf's Trap

Chapter 18 : Epilogue

Epilogue

The calm of the following days was particularly appreciated by Hogan and his men. London hadn’t sent them any more news since the word of Lackey’s arrival in England, which wasn’t so bad; leaving the camp to complete any missions would be nearly impossible since the work of reconstructing the cooler wasn’t yet finished.

The prisoners could enjoy their free time to rest, and also to enjoy the spectacle that the German guards offered, practically killing themselves in their struggle to finish the new building as quickly as possible. Klink had tried to use the prisoners, but Hogan had been categorically opposed to the idea. After all, the Geneva Convention couldn’t have been more clear on the subject, prisoners of war couldn’t be forced to work.

The downtime had permitted Newkirk to get his strength back quickly, and the Englishman being who he was, he couldn’t stay put any longer, complaining to anyone who would listen that he couldn’t stand staying in bed any longer with nothing to do. Hogan had exercised his authority to force him to rest, but the corporal’s cooperation had only lasted a few hours… he had found his pickpocket in the main barracks, too busy cleaning his companions out at poker to realize the colonel was there.

A few warnings later, Newkirk was back in the officer’s quarters counting the minutes that passed slowly, very slowly. And that was in spite of the frequent visits from his friends. Not to be able to move around was agony for the Englishman, much worse than the pain his injured leg was causing him whenever he set his foot on the ground.

Hogan had not yet found a way to explain his corporal’s limp to Klink. Newkirk had claimed that he could conceal the pain during roll call, but the simple act of putting on his left boot was veritable torture, and Hogan had dismissed the idea.

In the end, it wasn’t he who found the solution to the problem.

oOo

The American colonel was dozing peacefully on the bench outside Barracks 2 when a shout from inside tore him rudely from his daydreams. He ran inside. All the men were enjoying the sunshine except Newkirk of course, and Carter who was supposed to be watching to ensure that he didn’t get out of bed. Carter’s exclamation couldn’t signify anything good…

And yet, when he pushed the door open, he found nothing but an astonished American sergeant and a English corporal who couldn’t seem to stop laughing. Carter was standing facing Newkirk who was sitting on his mattress, not lying down as he was supposed to be, laughing until he cried at the younger man’s expression.

“What happened in here?” he asked, directing the question at Newkirk.

Not impressed by his superior’s annoyed tone, the Englishman gave a big smile and carefully lifted the left leg of his pants, exposing an ankle that was horribly swollen, and of an unhealthy color that clearly indicated a bad sprain.

Hogan didn’t have any idea how such an injury could amuse the pickpocket to that degree, and hesitated between getting angry right away or worrying first about the severity of the sprain. But before he could say anything, his gaze rested on the small bag that rested next to Newkirk’s bunk, and he couldn’t help smiling in turn.

“I didn’t have anythin’ else to do, guv’nor. It took me a while, but I’m pretty proud of the result,” Newkirk bragged.

The small, open bag showed its contents. Eye shadow, pencils of different colors, lipstick… it was the makeup kit the Englishman used to disguise himself when he was out on a mission.

“Unbelievable,” Hogan sighed, admiring the realism of the effort. You really had to look closely to realize that the ankle wasn’t really swollen and that the bruise was simply the result of a skillful mix of colors…

“Newkirk, you’re a genius.”

oOo

That evening, Newkirk showed up for roll call for the first time in days, supported by Kinch and balancing on his right leg. An appearance that was not at all on the subtle side.

It was natural that Colonel Klink would approach him right away when he arrived to receive Schultz’s report.

“Newkirk, I’m glad to see you’re feeling better, but… what happened to you?”

The German’s sincerely concerned tone went right to the Englishman’s heart, and it was with equal sincerity that he answered:

“My legs are still a bit weak and I tripped getting up. Here, have a look.”

At that, he lifted the leg of his pants, just enough to show his ‘sprain’ and not enough to reveal the bandages that covered his real wound. The darkness of the evening helped; Klink saw just enough, and his eyes widened in horror to imagine the corporal’s pain.

“My God, Newkirk, you need to take care of that!”

“Oh, Newkirk…” Schultz immediately took pity on him. The poor fellow had already suffered enough over the past several days; he didn’t need this on top of it.

Hogan chose that moment to intervene, taking Kinch’s place to support his fraudster corporal.

“Don’t worry, commandant, Sergeant Wilson will take care of it,” he affirmed before leading Newkirk back inside the barracks, without being able to completely erase his smile. It was definitely getting easier and easier to dupe Klink.

They only had to get a bandage on Newkirk’s ankle and the job was done! The Englishman could let his leg heal without any Germans asking questions over the next few weeks. And since it was all over, Hogan didn’t doubt Newkirk would be able to walk again without the risk of reopening the wound and, most of all, without pain.

Hogan helped his corporal sit down at the table. Asking him to go back and rest when he had just regained his freedom of movement would probably not have been welcomed by the Englishman…

An Englishman who, having received the congratulations of the other prisoners, couldn’t resist picking up the deck of cards that was in front of him to take out three that he placed face-down on the table.

“Two jacks, one queen! One queen, two jacks, find the queen!”

The prisoners immediately assembled around the table, fascinated by the game.

“Here,” Carter said, pointing at one of the cards.

“You sure?”

“Yes.”

“I think it’s this one,” said Jones, pointing at a different one.

With one sweep of his hand, Newkirk turned over the cards. The queen hadn’t been found. He shuffled the cards again under the watchful eye of his companions and waited for another one of them to have a go. Once, twice, three times, and the queen of hearts was never picked out, to the great frustration of the prisoners.

“This isn’t right; there must be a trick,” Lebeau complained after his fourth unsuccessful attempt.

Before Newkirk could turn the three cards over again, Hogan held his wrist to stop him. Newkirk looked at him curiously but let him do it, and it was under the captivated eyes of the prisoners that the colonel turned over the first card. The queen of hearts.

Hogan looked at the card, perplexed; he had really thought it had been taken out of the game. A glance at the proud smile and sparkling eyes of the Englishman convinced him to turn over the other two cards. The result raised a few murmurs of disbelief and admiration from the group.

Three queens of hearts!

“Newkirk…” Hogan sighed, shaking his head hopelessly, smiling to have been so easily fooled.

Obviously, the British corporal hadn’t yet finished surprising him.

THE END


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