Christina TM (christina_tm) wrote in hoganandco,
Christina TM

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Fanfiction, Icons, and a Friends Only banner

Title: "Journey's End"
Author: Christina aka yankees_hater
Rating: K
Pairing: None
Warnings: Excessive angst and character death
Summary: Hogan's Heroes bid a final farewell to their commander.


James! Andrew for you.”

James Kinchloe, known as “Kinch” to his friends, picked up the receiver. “Hi, Carter. What’s going on?”

Andrew Carter’s broken voice came on the other end. “I-It’s the colonel, Kinch,” he sniffled. “I just heard from Beth. He’s doing real bad…he’s not gonna make the day…”

Kinch closed his eyes. They’d known this day was coming for a long time, but that didn’t make the news any easier to bear. “OK,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Just…just hang in there, Carter. I’ll round up Donna and Kevin and and we’ll be over.”

Carter sniffed loudly. “I’m going to the hospital.”

“We’ll meet you there.” *Have some common sense and let Angie drive,* Kinch thought wryly as he hung up the phone and looked at his wife of twenty-eight years, Donna. “Col. Hogan’s going,” he said bluntly.

Donna rubbed his arm. “I’ll call Kevin and Joyce and have them meet us there,” she said sympathetically. “Should they bring Greg along?”

Momentarily Kinch’s face brightened at the thought of his grandson. “No,” he said. “No. Greg doesn’t need to see this.”

Donna nodded her understanding and kissed his forehead. “Go start the car.”

Andrew Carter dragged his sleeve across his eyes as he saw Kinch, Donna, Kevin, and Joyce walk into the hospital room. “Any minute now,” Carter whispered to his old comrade.

Carter took a minute to survey the room. There was him, and his wife Angie, and five of their seven children. Now there was Kinch and his family. There was Hogan’s wife, Beth, and their twins Robert Jr. “Robbie” and Carol. Dan Connelly, Carol’s husband of four years stood next to her.

Then there was Hogan. The long battle with the cancer had taken so much of what he’d been. Now he looked much, much older than his sixty-eight years. Carter had to force down a sob at the sight of him now.

Hogan’s eyes fluttered open and Robbie leaned over the bed. “Dad? Dad, you in there?”

“Yeah, I…I see you,” Hogan managed. He looked at Beth. “Hi, beautiful.”

Beth smiled as best she could. “Hey there, handsome.”

“Don’t imagine I’m…too handsome…anymore.”

“To me you are.” Beth’s voice faltered a little. “I love you, Robert.”

“Love you…” Hogan looked around. “Kinch, Carter.”

“Hey, colonel,” Kinch said.

“How many times…do I…have to tell you,” Hogan wheezed. “I’m not a colonel.”

*Not many more,* Carter thought with both humor and sadness.

“Carter,” Hogan said. “What’s with the crying?”

Carter wiped at his eyes in shame. “S-sorry sir,” he stammered. “I’m just…” he took a moment to gather himself. “I’m gonna miss you is all.”

“You two…tell Newkirk and…LeBeau that I…I’ll be waiting for you all…on the other side.”

Carter bowed his head, too overcome to speak. Angie put her arm around him. “We will, sir,” Kinch affirmed.

Hogan turned his gaze to his children. “You two be good.” His voice was weakening. “Take care of that…baby…Carol.”

Carol started to cry. “Oh, Daddy.” She bent over and kissed his forehead. “I love you.”

“Take good care of her,” Hogan told Dan. “But…I’m not…worried…about…that…” He looked at Robbie. “When you find some nice girl…who can handle you…treat her like a princess.”

Robbie wiped his eyes. “I will, Dad.”

Hogan looked at the assembled Carters. “All of you,” he started. “Love…all of you…”

The oldest, Lauren, took the responsibility of speaking for the clan. “We love you too, Uncle Rob.”

Hogan stopped speaking and looked around at the people in his room. Then his face brightened with a smile-that old smile that Carter knew so well-and then Robert Hogan breathed his last.

“Air Marshal Newkirk?”

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, RAF Air Marshal Peter Newkirk hit the intercom button on his phone. “Yes, Susan, what is it?”

“There’s a James Kinchloe on the phone for you.”

Newkirk’s face broke into a grin. Kinch! “Well, put the old chap through!”

“Right away, sir.”

A moment later Kinch said, “Newkirk?”

“Kinch!” Newkirk greeted jovially. “What’s the good word?”

“There isn’t any, I’m afraid,” Kinch said sadly. “Newkirk, Col. Hogan died today.”

Newkirk was stunned, his cheerful mood squashed like a bug. “What?”

“Just an hour ago,” Kinch reported. “Newkirk, he…all of us were in there, me and Carter and our families, and Beth and Carol and Robbie. He smiled-not a tired smile, but that old smile that used to light up his whole face.”

Newkirk’s heart ached. He remembered that smile perfectly.

“And then he just…he just went,” Kinch explained simply.

“When…” Newkirk cleared his throat. “When’s the funeral?”

“This Thursday,” Kinch said.

“All right,” Newkirk said. “LeBeau and I will be there.”

“Newkirk?” Kinch sounded confused.

“We’re coming,” Newkirk said, making sure he left no room for argument. “‘E’d do the same thing for one of us.” *Besides, I won’t believe he’s dead unless I go.*

Kinch didn’t bother. “All right. Thanks, Newkirk, it means a lot.”

“See you in a few days, old friend.” Newkirk hung up the phone and pushed the button to talk to Susan. “Susan?”

“Yes, Air Marshal?”

“I need a ticket for the next available flight to Paris.”

“Right away, sir.”

*Good old Susan,* Newkirk thought. *She knows not to ask questions.* He picked up the phone and dialed the operator. “‘Ello, Operator? I need to place a call to Paris, France.”

Louis LeBeau snapped up the phone. /“Bonjour, Bistro LeBeau.”/

“Louis, it’s Newkirk.”

/“Pierre! Mon ami!”/ Louis greeted his old war buddy. /“Ca va?/ You sound a bit sad.”

Newkirk paused a moment. “I just heard from Kinch, Louis. Col. Hogan died about an hour ago.”

Louis sat down in his chair. /“Mon dieu,”/ he breathed. He’d been getting periodic updates on the colonel’s failing health over the last year, but it hadn’t seemed quite real. After all, he’d only seen Col. Hogan twice since they’d said goodbye in June of 1945. The last time they’d seen each other, at Carol’s wedding, Hogan had still been fairly spry. It was hard to think of Col. Hogan being gone.

“He got to see everyone one last time,” Newkirk said. “He didn’t suffer.”

“We must go to the funeral, Pierre,” Louis insisted. “We-”

“I knew you’d say that,” Newkirk cut him off. “I just had my secretary book a flight to Paris. If you’ll handle the flight from Paris to New York we’ll call it even.”

/“Oui,”/ Louis nodded. /“Merci, Pierre.”/

“I’m coming into Paris tomorrow morning,” Newkirk said.

“I shall get the next plane possible,” Louis promised.

“Thanks, Louis.” For once in his life, Newkirk actually sounded sincere. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

/“De rien,”/ Louis responded. /“Au revoir.”/ He hung up the phone.

/“Louis?”/ Louis’ wife, Maguy, asked. /“What is it?”/

Louis looked up at his wife sorrowfully. /“Le colonel died this afternoon.”/

Maguy gasped. She had never met Col. Hogan, except through Louis’ stories. /“Oh, Louis…”/

/“That was Pierre,”/ Louis explained further. /“The funeral is Thursday, and we must go. Can you run the restaurant while I am gone?”/

Maguy nodded. /“Go, Louis. Col. Hogan was your friend.”/

Louis stood and gave his wife a grateful kiss. /“Merci. I need to go book a flight from here to New York.”/

*Well, so this is it, folks,* Kinch thought bleakly as he looked at the crowd gathered around the funeral home.

“The casket is closed,” LeBeau observed.

“Trust me,” Kinch said grimly, “you’re glad it’s not open.”

Newkirk turned his attention to the pictures. “‘Ey, look at the guv’nor!” He pointed to one of the pictures. “‘E was just a little tike!”

“Yeah, there’s that Hogan smile, though.” Kinch tapped his finger next to the smiling boy holding up what appeared to be a trout.

“That must be his graduation picture from the Point,” Carter said, indicating the next photo.

“And that is the wedding!” LeBeau picked up the framed photo.

“Uncle Andrew!”

“Carol.” Carter turned around to hug the young woman behind him.

“Hi, Carol.” Kinch hugged her when Carter released her. “How are you?”

“OK.” Carol managed a watery smile.

/“Carole!”/ LeBeau exclaimed. /“Mon cherie!”/

Carol looked at the two foreigners. “Mr. LeBeau! Marshal Newkirk!” She exclaimed. “My brother told me you’d be here.”

“And ‘ere we are.” Newkirk forced a smile. “‘Ow are ya, Carol?”

“I’m…” Carol shrugged. “I’m OK, you know.”

“Is your husband here?” LeBeau asked. “And /l’enfant?”/

“Benny’s with a sitter tonight,” Carol explained, referring to her two-year-old son. “Dan’s…somewhere. Who knows. I’ll go get Robbie; he’ll want to know you’re here.” She turned around and bumped right into a tall, striking fellow in an Army uniform.

“You rang?” The young man asked.

“Oh, Robbie!” Carol said. “Look who’s here.”

LeBeau’s jaw fell open. “Robert!”

“You graduated!” Newkirk said, noting Robbie’s uniform.

“Yep, they’ll let anyone out of the Point now,” Robbie joked.

“Have you found a nice young /fraulein/ yet, Robert?” LeBeau asked.

Newkirk nudged him. “That’s none of your business, Louis.”

Robbie shrugged good-naturedly. *Gosh, he is his father’s son.* “Not a whole lot of girls looking to marry a first lieutenant in the Army.”

“So what rank do ya have to get to before they want ya?” Newkirk wondered, raking a hand through his hair.

“I think he’d look cute with Dan’s sister,” Carol said.

“She here?” Robbie asked.

“Yeah, she’s over there with Aunt Donna.” Carol inclined her head in the direction.

“I’ll be back.” Robbie took off.

“Hey!” Carol grabbed his arm. “You can’t go after her now!”

“Why not?”

“It’s a *wake!”* Carol hissed. “A bit inappropriate, don’t you think?”

“Are you kidding? Funeral homes are a great place to meet girls!” Robbie wrenched his arm free and started off towards Donna.

Carol rolled her eyes. “I’ll be back.” She went after him.

“Blimey!” Newkirk exclaimed as soon as Carol was out of earshot. “‘E looks just like the colonel!”

Kinch nodded his agreement. Both Hogan children had their father’s dark coloring and broad smile, but Robbie was Hogan through and through. “But he doesn’t quite seem to have the colonel’s way with the ladies.”

“Beth!” Andrew said when Hogan’s widow approached them.

“Oh, Andrew, thank you so much for coming.” Beth wrapped him into a grateful hug. “And you too, Kinch.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Kinch said as she hugged him.

“Oh, Louis! And Marshal Newkirk!” Beth exclaimed. “I can’t thank either of you enough for coming so far just for Robert’s funeral.”

“‘E was quite important to us, ma’am,” Newkirk said. “We ‘ad to come and say goodbye.”

/“Oui,”/ LeBeau agreed. “He would have done the same for any of us.”

“He would have,” Beth said confidently. “He always spoke so fondly of you, and of your times together.” She gave a weak laugh. “I don’t believe anyone’s ever had such good memories of a POW camp!”

“We were lucky,” Kinch murmured.

Beth searched her purse for a tissue. “Oh, look at me,” she sniffled.

“Ma’am.” Newkirk handed her a handkerchief. “I never did meet a girl ‘ho ‘ad one of these when she needed one.”

Beth smiled gratefully. “Thank you, marshal.” She wiped her eyes. “I’m so glad I have you all here. I wanted to ask you something.” She wiped her eyes again. “See, the funeral home has the pallbearers all set up but…you were Robert’s friends and…well…would you be willing to be the pallbearers tomorrow?”

All four were stunned silent.

Kinch was the first to regain his voice. “Beth, I think I speak for all of us when I say we’d be honored.”

The other three made general murmurings of agreement.

“Thank you,” Beth whispered. “Oh, and before I forget.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. “I found this while I was going through some of Robert’s things from the war. I think he’d like you all to see it.” Beth handed the paper to Kinch.

“What is it?” Carter asked.

Beth smiled. “I don’t want to spoil it for you. Read it when you’re ready.”

That evening the four remaining Heroes sat in Newkirk and LeBeau’s hotel room. LeBeau couldn’t help feeling like there was a hole in their gathering. */Le colonel/ should be here,* he thought. *Of course if he were here, none of us would be.*

LeBeau observed his old friends. He supposed Newkirk looked the oldest. His hair had gone completely gray and years of military service seemed to have given him permanent tension lines on his forehead. Kinch’s hair had turned white, a stark contrast to his dark skin. Other than that, he looked the same. At Carol’s wedding everyone had given Carter a hard time about losing his hair, but he hadn’t lost much more since then. *And I am a doddering old man,* LeBeau thought to himself. All in all, he decided, Hogan’s Heroes had aged fairly well.

“I wonder what ‘e did when ‘e was called into Klink’s office all the time?” Newkirk mused.

“I’ll bet he was saving our hides,” Kinch answered. “We probably would’ve been caught if he hadn’t covered for us. He never really talked about it much, even after the war.”

“‘E never said much did ‘e?” Newkirk mused. “I think I’ve learned more about Col. ‘Ogan today than I ever knew when we were in the camp together.”

“There was one time,” Kinch started. “When that Cpl. Warwick broke his leg during a baseball game. It was a compound fracture, broken in two places. Col. Hogan came out of nowhere and yelled at Schultz to go get a doctor. It was about an hour before the doctor got there and the poor kid was in absolute agony. The colonel stayed right there with him. Once Warwick got treated, I said to the colonel, ‘You’ll be a good dad when your time comes, sir.’ He got this…strange look on his face and said. ‘I’m thirty-nine years old, Kinch. Whatever time I had is gone.’

“And I thought, I’d never even known how old he was. I hadn’t thought about it before.”

“You guys remember the time I fell through the ice?” Carter asked. “I was freezing. I had wet clothes and it was cold out…” Carter’s voice trailed off. “When we got back to camp I could barely stand-”

“I remember that,” Kinch broke in. “We were pretty scared.”

Carter nodded. “Col. Hogan put me in his bunk for the night. Even with the extra blankets I still couldn’t get warm. And the colonel…” Carter choked for a moment. When he spoke again, his voice was husky. “The colonel stayed with me all night. I was having these crazy, bizarre dreams and I was cold and…and he held me all night long.” He paused. “I’d probably have died if he hadn’t done that.”

The other three were quiet. None of them had ever known that.

“Kinch?” Newkirk spoke up. “What was that paper Mrs. ‘Ogan gave you earlier?”

“Oh.” Kinch pulled it out of his pocket. “I’d forgotten.” He opened it and looked it over for a few seconds. “Looks like something the colonel wrote in his journal.”

/“Le colonel/ kept a journal?” LeBeau asked.

Kinch shrugged. “Apparently. I never knew anything about it.”

Carter sidled closer, his boyish curiosity bubbling to the surface. “What’s it say?”

Kinch took out his glasses and began to read:
“October 9 1943

What a mission this was. Sometimes I think we’re not really helping the Allies at all and this is some sort of plot to make me go insane.”
The men chuckled.
“I can’t believe the unit I have. Sometimes it’s like herding cats and I feel like a first-grade teacher. Newkirk and LeBeau bicker, Carter sometimes isn’t as quick on the uptake as I’d like, and Kinch…well, Kinch is Kinch.

“What really frightens me is the way these guys hang on my every word. If only they knew how incompetent I feel sometimes. Leadership training taught me to look like I know what I’m doing, but most of the time I still feel like that anxious, fumbling cadet who arrived at West Point all those years ago.

“But if Newkirk hadn’t pulled off his ‘Maj. Schadenfreude” number, we never would have gotten this out alive. It’s amazing how he can put on the Gestapo uniform and start spewing German and have those Krauts shivering in their shoes. Since he was a magician, I suppose he’s used to performing. Who would have thought something like that could be useful here?

“LeBeau gave himself over to the Gestapo for capture just to give us some extra time. Sure, he knew Newkirk would be coming by to free him. But what if something had happened? The interrogation tactics the Gestapo uses aren’t exactly in compliance with the Geneva Convention. They could have taken LeBeau and done God-knows-what to him. I’ll bet that even if nobody was coming to rescue him, LeBeau still would have given himself up for capture.

“I don’t know what we would have done without Kinch. He sat by the radio for days waiting for London to contact us and never once complained. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Kinch complain about anything. When the rest of us are about ready to lose it, Kinch always brings us back to Earth.

“Carter really came through on this. He does have too much fun with his explosions sometimes, but nobody’s going to dispute that he’s the best at it. I’m amazed at how he can see all of this and still have his innocence intact. The kid’s made of rubber. I just hope he stays that way for as long as he can.

“As desolate and lonely as this camp sometimes is, here I’ve become the luckiest CO in the history of the United States Army. Nobody else has ever commanded a unit like mine. These are my men. I love them and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Someday this war’s going to end and we’ll all go back home. I wonder what I’m ever going to do without my men in my life?”
Kinch folded the paper and looked up. “That’s it.”

“I never knew he felt that way about us,” Carter said quietly. “I knew he cared about us and all, but…” he shook his head. “I’m really glad we decided to stay close, Kinch.”

Kinch nodded. “Yeah, me too.”

LeBeau went to the table and got the four water glasses sitting there. He filled them with the wine he’d bought on the way to the hotel and passed it around. “It is not merlot, but I suppose it will do,” he said, raising his glass. “To /le colonel./ May he rest in peace.”

The glasses met with a dull half-chime and Hogan’s Heroes tossed their drinks back in a final salute to their commander.

Newkirk shifted uncomfortably in the hard pew. His dress uniform was scratchy and stifling. “Remind me why I became an officer, Louis.”

LeBeau shrugged. “I do not know, mon ami. It has always been as much a mystery to me as to the rest of us.”

Newkirk smiled a little.

“Hey, Marshal Newkirk.”

“Robbie.” Newkirk greeted. “Nice uniform.”

“Really?” Robbie ran his hands down his front. “Like yours too. We’d better stick together. Solidarity.”

*Quit reminding me of your dad, Robbie,* Newkirk thought, his heartache intensifying.

Robbie gave a small sigh and looked towards the casket. “I still can’t really believe he’s gone.”

“I know,” Newkirk said. “Louis and me never saw ‘im sick. I still remember ‘im as my commanding officer; the way he was.”

“I think it’s better that way,” Robbie said. “He really went downhill this last year.”

Newkirk’s throat tightened. “So I ‘eard.”

The priest took the pulpit and everyone drifted towards their seats. “We are here today to honor the memory of Robert Emerson Hogan.”

*Emerson.* It occurred to Newkirk that he had never known Hogan’s middle name. It had never even occurred to him to ask what the “E” stood for.

The priest moved down to the front, turned down the flag, and began sprinkling water on the casket. “I bless the body of Robert with Holy Water…”
“That’s an order, Newkirk.”

“An order? We’re not even in the same Army!”
“On the day of his baptism, Robert put on Christ…”
“We’re finished with the tunnel, sir.”

“Oh, Newkirk!”
“And on the day of Christ’s coming, Robert will rise with Him…”
“And Newkirk-try not to get shot.”

“In this outfit, could you blame ‘em?”
“Father God, we pray for Robert…”
“You mean…the war’s over, guv’nor?”

That’s right, men. The war’s over. Done. We’re free.”
Newkirk bit his lip to contain himself. *Now you’re free, colonel.*

The soloist took the microphone and began to sing “How Great Thou Art.” The congregation stood and Newkirk bowed his head. *Aw, colonel. Why’d you have to leave us? You fought off Gestapo and Nazis and spies. It was only cancer. You should still be here.*

Once the song was finished, Newkirk sat down and wiped his eyes. The priest began to speak but Newkirk didn’t hear the words. *Where’s my handkerchief?* He thought. *That’s right-I let Mrs. Hogan use it last night. I never did get it back.*

A tap on his shoulder broke Newkirk out of his reverie. “Here.” Beth handed him the handkerchief. “I never did meet an air marshal who had one of these when he needed it.”

Newkirk smiled gratefully. “Thank you.”

“Now, Robert’s daughter Carol Rafferty will read from the book of Romans.” The priest stepped aside to allow Carol up.

The young woman took her place at the lectern. Though she didn’t look much like the colonel, Newkirk couldn’t help noticing the way she stood: straight and tall, shoulders back, her entire posture radiating confidence and conviction. *Just like her dad.*

“A reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans,” she began.

“Who shall separate us from the love of the Christ? Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (according as it hath been written -- `For Thy sake we are put to death all the day long, we were reckoned as sheep of slaughter,') but in all these we more than conquer, through him who loved us; for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor messengers, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things about to be, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” She stepped down.

“And now, Royal Air Force Air Marshal Peter Newkirk will give the eulogy for Robert, his comrade in arms.”

Newkirk walked nervously to the lectern. *Why did I agree to this?* He asked himself. *Because Beth was right-Andrew will cry, Kinch hates public speaking, and Louis will start speaking French halfway through. I was the last Hero standing.* “‘Ello,” he told the crowd. “In case you couldn’t tell, I’m not from around ‘ere.” That drew a slight laugh from the crowd.

“When Beth asked me to give the eulogy for Col. ‘Ogan, I agreed. After that I realized I ‘ad no idea what to say. But one does not get to be an Air Marshal in the RAF without ‘aving delivered a few speeches on short notice.

“I served with Robert ‘Ogan in the war. I, along with Andrew, Louis and Kinch down ‘ere were members of the unit that came to be known as ‘Ogan’s ‘Eroes. We ‘ad to ‘andle some very dangerous missions, and we were all counting on the guv’nor to get us through them.

“In the three and a half years I served under Col. ‘Ogan, I came to realize that ‘e was one of the most courageous men I’d ever met. I’ve ‘ad many commanders since then and I can tell you, ‘e was truly a rare breed.” Newkirk stopped for a moment to compose himself. “Robert ‘Ogan was the most brilliant, brave, and compassionate man I’ve ever served under.

“When we went our separate ways after the war, I was able to correspond with the colonel through letters, the occasional phone call, and Louis and I were fortunate enough to come to this country for Col. ‘Ogan’s fiftieth birthday party and for Carol’s wedding. In the almost thirty years since the war, I’ve seen the colonel use the same virtues ‘e brought to ‘is command with ‘is family.” He looked at Beth, who was smiling through her tears. “Beth, your ‘usband was completely devoted to you. He loved you with all ‘is ‘eart, and you truly were ‘is soulmate.”

Beth nodded her approval.

Newkirk looked to Robbie and Carol. “Robbie, Carol…I ‘ope you both know ‘ow proud your father was of both of you. I could always ‘ear it in how he talked about you in ‘is letters, and it was so evident in the times I was able to come ‘ere and see you.”

Robbie leaned over and whispered something in his sister’s ear, which earned him a playful jab in the ribs.

Now came the hard part. “Robert ‘Ogan’s time on this earth ‘as ended.” Newkirk could hear his voice beginning to shake. “And I will miss ‘im very much. I and many others owe so much of ‘ho we are to ‘im, and the world is a sadder place for ‘is departure.”

Newkirk folded the paper and stumbled back to the pew. Once there, he immediately covered his eyes with one hand and drew in several deep, shaking breaths. Kinch wrapped a strong arm around his shoulders and Beth leaned forward to whisper “thank you.”

Completely spent, Newkirk never heard the rest of the service. His next cogent thought came when Kinch told him it was time to take the casket out. Mechanically Newkirk rose from his seat and took his place as a pallbearer.

Across from him, Newkirk heard a rough sniffle. He glanced sideways to see Carter wiping at barely-controlled tears. *Well, some things haven’t changed, Andrew,* Newkirk thought with a sad smile. *Your heart’s still cold and hard as a featherbed.*

The four carried their commander’s body down the steps and to the hearse. Then they went to Kinch’s car and rode to the cemetery.

Carter scrubbed at his eyes for the umpteenth time as the priest read the funeral rites. Angie stretched up and wrapped him in a hug. Carter returned it, looking over his wife’s shoulder at the coffin.

The chemist lifted his watery eyes to look around the gravesite. Standing directly opposite him were Carol and Dan. Next to them was Robbie with a comforting arm around his mother. Then there was Kinch, Donna, Kevin, and Joyce with Kinch’s grandson Gregory. And then there were the seven Carter children, with three grandchildren. Newkirk and LeBeau stood next to Carter and Angie.

*Goodbye, colonel,* Carter thought. *I’m sure gonna miss you. You were always the head of our group. I don’t know what we’re gonna do now that you’re gone. I existed for almost thirty years before I met you, but I can’t imagine my life without you in it.*

The priest finished speaking, and the group went to take flowers from the casket and bid their final goodbyes.

“So long, guv’nor,” Newkirk said wistfully.

/“Au revoir, mon ami,"/ LeBeau murmured.

Kinch, ever the man of few words, just touched the casket and lingered for a moment, then he led his wife and family away.

Carter stopped in front of the headstone and chewed his lip as he read the inscription:

1905 ROBERT E. HOGAN 1973


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