United We Stand
“That man is a menace!”
Klink swallowed and nervously shifted under the glare of Major Hochstetter. The man's mustache was twitching angrily and his eyes were fierce.
“I couldn't agree with you more, Major,” Col. Klink said with a high pitched laugh. “After I'm done with him he'll be a whole new man. His mother won't even recognize him!”
Hochstetter straightened himself and smoothed down the black uniform he wore. His hand went to his collar and he adjusted it as he scowled at Klink. “I expect this to be taken care of.”
“It will, it will!” Klink got to his feet. “I'll see to it tonight.”
Hochstetter looked at Klink sharply.
“Right now! I'll see to it right now!” Klink said quickly.
“I will be going back to my office.” Hochstetter informed Klink. “I will expect a report from you in the morning.”
“Surely you don't want to be bothered with something as mundane as--”
“Are you telling me I shouldn't concern myself with the goings -on in this camp?” The small man's expression darkened. “That I should look the other way while this area seems to be rife with sabotage?” He peered at Klink. “Should I be worried about where your loyalties lie, Colonel?”
“Absolutely not!” Klink said with a dramatic swipe of his arm. “I'm one of the Fuehrer’s most loyal men! You can ask anyone!”
“I intend to,”Hochstetter said menacingly, causing Klink to shrink back. He grabbed his coat from a nearby rack and let Klink help him on with it. “I'll be paying <i>very</i> close attention to everything that goes on in and around this camp from now on.”
“You will?” Klink sounded hopeful. “Because our supplies of medicine have been backlogged and--”
Hochstetter glared at him. “I think the least of your problems are supply shortages.”
The men saluted each other and Hochstetter stormed out of the office, nodding to the pretty blond girls in the reception area as he stomped past.
Klink visibly wilted as the door finally closed and he heard the Major's driver fire up their car.
“Is he gone yet?”
Klink turned to glare at the cheerful face of the American Colonel that was poking through his office window.
“Hogan...” Klink said warningly.
“Oh, come on,” Hogan waved a hand dismissively. “So a supply truck went missing and a convoy of prisoners disappeared. This is war! Things like that happen all the time!”
“Try telling that to the gestapo.” Klink snorted.
“Trying to tell them anything is like talking to a wall,” Hogan said sympathetically. Klink nodded. “So what do you have to do to me?”
Klink glared at Hogan. “I should make you clean everything in the camp thoroughly.”
“Alright, but I think I'll have to start with your secretaries,” Hogan said with a smirk. “I hear they're pretty dirty.”
“I could have you bathe the dogs as well; the females can be peculiar about who they let handle them.” Klink threatened.
“The dogs, or are we still talking about your secretaries?”
Klink threw the prisoner a dirty look.
“Oh, all right,” Hogan let out a sigh. “How about you round up all the dogs and lock them in the kennels while we clean out their pens. Then we can work in the gardens all afternoon.”
“You were already assigned to work in the gardens all afternoon,” Klink pointed out.
“The Major doesn't know that,” Hogan said dismissively. “He can have his report, we do an extra job, and the normal schedule isn't knocked off-kilter.”
“You may have a point.” Klink rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he eased back into his chair. “All right, Hogan. But any funny business--”
“Funny business?” Hogan said, his face full of shock. “Us? We're model prisoners!”
“Some would say too model,” Klink said thoughtfully. “Perhaps there is something to the Major's suspicions.”
“Now that's just crazy talk,” Hogan scoffed. “When would we ever have the chance or the resources to pull anything like that off?”
“Has Kinchloe been able to patch us through yet?” Hogan hit a hidden switch on a bunk bed, causing the palate to rise and reveal a tunnel underneath.
“It's been hit and miss, Colonel.” A thin man in a leather jacket, flipped up hat and a regretful look shrugged at Hogan..
“We'll keep trying.” An attractive black man with an intense look on his face fiddled with knobs and wires on the back of a wooden box.
“At this rate the prisoners will be in London before we're able to radio in a report,” Hogan said with a small huff of breath.
“Do you want us to stop trying?” Carter asked as Kinchloe fiddled with a wire that caused a loud explosion of static to come from his headphones. He shook his head, but didn't take them off.
“No, I want to find out more about why Hochstetter is poking his nose around. It isn't like him to come calling over some low ranking prisoners and a truck of rations gone missing. There has to be something more to it.”
“We'll do our best, Colonel,” Carter assured Hogan as he began to climb back into the small cabin they all shared.
“I caught this one: sniffing around the dog pens. Trying to get them assimilated to his smell, no doubt!” The large, pleasant-looking German Sargent held up the small french man by the back of his jacket.
“I keep trying to tell you--”
“None of that! I don't want to hear it!” The Sargent shook his head firmly.
“Sargent, they're supposed to be cleaning out the dog pens,” Klink said exasperatedly. “I told you to gather them and have them scout the perimeter, remember?”
“Oh.” Schultz loosened his grip on the little man who shot a look at Colonel Hogan, who was perched on the edge of Klink's desk. “Well... it was wet and wee figured any smells in the forest would be gone--”
“Do you mean to tell me you ran them around the outside of the fence and brought them back in?” Klink said, his voice quavering dangerously.
“Sort of.” Schultz scrunched one side of his face up.
“Out!” Klink barked. “Out!”
The pair scuttled out of the office without getting clarification on what to do next. They seemed relieved.
“You'd think your side would be better about organizing your kennels,” Hogan remarked.
Klink shook his head at the papers on his desk for a moment before lifting his gaze. “How so?”
“Well, instead of just one kennel area there should be a ring that runs around the perimeter of the camp,” Hogan suggested. “Section them off so you can just take them out of the kennel area and lock them out while their living area's being cleaned.”
“So they can still guard around the whole of the camp without compromising security!” Klink said excitedly.
“I'll have my men get right on it!” Hogan said enthusiastically.
“Hold it right there, Hogan.” Klink said, squinting at the other man. “If I let you construct the changes you'll take advantage of my good nature!”
“Oh, come on, Colonel.” Hogan waved a hand dismissively. “We'll be watched the whole time. Your security is flawless! There's never been a successful escape from this place!”
“And we're not about to start now!” Klink said firmly. “While the changes are being made you and your men will be confined to barracks.”
“Oh, come on--”
“I am going to be very firm about this, Hogan!” Klink said, quivering with excitement. “I don't want to see your faces at all while construction goes on!”
“Well, if you insist,” Hogan said, his face forlorn.
“So, we've got meal checks and a bed check,” Hogan said to the men crowded around the table. “Other than that we'll have run of the place.”
“How did you manage--” Le Beau began.
“Don't ask,” Hogan said. “But we're going to have to redo all the weak spots in the perimeter fencing. “They're going to be pulling them all out and replacing them.”
The men grumbled, but silenced at a sharp look from their commander.
“According to London the escapees have been holed up in the woods. It's going to be at least a week before they can send out a retrieval detail,” Hogan said gruffly. “We need to find them and the supplies before the Germans do.”
“How're we going to do that,Colonel?” Corporal Newkirk asked, his blue eyes serious.
“You and Carter are going to sneak out after bed check and look for them.” Hogan said. “We'll follow the grid pattern we mapped out in the surrounding area. In a couple nights we should have either found them or signs of them.”
“We'll have to get it done before Friday,” Le Beau grumbled. “The rain is supposed to let up by Saturday morning and the dogs will be able to pick up their scent again.”
“You heard the man.” Hogan nodded to Newkirk and Carter. “We're going to have to be quick and quiet about this.”
“You got it, Colonel,” Carter said seriously.
“I'm glad to hear things are all better with Major Hochstetter,” Colonel Hogan said, a smile on his face.
“At least for now.” Klink nodded. “The mass escape from Stalag Four is enough to keep him busy for quite some time in the future.”
“He's probably forgotten all about you by now,” Hogan soothed him.
“We can only hope.”
There was a soft knock on the door.
“I apologize for interrupting, Colonel, but Major Hochstetter's on the phone for you.” The blond secretary glanced briefly at Colonel Hogan before blushing prettily and excusing herself.
“What could he possibly want now?” Klink groaned as he reached for the phone.
“Hello, Major! It's always a pleasure to hear from you!” Klink said nervously as he spoke into the receiver. Hie eyes went to Hogan, as they usually did when he thought he was in a bind.
“What's that?” Klink looked mildly surprised. “Oh, really... Well, I can see how you could feel that way. Of course we're willing to help!”
Hogan's ears pricked up.
“Don't worry, Major,” Klink said assuredly. “We have the room and we're more than happy to be of service!”
Klink hung up the phone and gave it a satisfied look.
“What was all that about?” Hogan asked. “”It's not like you to get out of the doghouse so quickly.”
Klink threw him a look. “Some of the prisoners have been recaptured and they're being sent to us.”
“Instead of back to Stalag Four?” Hogan was surprised. “Is it because you have the best record on escapes?”
“I'm sure it is!” Klink said, a boasting tone to his voice. He looked at Hogan as if seeing him for the first time. “Well, get going. You'll be cleaning out cabin two for them!”
“I'll get my men right on it!” Hogan said cheerfully. “When those prisoners get here they won't want to leave!”
“Hmm...” Klink mused. “Well, just make sure it's clean and ready for them. They'll be here in three hours.”
“Three hours?” Hogan said quizzically. “Why so long?”
“I'm sure the gestapo will be interrogating them,” Klink said with a nod. “Then they'll be delivered.”
“Well, we'll have it done long before that.” Hogan smiled at him. “Don't you worry about it!”
Colonel Klink sat behind the desk in his office. The windows were locked and drawn, the door had been locked, the secretary had left for the day, and he was sitting there with an earpiece in.
“Is that all of them?” Carter sounded impressed. Klink allowed himself a small smile.
“Most of them are in the tunnels, but with the few that came in today, that was all of them,” Hogan assured his men. “Reinforcements will be in place in two days.”
Klink scanned his calendar. He should be able to hold off Hochstetter for a couple days.
“We got lucky.” Kinchloe said. Klink could imagine him shaking his head.
“So far.” Hogan said gruffly. “Everything depends on the timing of their transfer.”
Klink silently scoffed. If Hogan was going to be so polite about preserving the camp's reputation, the least he could do was hold off the Major. The planned escape would happen away from the camp and everyone would be happy.
Except Hochstetter, but at least he wouldn't be mad at Klink.
Klink knew very well that the prisoners had ways of getting in and out of the camp: there had been too many sightings by off-duty officers to make it all a coincidence.
He had also begun to notice he was always saved from disaster at the last moment by what seemed like random acts or events. He knew things happened in war, but before the war he had been a number cruncher and he knew the strange events that went on around the camp were statistically impossible.
However, Hogan had saved him from going to the Russian front on more than one occasion, and for that, Klink was thankful.
He took a deep breath and let it out as the men in the cabin dispersed. He unplugged the earpiece and packed it away neatly in the hidden compartment at the bottom of a desk drawer, then he shook his head.
One day. One day this will all be over.
He smiled to himself.
One day he'd be back to crunching numbers, settled down in a little cottage with a dog and a cellar full of wine. All would be well.
And he would invite Hogan to visit. Of course. One day he'd know just how well they worked together and they could be openly familiar with each other in front of other people.
They'd toast each other over a nice dinner and sing old war songs after getting tipsy and then.... well, who was to say what would or could happen next.
Whatever it was, Klink was looking forward to it.