Fold like a cheap camera

Sometimes Hogan overplans. Sometimes it's as if the Germans don't want to cooperate so they lose the way.

Hogan paced his way up the table and back. "So that's the plan. The papers will be tucked just under the firewood so they can find them easily. The major and his flunkies take them back to Gestapo headquarters and the Underground's agent will get them and pass on the decoded fake information. The Nazis get fake Allied battle plans, they send troops to the wrong area and the Allies attack where the German lines are weak." He shot a grin to his men gathered around listening.

As expected, Newkirk was the first to speak up with an objection. "But sir, what if Colonel Klink won't let them search the camp?"

Kinch openly scoffed. "Klink stand up to Major Hochstetter? The instant that Hochstetter blusters, Klink will fold like a cheap camera."

Newkirk persisted. "But what if Hochstetter doesn't even want to search the camp?" When that question was greeted with silence, he continued. "Sometimes the goons just want to toss old Klink over a few times and leave. They don't always bother with us."

There was a short hubbub as the others berated Newkirk for the idea. Hogan cut it short. "He's right, Hochstetter doesn't always want to bother with barracks inspections." He paced again, thinking while the men glanced at each other. "I'll have to go put the bug in Klink's ear. Then Klink will give Hochstetter the idea of searching." He looked at Newkirk then. "Unless our intrepid master planner has some other objection?"

Newkirk covered his startled look quickly to pretend to think it over. "Nothing more at the moment, sir, but I will let you know the instant I think of any other objections."

Hogan reached to ruffle Newkirk's short hair with a grin as he headed out of the door. "You keep those objections to yourself." He zipped his jacket as he headed towards the kommandantur.

Only a few moments after Hogan had entered the offices, Olsen exclaimed from his watch at the barracks door. "Man! Hochstetter just pulled in the front gate!"

Kinch rushed to check for himself and then headed for Hogan's room. "We can listen on the coffeepot. I'm sure the Colonel has had time to talk to Klink."

Hogan had been talking to Klink. Using his usual reverse psychology, he had immediately begin hemming and hawing about how he would prefer that the guards not search the barracks. He cited personal property and privacy rights, all while inserting suspicious phrases to make Klink want to search.

As soon as Klink seemed close to ordering a search, Hogan switched to insinuating that complaints about the search would reach General Burkhalter who was a stickler for following the rules. "General Burkhalter did mention Section 14, paragraph 6 about prisoner of war rights regarding personal property last time he was here."

The fact that Hogan was making up Red Cross rules wholecloth wouldn't occur to Klink. Hogan had very carefully badgered Klink about specific rules for months to craft the idea that Hogan would always be able to back up his demands and claims with the Red Cross rulebook. Once Klink stopped checking the rulebook, Hogan cautiously brought up modified rules that if checked in that book, wouldn't quite be accurate. At this point, he felt confident he could create whatever rule he wanted.

And if Klink ever did want to double check the Red Cross Prisoner of War paperwork, well, Kinch was getting quite good at typing up official reports that said whatever Hogan dictated.

Langenscheidt burst into the office with barely a knock. "Herr kommandant! Herr kommandant, Major Hochstetter has just arrived at the gate."

Klink threw his hands up, pacing around behind his desk. "Tell him I can't see him. Tell him I am too busy. Tell him I'm not here!"

Major Hochstetter stomped into the office and Klink's voice instantly changed to a simpering tone. "Ah Major Hochstetter, always such a pleasure to see you. Can I offer you..."

"You can offer me nothing, Klink!" Hochstetter drew his gloves off and slapped them together angrily. "I am here because you have taken in five new prisoners but failed to send along their paperwork and that is suspicious to me. Anything that you fail to do is suspicious to me. Anything that you do not fail to do is suspicious to me."

Hogan chirped up from the corner of the office where he had slipped to on the Gestapo agent's entrance. "That does seem to cover everything. It's good to cover all your bases."

Hochstetter whirled to glare at whoever was making quips and his eyes widened slightly at the sight of the familiar officer. "What is this man doing here?"

Hogan kept his carefully crafted expression of dimwitted cheer in place as he began to count on his fingers. "Well first, I joined up with the Army Air Corp. Then this guy… what's his name?" He snapped his fingers in the air a few times as he mock-thought a few seconds. "You know him, old Bubblehead. Anyway, he started a war and so I had to come over and fly planes and then one of your planes shot me down..."

Hochstetter's face had gone red as he voice rose. "What is this man doing here?! Klink, do you never lock up your prisoners?"

Klink waffled slightly. "Well, yes of course, but Colonel Hogan is the representative of the prisoners and as such he does need to come discuss business here regarding the camp and his men, you see so he is in the office quite often..."

"Klink!" Hochstetter visibly tried to swallow back more bellows. "I am not interested in Colonel Hogan's activities."

"But why did you ask if you didn't need to know? Wait… don't tell me..." Hogan slipped up close to the major. "It's one of those handy Gestapo tactics, isn't it? You guys are so sneaky..." He made certain to move as close as he could into the angry German's personal space.

As he could have predicted, Hochstetter exploded. "What is this man doing here!? Klink! Lock up your prisoners!"

Klink wrung his hands slightly. "All of them? But they are locked up… this is a prisoner of war camp, after all."

Hogan snapped his fingers, feigning a moment of surprise. "That's why all those barbed wire fences. Darn it… I knew there had to be a reason."

Hochstetter resorted to screaming. "What Is This Man Doing here!?"

Hogan pouted as he stepped back. "Well! I never! I was only here to demand that Kommandant Klink not perform barracks searches. It hurts our feelings when he shows such distrust!"

Klink waved Hogan towards the door. "Hogan! Out! Dissssmissed!"

Seeing the gleam in Hochstetter's suspicious little eyes, Hogan retreated with a great deal of mock indignation. "Well, you just wait! I'll draft a letter to my Congressman!" He barely flipped a hand up to salute as he swept out through the office door. Instead of leaving right away, he listened at the door.

Klink was trying to apologize for Hogan's behavior. "I assure you, Major Hochstetter… everything is in order here. I do not understand why you did not receive the transfer paperwork regarding the new prisoners. I sent them out with the regular courier. So you see, there really is no reason for you to come all the way out here yourself at all." He rubbed his hands together and tried smiling. "Not that you are not always welcome here, of course, we will always be ready to accommodate the Gestapo."

"No one is ever ready for the Gestapo!" Hochstetter paused as he tried to collect his scattered thoughts and found one planted by Hogan uppermost in his mind. "What is this about not searching the barracks?"

"Oh it's nothing, Major, I assure you. Colonel Hogan simply brought up the prisoner's private property rights… which of course, I adhere to the letter of the law on all of the rules set forth by the Red Cross." Klink was just warming to his topic of how he himself was a very accomplished kommandant.

Interrupting him ruthlessly, Hochstetter snapped. "Bah! The Red Cross is made up of weaklings and fools! You will search the prisoner barracks!"

Klink dithered slightly. "Oh but major, I really cannot go against the rules, this is a Luftstalag and things are very specifically laid out in the books..."

Hochstetter leaned in and snarled. "What does the rulebook say about Colonels who go to the Russian Front?"

Outside the office, Hogan grinned and raised one finger, ready to bring it down as Klink predictably caved to the angry Gestapo officer's demands.

Klink's voice wavered a little. "But Major, this camp is not Gestapo territory… it is under the command of the Luftwaffe and the prisoners are under our care and control." As he spoke, his tone grew slightly firmer. "In order for the Gestapo to conduct searches or interrogations of any prisoner of war in a LuftStalag, you would need the proper authorization. Of course… if you bring such papers to me, I would be more than happy to accommodate any actions the Gestapo were authorized to perform."

Hogan's mouth fell open. Where had this spine come from in Klink? He was ruining the plan entirely.

Now speaking firmly and with confidence, Klink continued. "General Burkhalter IS a stickler for the rules, you understand. I could call him to ask if he would want the Gestapo to have full access to all of his LuftStalags… I do know that the Luftwaffe and the Gestapo always work together so very closely."

Hogan facepalmed himself. He had no one to blame but himself. He turned and hurried back to the barracks. They needed a new plan, and quick!

Hogan was just reaching for the door to the barracks when it opened and Newkirk and LeBeau slipped out. Newkirk gave the officer a look and started to open his mouth.

Hogan pointed at him. "No." He looked down at LeBeau who held a small covered dish. "What are you doing?"

LeBeau lifted the lid to allow some of the steam to drift out, bringing the odor of cinnamon and apples to waft under hogan's nose. "To distract Schultz while Newkirk puts the papers in Hochstetter's trunk. Kinch can send a message to the Underground to relay to the agent to go retrieve the papers from the car when the Major gets back to headquarters." He covered the pan again and waited. His expectant look up at Hogan showed good humor and impatience at the same time.

Newkirk flourished the papers from his sleeve and made them disappear again quickly. "Into the boot of 'is car and no one is the wiser, even if 'e didn't come search and find them 'is own ruddy self."

Hogan took a breath and nodded slightly in defeat. He managed to sound a bit sheepish as he spoke to Newkirk. "Do it. It's a good plan." Newkirk smirked as he headed on a tangent across the compound at his usual saunter.

LeBeau took just a second longer to follow, taking the time to grin up at the chagrined officer. "Of course it's a good plan… Kinch came up with it! Not Newkirk."

"Oi!" Newkirk had obviously overhear that. "Are you ruddy coming to distract Schultz's lardbelly, or do I 'ave to do that part myself too?"

LeBeau scurried off to follow the Brit who tried to chastise him over revealing the source of the plan. The mild argument faded as they crossed the compound towards the Gestapo car.

Hogan watched LeBeau expertly lead Schultz away, allowing Newkirk to pick the lock on the trunk of the car and tuck the bundle of papers into a crevice out of sight. The ruse was over in seconds, taking far less time than Schultz took to gobble down the strudel treat and return.

Another moment saw all three men back safely inside Hogan's office, listening as Hochstetter amazingly backed down as Klink actually threatened to call the General again.

Kinch chuckled slightly as they heard the Gestapo agent bluster his way back out of the office to leave the camp. "I guess this time, it was Hochstetter folding like a cheap camera. Maybe the Luftwaffe and Gestapo have been at each other's throats again?"

Hogan shook his head. "I don't know, but at least the fake plans will get into the right hands."

Newkirk was already lighting himself a cigarette. "And don't forget, guv'ner… we don't even 'ave to pick up the barracks after Hochstetter tosses the place. Seems like it worked out aces all around."

Hogan kept his tone wry. "Well, that's why I keep you around Newkirk. I always need a crooked Ace."


Even the best laid plans of mice and men... even Colonel Hogan!