Klink for a Day

Klink for a Day

"Guten Tag, everybody!" Sergeant Schultz shouted merrily, stepping through the door of Baracke 2.

The breakfasting prisoners of LuftStalag 13 shouted friendly greetings, encouraged by the Sergeant Major's good mood. Colonel Robert Hogan leaned quickly against the hut's table, sitting on a strategic map of Germany. "Mornin' Schultz," he greeted the rotund sergeant. "Why such a good mood?"

"Ah! The Big Shot is going into town for the day! And since Captain Gruber is still on leave, I am in temporary command of Stalag 13!"

"Well, that's great Schultz!" Sergeant Ivan Kinchloe grinned.

"I don't suppose you're going to declare it a holiday or something, huh Schultzie?" Corporal Louis LeBeau hinted. Hogan stood as Schultz turned towards the little French chef. Beside him, Corporal Peter Newkirk snatched the map and tucked it in his flight jacket.

"That is exactly what I was thinking!" the big sergeant chuckled.

"Sure," Hogan added enthusiastically, "we'll call it 'International Strudel Day'. LeBeau!"

The Frenchman snapped to attention. "Oui, mon Colonel!"

"Get whoever you need for a work detail..."

Sergeant Andrew Carter shot to his feet. "Permission to volunteer as quality control, sir!"

"Request denied--you know that's senior officer's privilege!"

"Correction, Colonel Hogan," Schultz sniffed. "That is the acting Kommandant's privilege!"

"All right," Hogan sighed, "have it your way. LeBeau, go with Schultz to requisition supplies and the ovens in the NCO and Officers' clubs. I want that first pan in in half an hour! Snap to!"

LeBeau saluted the American officer. "It will done, mon Colonel!" He marched out into the yard, describing ambitious mountains of hot apple strudel to the raptly attentive Schultz.

"I hate to see a grown man drool," Newkirk quipped acidly when they were gone. He unfolded the map and handed it back to Hogan, who spread it out across the table. The area around Stalag 13 was quadroned off into sections, replete with red Xs marking targets destroyed.

"This is the first good news we've had this week!" Hogan said. "With Klink gone, maybe we can finally blow up the bridge over the Main before any more tanks get past us out of the factory in Frankfurt."

"Sure," Kinchloe nodded, "just get Louis to run interference on Schultz and we'll practically have the whole camp to ourselves."

"Maybe we can get the guards involved in a poker game or something," Newkirk suggested.

Kinchloe grinned at the unit's card sharp. "And make a little money while we're at it, right?"

The Englishman shrugged innocently, fishing out the special deck he always carried. He shuffled, dealing out five aces one by one face-up across the map. "Well, you never know 'bout these things--me luck could change for the worse at any moment."

"I'm sure," Kinchloe chuckled.

"Are you 'mplying something?"

"All right, fellas--now from the Underground's surveillance photos, that bridge has one major weak spot. If we can hit that, we can take down the whole thing with one shot. Carter, can you make me a charge powerful enough to do that?"

The chemist grinned, rubbing his hands eagerly. "Just tell me when, Colonel!"

"Then you, Kinch and I go out at 1400. Let's go stick it to Hitler, boys!"

***

Fräulein Hilda, Colonel Klink's beautiful blonde secretary, hummed happily to herself as she worked. There wasn't really that much to do with Klink and Gruber both gone--no irate officers to mollify, no copies of official complaints to file, not even a single secret she could let the handsome POW Colonel Hogan 'coerce' out of her. She sighed, daydreaming about his warm lips pressed against hers.

The phone on her desk shrilled, startling Hilda out of her reverie. With a small snort of annoyance, she picked up the handset.

"Hello--LuftStalag 13, Fräulein Hilda speaking." She listened for a moment, a frown crossing her face. "Nein, Herr Major. I'm afraid the Colonel is not in right now. Would you like to..." Her frown deepened as she listened to the voice on the other end. "Jawohl, Herr Major," she finished quietly, and hung up. She sat silent for a moment, her mind racing frantically over the rapidly dwindling options.

Then she ran to find the one man who could possibly save the day.

"Colonel Hogan! Colonel Hogan!"

The man in question stopped dead in his tracks, watching Hilda sprinting towards him. He grinned. Is this my lucky day or what? But the expression on her face destroyed his ambitions as utterly as one of Carter's 'specials'.

"What's the matter?" he asked while she caught her breath.

"Colonel Hogan," she panted, "the Gestapo is coming!"

His heart skipped a beat. "Here?! Why?" Who squealed? Did Klink find out?--impossible!

"Surprise inspection! There have been reports of Underground activity in the area and they want to check around the camp. I told them Colonel Klink wasn't here, but they wouldn't listen! They will be here within the hour."

"But that's not enough time to find Klink and get him back here!"

"Ja--if they come here and the Kommandant isn't here to greet them...well..." She ran a finger over the lapels of his leather flight jacket, avoiding his eyes. "I know sometimes you and your men..."

He frowned as he caught her full meaning. "You mean you want me to..."

"Please, Colonel Hogan!"

"No way! What if one of them knows him? Schultz can handle this!"

"But they demanded Colonel Klink! The Kommandant has no friends amongst the Gestapo--no one would recognise you. Listen, what do you think would happen to your...organisation...if Colonel Klink were transferred to the Eastern Front?"

"You've got a point... But as senior officer...I can't risk my men!..."

Hilda interrupted him by dragging his mouth down on hers and kissing him, long and hard.

When he came up for air, Hogan had to work to keep his trembling knees from folding. "The guards will never go for it," he whispered. She kissed him again. "Well, I guess Schultz can bring them around."

This time he kissed her. "Gotta go," he sighed reluctantly. "Seems I have a Commandant to impersonate."

***

Hogan climbed down through one of the secret entrances into the warren of tunnels running beneath the POW camp.

"Newkirk! What are you doing here?"

The Englishman was busily painting an insulting caricature of Hitler on a wrapped bundle of explosives with an alarm clock taped to it, watched by the protective stare of Sergeant Carter. "The guards were gettin' a mite suspicious, so I turned the game over to Corporal Williams. Never you worry, guv'nor, it's in good 'ands--trained 'im me-self!"

LeBeau hurried up with a steaming-hot pan of apple strudel. "Hey, Colonel! Want some?--fresh out of the oven!"

"All right," Hogan mumbled around a mouthful of pastry. "Gather 'round, boys." A circle of concerned faces immediately closed around the senior officer. "Our mission has changed..."

"We're not going to use my bomb?" Carter pleaded.

"Not yet Carter!" Hogan snapped. "Now, in about forty-five minutes, this camp is gonna be crawling with Gestapo." He held up his hands to silence the round of worried mumbles. "Apparently, our activities of late haven't gone unnoticed, and they expect Klink to be out there explaining it to them."

"But Klink's in Hammelburg!"

"No...that's where you're wrong."

Newkirk narrowed his eyes at the all-too-familiar expression on Hogan's face. "Why do I suddenly have a very bad feeling?"

"It was probably all that strudel you ate," Carter suggested helpfully.

"Hey!" LeBeau shouted.

***

Sergeant Schultz waddled across the compound as fast as he could without looking like he was in a hurry.

Ach du lieber! The Gestapo is coming, the Gestapo is coming! And the Big Shot is off drinking somewhere not to be found--just like an officer! Oh, I am going to be in so much trouble!; they will send me to the Russian Front for sure unless Colonel Hogan knows what to do!

He barrelled through the door to Baracke 2, glancing wildly around the deserted hut. This unusual fact didn't register to his panicked brain, though. The senior officer's quarters were at the far end; it was to this he hurried, opening the door without knocking.

"Colonel Hoga... Oh, excuse me, sirs!"

At first glance, the small room appeared crowded with German soldiers--officers and troops in Luftwaffe blue and Wehrmacht grey, even Nazi Schwarzhemden. The man at the table in the centre turned around.

The face glaring down at him through the monocle seemed vaguely familiar. He stood straight and proud, every inch an officer of the Third Reich in the blue uniform of a Luftwaffe colonel, complete with riding crop tucked imperiously under one arm. It took a minute before recognition would click in Schultz' brain.

"Colonel...Hogan!" he gasped. The corpulent sergeant clutched his chest, fearing his heart would stop.

"Nein!" shouted Newkirk, slamming his gloved fist down on the table. He was dressed in the black uniform of an Allgemeine SS officer. "I demand you address Colonel Klink properly vhen you schpeak to him!"

Schultz snapped to attention--force of habit. "Oh, but pleeease, Colonel Hogan!" he whimpered. "The Gestapo is coming!"

"We're aware of that, thank you Sergeant. And the name is Klink."

"Now Colonel Hogan, I have seen a lot of nothing while I have been here. I wish for the Gestapo to see nothing as well--which means they don't see you in those uniforms! Please, Colonel Hogan!" Hogan whacked Schultz on the helmet with the riding crop.

"Is that any vhay to schpeak to your superior officer?!" he shouted. "You vill address me as Herr Kommandant Klink and pay me respect due my rank!"

"But..."

"Silence! This is for your own good and the good of Stalag 13. You will obey my orders to the letter, the first of which is that you will immediately--but quietly--issue every guard in this camp a six-hour pass..."

"But..."

"I'm not finished! They will be systematically relieved by members of my...personal staff." The prisoners in guards' uniforms snickered. "You will remain as acting Sergeant Major, but you vill report to Herr Sergeant Löwe for your orders." Schultz' eyes bulged as LeBeau stepped forwards, wearing a Sergeant's uniform. "Verstehen Sie--do you understand?"

"But..."

"Do you understand?"

Schultz glanced from LeBeau to Hogan to Newkirk. "Jawohl, Herr Commandant...Klink," he sighed at last, saluting the American in the German uniform.

***

"I don't believe I have ever seen so many Nazis in this office at one time!" Hilda exclaimed, glancing wonderingly at each of the disguised Heroes.

"Hopefully, this will be the last time," Hogan said, busily dusting Klink's office. "This place is filthy. Newkirk, I thought you just cleaned!"

The Englishman glanced up from applying a mixture of LeBeau's specially-thickened currant juice and Hilda's red lipstick to Carter, who was bound to a chair from Klink's dinner table. "I did, sir. But..." He glanced at Hilda, who took it as her cue to leave. "I wasn't exactly dusting out here."

"You know Newkirk," Kinchloe chuckled from the sofa they had moved in from Klink's quarters. "Thorough as always--not a speck of dust inside the safe!"

Hogan polished the lid of Klink's private humidor and set it down, then on second thought sprang the lock. "Or in here either!" he exclaimed over the empty box.

The former magician grinned. "I prefer to think of it as 'uncontaminated by tobacco'."

"So I see. Well put some back for our guests, would you?"

Carter grimaced as Newkirk applied the mixture to his cheek. "Do I really have to wear lipstick?"

"Stop moving!" Newkirk scolded. "You want this to look real, don't you?"

"Yeah, but..."

"Just shut your eyes and imagine being kissed by five beautiful fräuleins."

Carter's face brightened immediately. "Can they be blondes?" he sighed dreamily.

"Whatever makes you 'appy, Andrew. Just don't fall asleep!"

There was a frantic knocking on the door and Schultz rushed in. "Colonel Hoga...I mean, Colonel Klink! The car is just coming up the road!"

"Okay, men--everybody in position!" He straightened his uniform, turning to Newkirk. "How do I look?"

"Scared white."

"I'll take that as a compliment." He donned his cap and cocked it arrogantly. "Okay, let's go."

***

Colonel Hermann Dusseler stepped out of the black Gestapo staff car into the bitter cold hanging over Stalag 13. Behind him, troops began piling out of the truck, ready to turn the camp upside-down in order to shake out any possible saboteurs or traitors hiding here and deal with them--starting with its failure of a commandant. Smiling faintly at the prospect of the hunt, he drew up the collar on his overcoat and gave the yard a once-over.

The first glance, he had learned, could reveal much that the evasive whimperings of the commandants of these stalags sought to hide from Gestapo inspectors. It was a lamentable fact that the Third Reich had in its coffers far too many inept officers, bogging it down when the rest of the world should have long since fallen. Letting them run these backwater prisoner-of-war camps instead of failing Führer und Vaterland at the front was just one more way of getting rid of them as far as Dusseler was concerned.

Which was why the Gestapo Inspections Officer was positively shocked to see, instead of the lounging, indolent, even openly defiant prisoners of other stamm-lagers, a yard busy with activity. POWs were everywhere, fixing the tin rooves of buildings damaged by the German winter, repainting huts, signs and vehicles, sweeping steps, hanging out laundry, weeding the barren vegetable gardens, even stringing new barbed wire! As he watched, a crew ran up with buckets of soap and water and began to wash his car.

The door to the commandant's office opened and Colonel Klink stepped out onto the porch. The prisoners around the car immediately broke off and formed ranks, standing stiffly at attention as the Commandant strode past them to greet Dusseler.

"Herr Colonel Dusseler!" the Commandant smiled, shaking the Gestapo officer's hand with a firm grasp. "How good of you to come visit Stalag 13."

"This is not a social call, Herr Kommandant, as I'm sure you well know," Dusseler said, studying the man before him. He seemed younger than his records would indicate. A fine, handsome specimen of German aristocracy, he stood straight and proud in his uniform, like a sculpture of bronze. And he didn't seem at all disturbed by Dusseler's brusque manner, which was usually enough to make men fall snivelling at his feet.

"Of course, Herr Colonel. Won't you come inside, out of the cold?"

Dusseler nodded once and preceded the colonel towards the office. At the door, the Commandant paused and turned back to the prisoners.

"At ease, men." As one, the prisoners--Allied prisoners!--clicked their bootheels and saluted, then closed back around the staff car. Dusseler had to work to keep his jaw from hanging open.

This man, this Klink, is incredible! He must have bribed them to impress me--no, not an Allied soldier on earth would come to attention like a proper German; they would consider it 'treason'. This is impossible--Klink has the worst efficiency record in the Luftwaffe! There has to be something wrong here. Why else would I have gotten complaints about Stalag 13? His eyes narrowed, an expression a thousand dead men would have recognised as deadly. I must watch this, and him, more closely.

In the antechamber, Dusseler felt eyes on his back and turned to catch the Sergeant Major--a fat lump of a man with food stains on his uniform--pretending not to be eyeing him. Now that was more like he expected out of Stalag 13; softness, torpor, weakness. The weakness that the Reich would cut from itself like a cancer once the war was won. Ach, I would not wish to be stuck with such a man serving under me! He alone could account for half the prisoners escaping!

Klink guided Dusseler into his inner office. The Gestapo man was surprised to find it already occupied.

The man tied to the chair whimpered as the SS officer struck him again.

"Wo ist das Radio?" he screamed in the prisoner's face. When he didn't answer, the officer backhanded him across the mouth. Blood trickled from the corner of the prisoner's lips and splashed in a growing pool on the floor; he was almost skeletal from famine, his pale skin bruised and bloody from the beatings. On a couch along the back wall, a black man in an American staff sergeant's uniform reclined at ease, a glass of schnapps in one hand, a fine cigar in the other, impassively watching the interrogation.

"Kommandant! Was ist los?" Dusseler demanded.

"Nothing, Herr Colonel," Klink soothed, pouring him a shot of schnapps. "A small matter, I assure you--one of my informants got word of a radio this man was building. We are merely demonstrating the options available to him. We generally conduct such questionings in a special hut, but, unfortunately, there was no room today--Sergeant Löwe caught a group of men trying to dig a tunnel last night and we are in the process of...disciplining them."

The SS officer straightened and adjusted his uniform, then turned and saluted the two colonels. Dusseler felt a chill at those cold, grey eyes.

"I am finished mit him, Herr Kommandant. Any more, and it won't be sporting vhen ve set the dogs on him."

Klink nodded. "Sehr gut, Major Neukirche. Please remove him and send in a prisoner detail to clean up."

"Jawohl!" Untying the prisoner, the major manhandled the limp body outside, followed by the black American. Moments later, a work detail rushed in and began busily scrubbing the floor. Ignoring this, Klink indicated Dusseler to sit and offered him one of the cigars. Dusseler declined, and the Commandant settled back behind his extremely neat, spotless desk. Dusseler's heart swelled a little with pride. Ach! German efficiency--a man after my own heart!

But he kept his face grim, not wishing to be too hasty. Now came the battle of wits--it had not been too much of a task to strip the others bare, to find the quivering rabbit at the heart of the lion. But this one, had the bearing of an intelligent man, a worthy challenge. He waited until the prisoners had left and they were alone once more. "Do you really intend to set the dogs on that prisoner, Herr Kommandant?" His tone was dangerous with disapproval. Here is where we begin to see his true character. Will he be a man who tells me what he thinks I want to hear, or one who wraps himself in regulations? How clever is he?

Klink leaned forward, frowning seriously. "You disapprove, Herr Colonel?" He shrugged. "I confess, it is true that 'running the prisoners' does not exactly abide by the tenents of the Geneva Convention," he smiled, as if at a fond memory, "but I assure you it is all in good fun...for the guards and the dogs, anyway. Ve are quite isolated out here--there is not much recreation for my guards, and I find they become inefficient when not exercised, like falcons needing to be flown."

Dusseler leaned forwards. "I find this all quite strange, colonel. Allied soldiers behaving like good Germans, a resident SS officer, discipline and order wherever I look. Frankly, Colonel Klink, your reputation and your record, admirable as it may be since you took command of Stalag 13, reflects none of this!"

Smiling, Klink leaned back in his chair. "It is true--this must all seem very perplexing, Herr Colonel. How do the Americans say?--we must have 'gotten our wires crossed'. Technically, you should not be here at all. No one was to inspect my work--except at the highest levels, natürlich, but..." he shrugged, "how many people can you tell a secret to before it is no longer a secret?" The handsome officer leaned forwards again, resting his elbows on the leather desktop. "Herr Colonel, let me pose to you a question--purely theoretical, you understand. My Gestapo records--I am sure you have read them--are quite frankly disappointing, even for an incompetent!" He chuckled, as though it were really of no concern to him. "I have never seen combat, I have been a colonel longer than any other man in my graduating class, and I have one of the worst efficiency ratings in the Luftwaffe. Yet--my prison camp has never had a single escape!"

Intrigued, Dusseler bent closer. "Indeed... Perhaps you could explain yourself, Kommandant."

Klink smiled thinly. "It is a simple matter, really. Colonel Klink does not exist."

Dusseler sat bolt upright. "What!?"

Klink held up a hand to silence his protest. "Before you decide that I am insane, please allow me to explain myself--I am only the latest in a long line of men named 'Klink'. In actuality, I am not even enlisted in the Luftwaffe. I cannot tell you my real name--all you need to know is that I am a behavioural psychologist assigned here by personal mandate of the Führer. I only tell you this because I have no time to fight a Gestapo investigation. I was promised protection to carry out my research in peace, but here you are, Herr Colonel." Through all of this, Dusseler's jaw hung as he stared, shocked, at the man he knew as 'Klink'.

"But...but..." he stammered, "what are you doing here, running a prison camp?"

The officer...no, the doctor...shrugged. "I need subjects for my experiments. What better focus for behavioural alteration than the enemy's own soldiers?" He grinned wickedly. "I hold them, train them, then transfer them to other stalags to escape. Imagine, Herr Colonel, German spies no one would suspect, because they are escaped prisoners and war heroes!" The Commandant laughed and propped his spotless jackboots up on the desk.

Dusseler still had not gotten over his shock. Gott im Himmel! What have I stumbled on to? "But why this 'Klink'?"

"One can't work in peace if one is always being promoted. Who better to be Commandant than a pathetic colonel with no hope of advance? One never notices such people--it is a perfect cover. ...And one I trust you'll maintain?" The Commandant arched one black eyebrow questioningly.

Hogan began to sweat as he watched the Gestapo officer frame his answer. Newkirk and LeBeau had better be on their toes. If he decides there's something fishy about 'Herr Docktor Klink', I'm in big trouble!

Dusseler swallowed nervously, gazing on the Commandant--the Doctor--with new respect. What he had been told was obviously very secret, high-level stuff, which could put his very life in danger. True, there had been much suspicious activity in the area around Stalag 13, but surely there was a good explanation...cover, perhaps. That alone meant this operation was bigger than just the staff of Stalag 13--what if it involved his own superiors? For the first time in years, he began to wonder exactly where the people he made 'disappear' went. He felt himself begin to sweat. Suddenly, Dusseler found he didn't want to know all the answers anymore. Any man who had such close ties to the Führer...

Dusseler stood. "I think I have seen enough, Herr Commandant...Klink," he said, trying not to stutter. "I believe I shall be on my way now."

Hogan rose, managing to smile and shake Dusseler's hand. Each prayed the other wouldn't notice his sweaty palm. With a feeling akin to a great weight falling from his shoulders, Hogan watched the door close behind Dusseler. He slumped behind Klink's desk, shaking with relief. Too close, too close.

The door opened again.

Hogan sat bolt upright, then relaxed when Hilda slipped inside.

"It worked?" she whispered.

"Yeah." He got to his feet and tottered over to the schnapps to take a long, emboldening swig. Hilda went to him and put her arms around his neck.

"You look about to faint! If it helps, I think you were wonderful." She smiled encouragingly.

"Tell me that tomorrow." He pressed his lips gently to hers.

Suddenly, the window burst open and Newkirk leapt towards Hogan. Without a word, the disguised corporal yanked open the closet door and shoved the American officer inside, then muffled Hilda's surprised exclamation with a kiss.

The office door opened, and General Burkhalter, Klink's superior, strode in. He paused when he spotted Newkirk and Hilda. To her credit, Hilda managed to smile sweetly, patting her hair back into place. Burkhalter frowned, dismayed that the attractive secretary would go for a mere major, SS or no, and shook his head.

"Fräulein," he sighed, "you have one too many officers for your own good. Have you seen Klink?"

"Nein, Herr General."

"Funny, Colonel Dusseler said he was just in here." The General shrugged. "Ah well, when he gets back, inform him of my surprise inspection."

"Jawohl, Herr General."

Newkirk saluted stiffly. "Heil Hitler!"

Burkhalter snorted "Heil." He closed the door softly behind him.

Newkirk opened the closet door. Arms folded, Hogan glared up at him from a pile of spilled coats.

The ersatz SS officer smiled winningly. "By the way, sir, General Burkhalter's 'ere for a snap inspection."

"So I gathered!" Hogan grunted as the corporal helped him to his feet. "Of all the days! Has Dusseler left yet?"

"No. He got it in his 'ead to see the camp."

"Who gave him that idea?" Newkirk grinned nervously and Hogan scowled. "You didn't! You were supposed to ferry him right out!"

"Burkhalter got 'im first! He insisted on a tour--what was I gonna say, 'no'?"

"Yes!" Hogan sighed deeply. "Who's on him?"

"LeBeau--'e's waiting by the Rec Hall."

"Good. Tell Kinch to sneak a look at the radio in Burkhalter's car and get the frequency--I want our general back here to receive an important call in under ten minutes."

The Englishman grinned, and began to imitate the nasal voice of a 'telephone girl'. "And who shall I say is calling, please?"

Hogan chuckled. "I dunno...Hitler's Psychic Hotline!"

Newkirk frowned suddenly. "Burkhalter doesn't really know the rest of us except you," he pointed out soberly, "but you know, Colonel, there's a chance he might recognise Klink's French chef."

"You mean my French chef. We're sunk anyway if Dusseler says the wrong thing to Burkhalter. Which is why we have to separate our two lovebirds ASAP!"

"But 'e won't go about spillin' our little state secret!"

"Not unless he thinks Burkhalter already knows about it."

"So where do I fit in?"

"I'm getting to that!" Hogan huffed, giving him time to work that part out. "I'll want you to take over from LeBeau, but before that, you and Kinch organise a relay system to keep track of Burkhalter at all times. Issue field telephones to our guards in the towers and at the gates--just make sure we get them all back! I don't want there to be anything missing when Schultz takes inventory. LeBeau and I will take care of things back here and basically keep out of Burkhalter's way. Is Carter ready to go yet?"

"Almost. He's in your--Klink's--quarters."

"Burkhalter has to be busy when we let him loose. Hilda..." He turned to the secretary. "Do you think you can occupy our general for awhile?"

She smiled. "Jawohl, Herr Kommandant."

"Okay, tell Carter to move to the guardhouse--we don't want anyone to see that bomb! And Newkirk..."

"Yes, sir?"

"Keep by Dusseler. Show him around. Hint that perhaps not everybody in command knows everything."

"Shouldn't be to 'ard."

Hogan shot the corporal a stern glare. "Just find a way to explain it off!"

Newkirk snapped off a stiff salute and strode grandly out.

Hilda touched the frown on Hogan's lips. "Is there anything else you need from me?"

He broke into a grin. "Yeah, but it wouldn't be polite to tell you."

She smiled back. "You are an officer, Colonel Hogan, but not a gentleman."

He kissed the back of her hand. "Would you like me quite so well if I was?" Then he slipped quietly through the open window. She watched him go, the cold breeze stirring her blonde hair.

"Perhaps not," she sighed to herself.

***

"So, how do you like our little Stalag, Herr Colonel?" The portly general, obviously a man unused to walking further than his refrigerator, was already starting to sweat, despite the temperature. If Colonel Dusseler finds anything wrong with Stalag 13, it will reflect upon me. And that is like the cat noticing the mouse.

"It is...very nice," Dusseler replied, wishing Burkhalter would drop the whole subject. Maybe they could talk about something safer...like who was getting purged these days, or the way the war was really going.

But Burkhalter didn't drop it. He was obviously trying to make points with the Gestapo and, if Dusseler hadn't been so eager to get out of Stalag 13, he might have wondered about the general's guilty conscience. "I do hope you understand that Stalag 13 is not yet running at peak efficiency."

"Of course, Herr General," Dusseler replied blandly, hoping to discourage further conversation.

Burkhalter began to sweat more, and not just from the exertion of walking. He was beginning to picture a small, windowless room without a key in his near future. "Colonel Klink is rather new at this," he babbled, grinning foolishly.

Of course--he's not even enlisted! And it's a secret operation anyway... "Yes, yes, I understand!" Dusseler moaned, praying lightning would strike the blabbermouthed general, a heart attack, the finger of Hitler, whatever, just to make him keep quiet!

"I'm certain his efficiency rating will get better as times goes on--"

"Undoubtedly!" And if it doesn't, I will personally doctor the records! No one will look twice at this stalag ever again, and the Führer will have no reason to question my efficiency!

"If you would care to tour a prime example of German efficiency, I'm sure Stalag 9--"

"Herr General Burkhalter!"

Burkhalter swung around, ready to skin the young soldier alive for interrupting the most important conversation of his future. "What!"

The corporal skidded to a halt, saluting nervously. "An important call for you on the radio!" he gasped.

"Whoever it is," the general snarled, "tell them I am busy!"

"It's...it's...the Führer!"

Burkhalter and Dusseler looked equally stunned. "...Who?" the general began, then stopped himself. Gathering up his formidable girth, he smiled and bowed politely to Dusseler. "If you will excuse me, Herr Colonel," he said, his tone implying that he got these annoyingly inconvenient calls from the Chancellor of the German Empire every other day, "but I must take this."

"I completely understand," Dusseler said in a small voice, as Burkhalter hurried away, trying not to look like he was hurrying. The Gestapo man closed his eyes, fighting the urge to faint. Ach du lieber! How I wish that I had never even heard of Stalag 13!

"Herr Colonel!"

Dusseler's eyes snapped open. There was no one there. He glanced down. LeBeau stood at attention, saluting.

"Herr Colonel!" he shouted again with typical military gusto, "I am to complete your tour of Stalag 13, sir!"

With a technique perfected by the French, LeBeau hurried the Gestapo man onwards, without ever actually touching him. "Here, you see Baracke 4 and 5. Over there is Baracke 9--that is where they were digging the tunnel. Oh boy, you should have seen the fun we had last night!" Dusseler shuddered at Löwe's evil chuckle. "Those are the East Fence guard towers--you can see one of the prisoners polishing the machine gun now!"

Sure enough, as Dusseler watched, a man in a blue RAF uniform was stripping down the machine gun while the guard nearby spoke into a field telephone. Dusseler looked away, trying not to wonder what Klink had done to the RAF man to make him so trustworthy--trying not to wonder if the Führer would find cause to try it on him. His gaze happened to fall on a familiar figure moving around strangely some distance away. Curiosity got the better of caution.

"Why is that SS officer jumping up and down over there?"

LeBeau goggled, wondering what on earth Newkirk could be trying to tell him. "Um...perhaps he is doing gymnastics! Who knows why the SS does anything?"

Dusseler hid his eyes from the frantically gesticulating Englishman. "It must be classified!" he said to himself. "Whatever it is, I don't want to know!"

"Pardon me for just a moment," LeBeau said, heading over towards Newkirk Dusseler took the opportunity to sneak quietly back towards his car.

Unfortunately for Dusseler, Newkirk pounced on him before he was even halfway there.

"Herr Colonel!" Newkirk hailed him cheerfully.

Dusseler turned reluctantly, not wanting to have anything to do with the crazy SS major. "Where is Sergeant Löwe?" he demanded, almost petulantly.

"He...ahm...had to go declassify some chickens."

"He...what?"

"That's right," Newkirk said, straight-faced. "Everything here is classified, you know, even the prisoners. It's a real problem vhen one classified object doesn't have the proper clearance to use another classified object and...oh, it can be a real mess!"

"I am sure," Dusseler said sympathetically, though his eyes had glazed over. "I must get back to...wherever I came from, now. I'm sure I have...something important to do there."

"Nonsense! Your tour is not finished yet! Here--let me show you the Unterhaltungsgebäude, what the prisoners so quaintly call the 'Rec Hall'. It efficiently doubles as a torture chamber, you vill notice. And by the vay, Hermann--I can call you Hermann, can't I?--I've been meaning to explain something about General Burkhalter..."

***

General Burkhalter picked up the handset with shaking fingers.

"H-Hello? M-m-mein Führer?"

"Vhy have you kept me vaiting?" Carter screamed on the other end. Beside him at the radio in Klink's quarters, Kinchloe grinned, trying not to laugh at Carter's very convincing 'Hitler'. What had started out as a way to pass the time--and goosing the Germans as well--had turned into a very useful, even life-saving ability. Newkirk and Kinchloe each did a pretty mean Hitler, but for the finest imitation of the high-strung, wild-eyed Chancellor of the Third Reich throwing a tantrum, you could do no better than the little chemist from Muncie, Indiana.

"I am sorry, mein Führer--"

"You vill be on the Russian Front!"

The blood drained from Burkhalter's face. His blubbery lips trembled, and it was a few seconds before he could conjure up speech again. "Wha..." he whispered. Clearing his throat, he tried again. "What have I done to displease you, mein Führer?"

"Dummkopf!" Carter exploded. "You should be here, in Berlin!"

"Ja, mein Führer!"

"I should not be having to call my own generals on the radio!"

"Ja--I mean, nein, mein Führer!"

"Someone's head vill roll for zis, I promise you!" Burkhalter got even paler. Please not mine please not mine please not... Carter was really getting into the part, the tendons on his neck standing out. "I vill have blood!" he shrieked. "Zey vill hang by their heels! Zey--" Kinchloe whacked the runaway chemist on the head.

Carter shot him a sour look. What? he mouthed. Kinchloe mimed hanging up, tapping his watch and indicating the bomb at Carter's elbow.

General Burkhalter allowed himself a relieved sigh when the Führer seemed to calm down a little. Beside him, his young driver sighed too. "I will return to Berlin immediately, mein Führer!"

"Zat is not necessary."

"It's not?" Burkhalter said in a bewildered little voice, too surprised to add mein Führer.

"Ja," Carter replied off-handedly. "I just vant my generals to know zey shouldn't be running all over Germany." And that was that--without another word, the Führer hung up.

Burkhalter thought he felt his heart start beating again, and leaned heavily on his car.

"I think," he gasped, "I need a drink!"

Somewhat unsteadily, he tottered up the steps into the main building, then into Klink's office.

On the other side of the building, Sergeant Kinchloe peeked out Klink's window.

"All clear from this side! Just wait here while I figure a way to get you past Burkhalter and Dusseler into the Guard House."

Carter nodded, re-locking the door behind the black non-com. That jostled the bomb under his arm, which suddenly started ticking. The chemist frowned down at it. Holding it up to his ear, he shook it, hearing a rattle inside.

Setting the live bomb down on Klink's dinner table, Carter took out the tiny tool-set he always carried around with him for just such occasions. Rolling up his sleeves and cracking his knuckles, the demolitionist stared the bomb down and got to work.

***

To his dismay, Burkhalter discovered Klink's bottle of schnapps was almost empty--mainly because Hogan had polished it off earlier. Ach! he thought, Klink puts away more Schnapps than an entire Panzer Division! He started hunting around the office, wondering where Klink hid his stash. Where would I put it, if I were Klink? Burkhalter paused, thinking about that for a minute. Finally, he shook his head.

"Let us not get into science-fiction!" he muttered disgustedly to himself. "Fräulein Hilda!" he called, going back into the outer office.

The pretty blonde looked up. "Ja, Herr General?"

Burkhalter grinned wolfishly. "Since the Kommandant doesn't seem to be around...if I located a bottle of Schnapps, would you care to join me for a little drink?"

Hilda smiled sweetly. I would rather kiss a dead rat, she thought. "Of course, Herr General."

"Good! Ahm...where does Klink keep his reserves?"

"In his quarters I think," Hilda said, glad just to keep Burkhalter away from her for as long as possible. With another sly grin, Burkhalter took the door-key and left.

Too late, Hilda remembered Colonel Hogan saying Carter was hiding in Klink's quarters. She ran out after the general.

"Oh, Albert!" she sang, striking an alluring pose on the front steps.

Burkhalter stopped dead in his tracks at the corner, his grin getting wider. Colonel Hogan, who had tired of hiding and was coming back around that same corner to see how things were going, stopped dead too.

Hilda lifted her skirt a little, exposing more creamy thigh. The driver's eyes nearly popped out of his head. "Are you sure you don't want look harder in the Kommandant's office?"

Burkhalter was about to take her up on that offer when he caught his driver leering knowingly. He stiffened, frowning down at the suddenly-sheepish young soldier. "I shall return when I have found that bottle!" he announced, turning the corner...

There was no one there, of course.

***

Kinchloe, coming around the other side of the building, frowned deeply when he saw Burkhalter wasn't at his car. Hilda was on the porch. When she spotted him, she turned pale. Since the driver was nearby, she couldn't say anything, but, thinking quickly, instead pretended to fix one of her braids, using one forefinger to point where Burkhalter had gone.

Turning a little pale himself, the sergeant dashed back around the building just in time to see Burkhalter fumbling with the lock on Klink's front door.

***

Carter, still tinkering with his once-again silent bomb, heard the key rattle in the lock. Faint with fright, he glanced around desperately for something big enough to hide the bomb in. A dried flower arrangement stood in the centre of the table. He stuffed it in, bunching the crumbling plants around it, then, snatching up his tools, dove into the coat closet just as Burkhalter walked in.

Outside, Kinchloe nearly jumped out of his skin when Schultz tapped him on the shoulder with one pudgy finger.

"Geez, Schultz!" he said, flopping against the wall next to a garbage can. Don't do that!"

The big man looked worried. "Fräulein Hilda said there was some sort of trouble!"

"I'll say! Carter's in there!"

"So? A prisoner in the Kommandant's quarters--he will get the cooler!"

Hogan popped out of the garbage can, nearly scaring Kinchloe into a faint. "Believe me, Schultz, you don't want to know! Just go in there and find Carter before Burkhalter does!"

Schultz' eyebrows rose. "I don't want to know, eh?" He shrugged. "I know noth--oh yeah, you just said that." He trundled off towards the commandant's quarters.

Burkhalter was opening the doors on Klink's cabinets. He had found a lovely set of china and was just around to wondering where Klink had gotten his silver service when Schultz walked in. Burkhalter grinned, trying to be friendly.

"Ah, sergeant! I'm sure you and the colonel are old drinking buddies..."

"Oh no!" Schutz said, appalled by the idea. "We are most definitely not!"

Burkhalter's smile turned into a scowl. "That is not what I wanted to hear," he growled.

Schultz changed his mind. "Now I remember! We have shared Schnapps many times!"

"Good--where does he keep it?"

"I do not know, Herr General."

"Then help me look!"

Obligingly, Schultz opened the closest door--the closet. Nothing on the top shelf. His eyes travelled to the floor. There was a pair of boots sticking out--with legs in them! Frowning, Schultz shoved aside the coats. Carter grinned up at him, twiddling his fingers hello. Schultz yanked the coats back in place and hastily shut the door, leaning against it.

Burkhalter glanced up from the silver cabinet, frowning. Schultz grinned amiably. "Herr General, I beg to report there is nothing in the closet!"

"All right then--you don't have to tell me! Go look in the bedroom!"

Schultz reluctantly moved off, pointing back at Carter's hiding place. "There is no Schnapps in there! I searched very thoroughly, and there is absolutely nothing interesting in that closet!"

"Shut up! All right, I will search the bedroom!" Burkhalter moved off, growling something under his breath.

The closet door opened a crack and the chemist peered out. Schultz made shooing motions towards the door. Carter tried to get around him, at the bomb on the table.

"Carter!" he hissed between clenched teeth, "get out! Go on!"

"But Schultz!" Carter whispered, pointing towards the deadly centrepiece.

Burkhalter walked back into the room. As Schultz turned, white-faced, Carter ducked behind him.

"Did you say something to me?" the general asked.

"No, no, Herr General! I was just talking to my self!"

Burkhalter rolled his eyes. "Well, did you happen to tell your self where Klink keeps the Schnapps?"

"No...but I will tell you the second I do!"

With an exclamation of disgust and frustration, Burkhalter stomped off. Schultz took the opportunity to shove the protesting Carter out the front door.

***

In the yard, Newkirk was guiding Dusseler around to his car the back way, both men fervently hoping they wouldn't run into Burkhalter again.

"I certainly hope you enjoyed your little tour of Stalag 13," Newkirk was saying.

"Yes, yes, a lovely camp," Dusseler agreed readily, desperate now to escape the top-secret camp with its classified chickens and crazy SS officers who insisted on showing him every trash barrel as a means of assuring him that 've are very clean here at Stalag 13'.

"It's not much, but ve call it home! And I'm sure you von't forget vhat I explained about General Burkhalter..."

Dusseler turned pale. The major's 'explanation' had been in the form of a long, sad story about man who had displeased his superiors and gotten transferred to a very cold place. "I am certain I will not forget for a long--a very long--time."

Newkirk grinned. "Sehr gut! And--" What he had been about to say died on his lips as he spotted Carter sprinting across the yard. Dusseler hadn't seen him...yet.

Chummily, the Englishman threw his arm around Dusseler's shoulders, getting the colonel in a firm grip as he swung him around--away from Carter. "Where are my manners!" he laughed. "Here I showed you our fine trash cans, but not our fine water barrels!" He shook a finger playfully under the colonel's nose. "You naughty boy! My orders were to show you the entire camp! You are testing me, aren't you, Hermann? Very clever!" Dusseler just looked sick.

***

"Aha!" Burkhalter yelled, coming back into the living room triumphantly clutching a bottle. "In his bedroom--just as I suspected!"

Schultz looked mortified, sure he would get the blame for Klink missing one of his precious 'good' bottles. "Are you sure the Kommandant will like you taking his Schnapps?" he tried delicately.

"I'm sure he will not begrudge me a bottle," Burkhalter said, going into the kitchen for a glass. "Especially after all I have not done to him!"

Schultz heard something behind him. Hogan was tapping urgently at the window, gesturing towards the dining table. Knitting his brows in confusion, Schultz obligingly trundled over to the table and peered under it. Seeing nothing, he glanced up again. Hogan was waving, shaking his head. With a shrug, Schultz started feeling around on the tabletop, wondering if the colonel had lost some sort of top-secret invisible ray-gun or something. At the window, Hogan was nearly pulling his hair out in frustration. In his careful search, Schultz' elbow happened to jostle the flowers. The bomb started ticking again. Schultz peered into the flowerpot, eyes widening when he realised what was in there. Hogan nearly fainted with relief.

The American abruptly disappeared as Burkhalter returned, pouring a stiff shot into one of Klink's flowery china teacups. He glanced up at Schultz and frowned.

"Sergeant--you look pale! Would you like a drink?"

"N-n-nein, danke, Herr G-g-general!"

Burkhalter shrugged, settling back with a sigh in Klink's armchair and taking a long swallow. "Ah! Now that is good Schnapps!" With shaking fingers, Schultz picked up the flower arrangement, trying hard not to think about what he was carrying.

"Schultz!"

"J-j-ja, Herr General?"

"What are you doing?"

"I-I-I am just dusting the flowers, Herr General! You know how much dust they tend to gather, so I am dusting them! My wife always says--"

"Well, when you're finished with that," Burkhalter said, not the least bit interested in Frau Schultz' peasant wisdom, "why don't you dust the clocks in here? They are awfully noisy!"

Schultz lost his grip on the flowers.

The crash brought Burkhalter bolt-upright in his chair. "Dummkopf!" he shouted, thankfully unable to see the bomb past Schultz. "Clean that up this instant!"

"Y-y-yes, Herr General!" Schultz stammered, picking up the ticking bomb in a handful of flowers. Hurrying over to the window, Schultz jerked it open and dumped his entire burden into the trashcan just outside.

Inside the can marked Abfälle, Hogan grinned as Carter's bomb plopped into his lap. Leaping out of the trashcan and brushing himself off, he wrapped it in his overcoat and carried it back around to the front.

"Hi, honey, I'm home!" he cried, stepping into the office.

Hilda gave a small cry of delight and threw her arms around his neck. She jumped back when she noticed her colonel was ticking.

"Is that...?"

"You don't want to know."

Hilda shrugged. "I know nothing! I see nothing!"

Hogan grinned. "Can you baby-sit Burkhalter for awhile?"

Hilda raised an eyebrow.

"Personal favour to me?" he tried.

"I probably have some paperwork that needs to be done around here..."

"For a gallant cause?"

"I really should be here to take calls..."

"All right!" he sighed. "A pair of stockings and a week's ration of coffee!"

"Two pair of stockings, a bottle of perfume, and a week's ration of chocolate--you know I don't drink coffee!"

"Agreed! Any particular scent?"

"I am very fond of Ocean Mist."

"But Midnight Passion smells so much better on you!"

"That's what Colonel Klink said--why else do you think I am switching?"

"Fair enough--we have a deal...sealed with a kiss?" Hilda smiled, and their lips met. She was wearing Midnight Passion.

Dusseler stomped in, Newkirk hot on his heels. "...No! No more water barrels!" the colonel shouted.

"But the ones over by the East Fence--"

"Are full of water--just like the ones over by the West Fence!"

"Well, ah, yes...any more trash barrels?"

"No! No, no, NO! No more water barrels! No more trash barrels! I just want to--Colonel Klink!" Dusseler and Newkirk both gaped like stranded fish. It was a few seconds before Hogan and Hilda looked up.

"Yes?"

"I...ah...ahm...was just going!" He backed out.

"What d'you want me to do with him, colonel?" Newkirk whispered.

"Get him out of here--now!" With a dubious frown, Newkirk ran after Dusseler.

Outside, Schultz had intercepted the colonel. "Excuse me, Herr Inspector, but where is Colonel Hoga...I mean, Colonel Klink?"

Dusseler rolled his eyes, getting into his staff car. "He is in there kissing his secretary!"

"He's what?" Burkhalter shouted, making Schultz jump in surprise. The general stomped up to them, schnapps in hand.

"I already told you!" Dusseler shouted, worn beyond courtesy. "I am leaving!"

"Wait a minute! You can't leave yet!"

"Are you presuming to tell the Gestapo what it can and can't do?"

"I outrank you!"

As the two officers argued, Schultz took the opportunity to creep away. He went into the office, where Hogan and Hilda were liplocked again, closing the door softly behind him. He cleared his throat politely and waited. When there was no response, he tried louder. "Ahem!" Finally, he did it at the top of his lungs--"Achkkemm!"--and slammed the door, startling both of them.

"What!" Hogan cried.

"Excuse me," Schultz said, the soul of courtesy, "but Herr General Burkhalter wants to see you."

"Tell him Klink's busy!" Hogan replied, heading back towards Hilda's lips.

"No--he wants to see you!"

"Me?" Hogan asked, furrowing his brows. "Why me?"

"I think he wants to introduce you to Herr Colonel Dusseler."

Hogan's eyes widened as he realised the full implications of the mess he had gotten himself into. Pecking Hilda quickly goodbye, he sprinted for Klink's office--and the window. Hilda hurried out onto the steps to see if she could delay Burkhalter.

She needn't have worried--as she and Schultz stepped out onto the porch, Burkhalter and Dusseler were still bickering heatedly. Newkirk drooped miserably nearby, somehow having become a bone of contention between the two powerful officials--Burkhalter seemed to think the SS was here investigating on orders from the Gestapo, while Dusseler insisted that Burkhalter shouldn't be asking so many unhealthy questions. Newkirk's big break came when Klink chose that moment to arrive--being convenient for perhaps the first time in his life.

The colonel was slightly tipsy, and obviously very confused, as he got out of his car and surveyed the scene--one troop truck, complete with bored-looking troops, a Gestapo staff car, General Burkhalter's 'parade float' with bored-looking driver, and the general himself bickering with a Gestapo colonel like two children.

"What is going on here?!" he cried.

The two officers glanced up. Burkhalter grinned, Dusseler frowned.

"Ah, Klink! There you are!"

Dusseler went white. "That's Klink?"

"Yes, of course! I know he is not much to look at, but looks can be deceiving! Remember, we have never had an escape at Stalag 13!"

"Yes...of course," Dusseler said faintly.

Klink looked lost. "Did I miss something?"

Burkhalter frowned as he got a whiff of the commandant. "Klink! Have you been in the Schnapps again?"

"I think they have both been drinking!" Schultz added helpfully.

"Shut up!" Burkhalter and Klink cried simultaneously.

"General," Dusseler said, very firmly, "I must leave!"

Burkhalter looked surprised. "Why yes, of course! Fell free to return at any time!"

Dusseler ducked back into his car, then hesitated, and slowly re-emerged. "General, if I may...one more question?"

"Anything!"

Dusseler glanced at Klink. "What...happened to the man who used to run Stalag 13?"

Burkhalter smiled wickedly, thinking Dusseler mean the officer who had administrated there before Klink came to power. "His command was...terminated, due to unsatisfactory performance."

Dusseler shivered, not liking the way Burkhalter said 'terminated'. He ordered his driver to take him out.

The Gestapo colonel drew his coat closer around him, feeling suddenly old, more like a prisoner himself than a member of Nieztche's 'Master Race'. Words like 'terminated' had never bothered him before, yet now they caused a shiver deep in his bones. He knew he was a broken man. Stalag 13 had broken him, and he would never again be the super-efficient pinnacle of German superiority he had been a few short eternities ago.

As they passed through the fence, Dusseler happened to glance into the forest and catch sight of Sergeant Löwe. The little man barely held his dogs in check as they snarled and leapt towards the emaciated prisoner the SS major had beaten earlier. As he watched, the pitiful skeleton took off running in the direction of the river, and Löwe loosed the dogs...

Dusseler slumped back in his seat, too sick to watch any more.

***

Klink watched as Burkhalter drove away. Seemingly out of thin air, Hogan appeared, dressed in his familiar flight jacket and rumpled cap. Klink failed to notice that the American was wearing jackboots.

"Hogan..."

"Yessir?"

"What happened while I was gone?"

"Do you really want to know?"

Klink looked over at the American officer. After a long moment, he spoke. "No." He shook his head, as if trying to convince himself. "No...no! I want to know--nothing!" He quickly disappeared into the safety of his office.

Hilda came to stand against Hogan, arms about each other.

"You were wonderful," she breathed in a voice that made the battle-hardened colonel's knees turn to butter.

"You're always wonderful," he sighed, earning a tiny laugh from her

"Before he left, General Burkhalter issued me a two-week furlough for 'recuperation'."

"The General's just jealous of Klink."

She smiled beautifully. "Do you think he has a reason...Herr Klink?" Then she kissed him, nibbling a little on his lower lip. "Will you be in town tonight, colonel?" she breathed.

Hogan felt his knees tremble. "I think that can be arranged."

"Achkkemm!"

"Go away, Schultz," Hogan whispered, preoccupied with Hilda's intoxicating scent. He figured Hilda had earned at least that bottle of perfume--and maybe one or two pairs of stockings--even if the perfume she would get might 'accidentally' be Midnight Passion.

"Colonel Hogan!" Schultz whined.

"What?"

"Do I still get my strudel?"

Hogan shot the fat sergeant a look that made him slink hurriedly away, stomach growling pitifully. "Don't you worry!" he told his belly. "We will go find LeBeau--surely they did not have time to eat all the strudel!" Sudden worry made him waddle faster.

As the sun sank over Stalag 13, Hogan and Hilda's lips closed together. In the distance, the sky rumbled as Hogan's Heroes consigned another bridge to the history books. And all was right with the war.