Title: It's What's For Dinner
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Summary: The prisoners learn there are some things even Schultz won't eat.
Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Honestly, I expected this fragment of an idea to turn into something more serious… but then Schultz barged in, and Colonel Hogan took off with it, in his incorrigible way. Any blame for the resulting silliness should be directed entirely at him.
"We've got a wounded man here, sir," Sergeant Kinchloe reported gravely.
Halted in mid-stride, Colonel Hogan scowled and put his hands on his hips, watching as an unconscious sergeant was lowered into the tunnel through its woodland trapdoor. This was one of three prisoners who had escaped from Stalag Five that afternoon. By a stroke of luck, Hogan had been making one of his customary probing raids upon the Kommandant when the news came in, and he was able to send his own men to intercept them—but Klink's telephone conversation had suggested nothing about casualties.
"Kinch, go get Wilson on the double. How bad is he?" Hogan asked the other two escapees, a pair of corporals who crouched anxiously beside their wounded comrade.
The taller of the two shook his head. "I don't know, sir. When we made a break for it, he caught a Kraut bullet in the back, but it didn't slow him down for a while. He only passed out a minute before your men found us."
"He was covering us," the other man added solemnly. "He's the reason we got away. You'll pull him through, won't you, Colonel?"
"We'll do everything we can," Hogan promised, and bent down to examine the sergeant. His pulse was steady, but his uniform and jacket were stained with no small amount of blood, and Hogan couldn't tell where it was coming from.
Sergeant Wilson moved briskly into the tunnel a moment later, carrying his medical kit. Hogan stood back to let him work on his patient, and preoccupied the two fretting corporals with the necessary routines of an identity check and a hasty debriefing.
After a few minutes, Wilson sat back on his heels. "Looks like a clean shot through the back of the shoulder. Nothing vital hit, but he's lost a lot of blood." He looked up at the two corporals. "He wasn't dripping all over the place between here and Stalag Five, was he?"
The two alarmed-looking men shook their heads.
"Okay. I think he oughta make it." Wilson pushed himself to his feet and turned to Colonel Hogan. "I'll feel a lot better if I could give him a blood transfusion, though."
Hogan grimaced, but he nodded. "What blood type do you need?"
Wilson checked the sergeant's dogtags. "Type B, if you can get it. O-negative in a pinch."
"Okay. I'll find you a donor. Do what you can for him in the meantime." Hogan glanced at the two corporals. "Stay put. We'll get you settled in for a while once we take care of Sergeant Cobb here."
The corporals nodded their agreement like nervous rabbits, and Hogan headed back to Barracks Two.
Kinch looked up restlessly as Hogan emerged from the tunnel entrance. "How's the patient?"
"He should pull through—but Wilson wants to give him a transfusion." Hogan swept a glance over the men, who sat or sprawled on their benches and bunks. Then he took his cap off and dropped it upside-down on the table. "We'll draw lots for the donor. Anybody with Type B blood, put your dogtags in the hat. Kinch, go around to the other barracks, and check with the rest of our boys who are in the game. Get the tags of anybody else who matches."
As Kinch went out, three men came forward. Sergeant Carter was one of them, and he gave Hogan a pained look as he dropped his dogtags into the hat. Hogan shrugged and smiled at him sympathetically.
After several minutes, Kinch returned, with another handful of dogtags to contribute. Colonel Hogan carefully shuffled the tags in the hat, then chose one without looking, and drew it out to read the name.
"Sorry, Carter," he said apologetically. "You're it."
Carter flinched and sat down abruptly.
"Squeamish, mate?" Newkirk queried from his bunk—and although he tried to sound solicitous, there was a gleam of perverse amusement in his eyes.
"I don't like needles," Carter said uncomfortably.
"Nobody does." Hogan patted the younger man's shoulder. "Don't worry, it won't hurt… much. And we'll give you a lollipop when it's over."
Carter sighed. "I'd rather have a thick juicy steak."
"That's not a bad idea. We've been living pretty lean lately. Maybe we can swipe some filet mignon out of Klink's private stock."
Kinch smiled and shook his head. "Better scratch that, Colonel. Schultz is in charge of the Krauts' storehouse—and food is one thing he does know how to guard!"
"I'll give it some thought later. First we need to make sure we don't lose Sergeant Cobb." Hogan moved toward the hidden tunnel entrance. "Come on, Carter."
His hand was raised to trigger the trapdoor when the barracks door banged open, and Sergeant Schultz lumbered in.
Hogan winced and dropped his hand, glancing at the hatful of dogtags on the table; it was too late now to shuffle them out of the way. Instead he flashed Newkirk a look that instantly brought the Englishman down off his bunk, and spoke in a casual voice.
"No, seriously, Newkirk. I'll admit you've got some great little tricks, but I don't buy this one."
After long experience in keeping up with his commander's breakneck inspirations, Newkirk didn't miss a beat. He smiled cockily as he sat down at the table. "Colonel, you'll insult my professional pride with talk like that."
Schultz blinked in drowsy-looking puzzlement. "What are you doing—and what are the dogtags for?" he asked, his pale-blue eyes shifting to the hat on the table.
"It's too crazy." Hogan waved a hand. "Newkirk says he can pick any of our dogtags out of a hat without looking, but I don't believe it."
"I believe it," Schultz asserted, with a suspicious glance at the pickpocket. Then his expression lightened into something that more resembled an inquisitive puppy's. "Can I see the trick too, Newkirk?"
Hogan frowned; he had pitched the idea as a spur-of-the-moment cover, but he honestly wasn't sure Newkirk could make good on it. He put his hand on Schultz's shoulder, trying to steer him toward the door. "Really, Schultz, I don't think he—"
"Oh, Colonel Hogan?" Newkirk's voice cut in, and he smiled ingratiatingly as his commander turned back to him. "It was Sergeant Osborne's name you wanted out of the hat, wasn't it?"
With that, Newkirk blithely pushed his cap down over his eyes and reached across the table, fishing into the hatful of dogtags. Five seconds later, he brought one up and held it out to the Colonel.
"Oh ye of little faith," he murmured wryly, resettling his cap with a complacent smile.
With the peculiar feeling that he had been upstaged for once, Hogan took the tag. He read the name on it, and then gazed at Newkirk with unabashed admiration. "I'll never doubt those magic fingers again."
Sergeant Schultz grinned abruptly, like a child that had just comprehended the workings of a mechanical toy.
"I know what the trick is. All the dogtags in the hat are the same." Before Hogan could stop him, he thrust in a chubby hand and selected a tag. He read it—and the men around the table could see the cloud of befuddlement rolling over his face.
"Corporal Edmunds." He cast a dubious glance around the barracks. "But Corporal Edmunds is from Barracks Four… and I don't see him here…"
Colonel Hogan lightly plucked the dogtag from Schultz's fingers. "You wanna know what we were really doing?"
"No," Schultz snapped, swiftly and prudently.
"We were picking a candidate to give blood." Hogan's lips took on a nearly imperceptible devious twist. "LeBeau wants to try a new American recipe. It's called a Bloody Mary."
Schultz's eyes widened. "And you really put—?"
"Absolutely! It's the key ingredient." Hogan hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his jacket, gazing speculatively toward the rafters. "LeBeau thinks we oughta get enough out of one man to serve every prisoner in camp, but I don't know."
"Of course, after we drain him dry, there's no reason to let the rest of him go to waste…" His eyes met Schultz's, with a predatory smile. "So we're gonna have a barbecue."
"We've already picked our man, too. We're gonna miss you, Andrew…" Hogan thumped Carter on the shoulder.
"Oh, that's okay, Colonel," Carter said gamely. "After all, it's for a good cause."
"There's not much meat on you, but we'll make do," LeBeau piped up.
"Colonel Hogan!" Schultz screwed his eyes shut and stood rigid for a moment—perhaps praying that he might disappear, or that the prisoners might. At last he opened one eye and looked at Hogan with a wince. When he spoke, his words came in a very small, pleading voice.
"Colonel Hogan… I know the rations have not been so good lately. But surely it must be against regulations to eat your own men."
"It's a hardship of wartime, Schultz." Hogan turned to LeBeau. "How you fixed for seasonings, Louie?"
"The fennel is very fresh, mon Colonel. And the coriander—!" LeBeau made a noise of pleasure and kissed his fingertips, with typically French melodrama.
"Cockroach!" Schultz gasped.
With a reassuring smile, LeBeau patted the big German's arm. "Don't worry, Schultz, it's not the first time. You remember that pâté I made last week? You said it tasted like chicken."
Schultz turned pale and clutched at his broad stomach.
"Alright already. Now that you've satisfied your curiosity, Schultz, what was it you wanted?" Hogan gave Schultz an expectant stare, ignoring LeBeau—who had shamelessly produced from somewhere a very impressive-looking carving knife.
Whatever Schultz had come for, it had apparently lost its place to the crisis unfolding before him now. He let out a groaning growl of frustrated desperation, stamping his foot. "Colonel Hogan, you can not do this! If Colonel Klink finds out Carter is missing, he will not believe that the rest of you ate him—and then what will happen to me?"
"Well, if not Carter, we'll just have to find a substitute." Hogan wrapped his arms around himself and lounged against a bunk frame, regarding the corpulent sergeant with interest. "How about you, Schultz?"
"I mean, after all, you could feed the whole camp for a week!"
LeBeau made a face. "Eh, these Germans are all gristle and grease, mon Colonel. I cannot work with substandard ingredients."
Schultz backed toward the door. Hogan eyed him with private amusement.
"Alright, what do you suggest?" he asked reasonably.
"Colonel Hogan, please!" Schultz trailed off into an aggrieved whimper. "I get you some nice steaks from the storehouse. I get you lobsters, venison, anything you want—only be nice, and promise me you won't eat each other."
One corner of Hogan's mouth crooked upward, in a smile of devious satisfaction.
"We'll send LeBeau over later with a grocery list," he said.
Schultz let out a tremendous sigh of relief. "Oh, thank you, Colonel Hogan. I knew you wouldn't get me in trouble. You are such a nice man…" He backed out the door, still yammering, all nervous smiles and breathless gratitude.
The moment the door shut behind him, the barracks erupted with howls of laughter.
"Did you see the way you had him going?" Kinch snorted.
LeBeau wiped his eyes with his scarf. "He's going to be afraid to eat for a week!"
"Okay, we've had our joke for the day." Hogan shook his head, shaking off his own smile, and glanced at Carter. "And we got you that steak dinner. Feel better about giving blood now?"
Carter's chuckle trailed off awkwardly, and he cleared his throat. "Oh. Uh… yes, sir. I guess so, sir."
"Let's go then. A man down there needs your help, and Wilson's probably wondering what's taking so long." The Colonel struck the trapdoor trigger and watched it drop open. "After you."
A reluctant Carter swung himself down onto the ladder. Then he paused and glanced up hopefully at his commander.
"Do I still get that lollipop, Colonel?"
Amid a chorus of stifled chortles, Hogan rolled his eyes and pushed Carter down into the tunnel.
© 2008 Jordanna Morgan