No ownership of the Hogan's Heroes characters is implied or inferred. Copyright belongs to others and no infringement is intended.
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Kommandant Wilhelm Klink, fearless leader of Stalag 13, the most well-run POW camp in all of Germany, stood before General Albert Burkhalter. The Colonel's noble posture and clearly excellent breeding made him an imposing figure before the shorter, far more than stout General, a fact that could not help but be noticed by the somewhat taller but also stout Sergeant of the Guard, Hans Schultz, who looked up to his commanding officer with an almost worshipful respect.
"Colonel Klink, my dear friend," said General Burkhalter, "your plan to keep the prisoners in line and in camp was executed perfectly, nothing less than I expected of you. You are to be commended."
Kommandant Klink allowed a small smile to work its way onto his face. It wouldn't do to seem too pleased in front of the General. That would come across as pride. And besides, there were others to congratulate. "Thank you, Herr General. But I must pass those fine words on to my men. Sergeant Schultz, here, for example, was responsible for—"
"For hiding under a desk when he thought Colonel Hogan had a gun," General Burkhalter finished. Klink began to protest as Sergeant Schultz bowed his head, ashamed of his cowardice, but the General waved away the words. "Do not try to boost your men's position, my dear Colonel. Especially not at the expense of your own brilliance. You are too generous with them."
"Oh, never, General Burkhalter," Klink said modestly.
"Oh, yes he is, Herr General," Sergeant Schultz spoke up. "He is always doing kind things for us. It is his leadership that makes us work so hard for him."
"He's very good to the prisoners, too, General," spoke up Colonel Hogan. Robert Hogan had been caught outside the wire last night, ensnared in a trap set by the Kommandant. Now, he stood, hands behind his back, in handcuffs, dirty, and, if he were to admit it, smelling like an American. Colonel Klink wished Hogan had cleaned himself up before General Burkhalter arrived, but there had been no time. "Colonel Klink could have had his guards shoot first and ask questions later, but no, he just made sure I didn't get away. It's one of the reasons we stay, General. Because Kommandant Klink is a good man."
General Burkhalter raised an eyebrow that drew up some of the excess skin on his face. "If he is your reason for staying, Hogan, why did you go?"
Hogan bowed his head shamefully. "I had to, General. I had to try—an officer's duty, you know. If I didn't, then when I get home after the war I'll be branded as a coward. I couldn't let that happen, sir, and Colonel Klink understood my position, and let me have some dignity on my return."
General Burkhalter nodded thoughtfully. "I see." He turned to the Kommandant. "Klink, I would like to take you to Berlin with me. You clearly have talents that the Fuhrer needs to be acquainted with. I would like to introduce you."
"Thank you, Herr General."
"And then have you work directly for me at my office."
At this, Colonel Klink shook his head. "With all due respect, General Burkhalter, my work is here. As long as there are men fighting against the glorious Third Reich, there will be men shot down from the skies. And when those men need to be contained, it is my duty, Herr General, to stop them from returning to their homeland to fight again. What happened last night with Colonel Hogan may be repeated again and again with the other prisoners, and if it does, I plan to be here to stop it."
General Burkhalter smiled approvingly. Sergeant Schultz nodded proudly. Colonel Hogan sniffled respectfully—and with a sure knowledge of continued failure in the future.
"Colonel Klink, you are an extraordinary man. I would be doing a disservice to the Third Reich if I took you away from Stalag 13. I will leave you to get on with your obviously successful business of running this prison camp." General Burkhalter looked to Sergeant Schultz. "Sergeant, I suggest that you follow the lead of your commanding officer more closely. Then you, too, may become as great as he."
Schultz nodded, properly chastised. "I can only hope to be half as great as the Kommandant, General," he replied.
"And what about you, Hogan?" asked the General.
"I've learned my lesson, sir," Hogan answered, looking crestfallen. He sighed and turned to the Kommandant. "A week in the cooler, sir?"
Klink nodded. "A week in the cooler, Colonel Hogan. I will talk with you about this, officer to officer, when your confinement is completed."
Hogan nodded weakly. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." Another sigh. "Come on, Schultz; let's go. He got me again."
Colonel Klink accepted the defeated salute offered by the American officer, then offered one of his own to his superior officer. Burkhalter watched Hogan get led out of the room, then smiled at the Kommandant and said, "One day, Colonel Klink, I expect that I shall be the one saluting you."
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Schultz put down the sheets of paper and looked almost mournfully at Kommandant Klink, but he said nothing, choosing instead to simply twitch his moustache.
"Well, Schultz, what do you think?" Klink asked eagerly. "Tell me the truth, now."
At this, Schultz shrugged. "I would have liked to have been braver, Herr Kommandant," the guard admitted.
Klink furrowed his brow, thinking. "But you see how I praised you to General Burkhalter," he reminded him.
"Yes, Herr Kommandant. But you also had me hide under a desk."
Klink waved the idea away. "That was just... what do they call it?... artistic license, Schultz. I know you would never hide under a desk!" Almost but not quite to himself, he added, "You would never fit." Then he cleared his throat and said, "And anyway, this isn't quite the finished product. I have some rewriting to do. You may be a hero yet!"
Schultz smiled now. "Do you think so, Kommandant?" he asked.
"Yes, Schultz," Klink replied, picking the papers back up off his desk. "You may have more to do with Colonel Hogan's recapture."
"I do not think Colonel Hogan will like the way you have written him," Schultz warned him. "He does not like to cry in front of Germans."
Klink smirked as he held his precious papers even closer to him. "What Hogan likes does not concern me. He is a prisoner and an enemy, and he is not in charge of my writing."
"We'll see about that," Schultz mumbled.
Klink did not hear, and continued. "And in any case, I am not writing for Hogan."
"Why are you writing, Herr Kommandant?" asked Schultz.
"Because, Schultz, there are not enough fine pieces of German writing out there—works that glorify the beauty of Germany and the discipline of the German military. Writing that shows how wonderful it can be for the German people to be part of such a fine race of proud and intelligent people." Klink smiled as though he were one of these people. "Also, there's a contest being sponsored by the Propaganda Ministry. Schultz, they're offering five hundred marks for the best submission. I have to win this, Schultz. Think of what I could do with the money!"
Schultz considered, but the money wasn't in Klink's hands in his thoughts. "I am thinking, Herr Kommandant."
"I just need to polish it a little more, I think," Klink said, rounding his desk and sitting down again. "Schultz, you are dismissed. And tell Hilda on your way out that I am not to be disturbed."
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Corporal Louis Le Beau nimbly avoided the night spotlights and crept up to Schultz, whom he knew would be sitting around the corner of the barracks, thinking of sleep, instead of doing rounds among the buildings, as he was supposed to.
"Schultzie!" the Frenchman called in a whisper, expecting his greeting to wake the guard.
But he was surprised to find instead that Schultz, while exactly where Le Beau expected him to be, was wide awake. "Schultzie," said Le Beau, sitting next to him and cradling a nice warm plate full of bribe, "what are you doing up? You know you need your beauty sleep."
Schultz smiled at the prisoner, not surprised to see him. "I know that, Cockroach, but tonight I am thinking."
"You know that's not good for you, Schultz. What are you thinking about? A surprise bed check Klink will be having later?"
"A visitor to the camp that we have not been told about?"
"Nein. There are no bed checks and no visitors."
"What is it, then, Schultz?" asked Le Beau, almost genuinely interested now that the true reason for his visit to the guard had been completed with two easy questions.
"I am thinking about what Kommandant Klink told me today."
"What was that?" Le Beau asked, hopeful that he would get some unexpected information for Colonel Hogan.
"He told me that the Propaganda Ministry is running a contest. They are offering five hundred marks for the best story about the German military and its people."
Le Beau nodded. "That's a lot of money, Schultz."
Schultz agreed. "Ja. And then he showed me what he had written." Chuckling, he said, "He made it look like he was a hero, and General Burkhalter tried to take him to Berlin!" A huge grin broke out on his face at the thought, but it lessened when he added, "But he made me out to be a coward."
"A coward? You, Schultzie?" exclaimed Le Beau.
"He wrote that I hid under a desk."
"Oh, that is not right, Schultz. You would never fit under a desk!" Le Beau declared.
"That's right," Schultz agreed. "And, he wrote that Colonel Hogan was sniffling like he was going to cry."
Le Beau's eyes widened. "Oh, Schultz. That is a very bad thing. Colonel Hogan would never do that."
Schultz nodded knowingly. "I know, Cockroach," he said. Finally coming out from his own thoughts, the guard looked at the plate in Le Beau's lap. "What do you have there, Le Beau?"
Le Beau brought up the plate with a shrug. Schultz had earned it, after all. "Just a snack, Schultz. Some potato pancakes. Would you like them?"
"You would give them to me?"
"Of course!" Le Beau answered. "Not eating these potato pancakes will not suddenly help you fit underneath a desk!"
Schultz laughed and put his rifle aside to take the plate from his visitor.