"Well, I'm not dealing with it," said Kinch. He stood back, and shoved his hands in his pockets.

"I'm pretty sure the big ones don't bite," Newkirk pointed out, from halfway across the barracks. He was keeping well behind LeBeau, and was poised for instant flight.

"How do you know? You have spiders that big in England?"

"Well...no," admitted Newkirk. "No, we don't. But I'm sure I read somewhere, the big ones are harmless. It's the little ones you 'ave to watch out for."

"Fine. If the big ones are harmless, you get rid of it."

Newkirk backpedaled. "Well, the thing is, you see, Kinch...I think Louis would be better at it. I might frighten it."

"I'm not going near it," said LeBeau bluntly. "That thing could throw me twenty metres."

"Well, if we don't get rid of it, we'll never be able to get into the tunnel. Ever," said Kinch.

The subject of discussion continued to squat malevolently on the edge of the bunk above the tunnel. It was a good handspan across, light brown in colour, with long jointed legs splayed flat across the exact spot where the trigger for the opening mechanism was concealed. She was one big spider.

"Maybe that Australian geezer in Barracks 4 can help. They know about spiders down under," said Newkirk.

"You mean MacDonald? In the cooler. Thirty days for calling Klink a drongo," said LeBeau. "I don't know what it means, but it sounds about right," he added.

"We could get him out," Newkirk persisted. "Just for the day. Do him good to get outside."

"I don't think le Colonel is going to go for that. And anyway, how do we get him out if we can't get into the tunnel?"

"This is ridiculous," said Kinch. "I'll do it. Get the broom."

"Just make sure you kill it," said Newkirk. "I'm not having that running round the barracks all night. I'd never sleep again."

"I'll try to sweep it outside."

"That's no good. 'Cos when it finds its way back - which it will - it'll be mad at us for chasin' it out. You have to kill it. That's the only safe way." Newkirk held the broom out at arm's length, unwilling to take even one step closer.

Kinch grasped the broom with resolution, and approached the intruder. As he prepared for a sweeping stroke, the spider made a sudden turn, and reared up its front legs at him. The broom went flying, as he backed away so fast that he cannoned into LeBeau, who in turn fell against Newkirk, who landed flat on the floor.

"Jeez," gasped Kinch, "how fast can those things move?"

"See, Kinch, you scared it," snapped Newkirk. "Now you've made it angry."

"I think it was born angry."

"So now what do we do?" asked LeBeau, venturing a step nearer.

"Has anyone got a box? Maybe we could catch it," suggested Kinch.

"And then what? Post it to Himmler for his birthday?"

"There's an old marmalade jar under the sink," said Newkirk.

"No, I need that. I'm planning to make marmalade," LeBeau protested.

"We'll get you another jar, LeBeau. Needs must, old son, needs must. Go and get it."

LeBeau's face fell. "It's on the other side of the bunk," he faltered. "What if that thing jumps at me?"

"It won't jump at you. Go on."

LeBeau swallowed, and began edging towards the sink, keeping as far as possible from the spider. "It's looking at me," he quavered.

"Probably thinks you're its dinner," said Newkirk.

"Oh, merci. That makes me feel a lot better." He finished the journey at a run, and returned with the jar. "Who's going to catch it?"

Kinch and Newkirk glanced at each other, then both looked at LeBeau. He uttered a furious exclamation in his own language, and opened the jar. "If I die," he said, "I will come back and haunt you both."

The spider appeared to have settled down, and didn't move as he approached. He was within inches, when a voice from the door said, "What's going on?"

LeBeau almost jumped out of his skin. The jar shattered on the floor with a crash, and he bolted, taking refuge behind Kinch.

Colonel Hogan looked from them to Newkirk. "Well?"

Carter, who had come in with the colonel, wandered over to the bunk. "Gosh," he said, "look at this. Isn't she a beauty?"

He reached out and coaxed the spider to climb onto his fingers. "Look, sir," he said, displaying his new friend. "Can I keep her?"

Three voices answered as one: "NO!"

Hogan regarded the creature without enthusiasm. "Better not, Carter. Why don't you take it outside and get rid of it?"

"And make sure it's dead," Newkirk added, "so it can't come back. If it does, it'll bleedin' well have the lot of us."

Carter's face fell with disappointment. He looked pleadingly the others. Nobody showed any sign of weakening.

"Sorry, Carter," said Hogan. "Looks like you're outvoted."

With a petulant sniffle, Carter went out, cradling his unwelcome pet.

Newkirk was still edgy at lights-out; he was very particular about inspecting all around his own bunk.

"It's okay, Newkirk," said Carter. "Betsy's gone. And she wouldn't have hurt you anyway."

"Betsy?"

"She looked like a Betsy to me. Anyway, she's long gone, so you don't have to worry."

"I hope you made sure and buried the ruddy thing, Carter," said Newkirk.

"Deep," added LeBeau.

"And a long way away," said Kinch.

Carter smiled. "Oh, don't you worry, guys. I took care of her - it. I took care of it."

He glanced sideways at his foot locker. He was pretty sure Betsy would be safe in there.

Of course, Carter couldn't have known. But things were going to be very interesting in Barracks 2 in a couple of weeks, when Betsy's two hundred babies started to hatch...