Colonel Wilhelm Klink was in his office, sitting behind his desk. He had decided to take a break from the endless paperwork to enjoy a cigar and glass of schnapps while Colonel Hogan wasn't around to appropriate them. He had just lit the cigar, and was about to take the first sip of schnapps when Sergeant Schultz burst into the office.
“What is it, Schultz? Can't you see I'm not to be disturbed? Unless all the prisoners have escaped, I don't want to know about it!”
“But Colonel, this is very important! One of the prisoners has just told me that the Americans are very close to the camp and may be here in a day or two! We will be overrun by the Americans and I do not want to die! What will my family do without me - I am their only support and they eat so much!”
“Calm yourself, Schultz, no-one is going to die. I will go now and speak to Colonel Hogan. We will decide what should be done.” He got up, came around his desk, and patted Schultz on the shoulder. “It will be all right, Hans, I promise. Go about your duties now.”
Schultz left, still muttering unhappily to himself. Klink looked at his cigar and schnapps, and sighed. He stubbed the cigar out, then put his cap and coat on. He went over to the door, paused a moment, then went back to his desk, grabbed the schnapps and downed it in one gulp. Then he set off for Barracks 2, where Hogan and his inner circle were quartered.
As he crossed the compound, he noticed the atmosphere was different, one of expectancy. The prisoners were clustered together in groups, deep in conversation, but there was none of the rehearsed element to it that he had come to expect. They looked at him as he passed, laughing and not bothering to salute. The guards had obviously noticed this too, or were aware of the impending changes, and were hanging around disconsolately, making no attempt to break up the groups. When they saw Klink, they snapped to attention, looking desperately around for something to do to look busy. Klink waved an arm irritably. “As you were, as you were!” He continued on to his destination.
Inside the barracks, there was no-one except for Carter, who was reading a newspaper. Klink noticed it was a recent issue of the Daily Express, a UK newspaper that prisoners would never be allowed to receive officially, but made no comment.
“Were you looking for Colonel Hogan, sir? He's, ah, not here at the moment. Can I give him a message?”
“I had noticed that much for myself, thank you. I suppose he is in the tunnels; he must be very busy at the moment.” Klink smiled briefly as Carter's jaw dropped. “Kindly tell him that I am presently taking the air, and would be grateful if he would join me at his earliest convenience.”
Within five minutes Hogan came to join him as he walked the perimeter of the camp. He wasted no time on small talk. “Klink, how the hell do you know about the tunnels?”
“Oh come now, Colonel Hogan! I'm aware that your opinion of me is not high, perhaps not without reason, but even I am not that obtuse. I have known for a long time. From almost the start of your residence here, you made very little effort to conceal what you were doing from Sergeant Schultz, and you know how often he speaks without thinking. I thought it more expedient to keep silent on the subject, though, even to him; there was no telling when the Gestapo might be listening.”
“But why did you keep our secret? It was obvious that Schultz' cowardice and greed would keep him quiet - well, as quiet as he ever can be, and it was easy to make sure that no-one actually believed him when he let something slip... at least, I thought no-one did!”
“Yes, that over-confidence is your Achilles' heel, Hogan. Sometimes it was as well for you that I was here and prepared to cover for you as much as I could. And you under-estimate Schultz too. He is scared, yes, but he is also a good man. He doesn't care for politics and war, but he cares greatly for family and friends. As the Nazis came to power, he saw more and more evil things happening to people around him and grew to hate the Nazis. I think it was much easier for him to decide to turn a blind eye to your activities than it was for me, despite his terror of being sent to the Russian Front, or of the Gestapo.”
“I guess I owe Schultz an apology. But still, if you'd exposed us, it would have really helped your career! Why didn't you?”
“I've told you a bit about my life. You know I flew for the Luftwaffe in the Great War. I really believed I was fighting for the good of Germany then, but when the war was over and I looked back, I could only see so many useless deaths on all sides for no good reason, and I wanted no part of war ever again.
“But then there was Hitler. Did I ever tell you, Hogan, that I met Hitler once, at a rally in Munich?”
Hogan shook his head, fascinated.
“It was obvious to me when I spoke to him that he was a lunatic. But then he addressed the crowd, and he was so great an orator and so charismatic that he drew everyone into his lunacy, myself included for a short while, but fortunately I came to myself afterwards, and avoided seeing or hearing him speak again. I could tell that there would be war again if he remained in power, but I was afraid to oppose him - what could one man do?”
Hogan started to speak, but Klink raised his hand for silence.
“No, Colonel Hogan, I am not a brave man like you, and I was not willing to die. So when the war inevitably came, I joined the Luftwaffe again, until my eyesight became so bad that I was grounded, and eventually was assigned to Stalag 13, and met you and your men. It was inevitable that I would become aware of what you were doing...”
Hogan shook his head and face-palmed in embarrassment.
“...and I had to decide how I was going to react. As I said, I am a coward, and I was very tempted to take the safe way out and expose you. But then you would have been shot, and I would have become responsible for more useless deaths, those of people I had already come to like and admire. So I decided to remain silent and allow you to continue 'hoodwinking' me. Occasionally I would even 'let slip' information I thought you would find useful - things like the existence of the Tiger tank.”
“You did that on purpose? I have to hand it to you, Klink - you had me totally fooled there!”
“I know - but then you had me fooled about the fake Gestapo officer. You have no idea how close I came to betraying you whenever the Gestapo were involved, or when I was threatened with the Eastern Front - at least until I realized that you would get me out of whatever you had got me into, but I swear to you, Hogan, you have taken years off my life!”
“I apologize for that, but it was unavoidable! I definitely need to make amends to you as best I can, though. Why don't I start by giving you a tour of the tunnels, so you can see for yourself the secret you've been keeping for us all this time?”
“I would like that very much - provided you promise you are not intending to kill me. That is why I thought it would be better to talk to you out in the open, since I have no doubt that you considered it.”
“I have to admit you're right,” Hogan acknowledged. “But I assure you it would have been my last resort, and I'm delighted it won't be necessary. You have my promise!”
He held out his hand, Klink took it, and they shook hands.
“Come on, then - let me show you around!”
“Yes, and then I must reassure Sergeant Schultz that everything is taken care of and he will not be killed by the Americans! Perhaps after I have done that, you will join me in my office for a drink. We can discuss the future in more detail. I have said on occasion, Colonel Hogan, that under other circumstances we could have been friends. Maybe we might still become so.”
“I like that idea a lot! Perhaps you can start by calling me Robert?”
“In that case, you must call me Wilhelm.”
When they got to the barracks, Hogan paused just outside the door. “Give me a moment - I just need to get the welcome wagon changed to one that's actually welcoming!” He knocked on the door in a rhythm that was obviously a code.
The door opened straight away and Newkirk popped his head out. Seeing Klink standing behind Hogan, he asked, “What's going on, boss?”
“It's OK - he's with us!” was the reply.
Newkirk didn't seem convinced. “What did the little piggy get from the market?”
“Roast beef. Now let us in - it's cold out here!”
“Nursery rhymes, Ho... Robert?” Klink asked, as the door opened and he and Hogan entered the barracks.
“Yeah, they're useful for codes. Most people are familiar with them.”
“True. So, 'This Little Piggy'. I assume that if you had answered 'nothing' to Newkirk's question, it would not have gone well for me.”
Newkirk shrugged. “Better safe than sorry, mate!” he answered, slipping a stiletto away.
“I quite understand.” Klink watched as the other men put various weapons down - in LeBeau's case, a rolling pin, which he was obviously reluctant to let go of.
“Why are you bringing the Boche in here, Colonel?”
“Because Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz have known about our operation and covered for us for a long time without us knowing about it. I reckon their sneakiness deserves recognition, so I'm going to show him around downstairs.”
“How do you know he's not lying to get himself into our good books before we get liberated and he gets thrown into a cell? I don't trust him!”
“I told you, he knows about the tunnels! I believe him,” Carter said.
“Maybe he's got the place bugged!” said LeBeau.
“Nope - I check for bugs all the time, and I'd have found them,” objected Baker. “They're always really obvious. I reckon he has to be telling the truth.”
Newkirk and LeBeau looked at each other and shrugged.
“I tried installing bugs a few times, but my men don't have the expertise that you people do, and our bugs were always discovered. That caused some potentially dangerous misunderstandings before I realized the conversations were an act, so I decided we were all better off without them.”
“Enough discussion guys! I'm in charge here and I say he's on the level. Why don't you come on down, Wilhelm?” Hogan had lifted up one of the bunks, exposing a flight of steps.
“Oh, you ain't seen nothing yet!” Newkirk said, laughing. “After you, mate!”
“This first room is the radio room,” said Hogan when they got to the bottom of the steps. And before we start the tour proper, there's one thing I have to do, and I want you to hear this, Wilhelm. Baker, get me London. Put the call on speaker.”
Baker operated the transmitter, and passed the microphone to Hogan.
“Goldilocks calling Papa Bear, come in, Papa Bear.”
“Papa Bear here, what can we do for you, Goldilocks?”
“Update on the personnel involved in this op. Humpty Dumpty and the Strudel King have been covering for us since becoming aware of our activities.” Hogan noticed Klink's raised eyebrow at the codenames and mouthed “sorry” at him. “The officer in command of the American forces headed our way needs to be informed about this, so that they will be treated appropriately.”
“Why are you only telling us this now?”
“I wasn't sure how secure this channel was - remember, we've had a few problems with Nazi ringers being planted on us, not to mention the German spy network in London we cracked during the P-51 con operation. It would have been a disaster for the operation if their cover had been blown.”
“Very well. Anything else?”
“Yes, actually there is. Humpty and Strudel need to be added to the payroll - they're due a lot of back pay!”
As sputtering noises started to come from the speaker, Hogan added, “Goldilocks out!” and switched the transmitter off. “That should do it!”
Klink shook his head, smiling. “You never cease to amaze me, Hogan! On behalf of Sergeant Schultz and myself, I thank you.”
“Don't mention it - it's the least I can do after we scared you so much. Come on, now, let's show you the rest of the place. Maybe you'd like to have a sauna in the steam room.”
“A sauna?!” Shaking his head, Klink followed Hogan and his men. Whatever the future held, he thought, it was surely going to be entertaining.