Into the Fold
It seems that most of my stories start as one or two little scenes that just won't leave me alone. This one is no exception. My thoughts on how Newkirk and Carter become Biffles even though it seems all Poor Carter has to do sometimes is breathe and it rubs our favorite Negative Nellie the wrong way. A friendship tale in three parts. No infringement is intended nor profit being made.
He could feel his eyes rolling so far back in his skull, he was almost worried they would freeze that way. An angry growl escaped from the back of his throat as he crossed his arms in defiance. "You can't be serious."
Corporal Peter Newkirk watched as his commanding officer, Colonel Hogan, took a deep breath of his own. The small office that doubled as the Colonel's private quarters suddenly shrank in size. What little of the mid-afternoon light that filtered in through the smudged and frosted window only fueled the Corporal's temper. What had started out as a lovely morning and early afternoon had taken a decidedly sour turn.
"Newkirk, I know I'm springing this on you," Hogan tried to keep his voice calm. "But it's just a routine pick up, you've done it a hundred times before."
"Not with him." Newkirk shook his head. "I won't go if he's with me. That's just asking for trouble." He knew he was taking his life in his hands, but considering the alternative it was a calculated and acceptable risk.
Newkirk could see the wheels turning as his Colonel turned to pace the length of his bunk as he re-thought his strategy. Stubbornly, the Corporal refused to budge, planting his feet shoulder width apart and hugging his arms tighter to his chest. There was no turning back now.
It had been nearly nine months since this American officer fell from the sky, literally and figuratively, and taken up residence in the toughest POW camp in all of Germany. In that short time he had done more for the Allied War Effort than all the other outfits Newkirk had been a part of combined. Colonel Robert Hogan had restored the hope and fight to men who thought of themselves as forgotten. He had gathered a downtrodden and ragged group of men and organized them into an elite espionage and sabotage unit. It was this fact, and the respect it had earned him, that kept Newkirk's hands from swinging at the Colonel's nose and kept his stripes on his sleeves.
Hogan took one more pace of the room before continuing. "I know Carter's not as seasoned, but I have a good feeling about him. He knows his stuff and he's always willing to pitch in."
"He's just a kid! A klutzy, annoying kid who doesn't know when to keep his ruddy trap shut."
"You're not exactly ready for a rest home yet yourself, Grandpa." Hogan rolled his eyes. "You've only got a few months on him. And what he lacks in experience he makes up for in spirit. He's a good man."
"Good for what? Causing mayhem, perhaps? Putting his foot in his mouth? Or getting the rest of us locked in the bloody cooler?" Newkirk knew he was dancing dangerously over the line of insubordination, but self-preservation in a fit of temper had never been one of his strengths.
"Some of us don't exactly need a lot of help in that department."
Newkirk had the presence of mind to dip his head slightly in shame. It was no secret he was one of the most reliable troublemakers in camp. The other boys often joked that they were going to re-name the cooler and dedicate one of the cells in his dishonor with a plaque and everything. But at least he only did it to himself. His pride and left ankle was still smarting from the incident at the Kommandant's dinner party three weeks ago where the contents of an entire bottle of champagne found itself dribbling down a sputtering General Burkhalter. For once he has been completely innocent in the whole ordeal. However, Burkhalter liked to follow the motto "when one gets in trouble you all get in trouble" when dealing with prisoners.
"Beggin' the Colonel's pardon, but Andrew Carter is a ruddy menace."
"Agreed." Hogan's arms fell to his side. "But he's a ruddy menace with potential. All the conversations I've had with him have shown a kid who's a little scattered brained, but he knows his stuff. No one else in camp has the chemical knowledge he does and we could use him. He's already been doing little odd jobs and operation from inside the wire. I want him, Newkirk. He's just the kind of man we need. Kinch likes the idea, and LeBeau is warming up to it. But I can't bring him in full time unless you all agree."
"Then there's no need to step outside camp. I can already tell you I don't approve."
Hogan stepped forward, making sure to catch Newkirk's eyes. "There were quite a few people in London who had the same opinion about you, Corporal. 'Don't bother. Can't follow orders or hold his temper. A bloody sneak thief who can't be trusted.'" The Colonel let his words sink in for a moment, putting his hand on the Brit's shoulder. "Aren't you glad I gave you the chance to prove how annoying you could be first?"
Newkirk tried to hide the small smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. The Colonel had a point.
"One chance." Hogan said. "All I ask is you give the kid one chance. I did that for Kinch. For LeBeau. Even you, though Heaven knows why. And you've each proved many times over that I can trust you with my life."
Newkirk studied the floor, his temper cooling as he turned the Colonel's words over in mind. His anger didn't stand a chance against the admiration he had for this officer, an American one at that. This Air Corp Colonel had proven he would do anything for the men under his command, that he weighed the risks to the outcome, and, no matter how unorthodox the solution, made sure the health and safety of "his boys" came first. At the very least, Newkirk owed him his obedience.
"Alright." Newkirk sighed. He ran his hands through his hair as he heaved a sigh of resignation. "Just give me the afternoon to get me affairs in order. I'd hate to go to the firing squad with loose ends.