A Stay in Connecticut -
Chapter 3 - Conversations - Part 2
I don't know what to do.
I promised myself that I would get to the bottom of this Klink, tonight, but I'm as close to terrified as I've ever been in my entire life.
I wasn't this nervous when I argued my first appeal in front of Judge 'Hanging' Hank Slocum, and he had written the original ruling a decade before - see, the issue was a misreading of the decision in the 'Hudson Tank' case...
Ok, stop, just stop it, John.
You're not fooling anyone, not even yourself.
Normally, I'd go to Ann with this. Normally, Ann would come to me before I could get this worked up. Not this time. Now, she's pretty steamed at me, and refuses to even listen to my reasons:
"Now you listen to me, John Ezra Hogan, because you certainly aren't listening to yourself! Wilhelm Klink is a lovely man, he's our son's dear friend, he's our guest and he saved Rob's life, and I don't want to hear another word about Hessians, gaslighting, shell-shock, or the Fall of the Eastern Roman Empire."
"But Rob even calls him a Hun - he"|
"Rob calls him 'Hun' short for 'Attila the' as a joke. Jokes. Heard of those before? Wilhelm is no Hun, if you mean some sort of ruthless barbarian. And those real Huns sound pretty Chinese to me, and Wilhelm is about as far from 'inscrutable' as you can get. He's even Catholic! So I won't hear another word, NOT - ANOTHER - WORD - PERIOD."
So now my wife won't talk to me...great, just great.
Something else to set to Klink's account.
As the boys are getting ready for bed, I take Klink aside, convince him to speak with me alone, telling him that I wanted to go over a special filing for delayed GI benefits for servicemen not being mustered out. I had to think awfully fast on my feet, and when I insisted that it had to be done tonight so the forms could make the Special Delivery mail truck at '9 am - sharp!', Klink fell for it.
"I certainly would not wish to cause any trouble or to miss the courier. Thank you for the time, Sir. Just allow me to let Rob know, so we shall not be disturbed. It is a bad habit of his, to interrupt me when I am doing paperwork." He smiles like he's sharing a joke with me, and off he goes.
Wonder what that was supposed to mean?
I've been sitting here for the past ten minutes, waiting for him to complete the GI Bill forms. Lucky I brought extra from the office.
He's reading through the entire thing, every damned word and asking questions, like: "Strange, no mention of deferring benefits, have I missed something?" He even pulls out a monocle for his left eye (who wears something like that outside of an English farce?), explaining that the eye is weak and while mostly for distance - "It helps when the eye is tired."
I feel a twinge; I think it's indigestion.
I could be grilling him right now; instead the quiet scratch of the pencil is the only sound there is and it's driving me mad. Pun intended. Yet I can't bring myself to start the interrogation.
Wait, did I just say?
Klink looks up at me, smiles as sad as a sorrowing icon, puts the form down on the desk and says:
"Robert is much better at this."
I startle. "What? What 'this'? "
"Lying. Or 'con-ning' if you prefer."
I draw myself up as best I can from a sitting position: "How DARE you! My son is as honest as the day is long!"
" - depending on what day." Klink isn't even looking at me when he says this, he just drops his eyes a fraction and his mouth quirks like he's trying hard to be serious and not laugh out loud.
If my jaw wasn't attached to my face - matter of fact, I'm so shocked, I can't feel a thing, so that 'thunk' sound? Could very well be my lower mandible hitting the desk.
"Who told you, who told you? The last time I said that, Rob wasn't even in the same town! That's MY line!"
I've reared up bodily, trying to lean over the desk into his face. Not only is this guy a Hessian and a Hun and my son's keeper, he's a plagiarist.
Klink looks confused and at a loss. He seems a little shocked at my behavior.
I'm a little shocked at my behavior, so I settle back into my chair and try to explain. I clear my throat.
I clear my throat.
I clear my throat.
Okay, let's try this again.
"Can I offer you a soda pop? You must be thirsty. I know I am, I'll be right back."
I shoot out of the room and sling around like a bullet in a half-baked Stooges' routine, and I run straight to the kitchen and open the Frigidaire door, suddenly forgetting why I was there in the first place and hoping for inspiration.
"You're letting the cold air out," says my wife with asperity.
I jump and slam the door, but since my hand is molded around the handle like it was glued there, the door pops right back open. I slam it again. Same thing.
"It helps if you let go." She gives me a look like I've lost my mind. Great, now my wife thinks I'm crazy.
"Of course. I know that. I'm just, I can't make up my mind and since you are insisting that the door be shut I have to keep opening it to see what's inside."
"Uh-huh. You know, you do realize that Rob is better at it than you are."
"Now you're doing it too? What's wrong with you people! I swear he's it's contagious!"
I finally remember the clever excuse I used and grab two bottles of Coke (I'll never sleep tonight anyways) and mustering my dignity, I start to sweep past Ann when she steps in front of me and points - at the fridge, whose door is still open.
"Don't worry, I'll get it, before you break the hinges. Now go back upstairs and apologize to poor Wilhelm, for your churlish behavior."
"Churlish? My dear, I'll have you know I wasn't anything less than professional."
"Which means, Mr. Municipal Prosecutor, you were barely civil. John," she takes my free hand in both of hers, "listen to yourself. You're treating a good innocent man like he's Simon Legree, twirling a mustache and tying Rob to the railroad tracks."
"Klink is not an innocent man, he held our son against his will"
"Since when? Maybe for the first week or two, a month at the outside, but we both know that Rob could have left anytime he wanted."
"And we know this how? Sure, we guessed that Rob was running that secret base, and don't get me started on that buffoon of a reporter, but how do we know that Klink wasn't responsible for the constant danger he was in? How do we know that Klink wasn't responsible for those thrice-damned scars?"
"Easy. Because Kinch likes him! Rob would never forgive a villain his villainy, but even if he would, Kinch would never forgive that kind of hurt against his Colonel, neither would the others. And from what I understand from Hans"
"Hans Schultz, sweetheart I've told you all about him at least three times, do keep up with the rest of the troop, you're holding us up, and from what Hans tells me, there are over a thousand men who owe their lives to our boy, and they are fierce in their regard, so there's no way that Wilhelm would be accepted as a charter member of the club if he didn't pass muster."
Again, at a loss for words and feeling more and more uneasy, I try for the dignified retreat, and this time, Ann lets me stroll past.
Said stroll turns into a dead run as soon as I'm out of view, and I can hardly stop in time and have to make a U-Turn at the bathroom.
I stroll in, trying for 'unconcerned' and 'completely normal'.
From the strange look he's giving me, I can tell the stroll is not going over well.
I hand him a Coke and keep the other for myself, sit down and am about to take a swig when I realize that I forgot the bottle opener.
Klink holds up an elegant hand and pulls out one of those special pocket knives with the extra contraptions that Army people always have on them - my mind flashes back to the last time I saw one, the one my kid brother had in his pocket when - meantime Klink has gotten his bottle open, nattering on all the while:
"...and then Robert purchased this wonderful Schweizer Offiziersmesser to replace it. That was truly kind of him, would you not agree? Oh, of course you would, you are his father after all, you are already well aware of his generosity. Here, allow me."
And Klink stands, leans over the desk, and tries to take my pop bottle!
"No no that's quite all right, no need to bother," I stand and politely try to yank it back.
He won't let go and tugs it towards him.
He wrenches, and compromises: "We will both hold it, yes?"
And he pops the top with a final jerk.
I always knew that Coke settles your stomach, but I had no idea it could be used as a paint and varnish remover.
Not bad as a sinus cleanser either.
My boy, my wife and our visitor all burst into the room, all talking at once:
"Sir, he's not..."
"...John Ezra Hogan you're not..."
"...welcome then I'm not!"
And they all stopped dead.
And they looked at us while we looked at them.
To say they looked 'stunned' is putting it mildly.
Then Klink and I turned ever so slowly back to each other, both of us still clutching the now empty bottle.
Not quite sure what he sees, but me? There's foam, lots of foam, a mini Niagara of it rimming my eyes. Dripping from the overhead fan. Maybe the ceiling. Off Klink's nose. Off his chin. Both eyebrows. His monocle looks like a soapy window at the car wash. On his shoulders like epaulets.
He looks like, like -
"Has anyone ever mentioned that you resemble an enraged koala?"
"Young Private Hill, but normally, the general camp consensus is either a dying cod fish or a molting vulture."
Blinking, I look him straight in the eye, and while I catch a glint of honest merriment, I pride myself on knowing the truth when I hear it; just now, I've heard it.
I'd consider tossing out my own witty remark, except I'm laughing too hard.
So is everyone else.
Saturday. Today, my boy goes back to Europe, to Germany, where he is desperately needed by all accounts.
We have gone with him and his friends into the City, New York, New York, to see them all off.
And when I say "all" I mean "ALL". We've met so many of Rob's men today, I'll need a scorecard to keep 'em straight.
A few stick in mind:
Carter is like a friendly puppy; Baker quiet and easy-going; Olsen cracks wise at the drop of a hat. Of the former German soldiers, Hans Schultz is the most informative, all the while assuring us that he knows "NUH-THINK!" But before I can tell Rob to look out for this guy, Ann tells me that Hans got permission to give us the highlights of the last few years, so "don't be a tattletale."
Permission from whom I'd like to know - who ever heard of this Nimrod guy anyways?
Driving back home, I'm alone with my thoughts, since Ann has fallen asleep besides me.
I never did get to go one-on-one with Klink.
But I guess I don't have to now.
Not that I'm not jealous of him; no, I still feel that little green monster swimming behind my eyes.
Yet since the 'Flying Soda Pop Incident', I can take it in stride.
You see, I figured it all out; the 'why' of those two, and it's very simple, really.
Rob cares for him, because Wilhelm Klink makes my son laugh.
In the end, that's good enough for me.
A/N: Many thanks to all who reviewed the last Chapter: Revergent, Jannakalderash, mmdstjohn, and Snooky & Goldleaf & 80sarcade. Also want to thank everyone who favorited this story: CorvidMoon, Jannakalderash, mmdstjohn, Lord Rebecca-Sama, Allied Hero, Sgt. Hakeswill, Yashida & Tannim13 (and if I missed anyone, thank you too!). I'm elated that you all enjoyed this tale.
Thanks the the betas: Snooky, Maddy, Kat. And thanks one more time to Goldleaf for allowing me to borrow her headcanon for my own spin on things from her amazing Conversations series.