Klinger had enough of being company clerk. There were piles of paperwork to go through and no help in sight and no way to escape. Still, he yearned for some action and fun away from the Army nonsense. The poker game was two days away and the colonel promised him a spot if everything was finished in time.
However, something else interested him other than the poker game. It was Keith Miller. Klinger overheard some of the conversation in Colonel Potter's office. Something was wrong with Keith's commanding officer and treason was in the air. One was accusing the other and Major Houlihan was on the case, even though Miller brushed her off after leaving Colonel Potter.
This was definitely something Klinger could not ignore. He had to be in on what was happening and gain some knowledge from the source itself. After all, he was the master of disguises, escapes and crime. He came from Toledo, after all. Being in everyone's business was in his blood.
Grinning, Klinger snuck towards the office doors. He saw the colonel deep in his work and without a holler on his lips. Then, he returned to his pile of papers. He shuffled though some of them, to show that he had been working on some of them, and went out the door after a few minutes. He searched for Miller and found him pacing the compound.
It wasn't a happy walk either. It was not that Keith was agitated. Klinger saw Rifkin, Miller's CO, on the prowl too. He had the big guys with guns. All of them eyed Miller suspiciously and watched is every move. They were not allowing him to leave the camp. This meant trouble in Klinger's book.
Klinger had an idea. He had to get Miller's mind off of those guns and his CO. He was sure that the silence in the colonel's office had to do with his nervousness. Scheming, he counted how many men Rifkin had around the camp. Then, he monitored where their eyes went. Most of them were on Miller. Sometimes, they alighted on camp personnel and who went near Keith. Klinger had to change that.
He found a basketball nearby and tossed it at Goldman, walking nearby. "Hey, Goldman, wanna play a game?"
"Sure, why not?" Goldman replied. He was enthused. "Let's be captains."
Quickly, as leaders, the pair gathered enough people for two teams. In between, Klinger whispered what was going on and what he needed to do. Goldman conceded and promised to work Miller out of sight and mind. He recruited Miller for his side. While Miller did not participate so readily, he still went along with whatever Goldman asked of him. When the game began, Klinger was the one who went up against the soldier and kept him close.
Then, everything in the game became tougher and faster. Klinger thought this was perfect. The MPs could not keep track of Miller. While they were annoyed, they could not raise their guns against a unit playing basketball. There was no reason to.
Before anyone could act, Klinger grabbed Miller and they ducked out of the court together. He led his friend out of the compound and into the camouflage netting nearby. Then, they walked to the other side, to the back ends of the tents, and ambled across the camp perimeter. Nobody followed them. Once Klinger got Miller to the delousing station, they stopped.
"Miller, what's wrong with you?" he asked. He wrapped a friendly shoulder around Keith. "This isn't like you. You're pretty damned loud when you need to be."
Keith sank down to the ground, taking Klinger with him. He said nothing. Again, his tongue was tied. What could he tell the company clerk anyway? What will Klinger be able to do? Klinger will not believe him anyway and none of his plans worked. All of his schemes always failed. He can't beat the rap this time.
"Come on, Miller," Klinger urged. "It's me. I'm your friend here. You can tell me anything."
Keith closed his eyes. He pictured home. His mother was there, waiting for him to return. She could be devastated if he was lost. He was all she had left, after his father died. If anyone had strength, she sure as hell did and she would have told him to trust Klinger. He could not let her down. Rifkin had to be punished. The US could to suffer the enemy to infiltrate their lines.
He felt his lips moving. "Klinger, I don't know. I mean, I used to be a pretty good guy. I did what I was told to do. Now, I don't know what I am doing anymore."
"What do you mean, kid?" Klinger was curious.
"A few months ago, I thought I was going crazy." Keith's eyes teared up a little. "I knew that I was tired of the war, but this was different. I had some dreams while I was awake. Things that are there really were not. I was seeing people that didn't come here." He stopped.
Klinger understood. "It's ok, Miller. We all go crazy sometimes."
"No!" Keith slammed a fist into his other hand. "This isn't like that, Klinger. I am not cracking. I think someone is trying to poison me to kill me or something."
"What? Miller, how do you figure? Someone put saltpeter in your coffee?"
"I think so, Klinger. It all tastes strange. When it first started some time ago, I thought it was a bad batch, but nobody else had the same issue. It happened to my food only. I have the unit dog sniff my food. Sometimes, it doesn't work since he's always hungry. So, I had to ask my buddies. Some of the guys think I am strange, asking them to check my rations."
"I'd think you were too. But why, Miller? Why would someone try to poison you?"
"I think Rifkin caught on that I knew the truth about him. I mean, he's always out there in the front, checking out where the enemy is. He's always talking to someone about it and I overheard him say something to his righthand man."
"Officers do that all the time. They don't trust us enlisted men and don't wanna say anything to them until the last minute. What difference does it make? They always check the area out."
"Some officers speak easy the language of our enemy, right?"
"Yeah. So, he talk with the enemy?"
"Actually, yes, Klinger. Colonel Rifkin talked with the enemy."
Klinger didn't know what to do with the information. It was incredible. This was huge. Colonel Potter had to be told about this, pronto! He tried tugging Miller up, but he was having none of it. Keith didn't want to move. The weight of what he learned about Rifkin left him paralyzed. Not even Klinger could persuade him to seek sanctuary in the colonel's office.
Keith waved him away. "Listen, if I can't get Major Houlihan to help, what makes you think you can?"
"Because I have the smarts the Major does not," Klinger replied. "Now, Miller, we need to protect you. Are you AWOL?"
"I will be in forty-eight hours if I don't return with Colonel Rifkin."
"And Rifkin is aware of this?"
"Of course. Why would he be here?"
Klinger's mind raced. "And he is accusing you of the same thing you are?"
"Yes. This is why I am trapped. I am on leave, but he won't make a move until I do something wrong."
"So, we have to get you out of the camp and down to Seoul. It's simple."
"Klinger, you can't pass Colonel Rifkin. He knows every plan. He can sniff out conspiracy. You can't outsmart him."
The way Miller talked made Klinger stop. This was not normal for the kid. Klinger thought that maybe being at the Front had made Keith a little nuts after all. He was sure Rifkin had done the dirty deed. There was truth behind Miller's words. The way he was talking, though, had Klinger picture a nice rubber room with a coat that made Keith hug himself. Major Freedman specialized in those. He contemplated calling him in Seoul…with the colonel's permission, of course.
He patted Keith's shoulder. "I'll take care of this. You sit here and hold tight. Don't let the ants bite. We'll get you out of this."
Convinced that Keith was safe, Klinger left. He decided to find his drinking buddies, Captains Pierce and Hunnicutt. If those two doctors had anything to say about Miller, it was solving his problems. This story was not right and Klinger was certain that they will find the holes and fix people up.