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The Master Tactician

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Anyone who knew Master Sergeant Ernest Bilko knew that he was a force of nature. He was a master tactician and manipulator of lies. He loved money and loved the challenge of scamming for it even more. Yet he never cheated anyone who didn’t deserve it or anyone who was too innocent for this world (like one Dwayne Doberman).

Colonel John T. Hall twisted his hat in his hands. He stood in the hallway and bit his lip nervously. He looked at General Barker mournfully. “But General,” he tried. “Bilko is--”

Barker cut him off. “The biggest promoter in the army. We need funding.” He shook his head and sighed in frustration. “One useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.”

“But, Sir, putting him in front of Congressional Committee on Armed Forces is--”

Barker opened the door a crack to hear inside. Bilko’s suave, confident voice filtered out. “I beg you, learned Sirs. Take bold action and allow the army the money it needs to continue to be the finest army in the world.”

Barker grinned. “A stroke of genius.”

Sweat beaded Hall’s forehead. “General, we need to get him out of there.”

“That’s enough of that, Colonel,” Barker hissed. “Pull yourself together.” He opened the door quietly to the committee hearing room. “Sit in the back and button your lip.”

“Yes, Sir,” Hall replied miserably. He trudged in, followed by the General.

Bilko stood straight in his pressed, spotless dress uniform. “I can see that you are all brilliant lawmakers and you need to be sure that taxpayer money is spent wisely. I appreciate that.” He paused and gave a self deprecating smile. “Humble sergeant that I am, I’m still a taxpayer.”

That earned a small round of chuckles. Bilko inclined his head. “I thank you for your time and for listening to this simple servant of his country.”

Hall rolled his eyes but said nothing.

Bilko’s voice was respectful and compelling. “And I hope that I have conveyed, in a simple way, the needs and challenges that our fighting men face.”

Barker leaned in close to Hall and whispered, “He’s pure genius. Who are the two corporals sitting at Bilko’s table?”

Hall barely refrained from calling Rocco Barbella and Steve Henshaw Bilko’s henchmen. “Part of Bilko’s platoon,” he murmured back. “He never goes anywhere without them.”

Little did the officers know that the two of them never went anywhere without each other. Or that they were holding hands out of sight. Or that their Sergeant knew full well about it and couldn’t care less.